Historical Perspective

George F. DeMartino

in The Economist’s Oath

Published in print January 2011 | ISBN: 9780199730568
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199896776 | DOI:
Historical Perspective

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Why have economists consistently refused to give professional economic ethics the sustained attention that it deserves? This chapter explores the formation and early development of the American Economic Association (AEA) during the Progressive Era of the late 19th and early 20th century. It ties the young profession’s emerging antipathy to ethical matters to the positivist sentiments that attended its development. The AEA moved quickly away from explicit ethical grounding “save love of truth” in its pursuit of a bona fide social science. Central to this mission was the purging of the religious influences of Richard T. Ely and other AEA founders from the profession. Over time, the profession became more dismissive of professional ethics for economists for several reasons ranging from the view that the ethical obligations facing the economists were largely self-evident, to the idea that the AEA did not have the capacity to police a code of conduct.

Keywords: professionalization; codes of conduct; Richard T. Ely; positivism; Executive Committee; American Economic Association; Progressive Era; C. Elton Hinshaw

Chapter.  6456 words. 

Subjects: Public Economics

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