Irish Economics Association Conference 2012

Reminder – the deadline for submissions is next Wednesday January 18.  Details here.

7 replies on “Irish Economics Association Conference 2012”

To put all this in context, there are probably in excess of 200 full-time academic economists is Ireland. Probably 10% are engaged in the public policy space. For convenience I label them as Public Policy Focused Economists (PPFEs). Most are well known and many will present at the 27 Jan conference Liam Delaney posted:

Then we have the under-graduates and graduates many of the PPFEs teach or supervise – who, presumably – this is dicey contention, have some interest in public policy matters.

And there is a large number of professional economists embedded in various parts of the government machine and quangoland. I call these Public Policy Engaged Economists (PPEEs).

Finally, we have probably an even larger number engaged in various semi-state and private sector activities – or civil society associations. Although their day jobs involve many activities they will all have an interest in public policy issues and will be expected or required to monitor and influence policy and regulatory matters in the interests of their organisations or businesses. These are the Public Policy Infuencing Economists (PPIEs).

A conference such as this will address, and would be expected to address, a reasonable representation of economic theory and practice across the entire range of the discipline – and should be of interest to most of these categories of economists (and to many in each category). One should not expect it to be, nor would it be appropriate for it to be, focused exclusively on public policy issues.

However, for obvious reasons, there is huge public interest, such as has never been observed previously, in economists, in what they do and, more crucially, in the public policy proposals and policy critiques they advance – and are expected to advance – by the public.

It is difficult to assess – and I doubt even the organisers have a firm view on it – to what extent public policy issues will figure in the proceedings of this conference. But I would expect that these will take up a share of the proceedings – and probably a larger share than in previous years.

Since this is probably the premier annual Irish economics event it is likely there will be heightened media and public interest in the proceedings. There will be some expectation that this large gathering of economics brains will offer something in terms of economic policy that might help to dispel the gathering gloom.

But it is highly likely they will be disappointed. And they will be disappointed for a variety of reasons – good and bad

First, it is not the purpose of this gathering to focus on public policy. It is an economics conference – not a public policy conference. Secondly, in so far as there will be any focus, most of the economists are so constrained by the narrow canon of necoclassical economics that what they might advance would be likely to do as much harm as good – and, in any event event, would have a negligibly small chance of being implemented. Thirdly, the Government’s economic policy discretion is constrained by external forces outside of its control. Policy proposals that ignore this reality or rail against it are counter-productive and feed popular discontent to no good purpose, so one would hope than none of this nature is advanced. Fourthly, in so far as it has economic policy discretion, the Government is focused on top-down salami-slicing of public expenditure and incremental changes or increases in taxation, but the numbers must add up to the Troika’s satisfaction. There is limited scope for the PPFEs to opine in this area; the PPEEs are obliged to observe a vow of silence; only the PPIEs migh shout the odds. Fifthly, for the microeconomic sectors, particularly the sheltered sectors, where the Government has considerable policy discretion – and there is huge scope and a requirement for refrom to counteract the impact of fiscal austerity, the PPFEs are often remarkably restrained in offering proposals or critiques; the PPEEs again observe their vow of silence; and the PPIEs – and the organisations they represent – have proved probably remarkably adept (largely behind the scenes) in protecting and advancing their narrow sectional economic interests and in constraining or hindering structural reform to the detriment of the public interest. Sixthly, and finally, even if coherent public policy proposals – that were objectively and unambiguously in the public interest – were to emerge, there is absolutely no way they would have any prospect of being considered for implementation unless they were consistent with the narrow political objectives of the Government – nothing that will diminish the prospect of re-election – and did not arouse concerted and vociferous opposition from any of the narrow sectional economic interests that might be affected.

So, at the end of it all, it is highly likely that the public, in so far as they will take any notice, will be disappointed and it may add to the growing disenchantment with the current implementation of economic policy. At best, they will view the event as a form of intellectual masturbation, but they might take a more jaundiced view of economists and of what they do.

However, it would be useful, primarily to pre-empt any public displeasure, if economists, collectively, – and in particular the PPFEs – were to explain to people that it is entirely in the hands of the public to determine how the available economic expertise of the PPFEs might be engaged and deployed in the public interest. The most effective means, for example, would be for people to demand that their TDs engage the PPFEs in a formal manner to assist them to scrutinise government proposals and to advance sensible proposals. Transparent scrutiny informed by appropriate professional expertise would expose the arrant – and sectional interest favouring – nonsense embedded in many government policy proposals and would provide the possibility of advancing policies in the public interest – but which government would prefer to avoid or ignore for fearing of upsetting the narrow sectional economic interests.

The ball is in the court of the PPFEs.

Tell ya what Paul why not organise a panel at the conference? Check the link and make the proposal. Puosu : put up or shut up 🙂

Many thanks for the advice and comment. I suppose I should be grateful that the existence of the case I am making has, at least, been acknowledged before being dismissed without consideration – rather than being simply ignored.

I’m sure another post will be along any time soon to deflect people’s attention. And lo, so there is. I’ll try to refrain from commenting twitteresquely or otherwise.

“So, at the end of it all, it is highly likely that the public, in so far as they will take any notice, will be disappointed and it may add to the growing disenchantment with the current implementation of economic policy”

To what extent do the local media bear responsibility for the generally poor grasp of the public on issues which impact their lives significantly ? I was reading the Sindo on Sundo and they featured an interview with failed “developer ” Ray Grehan who is a great bunch of lads and has just declared bankruptcy in London and walked away from 300m owed to NAMA .

Bankruptcy better than Nama noose, says Grehan

There was a moan about the next budget later on but none of this stuff is linked in any way.

There is no need to pay attention to anything serious anyways

Real housewife is desperate to shine on slopes
The cast of the new reality show will spend a week in a luxury ski resort, writes Niamh Horan

It is all coherent incoherence .

I hope this meets the twittering requirements..Oh damn..I think I’ve blown it.

It’s not surprising, but, perhaps, very interesting that, at a time when there is so much public interest in the utterances of economists, any consideration of what Irish economists do, what types exist, how these types interact and what impact they have on public policy design (see also here:
attracts so little attention.

I’m beginning to draw my own conclusions. Phrases like ‘part of the solution’ and ‘part of the problem’ are likely to appear…

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