… is from pages 43-44 of the late Peter Bauer‘s 1969 paper “Development Economics: The Spurious Consensus and Its Background,” which is a chapter in the 1969 collection Roads to Freedom: Essays in Honour of Friedrich A. von Hayek (Erich Streissler, Gottfried Haberler, Friedrich A. Lutz, and Fritz Machlup, eds.):
The insistent demand for the services of economists working in the area of underdeveloped countries and of economic development derives from the belief that economists can assist substantially in the promotion of material progress, a belief which is reflected and encouraged by the use of the term economic development to denote material progress. This belief is at best over-sanguine, if not largely unfounded.
The public believes, or at least believed until recently, that economics is a more or less exact subject which can and should provide definite answers to a wide variety of questions and demands. And in development economics many of us confirmed readily what people wanted to be told, and what was agreeable and lucrative to the profession, namely that we largely have the answers; and by implication that the important variables are those which we can readily analyse and politicians can readily influence. Why the public and the politicians want to hear is intellectually and materially congenial to us.