Friday, August 20, 2010

AEA Elections

As a member in good standing of the American Economics Association (AEA), I recently received a ballot to vote 2011 officers of the association. Included along with the ballot was the following announcement: "AEA voting rates were once better than other social science associations but have declined in recent years...." What is surprising, given the strong influence of Public Choice Theory in economics, is that AEA voting rates were once better than in other social science associations. Public Choice Theory maintains, generally, that voting is an economically irrational activity because (a) it is costly to vote, but (b) the chance of any particular voter's vote affecting the outcome is approximately zero. Declining voting rates among members of the AEA simply indicate that they are paying attention to their own theories, right? An economist voting in an AEA election would be like an economist gambling at a casino (without a formula for beating the odds).

One other interesting thing about the AEA ballot: All of the candidates are from the elite-of-elite universities: 2 from Princeton; 2 from Stanford; and 1 each from Chicago, Yale, Harvard, MIT, and Columbia. I am aware that some economists (among other academics)  believe that academia is basically a meritocracy, in which the cream always rises to the top. But I am not among them (and not only for self-serving reasons). I would be much happier to see a ballot that included the names of really smart economists, and there are plenty, from a wider variety of colleges and universities.Perhaps that would reduce some of the clubbishness that the AEA exhibits (like so many other academic organizations).

Just in case you're wondering, my ballot is in the wastebasket.

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