Monday, August 12, 2013

Insights on How Many Economists Operate


In the last few months I’ve participated in two debates with economists and have been dressed down by one of the rock stars in the academy.  While I know many cordial economists I have met far too many that lack basic civility and tact.  Perhaps they respond to incentives that favor aggressiveness over compromise and rich financial sponsorship over unbiased search for the truth.

            While I am painting with a broad brush I see far too many economists with the following characteristics:

1)         They receive ample financial sponsorship that supports results-driven research and advocacy.

2)         They may not disclose their sponsorship.  If they do, they still will insist that outcomes supportive of their sponsor are incidental.

3)         They make up their own rules.  As a lawyer I have to work within case precedent and the rule of law.  Economists can create rules that become legitimate by use and the aforementioned financial sponsorship, e.g., the Efficient Components Pricing Rule.

4)         They place a premium of aggressiveness and snarkiness.

5)         They personalize and attack when the merits do not favor their position.  In one debate an economist did not address the merits of my arguments, but instead emphasized that “Professor Frieden and his ilk” are bad for America, etc.

6)         They revile laws that don’t make economic sense, but freely engage in the practice of law without a license.

7)         They are better at math than most people and consider this as confirmation of their superior intelligence.

8)         They consider themselves the smartest people in the room and let you know it.

9)         They often create papers that recite the obvious, or advocate something counter-intuitive that they can "prove" with math; and

10)       They have freedom to assume anything to provide any solution.  How does an economist get out of a hole?  He or she assumes a ladder.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Emperor's new clothes? http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/08/16/stagflation-stagnation-and-intellectual-asymmetry/

chris said...

See http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/08/16/stagflation-stagnation-and-intellectual-asymmetry/

Ben Cramer said...

See these:

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-07-17/is-economics-a-science-or-a-religion-.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jared-bernstein/is-economics-a-science_b_3816471.html