No one argued for ideological openness in the social sciences more extensively than the late Nobel economics laureate Gunnar Myrdal. A survey of economists in the United States finds that 62 percent of respondents would welcome the practice of ideological self-disclosure, suggesting that Myrdal’s proposal may be an idea whose time has come.


With Adam Smith, political economy emerged as part of moral philosophy. From the early 1800s, however, writers have considered whether economics as a science can be demarcated from morals and politics. Can economics be value free? Even if it can be, should it be? During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, there were strong movements toward demarcation and separation of economics from moral, cultural, and political judgment.

Someone who moves in the world of academic economics now is likely to detect something of an official orthodoxy that economic science should be “positive” and not “normative.” In this view, economists should be factual, analytical, and “objective,” and they should keep their value judgments out of the research.

Daniel B. Klein is a Research Fellow at the Independent Institute and Professor of Economics at George Mason University.
William L. Davis is a professor of economics at the University of Tennessee at Martin.
Bob G. Figgins is a professor of economics at the University of Tennessee at Martin.
David Hendengren is a Ph.D. student in economics at George Mason University.
Economic History and DevelopmentEconomic PolicyEconomistsEconomyPhilosophy and Religion
Other Independent Review articles by Daniel B. Klein
Summer 2023 The Tao Exposes Slavers to Contempt
Spring 2023 Instilling Duties above Instilling Rights: Two Features of Adam Smith’s Talk of Justice and Liberty
Summer 2020 Adam Smith’s Rebuke of the Slave Trade, 1759
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