“Moral aspirations have a price”, says economist David Thesmar

The New Factory. – Your book highlights a divide between economists and public opinion. What is it based on?
David Thesmar. – Economists have a fairly narrow value system that mixes, to varying degrees, a logic of economic efficiency – “we must maximize GDP” – and a universalist morality – “we must minimize inequalities”. But people have a much richer value system. They are motivated for example by freedom, high pleasures such as culture, altruism or loyalty to their community. These dimensions are little taken into account in economics.

Are liberal economists not apostles of freedom?
Paradoxically no. Because freedom, in Hayek or Schumpeter, is very “instrumental”. It allows economic agents to coordinate effectively, entrepreneurs to disrupt their sector… But it is not a value in itself. Amartya Sen is an exception that proves the rule. In general, for economists, people are not free not to maximize their utility or their pleasure. Which can lead, in a “hardcore” version, to put them under guardianship in their own interest, like Britney Spears.

Are economists influenced by their way of life which, in your words, is more “brunch in New York” than “spend a weekend at Puy du Fou”?

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