Indeed, Indeed

While we adapt – as mankind has always done – we can do further work, both on the science and the economics. Anybody who reads the science will quickly realise that many key issues are fiercely contested. There is no consensus. But the controversies about the science are puny compared with those about the economics. On this we are being asked to rely on the Stern review, described by William Nordhaus, of Yale University, perhaps the world\’s leading environmental economist, as “completely absurd”.

3 thoughts on “Indeed, Indeed”

  1. There have been jokes about economics or economists for as far back as I can remember but, curiously, few mention controversies in medicine – remember the veritable epidemics of “Satanic Abuse” and “Munchausen’s Syndrome By Proxy”? – and the treatment errors which harm patients:

    “More than 700,000 NHS ‘patient safety incidents’ were reported in 2006-7.”
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/7143004.stm

    The law and judicial process is esteemed, isn’t it? How about the miscarriages of justice?
    http://www.innocent.org.uk/

  2. Bob–

    Through no apparent fault of your own (except that of the “up close and personal” of your occupation), you’re blindered on the subject.
    Just how many “economist” jokes could you actually come up with? Probably couldn’t run out your fingers, I’d guess. Fret not–just the doctor and lawyer jokes I’ve heard could fill
    books (and probably have):

    What’s the difference between a rooster and
    a shyster? A rooster clucks defiance!

    But I can give you at least a partial explanation for such poor public approbation. Simply, in the public’s view, economists are merely a type of shill for one or another “program” espoused by politicians or interest groups. But, unlike either politicians, pressure-group advocates, or even lawyers (all of whom are at least recognizable–and thus honest in their advocacy–as “hired guns”), economists represent themselves generally as more nobly motivated: as, like physicians, bringing “scientific” knowledge
    to bear on human problems.

    The problem (for economists and those concerned with their public reputation) is that few–in an individual sense–are potential customers for their expertise (except to the extent that it might be employed in the direction of personal investment programs). Thus, the market (for professionals) tends to be government and private agencies hoping to be influential in the formation of policy by government and further, in the education of the public, especially in relation to the desirable effect of government economic policies on societal welfare.

    Just look around you, Bob, at all the marvelous accomplishments of economists. And, I ask you–what’s not to laugh at?

  3. Gene,

    If economics and economists are so generally disregarded, then why is it that economics graduates are so well paid on average compared with graduates in other subjects, apart from medicine, dentistry and general engineering?

    For relevant data from an entirely independent source, try this in The [London] Times:
    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/education/good_university_guide/article2253011.ece

    Economic forecasting and analysis may be imperfect and controversial disciplines but big corporations, especially financial institutions, organisations representing business, and governments need to understand economic developments and assess the likely consequences of changes in policy. The central banks of the US, the UK and the Eurozone are all engaged in inflation targeting so each bank has to take a view on how interest rates are likely to affect inflation rates downstream. To do that, these central banks develop and maintain statistical models of how their respective economies behave and base decisions about setting interest rates on what those models are predicting.

    Btw the models of the central banks tend to be “keynesian”, meaning the models are usually about predicting the future course of the components of aggregate demand and the gap between demand and the supply potential of the economy. The IMF wrote the epitaph on monetarism in 1996:

    “…instability of monetary demand, especially in the context of supply shocks and declines in potential output growth, complicated the task of monetary authorities. As a result, during the 1980s most central banks – with some notable exceptions – either abandoned or downplayed the role of monetary targets”.
    IMF World Economic Outlook, October 1996, page 106.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *