Alex and I learned during this weekend’s job interviews that behavioral economics remains "hot." Frequently a behavioral model will find some imperfection in individual choice or aggregate market outcomes. Behavioral economics often is used to argue for paternalism, for the relevance of sticky wages and prices, and against the efficiency of asset markets.
I’ve been a fan of behavioral economics from the beginning, as you might expect from a former student of Tom Schelling’s. But behavioral economics has overemphasized market failure at the expense of government failure. I would like to see more behavioral investigations along the following lines:
1. A productive entrepreneur exploits behavioral imperfections to defeat a blocking coalition.
2. A market that would otherwise have no equilibrium "core" in fact becomes quite stable, due to behavioral frictions.
3. A politician self-deceives and builds a self-aggrandizing "empire" rather than serving the median voter. Voters know that the potential political competitors will end up doing the same, and so they accept this tendency.
4. Median voters pick politicians on the basis of looks, height, or behavioral quirks, not expected policy or past performance.
5. Behavioral models often stress how choices can make people worse off. How about a model where welfare payments lead to a breakdown in self-restraint and community?