Math and Environmental Policy – Because we’re not smart enough
Posted by Rich Sweeney on September 20, 2007
In a recent post, Dani Rodrik describes a reality that I encounter all the time as economist (aspiring at least) working on “liberal” issues. While he’s actually talking about anti-poverty and development, the same holds for environmental policy. Subjects like these are particularly susceptible to sentimentality, but are also far too important to be left to “mushy thinking” (his words, not mine). His point is that when it comes to politically and emotionally charged subjects like these, a lot of people have very strong opinions. In such situations, we need well specified arguments and rigorous analysis in order to convince others that our “conclusions follow from our premises and that we haven’t left loose ends hanging in our argument”. Rodrik notes that some people can do this without math, but most of us aren’t smart enough.