The culture of Economics

Economists essentially have a sophisticated lack of understanding of economics, especially macroeconomics. I know it sounds ridiculous. But the reason why I tell people they should study economics is not so they’ll know something at the end—because I don’t think we know much—but because we’re good at thinking. Economics teaches you to think things through. What you see a lot of times in economics is disdain for other’s lack of thinking. You have to think about the ramifications of policies in the short run, the medium run, and the long run. Economists think they’re good at doing that, but they’re good at doing that in the sense that they can write down a model that will help them think about it—not in terms of empirically knowing what the answers are. And we have gotten so enamored of thinking things through that the fact that we don’t know anything needs to bother us more. So, yes, it’s true that the average guy on the street doesn’t understand economics, and it’s also true that we don’t understand economics. We just have a more sophisticated lack of understanding than the guy on the street.

– Culture in Economics and the Culture of Economics:  Raquel Fernández in Conversation with The Straddler

Read more here.

It’s true. Economics forces you to think through every single step logically. On a totally different note, let’s just say being trained in Economics makes me slightly too unemotional, because I tend to rationalise my emotional feelings as well.

There are many other things I agree with in this article. Things like this:

Another problem is that methodology frequently trumps the question. Once you have a way to model things, much of the research becomes very self-referential; that is, it becomes more about how the model  behaves and less about the question. I think the question really matters, but a lot of economists believe the methodology matters more than the question. And this leads to very elaborate models of very many things without much of an outside reality check.

That said, after two years at where I am for my graduate studies in Economics, I have to say I am happy to be here. If there is one important thing I have learned this year when it comes to writing your first paper, it would be: Being able to narrow down your topic and come up with the one important question matters. I spent months just figuring that out. That is unbelievable, but the question really does matter.

I know these are rather superfluous thoughts. But, I would like to think that I might look back on these entries at the end of my PhD with a smile.

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