Thursday, September 17, 2009

We, Economists

Carden and Horwitz in this Forbes article give us one of the most beautiful defenses of economics and economists that ever came to my attention. After reading it, I couldn't stop wondering about how hard it must be for people that are not well-versed in economic matters to make sense of the world around them, something exemplified by the poorly reasoned Huffington Post article that they analyze. It also came to my mind that, if I were to suddenly lose all my knowledge of economics, this would be as damaging to my functioning as a human being as if I were to suddenly forget how to read.

Notice that I'm not saying that formal education in economics leads to economic knowledge. I've met many people in my life that had economics running in their blood even though they've never taken even one economics class. Meanwhile, I've equally met many people that had degrees in economics and could not even effectively articulate simple economic concepts such as supply and demand. What leads me to the very important conclusion of the Forbes article:
Murray Rothbard once said that "it is no crime to be ignorant of economics," but that it is "totally irresponsible to have a loud and vociferous opinion on economic subjects while remaining in this state of ignorance." It is tempting, therefore, to dismiss Smiley's article as little more than sound and fury. Yet it does signify something profound and troubling: economists' failure to communicate the essential insights of our discipline. Jane Smiley's contemptuous and uninformed dismissal shows that we really need to redouble our efforts.

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