Economist Magazine Explains Why Economics Is Prestigious – But Gets It Wrong
By Staff News & Analysis - December 09, 2014

The status of economists … The power of self-belief … A new paper looks at how economists became so influential … "If economists could manage to get themselves thought of as humble, competent people, on a level with dentists, that would be splendid!" said John Maynard Keynes, a British economist. Despite their collective failure to predict the financial crisis, let alone follow Keynes's injunction, economists are still very influential. They write newspaper columns, advise politicians and offer expensive consulting services to business-folk far more than other academics. A new paper tries to explain why. – Economist magazine

Dominant Social Theme: Economists are influential because they are smart and self-discipline works.

Free-Market Analysis: This is an interesting meme. Economists ARE influential, though not for the reasons that The Economist enumerates.

In fact, we can make an argument that modern mainstream economics is entirely a manufactured science: in the past we've done just that.

Anyway, there are lots of problems with this article. It takes the "science" of economics for granted and then explains, wrongly in our view, why economics has vast credibility in the 21st century.

Here's more:

One reason, say the authors, is that economists have come to believe that they are superior. A survey in 1985 found that just 9% of graduate students in economics at Harvard strongly believed that economics was "the most scientific of the social sciences".

But as economics became ever more mathematical, its practitioners grew in self-confidence. By 2003 54% of the graduate economists studying at Harvard strongly agreed with the statement. A glance at a popular blog for doctoral students in economics,, gives a taste of the contempt in which its users hold other disciplines. Sociologists "play around with big important ideas without too much effort or rigour," one econo-nerd asserts.

The authors point out that economists demonstrate their self-belief in subtler ways too. Articles in the American Economic Review cite the top 25 political-science journals one-fifth as often as the articles in the American Political Science Review cite the top 25 economics journals. Another study found that American economics professors were less likely than their peers in other subjects to agree with the notion that "interdisciplinary knowledge is better than knowledge obtained by a single discipline."

The odd thing, the authors argue, is that we believe in economists almost as much as they believe in themselves. Journalists and politicians seek strong arguments and clear answers. Most academics are reticent types: historians, for instance, question whether you can learn anything from history. "For a moderate fee," jokes Deirdre McCloskey, an economic historian, "an economist will tell you with all the confidence of a witch doctor that interest rates will rise 56 basis points next month …"

What do we learn from this? It is the mathematics of economics – called econometrics – that provides numerous participants and observers with the idea that economics is scientific because it uses complex formulas and equations.

Economists, we learn, don't "play well" with those of other disciplines. They are not especially referential (as far as other fields go) and they are also promotional.

The combination of insularity, (faux-) statistical analysis and aggressive self-promotion explains the heightened profile of economics and economists, according to The Economist.

Not so fast. The Economist leaves out a deeper reason, in our view. From our perspective, the high-profile of economists has to do with the ubiquity and power of central banking.

There were only about five central banks 100 years ago. Today there are about 150. Coordinated by the BIS, these central banks and their endless money-printing provide their managers with riches undreamt of in the past.

Those who can control and direct the trillions of dollars that central banks regularly spew out have more concentrated power at their fingertips than even the most feared tyrant of previous centuries.

Economists themselves play their part; they are the chosen acolytes of this system. Central bankers – almost all of them are economists – cannot predict the value or volume of money because there are no forward-looking indicators. Any prediction is bound to be just that – an educated guess.

To paper over this mundane though devastating reality, central bank controllers have supported and expanded the credibility of certain kinds of economics.

What has been emphasized most particularly is the role of the "expert" – someone who can basically predict future trends in any one of a number of areas and industries.

Accompanying the cult of the expert has been an explosion of think tanks, doctoral programs and publishing facilities designed to celebrate those who provide credibility to the meme of predictive knowledge.

Econometrics – the use of complex statistics to buttress predictions – adds mystery to the panoply of degrees and prestigious titles granted to appropriate experts.

The entire Western world, from what we can tell, has been warped in this way, twisted to support a kind of futurology even when there is no credible evidence for it.

Economics and economists are not celebrated for the reasons that The Economist provides to us. No, they play an important role in propping up the idea that central bank prognostications are appropriate and feasible.

The reason for the modern celebration of the econometric economist has to do with the need for central bank credibility and the cultivation of acolytes that can provide it.

It is also a reason why certain kinds of economics are celebrated and others are not. Free-market economics, emphasizing human action, is antithetical to the idea of forward-looking prognostication. It is only with the advent of the Internet that people in large numbers began to discover Austrian economics and how real economics can be described and applied.

After Thoughts

Real economics is free-market economics making use of the Invisible Hand of competition to describe the Way the World Works. Such people will be far better informed and able to make more realistic decisions than those who accept the current central banking paradigm, the meme of the "expert" and the idea that econometrics can foretell the future in any meaningful way.

  • “The reason for the modern celebration of the econometric economist has to do with the need for central bank credibility and the cultivation of acolytes that can provide it.”

    Precisely. These are our modern-day witch doctors, and frankly a competent witch doctor is much more in tune with reality than these corrupt sycophants of the money power! There is more BS and less truth in modern economics than any other pseudo-science I can think of, except central banking itself.

  • dave jr

    The prostitute on the right arm of the pimp must feel pretty special too. While contenders admire what they believe to be superior knowledge of love and relationships.
    And then there is the real economy.

  • What has been emphasized most particularly is the role of the “expert” – someone who can basically predict future trends in any one of a number of areas and industries.

    Accompanying the cult of the expert has been an explosion of think tanks, doctoral programs and publishing facilities designed to celebrate those who provide credibility to the meme of predictive knowledge.

    I wouldn’t dream of being pretentious and acknowledge any expertise in anything but the future is being decided upon on strange bases indeed and manufactured by the following, with those and/or that well versed in the methodology way out ahead in front and surprising the rear, and practically leading from afar, virtually untouchable and unstoppable. A fabulous fact and fanciful fiction and quantum leap communication.

    The improbable and impossibly surreal nature of existence without media related tall tales and twisting trails to engage in the mind meddling and melding with thought control and future directional flow of perception of the masses of the newly born ignorant and arrogant undereducated beings, is that which drivers the current madnesses and secretly delivers Great IntelAIgent Games Futures with ITs Clouds Hosting Advanced Operating Systems.

    And whenever you know that supposed rulers and systems administrations are being made perfectly aware of the dangers of their ignoring and/or misusing and abusing the facility and its controllers, be not surprised when old traditional conventional establishment systems collapse catastrophically and practically overnight.

    • ALCAM

      Many years ago I realised that an “expert” is now a “drip”. I guess “expert = exspurt” in pronunciation. So who was once a spurt is no longer so and is now a drip.

  • NAPpy
  • Science itself has been hijacked by a ‘superiority’ complex, and resorting to esoteric mathematical complexity obscures the coercive mentality of ‘understanding’ only as a subset of manipulation and control. This technologism is not for the ‘greater good’ excepting to gain initial acceptance. It operates a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Technologising Life, weaponising Life, medicalising Life, monetizing Life, and limiting and dividing it in such a way as to operate as a coercive will or power – SEEMINGLY outside or apart from Life. An ‘alien will’ that seems to come between the Life you are and share and be, to suck upon its life in order to SEEM to exist – AND confuse you with such as life as if it were your OWN – and thus given protection though it cuckolds all that is true.
    Science truly is the free discovery of the true, but has been conditioned only to focus with mechanism at mechanism as if nothing is in Mind. But “watch out! He’s behind you!” as they shout at pantomimes.
    The hidden hand of competition sets all things apart from true nature and determines how the world works, for who owns and designs the system of money supply and media information and war and surveillance capabilities (and etc) consolidates itself to prey upon all who think they are themselves a power. And it does so through the mind. Through the back door – from below.
    A hacked mind – not really by ‘others’ or by ‘dark forces’ though these too can be experienced. But in all honesty we leave it open and unguarded to be ‘used’ by ideas that are not true of us and which then program our identity in the same way as we see the world at large being a competing of manipulations rather than a process of communicating.
    Sovereignty of will is not coercive imposition of fear upon the mind, but is of a true foundation.
    All things come from Source. Definitions may extend the Creative or they may spell trouble.
    Without a true foundation, all is bedlam. Which suits the most focussed and audacious manipulators.
    Life is a process of synchronicity. The world we meet is not the One True World. We make choices. But if we choose fearfully, we do not realize our choices make us and the world we experience in such a way as to not know the choice in which we operate. Fear operates denial. All psychological defence mechanisms can show the basis for why people behave psychotically and neurotically – and why mental ill heath is normalized – much like the term ‘sinner’ was but without any trace of God.
    Adulteration of currency begins when one makes image or definition of Life, and takes one’s self seriously.
    True knowing can read the energy of the present and make probability predictions – knowing that the prediction itself changes the probability. But we are now in a such a state of unknowing – that anything is asserted to bolster and maintain the appearance of credibility, authority and right to rule. Fear is the realm of the lie.

    • Quite so, binary. I concur and would posit that there can be, and therefore most definitely must be and is, an app and simply complex programming project to make greater use of that knowledge in a better beta direction than is presently being pursued and supported by dumb ignorant media channels and current delivery systems admin of fiat paper money control, now reduced and elevated to the electronic transfer of virtual digits to a computer near you.

      • The app that runs a distortion of virtual overlay is faithful to its dumb urge to protect via command and control in isolation, but force quit it and behold the unfolding of an undistorted expression of creative endeavour.

        Otherwise every green shoot is ‘infiltrated/infected’ so as to be subverted to an arrogance of ignorance. Even a glimpse of the wonder and beauty – the Loveliness of Life – offers a basis from which to challenge or question the programming of fear and debt – based leverage.

        • an undistorted expression of creative endeavour ….. binra

          Hmmm. At best, and whenever IT is quite different as I allude to such as being presently readily available for current power supply demands and needs today, would be somewhat heavenly, binra, with ……. well, the AAA++ Anonymous Autonomous Active levers of Creative CyberIntelAIgent Command and Remote Virtual Control in sublime attendance.

          Finding intelligent enough partners who can cleverly engage and provide necessary output to input and input to output for enhanced reinforced lead in patently novel and noble directions is the magic which drivers the programming and its future protocols and project parameters.

          Fortunately though, is IT intelligently designed so that one can if one so chooses, go it alone without having to rely on the good gracious help of others into similar fields of absolutely fabulous endeavour.

          • Birds of a feather flock together. Vibrational resonance determines the ‘others’ with whom you CAN communicate or meet. Generally speaking the fear that something wont work out generates the attempts which ensure that the fear comes true.
            Though true and false have no degree, Humankind mostly lives under a measuring stick of what is real or true and what is less real or less true. One does not have to wait on conditions or others to be true to oneself – that is to accept what is true of you and refine or abandon what is not. Refining or indeed abandoning definitions that don’t work – or bring an experience that you say you don’t want, is the key of freedom to turnabout whatever felt to be locked. The roots are in our own willingness of our own experiential honesty. That such an honesty wouldn’t then find expression and extension in cultural expression on all levels is impossible. But human thinking or mis-identified wishing, always tries to put the cart before the horse.
            Hopefully humankind is coming to realize that Inspiration is not something to impose upon others, but that the willingness to embrace and act from our own is the capacity to meet and communicate with others. One cannot have an experience of which one is not equal to.
            Underneath all of the descriptive account of HOW humanity sabotages itself is simply the active denial of true worth. If you can feel this, you know that your own contribution will either stem FROM such disconnecting sense of self, or witness to its undoing in a true sense of creative endeavour. Everything we do is creative endeavour if we are awake to the wholeness or presence of the moment at hand. The power of the mind is recognized by manipulators – but they don’t realize it costs them their true power to use it thus. Official orthodox ‘reality’ is an identity that then defends and asserts to maintain itself. You are clearly willing to step off the edge of such worldview so as to expand the model – but at some point one needs to go native and release the ‘command and control’ mentality altogether.
            Life actually works the way it works – but human ego then overlays its own commentary and has an experience of being “in control”.
            Sign off with a Dylan line: “Ain’t it hard when you discover that, He really wasn’t where it’s at, After he took from you everything he could steal”.
            Bottomming out is part of releasing what doesn’t work. (belong in our mind’s acceptance).
            We cannot take that away from anyone but we can be a communication that listens, joins with and honours that which thinks it thinks alone.

          • The power of the mind is recognized by manipulators – but they don’t realize it costs them their true power to use it thus. ….. binra

            Such then though, moving things along and on to a higher intelligence plane and level of greater competence, would actually prove that manipulators do not fully realise the power of the mind … and are catastrophically vulnerable to the thoughts and actions of those who do, and can utilise it in a fashion which is unprecedented and novel and not at all bad and practically and virtually impossible to be thought unacceptable.

            You are clearly willing to step off the edge of such worldview so as to expand the model – but at some point one needs to go native and release the ‘command and control’ mentality altogether.

            Going native to subvert/pervert/divert/correct/replace a corrupt and easily compromised [cracked and hacked] command and control mentality/system is another dynamic option which a few would find extremely attractive and most exciting, binra. To replace it with what, is something best left for now a mystery, methinks, lest it be thought something of grave concern to be opposed and fought against, as is the usual response to radical fundamental change of an intellectually challenged system/executive administration.

            And thanks for the chat and lovely exchange of views/thoughts/ideas. It is much appreciated.

          • You’re welcome. The term power – like any other true quality of life, has developed substitute definitions for its true nature. But each of us is the power of our will – which correctly appreciated operates co-creatively and not coercively. We are vulnerable to the experience of the Idea we want to be more true than truth! Those who steal must fear theft. Who think they steal power will be robbed of all – how could it be otherwise? – for one never truly has it and when the supports for the illusion of personal power are nothing-ed – what stands there?

            A lie hidden but believed has the temporary capacity to hide the true. It also serves a role of darkness through which to awaken to what is hidden and choose truly – that is, to align with a true joy in being rather than a sacrificial mode of coercion. The unsubscribing or dissociation of the fearful is best achieved in the embracing of the new – or what IS alive and inspiring and exciting to unfold out of life lived rather than ideas imposed. Another aspect of true power is timing. If one has to push an agenda – of course it will push back. What is communication? It is power. How so? Because by it are all things known and apart from it nothing is. Worshipping the power of nothing is simply the belief that by denying distorting and limiting communication, we can get something specially for our self alone. Tis a scam sir!

          • Agent Revolver

            May I insert my quarter?

            One can humbly suppose that the carrier/owner/subject of a predictive (may read “pre-programming”) function should reliably block the consequences brought by putting OP’s sensors in the flow. Otherwise the tides won’t run. Another good reason to generously excuse
            people who can’t pre-program anything for themselves.

            Or – were you not
            talking about quantum mechanics? Pardon me if not (-:

            55 73

          • That wasn’t a question! – it IS an insertion and you answered yourself wholly.
            Prediction is a reading taken now with what is sense of the totality now.
            Pre-programming is a bit like setting up a form by which or in which certain outcomes are engineered – which could involve blocking some choices to weight others.
            Don’t know what OP means here. Or the bit after that. Jesus said ‘forgive them for they know not what they do’. Interpersonally this means those who do not know themselves and act from a confusion that has usurped such knowing. Intrapersonally it means the thoughts in our mind that are thoughts of disconnection, hate, fear, guilt anger and shame. At least it rings clear as a bell in me. This does not excuse bad behaviour – but it is a basis for rehabilitating and educating.
            My quantum hasn’t needed to go in for repair yet – so I’ve not met those with overall responsibility for keeping it all tuned up and sweet.

  • The only reliable prophecy I have ever found is in the Bible: the rise and fall of the major empires of history, Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece (and its lightning fast conquest and four-way breakup), Rome and its division into two parts, and finally and future, the world government dictatorship (the Beast) and its “mark of the Beast” (mandatory embedded chip used to buy or sell). And that this would happen at a time when “knowledge shall increase” and “many shall run to and fro” (Daniel 12), and: “The chariots shall rage in the streets, they shall justle one against another in the broad ways: they shall seem like torches, they shall run like the lightnings” (Nah 2:4).

    We have waited for that last shoe to drop for 2,000 years, and now it is so soon-coming and so obviously building that it is getting shouted all over the place over the Internet.

    A lot of people will refuse to take that mark, so much so that this world government will have trouble everywhere. This may be the effect of Internet knowledge increasing. Those secret oaths are losing their sting. People are finding out that prosperity can happen by a society renouncing coercion.

    • bouf

      Try Joe Atwill and learn about what Revelation was really revealing. Renouncing coercion is a theme of both his books. The Roman creation is the world government.

      • Wow, from the titles it’s obviously bogus. He’s writing about that which he knows nothing. When Alexander threatened Jerusalem, the priests showed him in Daniel where he would conquer the world lightning-fast, with his four generals. I don’t know whether they showed him the part where his kingdom would break up against his will into four parts. BEFORE Rome.

        That book is ignorant nonsense.

        • bouf

          Your comment is ignorant nonsense. First, you disparage a book by it’s title. That’s almost as bad as just looking at the cover. Next, you claim something about the life of Alexander the Great, who lived ~400 years earlier than the subject matter of the book, which is who wrote the New Testament — and more importantly, why??? Atwill’s second book clearly identifies what Revelation is really about – and its just that – a Revelation.

          But perhaps you can read the original Greek just as Atwill can…? In that case you would know that the Greek word for “opposite” – “anti” can also mean “the other one” or a “a different one”. It is only with the construction of a “form” or “idea” by Plato that “anti” gets its more widely used notion of “opposite”; before Plato there was literally no concept of “opposite”. The antichrist is “the other Christ”. It’s actually a rather ribald joke, quite on par for the Romans. Good day to you sir.

          • The title itself is a lie, or at best one of the most ignorant declarations of ignorance I’ve ever seen. And I looked at some of the comments and author’s statements from sympathizers like yourself and no self-respecting historian would make that conclusion. It’s contrary to all the rules of judging history.

            Next to the King James Bible translators, Atwill is a kindergarten midget. Libertarian Laurence Vance has written a tome about those scholars, who could write prose and were capable of engaging in deep conversation in the Biblical languages. Anti-Christians and atheists have pounded at this wall of facts with worse and they just expose their hinder lying parts.

            Like Dan Brown the guy is just a propagandist for lies. Dan Brown uses sprinkles a little truth about the Jesuits and Opus Dei to sneak in lies too.

            So now we also have a hustler running around Latin America getting lots of money convincing the gullible he’s the Antichrist using the same torture of language. Floods of lies, right on time for the End, as predicted.

            Simon Greenleaf, Lew Wallace, a long list of archaeologists, have set out to disprove the claims of Resurrection and being intellectually honest with themselves, became believers. Their scholarship outshines this, yet another pathetic attempt and tricking the gullible into foolishness.

    • chuck martel

      Biblical prophecy is more reliable than that of economists? OK.

      • The Keynesian are false prophets, and Austrian economists recognize their limitations. Bruce was right. Gary North has written several volumes expounding on the economics in the Bible, Austrian economics is there and more.

        Bible prophecy is detailed and exact in fulfillment. Most of Daniel was future then, and history to us now, but there’s about 20% more unfolding the next few years, according to the applicable parts.

    • dave jr

      The good book of reliable prophecy is behind the times. If one accepts an FRN or any other fiat currency for ones effort, then the mark is being accepted. So now the boogeyman is coming, but It’s not too late, if we can pull our heads out of the literature, good as it can be, as if it weren’t past tense. I+V+X+L+C+D = 666. Funny they put Andy Jackson (sworn enemy of central banking) on the inserted twenty. Enjoy the new Roman times.

      • The Bible is past, present and future tense. It foretold the times you are living in right now and teaches us about the world government’s plans for the future. Coming up is a realignment that prophesied some 3,000 years ago, partially there, into an alliance of mostly Middle Eastern nations together with Gog and Magog, (Russia) invading Israel.

        It tells of the USSA and its oppression of the earth (Rev 17 and 18), how kings accumulated wealth from the abundance of her riches and a lot more detail.

  • Bruce C

    The title of this piece, “Economist Magazine Explains Why Economics is Prestigious” is a good example of the circular reasoning fallacy called “begging the question.” It asserts a conclusion (that economics is prestigious) as a premise (to be explained). In fact, this is the basic logic of all of the elite meme dialectics that the DB is constantly pointing out.

    Economics is prestigious? That’s news to me. I didn’t know that. I thought it was called the “dismal science.”

    Ask ten economists the same question and you’ll get eleven different answers.

    No matter how many economic predictions are made they will all be wrong.

    Economics is the only field in which two people can get a Nobel Prize for saying exactly the opposite thing.

    According to economics two plus two is whatever you want it to be.

    When you are in the unemployment line, economics helps you understand why you are there.

    If you rearrange the letters in “ECONOMICS”, you get “COMIC NOSE”.

    Although ethics teaches that virtue is its own reward, economics teaches that reward is its own virtue.

    Economists are armed and dangerous: “Watch out for our invisible hands!”

    Economists can talk about money without every having to make any.

    When an economist calls 1-900-LUV-ECON and gets Kandi Keynes, he will have something to talk about.

    Economists do it with models.

    “The only thing more dangerous than an amateur economist is a professional economist.

    An economist is buying a ring for his fiancee. The jeweler asks if he wants it engraved. “No,” says the economist, “that will reduce its resale value.”

    An economist has a horse shoe hanging over his door to help aid his forecasts. When asked if he really believes in it he says, ‘Of course not, but it works whether I believe in it or not.”

    Mathematics brought rigor to Economics. Unfortunately, it also brought mortis.

    Three economists are hunting and see a large deer. One fires a shot and misses by a meter the left, the other fires a meter to the right. The third yells, “We got it! We got it!”

    A physicist and an economist are asked to find a black cat (that doesn’t exist) inside of a closed room with the lights off. The physicist goes crazy trying to find the cat and is carted away. The economists searches for about an hour and then yells, “I’ve got it by its neck!”

    Q: How has French revolution affected world economic growth?
    A: Too early to say.

    An economist is someone who doesn’t know what he’s talking about – and makes you feel it’s your fault.

    • Thanks, Bruce!

    • dave jr

      That’s some funny stuff! Well now, there are economists and then there are intellectual skanks. They exist in any profession. But what I find amazing is that in the field of economics, so many of them actually do rise to the level of prestige. The theory of bean counting? I wonder what % of economists can draw a parallel between economy and efficiency? They clog the MSM and when reading their work, I can only shake my head.

    • mutonic2db

      University economics teaching isn’t an education: it’s a £9,000 lobotomy
      Economics took a battering after the financial crisis, but faculties are refusing to teach alternative views. It’s as if there’s only one way to run an economy

  • Physicists have given mathematics a good name. It seems that equations can predict everything because they predict so much about the physical world. But, this is a shallow understanding of math and physics. Physicists have carefully investigated the predictions made by their equations and have thrown out all of the “non-physical” results. Math predicts physics only because physicists have thrown away all of the math and interpretations which turned out to be wrong.

    In particular, equations do not care about cause and effect, and it is easy to manipulate some equations and then interpret them as saying that the effect produces the cause.

    This is common in economics, where biased economists compute some result and then proclaim that it must be correct because the equations say so. The worst offender is Keynesian economics. The Kenesian spending multiplier comes from reversing cause and effect.

    In reality, the more complicated the math and the more factors which go into it, the more likely that it is wrong.

    The failure of any macroeconomic theory to predict makes all of those theories useless. It is laughable that support for some theories comes from what supposedly didn’t happen. The US government spent $800 billion in “economic stimulus”, and proof of its good effect is supposedly that the recession wasn’t worse. There remains no official prediction of the following dismal unemployment rate or slow growth in GDP. All we have are possible explanations of the past given after the fact. That is narrative, story telling, apology, not science.

    Some economists spin theories which would supposedly help if government executed the resulting policies, but they defend themselves by noting that governments don’t do it the right way. They fail to predict in detail the result of the bad policies, except that some good result supposedly didn’t happen.

    The real purpose of macroeconomics seems to be to give politicians a justification to spend more money on the projects of their cronies and supporters. Is there a macro theory which calls for less government spending and lower taxes?

    There is such a naive theory. We look at the productivity of private companies compared to the productivity of publicly supported ones, and we see that the private ones are more productive. Yet, the popular macro theories all prescribe through complex mathematics that we are really better off taking resources from private businesses and giving those resources to the government to spend wisely. These theories say that we are multiples better off. Politicians love these theories and always want to give them a try. Economists who supply these theories get prestigious government posts.

    Macroeconomists are not scientific. They are guessing and encouraging experiments on everyone.
    Frank J. Tipler is Professor of Mathematical Physics at Tulane University.
    Tipler wrote this article, but it is archived under “Original Content”
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