What is Finding Welfare?

My last post suggested that we survey economists to choose between three descriptions of what they are doing when they make policy recommendations:

  1. Morals – Entering into larger conversations on what actions are right and moral.
  2. Deals – Helping groups find mutually-beneficial deals, by suggesting deal parts.
  3. Showing Off – Doing hard things like analysis, so we can be credentialed as impressive.

Bryan agrees that #2 would be more popular, but suggests adding two more options (slightly reworded by me):

  1. Social Welfare – Identifying policies that are best for society as a whole.
  2. Partisanship – Identifying ways to advance political goals we identify with.

I agree with Bryan that #4 would now be more popular, but are these new options different concepts, or phrases popular in part because of their vagueness? The three options I presented seem more clearly conceptually distinct. Do economists seek “best” policies to help people argue about which actions are moral, to help encourage political and other group deals that include these better policies, or to show off their abilities to do clever analysis? My proposed three part question seems to me better suited for digging to this deeper level.

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