1. By its very name, does the “Association for Integrity and Responsible Leadership in Economics and Associated Professions” (AIRLEAP) insinuate that the economics profession is inherently lacking in integrity and responsible leadership?
No. AIRLEAP fully recognizes that integrity and responsible leadership do exist in the economics profession. We are made up of economists and other professionals who work in economic areas. If our organization truly believed that economists and associated professionals inherently lack integrity and responsible leadership, then our strategy would have been to seek the support of non-economists, as opposed to economists. AIRLEAP recognizes that there are very many economists and related professionals who have a great deal of integrity, and who are responsible leaders. However, AIRLEAP does realize that there is room for improvement in the areas. In our view, our commitment to integrity and responsible leadership requires us to identify, and to act on, the situations that do warrant improvement.
As indicated in our mission statement, we are not running a “witch hunt.” Our goal is not to embarrass or demean particular individuals or organizations, but to help them achieve the recognition and respect that we believe they, themselves, would want to achieve. Our attitude is positive; we are “for” economics, not “against” it.
2. But don’t all professions have problems with regard to integrity and responsible leadership? Isn’t this common knowledge (and don’t the leaders of AIRLEAP realize this)? Why should economics be singled out?
Our answer to this set of questions has separate parts. First, it should be noted that the prevalence of any problem should not, in itself, justify a tolerance for that problem. The fact that crime may be prevalent in every major city does not, in itself, justify a tolerance for that level of crime. Apathy, however, may grow in situations where people believe nothing can be done about a recognizable problem. Often, such pessimism coincides with the view that those who propose solutions are somehow naïve, or even foolish. Such has been the trend in human history. Yet, history has shown that the optimists can sometimes be right.
We are hardly “neutral observers of all areas of study,” who somehow decided to single out economics as the one field of study that needs attention. We focus on economics for a rather simple reason: it is our own field of study. In many other fields, in fact, associations similar to ours already exist. There is an Association for Integrity in Accounting, for instance, and there are numerous organizations devoted to promoting research integrity in the natural sciences, especially in biological and medical research. Our counterparts in these other fields want the same thing for their fields as we want for economics. Yet, the existence of our counterparts in other fields begs the question of why an organization like AIRLEAP has not already existed for some time? We do not have an answer to this question, except, perhaps, to say, “Well … we are here now.”
3. How does AIRLEAP compare to organizations that critically examine the field of economics, such as the Post-Autistic Economics Network, the Econ Journal Watch, and the International Network for Economic Method?
AIRLEAP shares and applauds all efforts by organizations to improve economics and associated fields by making them as useful, as accountable, and as beneficial to society as possible. AIRLEAP welcomes the opportunity to collaborate with these organizations wherever it might be feasible, in mutual efforts to improve economic discourse. However, unlike several other organizations with similar goals, AIRLEAP neither advocates, nor criticizes, any particular school of thought in economics. Except for our stated ideological commitment to integrity and responsible leadership, we are otherwise “ideologically neutral.”
Amnesty International, for example, states that it is “independent of any government, political ideology, economic interest or religion,” and “It is concerned solely with the impartial protection of human rights.” In a similar spirit, though AIRLEAP does not generally address human rights, we are focused on the promotion of integrity and responsible leadership, which, in our view, transcends across all subfields of economics and associated professions, in the same way that human rights issues transcend across all political perspectives.
We would like to see a more unified and direct effort across all subfields of economics, from econometrics to economic philosophy, to promote greater integrity and responsible leadership in the profession. We are not opposed to the debates that exist between different schools of thought, but we do not, as a group, take sides in those debates. In our view, this makes us unique among the many economic societies and associations that exist today.
One other, rather important, distinguishing feature about AIRLEAP is that we view our audience as the entire economics profession and other professions associated with economics. Our audience includes, but is not restricted to, academic scholars who are studying the history of economic thought. We address scholarly questions, but also address rather simple and basic questions about integrity and responsible leadership, in such down-to-Earth areas as the hiring of economists and fairness in peer review. Our work is not esoteric or prohibitive; we want whatever we produce to be read, understood, and appreciated by as wide an audience as possible.
4. But what if my own, personal opinions about the economics profession do not match the opinions of AIRLEAP? Shouldn’t I support AIRLEAP only if our opinions match?
AIRLEAP has no specific opinions about the economics profession, so there are no opinions to match. Each individual who supports AIRLEAP has his or her own specific opinions, and such opinions vary widely across different AIRLEAP supporters. The only thing that AIRLEAP supporters have in common is the general perspective that there is room for, and cause for, improvement in economics in the areas of integrity and responsible leadership. Even if you think the economics profession is nearly perfect in these areas, as long as you believe there is room for improvement and that such improvement is worthwhile, then you ARE consistent with AIRLEAP, and are encouraged to join us.
5. How much is AIRLEAP membership?
AIRLEAP membership is currently free, but requires a statement of agreement with certain responsibilities (which are not particularly restrictive or demanding). See Members/Volunteers.
6. If I contribute money to AIRLEAP, what will AIRLEAP do with it?
AIRLEAP’s expenditures are 100 percent transparent, and needless to say, AIRLEAP will comply with all of the requirements expected of a nonprofit organization. In particular, AIRLEAP will publicly release, each year, a detailed Treasurer’s report, and will answer any questions about its expenditures and balances to anyone who writes to us about it.
AIRLEAP is still a small organization that does not receive many contributions. Most of the funds are spent on basic administrative costs, such as legal and accounting fees, internet costs, postage, promotional materials (like pamphlets distributed at conferences), etc.