This is from Greg Mankiw's blogspot.
Mankiw's characterisation of left versus right
economists illustrate the technique of framing
discourse in such a way that it is conceptually
impossible to seriously discuss
important issues. Notice there is no mention of
capitalism or socialism in any of the different
I would consider that the most important group of
leftist economists are socialists. At best Mankiw's
leftists are progressive "liberals" but who basically
support the capitalist system and haven't the
intension of replacing it, at most they want to make
it more humane etc.
In describing left versus right the ownership of
the means of production or class relationships do not
even come up. I conclude that Mankiw's typology is
pure ideology that is ideal for an impoverished realm
of discourse that is entrenched in economic discourse
in advanced capitalist societies.
A similar poverty-stricken dualism is evident in
political discourse between liberal and conservative
or at the party level between Democrat and Republican
in the US.
For those who are not socialists but are interested in left environmentalism the categories are not very helpful either for positions on the environment are not even mentioned specifically. Also for those who are concerned about democracy in relationship to economics there is nothing either. There is nary a mention of worker control or the issue of how economic decisions are made. Many leftist economists would surely think that there should be some democratic mode of decisionmaking whether the decision is to leave things to the market or have more controls. One could go on and on. There are also a number of problems with the summaries themselves but I wont go in to that except to give an example. The right does not always see competition as a pervasive feature of the economy. In fact the right and in particular free traders are emphatic about the importance of intellectual property rights whose whole purpose is to by legal means prevent competition. So even factually speaking this is grossly out of whack with reality. The globalization of the capitalist economy is accompanied by the enforcement of intellectual property rights such as patents.
Mankiw is a professor of economics at Harvard University.
How do the right and left differ?
The conclusion of today's ec 10 lecture:
In today's lecture, I have discussed a number of reasons that right-leaning and left-leaning economists differ in their policy views, even though they share an intellectual framework for analysis. Here is a summary.
The right sees large deadweight losses associated with taxation and, therefore, is worried about the growth of government as a share in the economy. The left sees smaller elasticities of supply and demand and, therefore, is less worried about the distortionary effect of taxes.
The right sees externalities as an occasional market failure that calls for government intervention, but sees this as relatively rare exception to the general rule that markets lead to efficient allocations. The left sees externalities as more pervasive.
The right sees competition as a pervasive feature of the economy and market power as typically limited both in magnitude and duration. The left sees large corporations with substantial degrees of monopoly power that need to be checked by active antitrust policy.
The right sees people as largely rational, doing the best the can given the constraints they face. The left sees people making systematic errors and believe that it is the government role’s to protect people from their own mistakes.
The right sees government as a terribly inefficient mechanism for allocating resources, subject to special-interest politics at best and rampant corruption at worst. The left sees government as the main institution that can counterbalance the effects of the all-too-powerful marketplace.
There is one last issue that divides the right and the left—perhaps the most important one. That concerns the issue of income distribution. Is the market-based distribution of income fair or unfair, and if unfair, what should the government do about it? That is such a big topic that I will devote the entire next lecture to it.