The task of the Economic Adviser is a difficult one and calls for the highest effort that a social scientist is capable of: No doubt he has to be a good economic theorist and must possess the necessary technical equipment to know the possible interrelations between economic forces.
To take a decision on a particular policy you must know how and in what various directions it will produce its effects, and economic theory, if anything, is an analytical way of showing that.
Theory provides to the economist an insight and its cultivation makes this insight keener into the variables on which a particular determinant operates, so that when an action is contemplated in the economic field, the economic theorist should be able at once to see the manner in which it is expected to work itself out and the range of phenomena which it is likely to affect.
Theory, however, has to be supplemented by judgement and intuition. In matters of policy it rarely happens that argument is wholly on one side. And since empirical facts as they are available in our society are very often unprecise and since quantitative comparisons of alternative situations are not always possible, you have to rely pretty extensively on judgement and intuition for sorting out the more significant aspects of a problem. Your economist must have that ‘amalgam of logic and intuition’ which Keynes speaks of as essential ‘for economic interpretation in its highest form. Nor is this all.
The Economic Adviser, if he is to be useful to society has to be more than an economist. It is not enough for him to draw economic conclusions from given data; he has to know how data themselves would be affected by a policy measure. And since a large part of these data concern human beings, the whole range of subjects dealing with human activity and human motivation, such as group psychology, politics and administration come within his jurisdiction. The ‘borderlands’ of Economics can perhaps be eschewed by the academic economist. But if the economic practitioner neglects these disciplines he does it at society’s peril.
Not only that the Economic Adviser must have intimate acquaintance with the structure and organization of the economy into which he is required to project his ideas. The practising economist has to know his own people and his own environment intimately and not merely from reports, in order fruitfully to apply his scientific knowledge. In a country like India, for example, the Economic Adviser will be well-advised to take occasional trips to villages where the majority of his countrymen live to have a direct acquaintance with these men on whose thoughts and motivations the success of a policy measure so largely depends. The ‘outward’ movements such as our advisers so often indulge in these days have to be tempered a little in favour of the more arduous ‘inward’ movement!
Above all our Economic Adviser must have a disinterested personality. Perhaps this is the most difficult part of his mental training, and yet this is an essential part. For nothing is more inimical to social stability than corruption of any kind on the part of the policy maker. Adam Smith warned his government against relying in matters of economic policy on the advice of the capitalist class on the ground that their interest is antisocial and they are apt to mislead the policy maker. ‘The proposal of any new law or regulation of commerce which comes from this order (the capitalists) ought always to be listened to with great precaution, and ought never to be adopted till after having been long and carefully examined, not only with the most scrupulous, but with the most suspicious attention.’
1 The same warning seems to apply to the middle class today, and your Economic Adviser is generally recruited from this class. In the discharge of his official duty the adviser must not identify himself with any class and must weigh a measure from the broader social point of view.