« Bad economics: weekly roundup | Main | The Bank of Canada will raise interest rates tomorrow »


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

This is definitely most true of economics - everyone's an expert and the academics are ivory tower eggheads who don't understand the real world. But it's also true, to an extent, of law, politics, and other such fields. It's really only when you get into the hard sciences that people are genuinely willing to defer to expertise, and then to such a high degree that they basically delegate all responsibility for critical thought to the specialists. Just look at the public attitude towards global warming and other scares fed by science; the people behind them are gods, incapable of being incorrect or biased.

- Adam

P.S. Every time I read something intelligent Krugman once wrote I shake my head and wonder what the hell happened.

There's a hypothesis that's a lot less flattering to economics. I mean, it could in fact be that the emperor isn't as well-dressed as you think he is. The main antagonism towards "mainstream economics" has come from the left, largely, but economists seem particularly oblivious to the critiques.

I dispute the fact that other sciences are "immune" to these forms of criticism. It's a give-and-take between, say, economists and oil engineers/geologists over peak oil. As someone who, um, dabbles in theoretical linguistics, well, theoretical linguists have no trouble criticizing basic concepts from, say, behavioural psychology. For instance, Chomsky regularly dumps on economics AND behavioural psych...

What happened to Krugman was that in 2000 he realised that no one in the American political establishment, including leading academics, was willing to call the Bush 43 out on its policy lies. What is so interesting about Krugman is that his opposition to the administration and the current Republican Party comes naturally from his expertise. It started when he called BS on the GOP tax cut claims during the 200o Prez campaign. It grew when he called BS on the Social Security GOP bamboozle. And it morphed over to Iraq when Krugman realised, the first serious pundit to realise BTW, the the Bush GOP used lying as a basic operating method.

But originally it all comes from his research. He saw an uncontested untruth and stepped up to refute it and the rest is history.

Before we get carried away in our sympathy for economists, let us not forget that evolutionary biologists have faced their own trouble with lay critics. During the present Bush administration (pardon the detour south), the habit has been to trot out non-experts to counter inconvenient facts in every field of enquiry.

There is also a tendency, at banks anyhow, to treat the economist as an expert on politics and foreign policy.

I don't mean to object to the observations made here, but to broaden them a bit. I suspect willingness to claim expertise in any given area is directly proportional to the payoff from having the answer go one's own way. Economics is big on payoffs, so everybody wants to claim expertise.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Search this site

  • Google

Blog powered by Typepad