Diane Coyle is pro-economist and makes a decent case, but says both that, "By their actions, governments clearly find economists useful, more useful than other kinds of social scientist," and "reselling tickets for events or concerts makes sense to economists, because it means the people who most value the opportunity will be the ones who attend." In the former sentence, 'find' has to mean 'regard as' rather than 'discover to be.' In the second, the enormous assumption is made that how much someone is willing to pay for something measures how much they value it. It obviously does measure or track that somewhat, but how much they can afford also matters hugely. Coyle must know this, but she writes as if she doesn't.
Peter Blair Henry is also pro-economist, arguing that:
If economists had adequate influence, policymakers in the U.S. and Europe would already have followed the example of developing countries and implemented structural reforms of their own, such as simplifying the tax code and making it easier to hire and fire workers.Hmm. The US tax code is certainly very complicated, and I expect its complexity is harmful. But it sounds as though this is Henry's way of saying cut taxes and make it to easier to fire people. Which to the untutored ear sounds like: if only the Republicans ran everything we would all be better off. Which I think there is reason to doubt.
Marion Fourcade says nothing that I can summarize easily. And perhaps really nothing at all, beyond the claim that economists currently occupy a position that is "fragile."
Orlando Patterson and Ethan Fosse, sociologists, make the bizarre claim that it's "no wonder" that implementing ideas from economists has failed given that what economists say about the state of the economy is different from most people's felt experience. If what they said felt truer would we have good reason to expect better results? Perhaps by "no wonder" they mean that it would not strike most people as surprising rather than that a rational person would expect these bad results. They also claim that the key to development at the national level is state intervention in the economy, basically the opposite of what Peter Blair Henry recommends. Who to believe? And they complain that Economics has its own so-called Nobel Prize.
Philip N. Cohen, another sociologist, seems much more sensible:
In reality, many economists don't hew so firmly to these mainstream dogmas [i.e. the kind defended by Henry]. But economists’ influence is largely proportional to the degree with which their analysis comports with the interests of those who make the most influential decisions. The free market orientation, individualist logic and materialist values of some economists serve well the captains of industry (or, nowadays, of finance), who in turn reward their compliant consultants with privileged perches around the seats of power.Finally, Charles R. Plott claims that Economics is great, appealing mostly to the fact that economic theories are widely used. Perhaps they are indeed used because they work so well. Or perhaps Patterson and Fosse are right that they actually have worked very badly. Or perhaps Cohen is right that the ideas that get used are those that suit the people in power. Who knows.