Working Paper

How far are Economists Purveyors of Fake News?

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How far are economists implicated in the rise of ‘fake experts’ and ‘fake news’?

The rise of populism has encouraged the rejection of expertise as supporting the socio-political establishment perspective and interests. The solutions have ranged from ignoring expertise altogether, to improving expertise within its current framework, to efforts to change that framework. This third approach, which we advocate here, supports the development of alternatives to mainstream economics alongside democratising the process of research development and dissemination. A core issue is how far it is feasible to establish agreement (among experts, far less the wider community) on the facts and causal mechanisms which provide the basis for economic policy. Is it a binary choice between fake news and truth? It is argued here that there is scope for different logics (types of reason) and different accounts of the facts, evident in the rise of populism. But this does not mean that any theory or any facts can be asserted. While experts seek truth, it is in general a matter for persuasion rather than demonstration (far less assertion). For persuasion of the wider population to be effective, institutional development is required to ensure that expert analysis make a (two-way) connection with people’s real experience.