Are economists ruining economics? Over at the American Spectator, I say why that may well be be the case. Key points:
-Economists can’t even predict whether the stock market will go up or down tomorrow. Yet many economists tell everyone who will listen that they know how to solve the financial crisis and dig out of a near-global recession. No wonder people aren’t taking them as seriously as they used to.
-Economics isn’t the problem. The economic way of thinking is as powerful a tool as any for understanding the world around us. But it has its limits. Too many economists have pretended those limits away out hubris, or for political reasons.
-Any economist saying he understands global business cycles when he can’t even understand the pencil poking out of his breast pocket is a charlatan. But the discipline he dishonors is as beautiful as poetry. Interested readers should take a look at Leonard Read’s classic short essay, “I, Pencil,” as a case in point.
Tim Harford, Financial Times columnist and author of the underrated The Undercover Economist, takes some questions about economics and relationships with the New York Times’ Freakonomics blog.
The first question made me laugh, and also reminded me of my economist self a bit too much for comfort. And the part about engagement rings was enlightening — especially since I bought one not too long ago.
(Hat tip to my fiancee, who thankfully said yes.)
Posted in Economics, General Foolishness
Tagged Economics, economists, engagement, engagement rings, financial times, ft, geek romance, geeks, tim harford, undercover economist
In Washington, the first question people ask you is usually, “what do you do?”
“I’m an economist,” I answer. “I work at a think tank.”
“Oh,” the usual response goes. Followed by an immediate change of subject.
So I’m not a hit on the DC cocktail party circuit. But this quotation made me swell with pride when I read it:
“Economics is not a dry subject. It is not a dismal subject. It is not about statistics. It is about human life. It is about the ideas that motivate human beings. It is about how men act from birth until death. It is about the most important and interesting drama of all–human action”
Hat tip: the Foundation for Economic Education, which did much to introduce me to the economic way of thinking when I was younger, and continues to educate and inspire me today.
According to an amusing article in today’s Wall Street Journal, some are:
Children of economists recall how tightfisted their parents were. Lauren Weber, author of a recent book titled, “In Cheap We Trust,” says her economist father kept the thermostat so low that her mother threatened at one point to take the family to a motel. “My father gave in because it would have been more expensive,” she says.
and some aren’t:
[T]he principles that can make economists seem cheap sometimes lead them to hire help, because they are taught to value their own time.
Ms. Stevenson and Justin Wolfers, also of the Wharton School, gave a friend $150 to hire movers instead of helping him themselves. Harvard University economist David Laibson pays to have a driver pick up his sister from the airport rather than driving himself.
So are economists just cheap, or does their fixation on tradeoffs make them act in ways that only make them appear cheap? You be the judge.