Who Are These Economists, Anyway?
To be sure, mathematics is beautiful, or can be. I’m especially fond of the complex geometries generated by simple non-linear systems. The clumsy mathematics of the modern mainstream economics journal article is not like this. It is more like a tedious high school problem set. The purpose, one suspects, is to intimidate and not to clarify. And with reason: an idea that would come across as simple-minded in Englih can be made “impressive-looking” with a sufficient string of Greek symbols.
Leading active members of today’s economics profession… have formed themelves into a kind of Politburo for correct economic thinking. As a general rule —as one might generally expect from a gentleman’s club —this has placed them on the wrong side of every important policy issue, and not just recently but for decades. They predict disaster where none occurs. They deny the possibility of events that then happen… They oppose the most basic, decent and sensible reforms, while offering placebos instead. They are always surprised when something untoward (like a recession) actually occurs. And when finally they sense that some position cannot be sustained, they do not reexamine their ideas. They do not consider the possibility of a flaw in logic or theory. Rather, they simply change the subject. No one loses face, in this club, for having been wrong. No one is dis-invited from presenting papers at later annual meetings. And still less is anyone from the outside invited in1.
1 Galbraith, James K. “How The Economists Got it Wrong,” The American Prospect. February, 2000.