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Escape from Democracy
The Role of Experts and the Public in Economic Policy

$36.99 (G)

  • Date Published: December 2016
  • availability: In stock
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781316507131

$ 36.99 (G)

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About the Authors
  • The orthodox view of economic policy holds that public deliberation sets the goals or ends, and then experts select the means to implement these goals. This assumes that experts are no more than trustworthy servants of the public interest. David M. Levy and Sandra J. Peart examine the historical record to consider cases in which experts were trusted with disastrous results, such as eugenics, the regulatory use of security ratings, and central economic planning. This history suggests that experts have not only the public interest but also their own interests to consider. The authors then recover and extend an alternative view of economic policy that subjects experts' proposals to further discussion, resulting in transparency and ensuring that the public obtains the best insights of experts in economics while avoiding pitfalls such as expert bias.

    • Explains why the consequences of government by experts are so misunderstood, and therefore helps the reader appreciate why experts are presupposed to be better than the public
    • Shows how government by discussion is possible and addresses what sort of institutional support is necessary
    • Points out how a democracy can bring out the best in experts and brings info focus the difference between taking advantage of expertise and being taken advantage of by experts
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'You might think that an age of anticipated global warming is the wrong time to question the popular habit of deference to experts. David M. Levy and Sandra J. Peart argue otherwise in Escape from Democracy, contending that democratic discussion, not hierarchical domination, is the mode appropriate to the public sphere. They trace the eclipse of the democratic tradition in university economics. They illustrate the dangers of runaway authority with two disturbing cases: the eugenics movement, and comparative economics during the Cold War. This is a wise and high-spirited book by two of economics’ foremost public intellectuals.' David Warsh, Proprietor of the weekly commentary Economic Principals

    'Levy and Peart demonstrate brilliantly the dangers of deferring to experts. When we treat politics like engineering or dentistry we ask the experts to choose for us. This technocratic error is the escape from democracy the authors warn us against. If we are serious about equality, we must be serious about democracy. Theirs is a message - and an analysis - that we, the people, urgently need to hear.' Roger Koppl, Syracuse University

    'Levy and Peart are impressively knowledgeable in the primary and secondary classics of history of economics, not to mention statistics, game theory and archival research. They get excited by the subject and have produced an engrossing and relevant volume. As these notes may suggest, their book encourages discussion, even debate.' Joseph Persky, EH.Net

    'This is a fascinating and important book … we have here the beginning of a much-needed and long-overdue conversation.' Charles R. McCann, History of Economic Ideas

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    Product details

    • Date Published: December 2016
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781316507131
    • length: 290 pages
    • dimensions: 228 x 153 x 13 mm
    • weight: 0.48kg
    • contains: 15 b/w illus. 17 colour illus. 13 tables
    • availability: In stock
  • Table of Contents

    Part I. Introductory Themes:
    1. Introduction
    Part II. The Discussion Tradition:
    2. On 'strongly fortified minds': self-restraint and cooperation in the discussion tradition
    3. The Knightian moment
    4. The rise of new welfare economics: an end to endogenous goals?
    Part III. When Linear Models Fail: Two Cases:
    5. Experts and eugenics: 'science' privileges a social goal
    6. Expert judgment and Soviet growth
    Part IV. An End to Discussion: Secrecy and the Temptation to Bias:
    7. Experts and the philosopher's stone: John Law's secret financial alchemy
    8. The consequence of suppressing discussion: imprudence with biased experts
    Part V. Getting the Best out of Experts:
    9. A revised code of ethics for experts
    10. Mitigating the consequences of factional expertise
    11. Inducing greater transparency
    Part VI. Conclusion:
    12. Vox populi?

  • Authors

    David M. Levy, George Mason University, Virginia
    David M. Levy is Professor of Economics at George Mason University, Washington DC. He has worked with Sandra J. Peart at the University of Richmond for fifteen years, and both have co-directed the Summer Institute for the History of Economics and have been honored by the History of Economics Society.

    Sandra J. Peart, University of Richmond
    Sandra J. Peart is Dean and Professor in the Jepson School of Leadership Studies at the University of Richmond. She is a former president of the History of Economics Society and the president of the International Adam Smith Society.

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