Timur Kuran is an economist, professor of economics and political Science, Gorter Family Professor in Islamic Studies at Duke University and author of “Private Truths, Public Lies: The Social Consequences of Preference Falsification.” His work spans economics, political science, history, and legal studies.
Timur is responsible for coining the term “preference falsification.” So what is preference falsification? It is the act of misrepresenting ones wants because of social pressures. There is a movement going through colleges where students feel they are being suppressed. They don’t feel they can express themselves because of fear they may be called a racist, sexist, etc. Despite America being seen as a country of freedom and self-expression, 90% of students feel they cannot speak freely or engage with professors and other students in lively debate.
What was the a-ha trigger moment that pushed Timur toward working on preference falsification? It happened while he was a PhD student studying economics. While learning about different theories, he looked around the classroom and knew not all of the students agreed or accepted the theories being taught. He felt uncomfortable himself challenging his professor and knew there was more to how he was feeling and how his classmates seemingly felt. This stayed in the back of his mind throughout his PhD program and he decided that after graduation he would start working on his new theory.
Timur uses the 2016 U.S. election between Clinton and Trump as an example of preference falsification. Trump showed he wasn’t afraid to take on the establishment, no matter how high up they may be. He challenged the media, a war hero, and other politicians and made them look like victimizers. Trump understood “the thinkable” and “the unthinkable.” By tapping into unthinkable thoughts that had never been articulated by other politicians, Trump gave hope to millions of people who otherwise may have discounted him. Timur also uses the 2011 Egyptian uprising as well as the caste system in India as other examples.