Plumbers, designers, or dentists? A triad of metaphors and how they reflect the current debate on the role and scope of economists in society and science

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The discussion on the role of economists is characterised by metaphors, which range from plumber to designer to dentist. This paper aims to clarify the meaning of these metaphors for applied economists. To this end, the source of theses metaphors, which is located in John Neville Keynes’ conception of the art of economics, is examined. In this context, it is argued that a return to John Neville Keynes’ tripartite systematisation of economics, namely positive, normative, and art of economics, can provide both structure and framework for the demands for theoretical-methodological complementarity, application orientation, and transparent values in economics. Through the synthesis of Kant’s sensus communis with Keynes’ tripartite systematisation of the economics, interdependencies between the three sub-areas are discussed. A central finding of this synthesis is that the disclosure of normative aspects in economics is necessary in order to establish intersubjectivity and thus create the conditions for an open discourse, which ultimately increases the resilience of economic analysis.

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