Harford on Corruption

March 2, 2009

I must create an original post soon, lest my blog lose its reputation for original content. But not today. Tim Harford serves up some wisdom with his typical wit:

When competition [among politicians] does reduce corruption, it is very good news. In such cases, the most feared phrase in politics should be “bipartisan agreement” – for which read “cartel”.

A word on Harford: speaking normatively, he’s the kind of economist more economists should be trying to be like. Too many economists have figured out that if you tell people what they wanted to hear anyway, you don’t really have to work through the tedious analysis. Instead, Harford starts with premises and works through their implications. As a result, he probably can’t tell you what the multiplier is or what is the likelihood of the stimulus bill “working”. But read Harford and the next time you think about real economic questions, you’ll be able to do more than just parrot some economist’s conclusions.


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