Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The push by some economists for a code of ethics, and how that might have better labeled Zimbalist's work for Forest City Ratner

Economists lack an ethics code, which poses challenges for journalists covering them, wrote Craig Silverman yesterday on Poynter, a journalism site:
Unlike doctors, architects, dentists, building contractors, journalists and a wide range of other professions and trades, economists do not have a code of professional ethics.

That would seem more of an internal matter for the profession if it weren’t for the fact that journalists rely on academic and applied economists as sources. Economists are viewed as credible, authoritative experts. Their words carry weight. So should the lack of an ethical code change the way journalists deal with economists? Or is it irrelevant to the quality of commentary and information they provide?
A code coming?

There's a move afoot for a code, as some 300 economists have signed a letter to the president of the American Economic Association calling for the group to adopt a code of ethics. That is apparently under study.

The proposal:
More specifically we propose that the AEA adopt a code modeled on that of the American Sociological Association. This code could state that: “Economists should maintain the highest degree of integrity in their professional work and avoid conflicts of interest and the appearance of conflict. Moreover, economists should disclose relevant sources of financial support and relevant personal or professional relationships that may have the appearance or potential for a conflict of interest in public speeches and writing, as well as in academic publications.”
I didn't see the name of Smith College sports economist Andrew Zimbalist as among the signatories of the letter, but I didn't see some other prominent sports economists either.

Zimbalist's disclosure

Of course, everyone knows Zimbalist was paid by Forest City Ratner for the study he wrote, right? Maybe--it was in the press--but maybe not.

It's notable that the document, below, actually doesn't disclose that. FCR VP Jim Stuckey claimed at a 5/4/04 City Council hearing, "It is really not our report, it is Professor Zimbalist’s report."

That report has a few other problems, too.

Andrew Zimbalist Report 2004 on Atlantic Yards, for Forest City Ratner

1 comment:

  1. I spoke with Zimbalist several times while he was preparing his report and his intellectual arrogance was stunning. He seemed to actually believe (or else he's a fantastically good liar) that being paid by FCR would have no impact on his findings. Apparently sports economists (or at least this one) know nothing about the work on influence that their own colleagues have produced, but it sure is funny how no one ever writes a report finding AGAINST the interests of whoever is paying them.