Obama Brain Trust's Key 'Ism' Is Pragmatism

Team of behavioral economists bucks convention, ideology
By Jonas Oransky,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 29, 2008 9:38 AM CST
Behavioral economist icon Richard Thaler is seen in this University bio photo.   (chicagogsb.edu)
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(Newser) – Barack Obama’s brain trust leans heavily on behavioral economics, the New Republic reports, with academics who start small in their analyses—looking at everyday anomalies—and are relatively ideology-free pragmatists. From his top economic adviser to his health-care and Social Security aides, Obama is surrounded not by "big-think public intellectuals," but rather experts motivated by policy that better accounts for human behavior.

Such academics tend to come from a right-leaning world and aren't threatened by conventional wisdom; they may err less than Clintonites on the side of cautiously mimicking Republicans. But a minimum of ideology among Obamanauts doesn't mean they lack ambition: These would-be leaders want an automatic tax return, the global elimination of nuclear weapons and cap-and-trade arrangements that would drop carbon emissions.