Professional Economic Ethics: Why Heterodox Economists Should Care

George DeMartino


In presenting the case for professional economic ethics over the past two years, since the publication of The Economist’s Oath, I’ve encountered more scepticism among heterodox economists on the left than from those on the right. Left-leaning economists argue inter aliathat the project to establish a field of professional economic ethics is naïve, since economists are hardly to be dissuaded from doing wrong by the existence of a code of conduct; off target, since professional ethics doesn’t address the main failures of economics and economists; and as a consequence of all that, that professional economic ethics is wrong-headed, at least for heterodox economists, since it deflects our attention away from the real problems in our profession.

The left’s scepticism regarding professional economic ethics, while not lacking merit, is mistaken in central respects. Not least, heterodox economists hold too narrow a view of the scope of professional economic ethics; and they tend to conflate the field with a code of conduct. Once we correct these errors, we come to see that heterodox economists should be at the forefront of the push for professional ethics in economics. The paper concludes by examining what professional economic ethics might imply for economic pedagogy.

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Published on 15th April, 2013, in Economic Thought Vol 2, No 1, 2013