April, 2020

Logic is a harsh mistress

Welfare economics for economists
  • Peter Leeson

    Senior Fellow, F. A. Hayek Program for Advanced Study in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics
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Every economic explanation assumes maximization. How strange, then, that few economists accept one of maximization's most straightforward implications: every observed institution is efficient. My aim is to persuade economists of this fact and thus to dissuade them from making illogical claims about social welfare. To frame my argument, I consider the “property rights approach” to institutions developed by Yoram Barzel. I speculate that economists resist what maximization implies about institutional efficiency because they think that efficiency-always precludes them from improving the world, and hope of improving the world is what attracted them to economics in the first place. But, besides being inconsistent, resistance is unnecessary: efficiency-always does not preclude economists, or anyone else, from improving the world.