Has any economist ever been a better writer than Bob Solow?

According to George Stigler, economists are generally conservative because the scientific study of economics makes them so. According to Professor Heilbroner, the more likely explanation is that economists tend to take care of the System because the System takes care of them, by paying professors’ salaries well into the upper reaches of the income distribution.

I have my doubts about that last bit of reasoning. It seals off discussion. If I disagree on an issue, the implication is that I am a paid lackey of the System. If I protest that I, like Professor Heilbroner, am above that, I am doubly suspect. It is like what happens if I say that Freudian theory is obvious nonsense: I am told that I only say that because of my relation with my mother. I protest that my mother had nothing to do with it. “See!” says my Freudian friend and walks away a sure winner. (Even in the days when I was a close student of Marxism I used to wonder about a similar question: if social theory is part of the ideological superstructure, hence not to be taken at face value, why is not Marxism also part of the superstructure—and in that case why should we take at face value the Marxist notion that social theory is part of the ideological superstructure?)

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Many people seem to have rushed from the claim that no social science can be perfectly value-free to the conclusion that therefore anything goes. It is as if we were to discover that it is impossible to render an operating-room perfectly sterile and conclude that therefore one might as well do surgery in a sewer.