Ekonomipristagare om beteendeekonomi

I Karen Horns intervjubok Roads to Wisdom: Conversations with Ten Nobel Laureates in Economics får ekonomipristagaren Gary Becker följande fråga (s. 146):

What do you think about behavioral economics? Do you think it is useful even though it questions the rationality assumption? Can it teach us anything at all?

Han svarar:

There are three different aspects about behavioral economics. One is that in this approach, you can extend the concept of people’s preferences, so that their utility includes equity and so on. I certainly accept that. I have done some of that myself, and some people have been doing this for a long time. Doing this is useful in some instances, although maybe not in others. Another aspect is about all those psychological quirks and deviations. I think that has taught us something. On the other hand, third, I think there is sometimes confusion in this kind of literature between what is important at the individual level and what is important at the group level, which is why economists look at these things — the market level, so to speak. There are all those quirks that are unimportant at the group level because they cancel out. They don’t survive, just like discrimination. A lot of discrimination doesn’t survive due to market forces. In many cases, there is done too little of that sort of market analysis. But on the whole, I think behavioral economics has added some insights, and it is a useful contribution to economics in general — if its limits are accepted, and if the role of market forces is not overlooked. I just have these two provisos.

Den tredje punkten finner jag särskilt intressant: även John List och Steven Levitt samt John List och Daniel Millimet har berört den och varnar för förenklade slutsatser om irrationalitet på makronivå på basis av irrationalitet på mikronivå. I samma intervjubok (s. 235) ger ekonomipristagaren Vernon Smith sin syn på saken:

The maintained hypothesis in psychology is that people aren’t rational, and therefore the system can’t be rational either — whereas we economists have learned that institutions matter. Well laid-out institutions can help people with rational decision-making. Therefore, I actually believe that a lot of the current work in cognitive psychology is likely to be affected by experiments with repeat interactive decision making experiences.