Environmental Ignorance Is Economic Bliss
by Philip Barnes
In The Descent of Man, Charles Darwin wrote that “ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge.” This single line succinctly describes a recently conceptualized psychological phenomenon called the Dunning-Kruger Effect. David Dunning and Justin Kruger, two researchers from Cornell University, have concluded that there is an inverse relationship between a person’s knowledge and skill level in a particular area and the person’s self-rated ability to perform in the area. Dunning and Kruger argue that people who are unknowledgeable and unskilled at performing an activity are also unable to recognize their own incompetence, which is why they tend to overestimate the quality of their performance when asked to self-evaluate. (Likewise, those individuals who are highly knowledgeable and highly skilled tend to underestimate their performance when asked to self-evaluate.)
Enter the economics discipline. Despite the overwhelming scientific evidence that economic activity is exceeding environmental limits and destabilizing both global and local ecosystems, demonstrably flawed pro-growth economic theory continues to be touted as the cure to our ailments. Could the collective of practicing economists, policy-makers, economics professors, and economics students all be suffering from something akin to the Dunning-Kruger Effect? As a community, are these individuals so unknowledgeable about the environmental consequences of pro-growth economic activity that they tend to systematically overestimate the discipline’s environmental performance?
A good place to start investigating these questions would be in the departments of economics at higher education institutions. After all, economic knowledge and skills are taught and cultivated at universities.
To read the full essay, please click here: http://steadystate.org/environmental-ignorance-is-economic-bliss/