Philosophical (Self-)Evaluations of Economic Expertise

Henrik Roeland Visser

This project concerns the status of expertise in economic research. While economists are expected to be objective to justify their privileged epistemological position in public policy-making, they often crucially rely on their personal and subjective expertise for making methodological choices and adjusting forecasts for known model imperfections. The resulting tensions motivate the development of strategies that filter expertise such that it is only used when it is most fruitful or uncontroversial. In applied research contexts these strategies often fail however, forcing researchers to produce research results that rely on expertise with unproven credentials, or to limit their reliance on expertise.
I study policy-advising forecasting institutes that struggle with these tensions. I interpret the discussions of economists working at these institutes as philosophical arguments, as claims that their research methods and the underlying expertise adhere with legitimate (non-)epistemic values. If these claims are thus regarded as a parallel debate to the philosophy of science literature on inductive risk and the role of (non-)epistemic values in science, we can ask whether the econometric evaluation of expertise is a fruitful formalization of such philosophical arguments, and if so, whether the limited success of these strategies of expertise should influence our understanding of the philosophical literature.