“Are economists idiots?” he asks

This is the title Are Professional Economists Idiots? and this is how it begins:

Taleb, a libertarian, aims his critique of intellectuals yet idiots (IYI) broadly but particularly at the contemporary economics profession. His targets are those described by the Mises Institute:

“The professional economist is the specialist who is instrumental in designing various measures of government interference with business.”

The economics profession in the U.S. today is mostly involved in research and education that broadly investigates “market failures” or is directly engaged in public action – regulation, tax, expenditure and off budget guarantees – to manage industries and the macro-economy purportedly in the public interest. This is the opposite of laissez faire economics, political advice to a 17th century French minister to “let it be” later developed into an economic theory by the 18th century philosopher Adam Smith and popularized by 20TH century economist Milton Friedman, a libertarian and cofounder of FFE (and my advisor, twice removed). How and to what end did the economics profession evolve from a philosophy of leaving economic decisions to individuals in the marketplace with few exceptions to public economic management of the United States and global economy?

The real answer is that economists are like everyone else, that they will follow their own self-interest. And if people demand idiotic answers to their questions, they will supply them. For proof, see modern macro.

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17 Responses to “Are economists idiots?” he asks

  1. Spurgeon Monkfish III

    Nayzees, Commies, Economists …

    Spot the difference.

    Hint: There isn’t any.

  2. John Brumble

    A good summary of the issue. Economists need to make money, but if they advocate for a free market, there is no money.

  3. Professor Fred Lenin

    Now why would anyone think that ? With things booming so well from their advice.salt of the earth the ecommunists , they went to university you know . !
    (I am a professor of global colding at the Fredlenin Institute in downtown Manangatang ,vic .

  4. JohnJJJ

    Economists are the usual two faced academics. They are paid to predict (which they are dismal at) and when called to account they pretend they study the past.

  5. thefrollickingmole

    An interesting little cartoon, off topic except that it was on Talibs twitter.

    https://twitter.com/nntaleb

    https://pbs.twimg.com/media/EOUPResXkAIcaQT.jpg:large

    Looks like the Yanks already have a version of our mega fires and a reason for it.

  6. Entropy

    It’s the way of things, government policy will soon swing back to statutory marketing authorities, which will require an army of economists to develop pricing models. This will make producers happy, but stifle innovation. Industry policy becomes popular again. For a while.
    Then a ginger group of supply side economists will begin to push the deregulation paradigm to rejuvenate the sclerotic and stagnant economy.

    It’s a virtuous Circle, a Circle of Life.

    When pondering such things, I just say Hakuna Matata and draw a circle in the air with my finger. It’s strangely calming.

  7. Tel

    A good summary of the issue. Economists need to make money, but if they advocate for a free market, there is no money.

    When buying and selling are researched … the first thing to get bought and sold are the researchers.

    Apology and hat tip to that Irish guy … ahhh PJ O’Rourke might have been.

  8. Fair Shake of the Sauce Bottle

    If all the economists were laid end to end you would still need to cover them with gravel and asphalt to make a half decent road.

  9. Art Vandelay

    The economics profession in the U.S. today is mostly involved in research and education that broadly investigates “market failures” or is directly engaged in public action – regulation, tax, expenditure and off budget guarantees – to manage industries and the macro-economy purportedly in the public interest.

    Politicians and bureaucrats in Canberra talk endlessly about so-called market failures, but mention the possibility of “government failure” to them (as I did) and you’ll get blank looks.

  10. Bad Samaritan

    I don’t really believe market failures actually exist in free or near-free market situations, but I’m happy to be set straight. Anyone got examples of such?

  11. Eyrie

    I’ve long advocated the death penalty for practising macro economics.

  12. flyingduk

    The economics profession in the U.S. today is mostly involved in research and education that broadly investigates “market failures” or is directly engaged in public action – regulation, tax, expenditure and off budget guarantees – to manage industries and the macro-economy purportedly in the public interest.

    There is no such thing as ‘market failure’ if free. Free markets often, and correctly, refuse to do things that interest groups would like, but this is an example of success, not failure!

  13. Iampeter

    “Are economists idiots?” he asks

    Who’s asking? Someone who claims to be a classic economist but thinks Trump is saving Western Civilization…?

    Not to mention that someone who thinks economics is about “a philosophy of leaving economic decisions to individuals in the marketplace with few exceptions” probably shouldn’t be throwing stones in his glass house either.

  14. Tim Neilson

    Iampeter
    #3301729, posted on January 25, 2020 at 11:43 am

    Someone who claims to be a classic economist but thinks Trump is saving Western Civilization…?

    Are economics and civilisation synonyms?

  15. Archivist

    You need to read more Taleb.

    He’s the world’s most important living economist. And it’s not even close.

    (and yeah I know he’s not an “economist” in the sense of having an economics degree etc.; he’s kind of the Donald Trump of economics)

  16. Entropy

    I think you could argue that externalities that have negative secondary impacts could be argued a market failure, Mr Samaritan.
    Pollution in its various forms for example.

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