Friday, May 30, 2014

Chances Are that You Have No More Expertise in Economics than You Have in Astrophysics

By Robert Higgs

Although the statement is commonly attributed to Mark Twain, his friend Charles Dudley Warner was the one who said, “Everybody complains about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.” Regardless of who said it, the statement was and remains fairly accurate.

In contrast, we might observe, “Everybody complains about the economy, and a great many unfortunately try to do something about it.” Economic policy is the name given to such attempts by government officials, their consultants, and their contractors. For the general public, economic policy is a tragic matter because regardless of what the man in the street may think, the government’s actions almost invariably make economic life worse than it would have been had the policy makers kept their hands off of it.

Despite a gigantic outpouring of talking, writing, and studying, at least 90 percent of this yammering is worthless, and much of it is positively harmful. Look, I’m not going to lie to you: I’m an economist. I’m not bragging about this professional status; it’s simply a fact. If I were a plumber or a carpenter, I’d admit being one just as readily. Now, tens of thousands of other people also say that they are economists, but scarcely any of them is so in more than a nominal sense. They may have a Ph.D. in economics, yet it remains the case that their ideas about economics are no better than your average crackpot’s. The overwhelming part of what people learn in graduate school in economics is mathematical mumbo-jumbo whose substance boils down—if it boils down to anything, rather than simply evaporating—to what F. A. Hayek called the pretense of knowledge. In short, these “experts” are ill-educated fakers. My best guess is that no more than a couple thousand real economists exist in the entire world, and I would not be surprised if my estimate were too high by a thousand.

Besides the real and counterfeit pros, perhaps several hundred thousand other people purport to possess genuine knowledge about how the economic world works. At least 95 percent of them haven’t a clue. They are charlatans, whether they know they are or not. One has only to surf the Web, read the articles and comments, and consider the character of this froth. It’s almost all crap.

People are generally sensible enough that they do not go about their lives pretending to know about astrophysics at a professional level. They don’t dish out crackpot ideas about the red shift or the events that occurred in the first millionth of a second after the Big Bang. They realize that pretending to know anything much about astrophysics would only make them appear foolish to anyone who heard what they have to say. If only people had enough sense to realize that with very few exceptions, they actually know no more about economics than they do about astrophysics.

Bear in mind that knowing how to run a business successfully, knowing how to write an economics column successfully for a magazine, newspaper, or news site, knowing how to rise in your profession successfully, and knowing a great variety of other things is not at all the same thing as understanding how an economy works. How much better off the whole world would be if in regard to economics everyone settled for thinking locally and acting locally and, above all, never, never inviting politicians and government bureaucrats to do anything to “improve the economy.”

The above originally appeared at


  1. It is an odd and not so rare occurrence that the people who really are economists don't really know anything about a manipulated economy either. With all due respect currently, a degree in the dismal science, may be where education jumped the shark.

  2. Regulating the economy is akin to trying to regulate the temperature in the ocean or the air. The laws of nature and human nature will always in time override the meddling of a few whose breath is in their nostrils.

  3. News flash, mainstream astrophysics is just as corrupt and inept as mainstream economics. This should come as no surprise, given that every other field in academia has been co-opted by nut jobs.

    I've been following the field of astrophysics closely for most of my adult life. I've found it to be filled with ENORMOUS amounts of academic suppression. There is a reason why they are still playing re-runs of Carl Sagan's Cosmos that first aired back in 1980; that's because nothing has changed. No new insights have been allowed to come forward.

    Here's a recent article I did on this subject:

    1. Indeed. As someone once quipped, Big Bang Theory is creationism disguised as "science."

      What needs to happen is the de-centralization of science, technology, engineering, etc., especially at the upper division/graduate/post-doctoral academic research level.

    2. When government took control of science, science became a tool of government. When government began licensing broadcasters, broadcasting became a tool of government. When government took over education, education became government propaganda. Oh, look! They just took over what was left of the market for medicine. Imagine what they have planned for our health.

    3. Science is decentralized and highly competitive. It's as market based as you are going to get. Sorry you don't like what the scientific conclusions but you're not going to change reality.

      The Big Bang theory refutes creationism. Creationism claims God created the world in 6 days and rested on the 7th. The Big Bang theory claims the Universe was created 13.8 billion years ago in an explosion.

    4. "Science is decentralized and highly competitive."

      You are one ignorant man aren't you!

      This is the stupidest statement I have ever heard!

      Most "science" is bought and paid for by government "research grants" and "education funding" by which funds are obtained through theft (aka taxation) from unwilling victims. Therefore, most of what passes for "science" these days is simply production of more rationales for the ever expanding totalitarian police state.

  4. Unfortunately, this brief essay promotes the same error that is found in much of the comment on economic policy: that the "economists" who support all the official economic folly are stupid. They are not. They understand economics quite well. They understand that if they talk the mumbo jumbo of econometrics while running a massive counterfeiting racket, they will prosper. Most economists are in the pay of the counterfeiters.

    They understand that the easiest way to hide their evil intent is to disguise it as a stupid belief. So while their victims are calling them stupid, they grow richer - and their victims grow poorer. They pretend to believe in Keynes, but all they believe is that counterfeiting is good for them.

    It is far safer to appear stupid to their victims than to appear evil.

    1. Do you use a credit card? Do you have a mortgage? Then you are a counterfeiter. Borrowing money is the foundation for money creation. Without borrowing, the fractional reserve banking system can't create money. Ron Paul takes credit card donations for his home schooling program and for his phony foreign policy institute.

    2. Absurd, Jerry. Money is created, then borrowed. Blaming the borrowers for the counterfeiting of the money they borrow is sophistry on stilts. It may be true that the bankers don't "create" the money until it is loaned out, but it is still silly to lay this on the borrowers and not the counterfeiting banking cartel. In a rational economy, borrowed money would be someone's savings. Nice try, though, at word-gaming the whole racket to blame the victims.

    3. Troll, we are legally forced to operate within this phony monetary system.

    4. Re: Jerry Wolfgang,
      Do you use a credit card? Do you have a mortgage?

      Do you dance with the Devil by the pale moonlight?

      This game is fun!

    5. Omg, jerry Wolfgang is much more foolish than I thought. Credit card companies don't create money. They pay now, you pay later. No money creation involved. Holy shit, you're stupid, JW.

  5. You know the old saying: "Opinions are like arse holes - everyone has one!"

    Evidently, now everyone also has to drop there pants and shake it around in front of the whole world!

    Or as Mark Twain put it: "Most people will think the other person is a fool; you need not open you mouth and confirm it for them!"