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Academic Choice Theory

Regular readers might recall that I have an interest in critiques of economics by economists. So I was very happy to learn of “Academic Choice Theory,” a brilliant tongue-in-cheek application of the principles of Rational Choice Theory to the economics profession by Yves Smith, author of ECONned: How Unenlightened Self Interest Undermined Democracy and Corrupted Capitalism. It is written in the form of a letter by a deceased academic to an admiring fan:

Isn’t it offensive to assume that economists, for motives of personal gain, shade their theoretical allegiances in the directions preferred by powerful interest groups?

How could it ever be offensive to assume that a person acts rationally in pursuit of maximizing his or her own utility? I’m afraid I don’t understand this question.

Is there a “behavioral” version of Academic Choice theory, in which the basic premises are enriched by the possibility that economists sometimes act irrationally?

Great question. … Studies have shown that many people do act irrationally, but not economists – to the extent possible, their decision-making conforms to the model of Homo economicus.

[Apologies to whomever first sent me the link on Twitter, I wanted to credit them in the post, but can no longer find the original tweet.]

UPDATE: See this post which uses the movie Inside Job to talk about Academic Choice Theory. [Thanks to @illprofessor for the link!]