Recent economics Nobel prize winner Paul Romer is furious that economists have sometimes argued for deregulation; he wants them “defrocked”, & cast from the profession: New generation of economists argued that tweaks … would enable the market to regulate itself, obviating the need for stringent government oversight. … To regain the public’s trust, economists should … emphasize the limits of their knowledge … even if it requires them to publicly expel from their ranks any member of the community who habitually overreaches. …
Evidently there are enough leftists and fellow-travelers in economics that he thinks it's time to start the purges and show trials to eliminate everyone else.
As if we could.
I would think an important indicator of bias is the degree to which an author makes an effort to highlight limitations of their conclusions, and which of their sub-conclusions/assumptions/methods are weakest and therefore deserving of more scrutiny, Or if they are doing a policy analysis, the degree to which they make an honest effort to acknowledge and objectively assess both plusses and minuses of their favored policy and of competing policiies. The more biased the work (for whatever reason, money being one root cause), the less of this kind of thing you will see. In works of naked advocacy (however scholarly in form and richly footnoted), almost none.
How common are donations to economic departments from for-profit corporations?
How does one determine that there is "an obvious bias" in the first place?
The bare fact that the consensus opinion of the profession disagrees with your personal political position, or that of the electorate, doesn't mean there is or isn't a bias.
Perhaps the profession is reflecting reality and reality doesn't fit with the moral intuitions of the electorate, or your personal intuitions.
I'm not arguing this is the case. I'm asking how we - anyone - can draw a firm conclusion that bias exists.
If economics is a science, then experiment and observation ought to be able (in the long run) to distinguish truth from error. If the result of that process doesn't fit our preconceptions, too bad for the preconceptions.
On the other hand, I acknowledge that academic fields can and do run off the rails. But usually not forever - eventually a new generation comes along and admits prior errors.
I have no idea about Hanson's finances. And of course a lot of the "corporate money" effect is nothing so gauche as bribes to individual economists - more common are donations to universities that effect hiring practices, donations to think tanks promoting the right attitudes, that sort of somewhat subtler behind the scenes influence.
"We know" just isn't remotely a good enough standard around which the profession can organize to decide who is in or out of it.
We all know who the hacks are, but they will call themselves economists anyway as long as they think it has value, and have positions as long as they say things their funders want to hear and be heard. Shaming them and reminding others of their hackery is the most one can do. Still waiting for that 6% growth.
My point is that corporate funding has a relatively minor influence on professional economists, compared to other forces. Even if you disagree about whether that push is good or bad, we should be able to agree on the relative size of the push.
Does Robin Hanson receive more corporate money than the average economist? More money total?
Yes, Quinones is no booster of free markets. I brought up the book because by digging into the history it shows how common moral intuitions pushed in favor of such drugs in the past, even if they do the opposite now. So "rely on moral intuitions rather than cost/benefit" wouldn't necessarily give a different result. There were lots of well-meaning people along with bad actors (the book discusses lots of outright criminals) who contributed to what happened.
Well yes, as someone with the views that corporations are paying to promote I would expect you to see it that. From your perspective that corporate money is pushing the discipline in the right direction / more into alignment with your own views.
Your review starts out saying the author blames "exalting the free market", but nothing you say after that addresses that claim as far as I can see.
Scott Sumner has noted that most of the losses came from FDIC insured small banks making commercial real estate loans, and the reason for the crash was the Federal Reserve getting spooked by an increase in oil prices and tightening based on mistaken fears of inflation.
From the inside, it isn't at all obvious to me that any bias is pro-corporate, more it is likely pro-government.
Sam Quinones' Dreamland is very condemning of the Sacklers/Purdue for their pushing of oxycontin, but it also helps to show why doctors thought it was a moral imperative to increase their patients' access to pain medication. They didn't need convincing from economists: doctors want to help their patients and people didn't realize what was coming back then.
I reviewed that book here.