@richardjmurphy insists he\’s an economist just as much as Adam Smith was.


Using a strategy used by many on the right, it sought to avoid the economic argument by playing the people who wrote the letter, claiming many were not economists. Apparently, for example, a retired economist is not really an economist. Nor is a historian allowed to comment on the subject. And heaven forbid someone working for a pressure group be given the title ‘economist’: that would never do.

The trouble is that this is a particularly foolish argument, and there’s ample proof of this. In particular, Adam Smith was not, using this definition promulgated by the institute that abuses his good name, an economist. He was, after all, a professor of moral philosophy and that, quite clearly, using the ASI methodology, would not qualify him to comment on economics.

If this is the best the right can do their intellectual arsenal really is bankrupt.

The only slight, teensy, tiny, problem with this is that the word \”economist\” was first used in this sense in English in 1804:

Word Origin & History


1580s, \”household manager;\” 1804 meaning \”student of political economy\” (see economy).
That\’s err, 14 years after Smith\’s death.
The word largely being coined to describe what Smith was one of the first people to try and do: study the political economy of a country.
And yes it\’s still true that a retired accountant from Wandsworth who boasts of having ignored the economics part of his Accounting and Economics degree at Southampton is not an economist.

13 comments on “@richardjmurphy insists he\’s an economist just as much as Adam Smith was.

  1. It is not that, as Richie says, they are not allowed to comment on macroeconomic questions, just that the reader may be misled about their qualification for so doing if they are described as ‘the country’s leading economists’. I’m delighted that a certain retired accountant from Wandsworth does comment on economic questions, it means I can get a good laugh from this blog daily

  2. Oh I don’t know, Ritchie’s probably very good at being a household manager…..as long as someone else is paying the bills…….

  3. What A1 said; the critique against these guys is that they described themselves as economists, not that they shouldn’t be allowed to comment on economic matters

  4. They describe themselves as “academics and economists” implying that they are both, whereas some are one or the other, very few are both, and R. Murphy plus four others are neither.
    The term is “passing off”.

  5. it’s perfectly fine to say that the views of non-economists are valid, and that arguments ought not be dismissed on the basis of who makes them … but why claim to be an economist when you are not?

  6. Luis,
    His whole positioning is based around ‘poacher turned gamekeeper’ i.e. As an insider, and fully understanding the issues involved, I hereby declare the accounting profession to be morally bankrupt, the tax system to be fundamentally flawed and the country’s economic policy to be unsustainable. The only way forward is tax and spend. Here’s how to tax and here’s what to spend it on.

    It’s worked well wrt Tax; the TUC *love* it for example, and he wants to extend that same model to economics. But for it to work, he has to be an economics insider as well.
    Hence the claim.

  7. I would hate to quibble with your reference source, but I understood that Smith coined the term OEconomics (can’t do the merged letter thing of the O and E at the start) to describe what he was doing.

    It’s right there in the Introduction of WoN:

    “Though those different plans were, perhaps, first introduced by the private interests and prejudices of particular orders of men, without any regard to, or foresight of, their consequences upon the general welfare of the society; yet they have given occasion to very different theories of political economy; of which some magnify the importance of that industry which is carried on in towns, others of that which is carried on in the
    country. Those theories have had a considerable influence, not only upon the opinions of men of learning, but upon the public conduct of princes and sovereign states. I have endeavoured, in the fourth book, to explain, as fully and distinctly as I can, those different theories, and the principal effects which they have produced in different ages and nations.

    Tim adds: Indeed: but note that I said “economist” not “economics”. It’s pretty much true that “economist” was invented as a way of describing one who did what Smith had done, economics.

  8. @Tim adds…

    Ah. Probably.
    But in that our Smiffy was the man who coined the phrase “political economy” from which the term “economist” was then derived, our Richie is still massively monstrously wrong.

    He might, in fact, be a WGCE.

  9. Adam Smith was a moralist. And aren’t we all economists just not theorectical economists which means nowt to most people?

  10. Anyone here notice Ritchie’s Bio on his new Forbes blog. Here is a nice little quote from it for ease of reference:

    “I’m a professional accountant. OK, I’ve been trained in economics too. And I’ve done my fair share of entrepreneurial activity, writing, lobbying and other things besides, but when it comes to writing my occupation on a form I usually describe myself as a chartered accountant.”

    Interesting that he seems to think that he is an accountant and not an economist. The statement that “I’ve been trained in economics” is interesting, I wonder where he underwent that training, perhaps O-level?

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