What makes you an economist?

Dominique Strauss-Kahn has been arrested, taken off a plane to Paris, and accused of a shocking crime.  When I hear of this kind of story, I always wonder how the “true economist” should react.  After all, DSK had a very strong incentive not to commit the crime, including his desire to run for further office in France, not to mention his high IMF salary and strong network of international connections.  So much to lose.

Should the “real economist” conclude that DSK is less likely to be guilty than others will think?  If you are following the social consensus estimate of p, does that make you less of an economist?  A lesser economist?  Is everyone else an economist anyway and thus you can agree with them?  How many economists seriously use the concept of incentives — more than non-economists do — to understand everyday events?  Is the notion that incentives predict individual behavior actually so central to economics?  Should it be?

So run my thoughts this evening.  I asked similar questions when legal charges were levied against Kobe Bryant.


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