From villains to heroes? The economics profession and its response to the pandemic
The unprecedented crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic has prompted a spontaneous collective effort by the economics profession to contribute both to the immediate policy response to the shock, and also to the debate about the character of the subsequent recovery. This paper describes the current contributions of economists, largely from a UK perspective, and compares – and contrasts – this episode with the activities of economists during WW2. In both cases economists have collectively responded to crisis demands with a strong sense of public service. There are also key differences, including the presence of a formal economics profession in government now in contrast to the earlier period, and also prior critiques of economics as a discipline since at least the 2008 financial crisis. The second world war led to significant innovations in economics and its professional status; the scale of the current crisis may in turn lead to an evolution in the professional character of the discipline.