Continuing Conversation... Luigi Zingales on Incentives and the Potential Capture of Economists by Special Interests
By Amy Willis
Russ Roberts welcomed back University of Chicago’s Luigi Zingales to talk about an essay in which Zingales argues that economists are subject to many of the same sorts of biases as regulators because of the incentives they face.
Use the following questions to reflect on this episode, assign them to students in your class, use them to strike up conversation at your next social gathering.
Check Your Knowledge:
1. What is “regulatory capture,” and how can academic economists be similarly “captured,” even when they’re not the ones regulating?
2. How does the academic publishing process in economics contribute to the situation described in the previous question, according to Zingales? To what extent do you think this is equally true in other disciplines? Explain.
3. Zingales offers three suggestions for fighting against bias in economic research. What are his suggestions? How would you evaluate the potential effectiveness of each one?
4. About halfway through the episode, Roberts says he wants to look at himself in the mirror to examine the extent of his own bias. Revisit some of the episodes from this summer he is referring to (such as Sam Altman, Marc Andreessen, Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha, and Nathan Blecharczyk). Do you think Roberts’ interviews were characterized by too much admiration? Explain. To what extent does that matter? How do you think Zingales would answer this same question?
5. What role does a researcher’s ideology play in his research? To what extent can Epistemological Skepticism about Social Phenomena mitigate this influence?