Ethics in economics: lessons from human subjects research
Keywords:experimental economics, positive-normative distinction, research ethics
Many economists, it is said, "are inclined to deny that moral philosophy has anything to do with economics" (Hausman and McPherson 2006, 291). In this paper I challenge such inclinations by drawing an analogy between economic interventions and human subjects research. It is undeniable that investigators engaged in the latter should adhere to specific ethical principles. I argue that analogous features of economic interventions should lead us to recognise that similar ethical concerns actually arise in both activities, and thus that economic interventions should also be conducted in accordance with ethical principles. By exploring the analogy further I formulate some ethical guidelines for economic practice, which in turn imply that ethical responsibilities will extend to all members of the economics profession.