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YoungEconomist
01-31-2008, 05:04 PM
LOL. I read this on Greg Mankiw's blog. Greg Mankiw's Blog: The cat is out of the bag (http://gregmankiw.blogspot.com/2008/01/cat-is-out-of-bag.html)

He posts a link to a NY Times article were some Psychology prof at Yale says, "The problem is not that economists are unreasonable people, it’s that they’re evil people."

Why is it that so many people hate us? I mean seriously, we seem to be the only social science that has as many other social scientists talk bad about us on a regular basis. I think the reason is similar to the reason that so many other baseball players hate the Yankees and the Patriots. Maybe the Yale Psych prof should research why everybody hates a winner?;)

Andronicus
01-31-2008, 05:22 PM
All of us are evil? I thought it was just me.

The world shall be mine, nonetheless.

Luckykid
01-31-2008, 05:29 PM
I found a way to fire 8 people at work using economics...they should be gone in the next 6 months...And I did it with a smile on my face...

Sounds pretty evil to me...


but when you look at the big picture I actually am helping the company become more productive, grow and most importantly stay in America thus saving a few hundred jobs...

People hate what they don't understand

confuzed
01-31-2008, 05:34 PM
They are jealous because economists on average make more money than them and they believe in the equation Money = Evil.
:P

loudandclear
01-31-2008, 05:51 PM
This is just my personal opinion, so take it for what its worth: Economists are hated because economists look down on all of the other social scientists. I can't count the number of times that I've sat in econ classes where we've all had a good laugh about something that some sociologist said (I admit, I laughed too). The potential problem with this is that other social sciences actually do have valuable things to say. For example, while I think that rationality is a very reasonable assumption (and I believe that it's right 99% of the time), it can't explain everything. For example, why do people vote? I'm sure someone will respond with some explanation, but I have yet to hear a convincing explanation for this, whereas other disciplines have posited reasons that seem much more reasonable.

My point, in the end , is simply that economists would probably be less hated if they were slightly less imperial. All other social science disciplines have imported ideas from economics, but economics does very little importing itself.

I should note that I'm not necessarily advocating that economics do more importing (there's something to be said for the methodological purity in economics, as opposed to poli sci, sociology, etc.), but just saying that it might make the other disciplines less hostile.

pevdoki1
01-31-2008, 06:11 PM
confuzed, i think you mean money=(evil)^1/2.

notacolour
01-31-2008, 06:22 PM
loudandclear (http://www.urch.com/forums/../members/loudandclear.html): Of course you're right. Economists are often seen as evil because a lot of top economists really are jerks, particularly when dealing with non-economists (or less prestigious economists, for that matter). This is annoying.


This is one reason I like Levitt, even as he has freakanomicized economics. As much as his coauthor attempted to make him sound like an egotistical jerk, he retains the ability to work well with non-economists while looking at problems that are not traditionally "economics." Many economists examine issues that are more traditionally under the purview of sociology or psychology or geography, but not many of them bother to understand how other researchers have looked at these problems. This annoys people in other disciplines, and understandably so.


I've taken several geography classes (and indeed I'm presenting a paper at a geography conference in a couple of months), and when I started the first one my advisor told me not to be "that economist." You know, the one that sits in the back with a self-satisfied smirk, thinking how superior his approach/methodology/intellect is to those of the geographers. It's annoying and unproductive. But by avoiding that trap, I actually learned something from those non-economists. Shocking, I know.

econphilomath
01-31-2008, 06:42 PM
Well there IS some empirical evidence from experiments that economic training make people less likley to cooperate in social dilemas.

Do Economists Make Bad Citizens? (http://ideas.repec.org/a/aea/jecper/v10y1996i1p187-92.html) Shows some results regarging public goods games with real people.

I conducted some research extending these results at my university with a prof trying to see among other things if it was the study of economics per se or do people who behave that way self select into studying economics. So we took first year students and econ grads...we found the latter so maximizing all day isn't to blame!

We also tested to see if economist think the rest of the world is like them (trust) and we found economist seem to think everyone else behaves that way. The experimental groups that made the most money and did great were groups (societies) without any economist! Makes you wonder....

YoungEconomist
01-31-2008, 07:03 PM
LOL. Some of the jokes above were cracking me up. Keep em coming.


This is just my personal opinion, so take it for what its worth: Economists are hated because economists look down on all of the other social scientists. I can't count the number of times that I've sat in econ classes where we've all had a good laugh about something that some sociologist said (I admit, I laughed too). The potential problem with this is that other social sciences actually do have valuable things to say. For example, while I think that rationality is a very reasonable assumption (and I believe that it's right 99% of the time), it can't explain everything. For example, why do people vote? I'm sure someone will respond with some explanation, but I have yet to hear a convincing explanation for this, whereas other disciplines have posited reasons that seem much more reasonable.

My point, in the end , is simply that economists would probably be less hated if they were slightly less imperial. All other social science disciplines have imported ideas from economics, but economics does very little importing itself.

I should note that I'm not necessarily advocating that economics do more importing (there's something to be said for the methodological purity in economics, as opposed to poli sci, sociology, etc.), but just saying that it might make the other disciplines less hostile.

I have mixed feeling about what you said loudandclear. What came first the chicken or the egg? It may be true that economists are snobby to other social scientists, for example, George Stigler supposedly said to some PhD students in one of his classes at Chicago, "Boys, there is only one social science, and we are it's sole practitioners." But Stigler is also supposed to be a funny guy so maybe he was only half serious. Anyway though, back to my point, which is that other disciplines generally do talk bad about economists. So, I don't know. Are other departments rude because economists are rude to them, or are economists rude to other departments because other departments are rude to economists?

Also, I don't know how much other departments "import" economics. I mean, I am a psych major and there's only been a few times when I've read something in psych that seemed to be influenced by economics. Furthermore, many economists actually do "import" to some extent. Some economists are studying peer effects, which was a sociological concept and area of research. There's also many economists trying to learn some psychology so they can study the less rational aspects of humans. I mean Gary Becker (and many since him) have studied topics that were very diverse and had normally been studied by other social sciences. I'm not sure, but it may even be the case that economists look to other disciplines more so than other disciplines look to economics. Maybe I'm biased and naive, but I think in the future all social sciences may look much more like economics with respect to the heavy quantitative nature that realies on abstract math mainly for thoeretical work and high level stats for empirical work.


Economists are often seen as evil because a lot of top economists really are jerks, particularly when dealing with non-economists (or less prestigious economists, for that matter). This is annoying.

Some of my economics professors can be a little arrogant and snobby. So I think as a general stereotype it holds some weight. But on the other hand there are many academic economists who are very nice and down to earth. I mean, we even have one on this fourm who is holding a little Q&A for us, which is an incredibly nice and helpful thing to do.

loudandclear
01-31-2008, 08:56 PM
Honestly, I think that snobby economists came first. When someone has the training that economics provides, one is able to view the world through a different lens, as well as cut right to the weaknesses of an argument, which is obviously a good thing. I think what happens, though, is that an economist will look at another social scientist's research, realize that the empirical scheme is half-baked (which many of them are), and conclude that the other disciplines don't really know what they're doing. My point was simply that while the empirics may be weak, or in some cases, even the theory is really flimsy, these disciplines still have some important insight, and it's not always in our interest to ignore this.

ekonomiks
02-01-2008, 03:20 AM
Economists are hated by other social scientists? Really? None of the "other" social scientists I've talked to seemed to give a crap.

Equilibrium
02-01-2008, 04:47 AM
This is just my personal opinion, so take it for what its worth: Economists are hated because economists look down on all of the other social scientists. I can't count the number of times that I've sat in econ classes where we've all had a good laugh about something that some sociologist said (I admit, I laughed too). The potential problem with this is that other social sciences actually do have valuable things to say. For example, while I think that rationality is a very reasonable assumption (and I believe that it's right 99% of the time), it can't explain everything. For example, why do people vote? I'm sure someone will respond with some explanation, but I have yet to hear a convincing explanation for this, whereas other disciplines have posited reasons that seem much more reasonable.

My point, in the end , is simply that economists would probably be less hated if they were slightly less imperial. All other social science disciplines have imported ideas from economics, but economics does very little importing itself.

I should note that I'm not necessarily advocating that economics do more importing (there's something to be said for the methodological purity in economics, as opposed to poli sci, sociology, etc.), but just saying that it might make the other disciplines less hostile.


Rationality DOES explain why people vote, at least under certain circumstances.

Assumptions:

(1) There are two candidates for election.
(2) Payoff for voter whose truly preferred candidate wins = 1, zero otherwise.
(3) The majority vote wins.(and in some sense it will be a reasonably close vote)

For all intensive purposes, in th U.S. we have such a system, because we have two party politics(other candidates are most likely receiving a negligible portion of the vote)

No discipline can prove people care about voting unless they assume people actually care, so the numbers in (2) are irrelevant, we need only that there is some benefit in getting the candidate you truly want. We have this or else no one can prove anyone cares about voting, some of my post alludes to this more fundamentally anyway(read further).

For (3), while electoral votes (for presidential elections) aren't always in line with the majority(popular) vote tallies, this occurs very rarely and in this case a lot of stuff breaks down and actually occurs when most everyone cares about voting(ex: gore vs bush when we all had an opinion and the race was close) I believe(75% sure) this is the only time the electoral votes and the popular vote did not both choose the same outcome.

Given these three, consider any odd number of players(voters) n, for illustrative purposes let n = 9. There are two candidates A and B

There are a few cases to consider, since we're assuming rationality, the players all know all the payoffs they can get, and what their actions will do to affect these payoffs. In this sense there are 3 ideas which a single player can have about how their vote will change the outcome.

Let the last voter(9th) has a strict preference for candidate A

If the voter believes there have been only 1, 2, or 3 votes for A, or alternatively 7, 6, or 5 votes for B already cast, then he/she cannot change their payoff from zero to 1. In this case, the payoff for voting(and also for truthfully revealing your preference) is no better, or no worse than not voting or lying about your preference(vote for B).

If you believe that there have been 5 or more votes for A(ie 3 or less for B), you will get payoff of 1 regardless of whether you vote or not, or even if you vote for B. Once again, voting and not voting are no better than one another

In the case you have the pivotal vote, (note you need only BELIEVE that this is the case, ie: votes are 4 and 4 for A and B so far). In general if you feel the election will be close, you already have this belief. I would argue that unless you can tell FOR SURE it's already a landslide victory, the tendency would be towards assuming it's close. If this is indeed the case ( 4 votes already each way), then not revealing your true preference leaves you worse off, but voting for A is strictly better in this case because you get the candidate you want.

Thus in all possible cases, a person with a defined preference is at least as well off from not only voting, but voting their true preference than they are if they don't vote or vote against their preference. This would satisfy the solution concept of weak dominance on the side of voting and voting accurately. So under certain circumstances there IS an argument for RATIONALITY implying people care about voting. The only truly tough assumption here is only that there is some sense of the election being close(ie your vote matters, this can also happen due to an inherent value of having voted regardless of the outcome) I don't claim to be an expert on other disciplines' take on this matter, but this one stretch of an assumption is probably no less important for how a political scientist might argue that people actually care about voting.

Just a thought, not an excuse for economists to be all high and mighty, I believe this was all started by a somewhat humorous excerpt on the matter so let's not get too serious. I'm really just avoiding homework and figured at least I'd share a cool tidbit which is basically a slightly altered re-use of notes from a game theory course.

loudandclear
02-01-2008, 05:43 AM
I'm actually familiar with that model ( or at least similar voting models), but I'm still not really convinced. I mean, you have to believe that your vote is THE pivotal vote, and has that ever really happened? Even in Florida during 2002 it didn't come down to a single vote, so any individual voter could have decided not to vote without affecting the results. It's only in the aggregate that it matters, and this is where this breaks down for me (and many others).

In any case, I think you're right-this did start as a joke. Still, I think that this is a really interesting issue.

bauble
02-01-2008, 06:42 AM
Without debating on what constitutes intelligence, I think it is fair to say that economists are better at math than other social scientists. This has some implications. The minimum bar to do econ is higher since it is starkly objective whether a person knows how to solve, say, problems from MWG. Other disciplines leave more room for "pretenders" to slip in the cracks, but I think that there is great work being done in every discipline. The higher math aptitude is also my impression as to why arrogant econ people are the way they are. Then again, I know math Ph.D.'s who think economists are failed mathematicians, which is probably about as fair as economists saying that political scientists are failed economists.

buckykatt
02-01-2008, 06:46 AM
I like this quote from the article even better: "If we come to think about ourselves like pork bellies, pork bellies we will become."

SOYLENT GREEN IS MADE OUT OF ECONOMISTS!

*ahem*

TruDog
02-01-2008, 01:09 PM
For (3), while electoral votes (for presidential elections) aren't always in line with the majority(popular) vote tallies, this occurs very rarely and in this case a lot of stuff breaks down and actually occurs when most everyone cares about voting(ex: gore vs bush when we all had an opinion and the race was close) I believe(75% sure) this is the only time the electoral votes and the popular vote did not both choose the same outcome.


This has also happened several times in American history, most notably Samuel Tilden vs. Rutherford Hayes in 1876 (a brokered election because of disputed votes in Oregon and other states that led to the end of Reconstruction) and Andrew Jackson vs. John Quincy Adams in 1824.

More on the original topic, however, one has to recognize the imputed value one puts on voting. It's considered a civic duty by many, so the cost of voting is harder to quantify. As someone who flies decidedly against the prevailing political views in my neck of the woods, I'll still go out and vote even though I know the vast majority of my candidates will lose.

econphilomath
02-01-2008, 01:18 PM
This has also happened several times in American history, most notably Samuel Tilden vs. Rutherford Hayes in 1876 (a brokered election because of disputed votes in Oregon and other states that led to the end of Reconstruction) and Andrew Jackson vs. John Quincy Adams in 1824.

More on the original topic, however, one has to recognize the imputed value one puts on voting. It's considered a civic duty by many, so the cost of voting is harder to quantify. As someone who flies decidedly against the prevailing political views in my neck of the woods, I'll still go out and vote even though I know the vast majority of my candidates will lose.

Moreover it can be perfectly rational to do so, (vote knowing you will lose etc) if the margin by which the election is won or lost carries any political costs/benifits. Many people rationally vote knowing their vote is useless because of social network related costs/benifits for doing so.

Maybe the person wants to be able to say "I voted against the war in Iraq" so that years later you can win an election for being consistant... That sounds rational to me.

YoungEconomist
02-01-2008, 03:18 PM
More on the original topic, however, one has to recognize the imputed value one puts on voting. It's considered a civic duty by many, so the cost of voting is harder to quantify.

I was just about to say something like this. Economists don't generally accuse smokers of being "irrational" because they state that they must know the costs and benefits of what they're doing, and therefore, they figure they must get a good deal of "utility" out of smoking. Likewise, I feel that people vote (at least) partly for the same reason. They get personal pride out of fullfilling there civic duty and the like. I also think a big part of it is that one's political party (especially for educated people) is generally a significant part of who they are as a person. Voting is probably not irrational because there are large psychic benefits for many people.

I thought this short article was funny, as Steve Landsburg argues that it is more rational to play the lotto then vote.
Don't vote. Play the lottery instead. - By Steven E. Landsburg - Slate Magazine (http://www.slate.com/id/2107240/)

bauble
02-01-2008, 04:26 PM
Rationality in the econ sense is more about consistency in action (e.g., revealed preference, independence axiom) and perfect, compete information than notions of "common sense" (which is tantamount to imposing preferences on the individual). So voting is sort of rational. On the other hand, some people won't vote, saying "I can't possibly make a difference," but at the same time they say "I can't go to the bathroom while the Giants have the ball. It will affect the outcome of the Super Bowl."

sushigushi
02-02-2008, 12:50 PM
I spent a good deal of time working with sociologists and I believe the 'hating' comes from the fact that most other social scientists don't understand economic methodology. They see it as 'limited' without acknowledging what it adds (i.e. clarity).. economists on the other hand never bother explaining what they are doing and just snub the rest by saying 'no, we are right, and you are wrong... now go write a novel or something...'

However, I think our methods are worth explaining. For example, when we talk about rationality, we don't 'believe' it. People vary in rationalilty when making decisions... and sociologists seem to be tireless in pointing this out as an 'argument' against the rational choice approach generally used in neo classical economics...

If I had a dime for every time I heard 'Economists are missing an important nuance...'.. well, I wouldn't be applying for any fellowships...

They however miss the point. We use often rationality because it allows for formal approach to the study of behavior, not because it captures 'everything worth capturing'. This formal stating of hypotheses in its turn allows for quantification through which we can test these hypotheses. Endless nuances on the other hand prohibit this... We simply extract the most essential parts of a social process (including, say, transactions) and then test this very specific perspective by using econometrics to weed out all the distorting disturbances.

This process can't 'explain' everything (which sociologists are somehow bent on doing... while at the same time denying that there is an 'unified theory of everything'... *sigh*, tiring), but it can shed light on important factors and relations, especially if other unaccounted for influences can be controlled for so that quantification can take place properly...

...if this can be explained to the other social sciences maybe we can stop arguing about who's 'right' and who's 'wrong'. It's just a difference in approach.



....



Oh, and I do think we are using the 'right' approach :P

YoungEconomist
02-02-2008, 04:56 PM
For example, when we talk about rationality, we don't 'believe' it. People vary in rationalilty when making decisions... and sociologists seem to be tireless in pointing this out as an 'argument' against the rational choice approach generally used in neo classical economics.

I know. So many people who know nothing about economics always want to talk about this. For some reason they think we're too stupid to realize that people aren't completely rational, and for some reason they think it puts a dent in all our theory. Furthermore, they also tend to undermine the degree to which people are rational. In general, humans are fairly rational, even though many other social scientists seem not to think so.

snappythecrab
02-02-2008, 10:57 PM
Rody Manuelli once accused me of thinking like a sociologist. Then he added, "to be clear, that was an insult." We lol'ed.

zsla
02-02-2008, 11:48 PM
I like sociologists. The reason is that you can write a zillion of good papers by just correcting their mistakes.

YoungEconomist
02-03-2008, 12:07 AM
Rody Manuelli once accused me of thinking like a sociologist. Then he added, "to be clear, that was an insult." We lol'ed.

What did you say that lead Rody Manuelli to say that?


I like sociologists. The reason is that you can write a zillion of good papers by just correcting their mistakes.

LOL. That's funny.

On a serious note, have you ever read an academic journal article written by a sociologist? The reason I am asking is because I have not, and I was just wondering what some of the main differences are (besides the math).

snappythecrab
02-03-2008, 08:04 AM
What did you say that lead Rody Manuelli to say that?


oh...something about children and how parents use them for slave labor. It was a flippant remark, but it is a subject which Rody has some research on. I bit my tongue once I said it because I knew what was coming. :D

zsla
02-03-2008, 11:57 AM
On a serious note, have you ever read an academic journal article written by a sociologist? The reason I am asking is because I have not, and I was just wondering what some of the main differences are (besides the math).

Yes I have recently read one. It was trying to establish (again) the well-known (!) result that the effect of family on student's transition from one grade to the next decreases with age and grade. They were using a simple logit and that's it.

The problem is: there is survival of the fittest in the data. Weak guys drop out early and the fittests survive. Then of course family influence is low. This is a very strong selection bias. How can one do such a mistake in an empirical paper?

jfowler2
02-03-2008, 02:20 PM
I think the main problem people have with economists is that by quantifying everything and worrying purely about effieciency we tend to forget there are actual human beings behind those numbers: that 5% unemployment actually meand 25 million people without jobs who want them etc. We have to remember that no matter what we do we are and will always be a SOCIAL science and never a hard science due to that fact.

just my two cents as a guy with a bachelor's in psych, econ, and minor in sociology.

Olm
02-04-2008, 03:54 PM
Yes I have recently read one. It was trying to establish (again) the well-known (!) result that the effect of family on student's transition from one grade to the next decreases with age and grade. They were using a simple logit and that's it.

The problem is: there is survival of the fittest in the data. Weak guys drop out early and the fittests survive. Then of course family influence is low. This is a very strong selection bias. How can one do such a mistake in an empirical paper?

Yeah, when it comes to the proper use of statistics, they don't know their donkey from their elbow. (other word for donkey is censored, lol)

Explorer
04-04-2008, 10:35 PM
It is funny how this thread started with the claim that economists are snobby, turned into a rant against sociologists and then finally a boosting of economists' egoes for being mathematically inclined. I think it was a "proof" of the original claim. Being a first year PhD student in economics, what I have learnt really is that very few economists really care about the individuals that they study. Economics is nothing but a means of employment for economists.

YoungEconomist
04-04-2008, 11:05 PM
It is funny how this thread started with the claim that economists are snobby, turned into a rant against sociologists and then finally a boosting of economists' egoes for being mathematically inclined.

Good point. LOL

In all fairness, it does seem to me that economists get accused way too often of not caring about humanity. For example, if I get in a discussion with someone and say something like, "Well, it's possible that minimum wage legislation actually makes it more difficult for some low skilled people to find work." People automatically think I'm a mean spirited person who doesn't care about the poor, all for expressing an opinion. Likewise, when one highly educated 50 something man heard I was going to get a PhD in Economics, he said something like, "You should take some ethics classes first."

Often times economists positive statements are taking as being cruel normative judgements.

Nalfien
04-05-2008, 01:39 AM
Economics is nothing but a means of employment for economists.

That is ridiculous and sad. Sure maybe some people think that way but I love economics not just for it's ability to ask, and answer, some of the most interesting questions out there but also because I believe it really has the ability to help humanity get to it's most efficient self and as such make the world a better place.

I just forget about all that stuff when I'm doing problem sets... Maybe I'll like it all again once the comps are over...

commodore
04-05-2008, 02:06 AM
It is funny how this thread started with the claim that economists are snobby, turned into a rant against sociologists and then finally a boosting of economists' egoes for being mathematically inclined. I think it was a "proof" of the original claim. Being a first year PhD student in economics, what I have learnt really is that very few economists really care about the individuals that they study. Economics is nothing but a means of employment for economists.

If you are interested in economics and you just care about being employed and well-paid, then becoming a PhD economist doesn't make much sense at all. There are plenty of lucrative jobs you can get with a BA in econ. People who go to graduate school generally find research interesting and, I think, have to believe at least somewhat that economic research can be of use to the world. This doesn't make them saints, but it's unfair to say that they do it just to have a job. Going through a very hard graduate school career to become an economist shows that there's something about the work that means something to the worker. I know it does to me.

Explorer
04-05-2008, 02:55 AM
This doesn't make them saints, but it's unfair to say that they do it just to have a job. Going through a very hard graduate school career to become an economist shows that there's something about the work that means something to the worker. I know it does to me.

Sure it means something to them. To further elaborate the point of my statements, I have to say that the most valuable work in terms of giving back to the society (or their community) that the MAJORITY of economists (i.e. PhD economists) do is, perhaps, TEACHING. I have no doubt that all the research that economists do is valued among economists (as reflected by acceptance of your paper by a journal). So my point was just to highlight the question - How valuable is it outside of this small circle? I'm not talking about all economists, but just the majority. It's like a work of art which only the creator appreciates.

Big Tuna
04-05-2008, 04:10 AM
Academic research in economics gets more attention outside of the academy than research in many other academic disciplines. Ask yourself how often you think about issues related to string theory and astrophysics in your daily life, and then ask yourself how often you think about health insurance, and you'll see the difference. Research in economics is scientific (or at least purports to be), but it concerns issues of fundamental importance to human well-being. If you believe what is taught in economics, then you believe that economic policy can make a great deal of difference in the daily life of the average citizen. Ask people in policy circles; policymakers do listen to evidence presented by PhD economists (though not as much as we might want them to).
Of course, most of what I just wrote applies to policy research/public economics. I'm sure there are developments in theoretical economics and econometrics that have very little to do with everyday life, but then again, ideas from auction theory and game theory are often applied by governments and businesses as well. Of course you're right in saying that not all academic research in economics is relevant to human well-being, but most of what everyone in the world does every day is irrelevant in this sense. If you ask me, economics is more immune from this type of criticism than almost any other discipline.

desimba
04-05-2008, 05:35 AM
I will add my 2 cents to the conversation. A big piece of why other social scientists hate economists is because of their political / ideological bents. Neoclassical economists believe in capitalism and its underlying foundations of property rights; they believe in free trade while several other social sciences are deeply critical of capitalism. It is my impression that several of them long for socialism but realize in their heart of hearts that with the collapse of the Soviet Union, capitalism has truimphed and its march is inevitable. I think that part of the resentment of social scientists might have to do with this.

Explorer
04-05-2008, 06:08 AM
It is my impression that several of them long for socialism but realize in their heart of hearts that with the collapse of the Soviet Union, capitalism has truimphed and its march is inevitable. I think that part of the resentment of social scientists might have to do with this.

This is a naive statement in that it assumes that this is the key difference between economists and other social scientists. What other social science really longs for socialism? Sociology? Political science? Psychology? Sure sociology studies issues like inequality and discrimination, but that should not be interpreted as longing for socialism. Most intellectuals would agree that capitalism has "triumphed", and most would also agree that it has its shortcomings. Therefore, one should not equate studying these shortcomings with being antagonistic towards economics. I believe that the resentment that exists with other social scientists has little to do with this and very much to do with the average economist's attitude towards other social sciences.

MooMooCow
04-05-2008, 10:11 AM
Good point. LOL

In all fairness, it does seem to me that economists get accused way too often of not caring about humanity. For example, if I get in a discussion with someone and say something like, "Well, it's possible that minimum wage legislation actually makes it more difficult for some low skilled people to find work." People automatically think I'm a mean spirited person who doesn't care about the poor, all for expressing an opinion. Likewise, when one highly educated 50 something man heard I was going to get a PhD in Economics, he said something like, "You should take some ethics classes first."

Often times economists positive statements are taking as being cruel normative judgements.
Often statements that economists believe to be positive are actually normative. That is why understanding ethics is important for an economist.

HelicopterEconDad
04-05-2008, 02:30 PM
I will add my 2 cents to the conversation. A big piece of why other social scientists hate economists is because of their political / ideological bents. Neoclassical economists believe in capitalism and its underlying foundations of property rights; they believe in free trade while several other social sciences are deeply critical of capitalism. It is my impression that several of them long for socialism but realize in their heart of hearts that with the collapse of the Soviet Union, capitalism has truimphed and its march is inevitable. I think that part of the resentment of social scientists might have to do with this.

I will disagree with Explorer and suggest that you're hitting close to the heart of the matter, desimba. I'd put a slightly different twist on it.

Economists tend to focus on measures of production, while other social scientists ask whether there's more to life than just production. Yes, capitalism has triumphed as the superior system for maximizing aggregate production, but has it really triumphed as the superior system for optimizing society? It's not that other social scientists are necessarily socialists or communists, it is that they are asking whether distribution of wealth, negative externalities (e.g. global warming), and positive externalities (e.g. culture, the arts) are insufficiently accounted for in a capitalist economy. Economists tend to say, "oh, we can add these other issues in to our economic models", while social scientists tend to say, "no, there are broader things in life than just economics".

YoungEconomist
04-05-2008, 03:44 PM
Often statements that economists believe to be positive are actually normative. That is why understanding ethics is important for an economist.

I wasn't talking about that. I am talking about when economists make truly positive statements people often think they're making a normative judgment, or sometimes when they make a truly positive statement someone will try to infer what their normative stance on the issue might be. Maybe I've naive (because I've never taken ethics) but I don't see how studying ethics would change economics much which is mainly a positive discipline.

Explorer
04-05-2008, 05:33 PM
I will disagree with Explorer and suggest that you're hitting close to the heart of the matter, desimba. I'd put a slightly different twist on it.

It's not that other social scientists are necessarily socialists or communists, it is that they are asking whether distribution of wealth, negative externalities (e.g. global warming), and positive externalities (e.g. culture, the arts) are insufficiently accounted for in a capitalist economy.

So you do agree with me then! Isn't that the gist of my argument (that other social scientists are not necessarily socialists or communists)?

Explorer
04-05-2008, 05:37 PM
I will disagree with Explorer and suggest that you're hitting close to the heart of the matter, desimba. I'd put a slightly different twist on it.

Economists tend to focus on measures of production, while other social scientists ask whether there's more to life than just production.

Yes, this is an area where other social sciences (such as Psychology) could be considered superior to economics as far as explaining human behavior because they don't make production central to their analysis of what drives human behavior

YoungEconomist
04-05-2008, 05:48 PM
Yes, this is an area where other social sciences (such as Psychology) could be considered superior to economics as far as explaining human behavior because they don't make production central to their analysis of what drives human behavior

I'm not convinced of this. I actually am only a few classes away from a major in psychology, and I'm not sure how much explanatory and predictive power they have when it comes to human behavior. Pretty much everything that is known in psychology is through experimentation under highly controlled settings. For example, we may know that cognitive dissonance influences human behavior under highly controlled conditions, but whether or not it does so when there are many other variables at play is another issue. Even if it does play a role in real world decision making, it's not clear how much. Essentially what I am saying is that it's very difficult to test psychology theories using real world data, which seems to pose some problems in verifying the prevalence of various psychology theories.

commodore
04-05-2008, 08:33 PM
An inspirational quote for you all:

Arguing on the internet is like running a race in the special olympics. Even if you win, you're still retarded.

filroz
04-05-2008, 09:35 PM
Lol!!!

YoungEconomist
04-06-2008, 04:12 PM
An inspirational quote for you all:

Arguing on the internet is like running a race in the special olympics. Even if you win, you're still retarded.

Yeah, I've heard that before. Still, every time I hear it, it still cracks me up.:D

semischolastic
04-06-2008, 07:48 PM
An inspirational quote for you all:

Arguing on the internet is like running a race in the special olympics. Even if you win, you're still retarded.

Why are you retarded if you win an argument on the internet? The statement is structured in a way that assumes that this is self-evident, but it isn't apparent to me.

dishu
04-08-2008, 10:30 PM
Hey guys, going back to the original topic (whether economists are evil or not), I just wanted to mention a particular case of a guy, he got his economics PHD from a top 30 department in US, and later became president of his country. He is the first economist to rule the country (preceded by a number of architects, advocates, ingeneers, political scientists, medicine doctors, and even military officers...). I won't argue in favor or against his policies, but he is the most beloved national leader in maybe a century, he has support from more than 70% of the people in the country and no one of his supporters would ever think to question his ethical behavior (tautologic... maybe). Sorry if I missed the point... I just wanted to give a counterexample... economists are not always hated

jeeves0923
04-08-2008, 11:21 PM
Should we care whether economists are hated? If someone is going to hate me for the mere fact that I'm an economist without paying attention to any other of my attributes, did I want to be friends with him in the first place?

Are all economists evil? Clearly no. I can provide at least one counterexample. Are most economists evil? Hmm... hard for me to say. Is there an agreed upon definition of what is evil? If so, it depends upon that definition.

I get the feeling that lawyers are much more hated than economists, at least in the US. Politicians as well and possibly fortune 500 CEOs. We may not be as loved as Kindergarten teachers, massage therapists and nurses, but I can live with that I think.

MexEcon
04-08-2008, 11:51 PM
Totally agree with loudandclear!


This is just my personal opinion, so take it for what its worth: Economists are hated because economists look down on all of the other social scientists...

commodore
04-09-2008, 02:20 AM
Let's face it. Most people don't even know what an economist is. If you tell the average person on the street that you're an economist, they'll ask you about the stock market or their personal finances. Or, perhaps they'll ask you what the economy is going to do next year or something like that. Try explaining to them that most economists don't actually know much about the economy, and you get disbelief.

As for other disciplines...yes, they dislike economists for a variety of reasons. We have a different way of looking at things that is not easy to understand if you think like a sociologist, for example. Also, we make more money. :)

Explorer
04-09-2008, 03:13 AM
You guys are totally missing the point. First of all, the discussion is not whether the ordinary person likes or dislikes economists. We are strictly talking about economists' reputation in the academic sphere. If you don't give a hoot about that, then may be you should not be in academia. Economists alone cannot solve the world's problems (in fact, it is even questionable that they even contribute in that endeavour and cooperate with those who do). It is even embaressing to see economists like John Nash getting a nobel prize for non-cooperative games in the same league as those in medicine like, say, Selman Waksman. The bottom line is economists need to be more humble cuz the dismal science is not as useful as most think. Sure questions in economics are complicated because they deal with human behavior, which would be an even better reason to be humble. He who aspires to find the cure for cancer should start by being humble. However, what happens in reality is that economists (and particularly econometricians) lose their keys in the dark and search for it where the light is. Very few care about the usefulness of their "interllectual exercise", which mostly really is just a euphemism for "something to do so that i can claim salary".

dishu
04-09-2008, 08:40 PM
Hey Explorer, could you please explain what you meant by this:


"It is even embaressing to see economists like John Nash getting a nobel prize for non-cooperative games in the same league as those in medicine like, say, Selman Waksman.".

fp3690
04-09-2008, 08:54 PM
Hey guys, going back to the original topic (whether economists are evil or not), I just wanted to mention a particular case of a guy, he got his economics PHD from a top 30 department in US, and later became president of his country. He is the first economist to rule the country (preceded by a number of architects, advocates, ingeneers, political scientists, medicine doctors, and even military officers...). I won't argue in favor or against his policies, but he is the most beloved national leader in maybe a century, he has support from more than 70% of the people in the country and no one of his supporters would ever think to question his ethical behavior (tautologic... maybe). Sorry if I missed the point... I just wanted to give a counterexample... economists are not always hated

His name is Rafael Correa, did his PhD in UIUC, and is the President of Ecuador. Why the secrecy?

I don't know if all that is true, although that's what I hear too.

canecon
04-10-2008, 12:08 AM
Economists are evil. I am proof, I wasn't evil before I decided on Economics, but after I finished my third year I have become ridiculously evil and condescending. It's really bad, my girlfriend is in another social science and I play devils advocate and argue against everything she says, despite that some part of me knows she's right. We are being brainwashed :p

Explorer
04-10-2008, 01:49 AM
We are being brainwashed :p

There is no doubt about that!!!

dishu
04-10-2008, 01:52 AM
His name is Rafael Correa, did his PhD in UIUC, and is the President of Ecuador. Why the secrecy?

I don't know if all that is true, although that's what I hear too.

No secrecy. I just wanted to know if somebody else heard the same thing than me about this guy. Appearently you did.

AstralTraveller
04-10-2008, 02:20 AM
Hey guys, going back to the original topic (whether economists are evil or not), I just wanted to mention a particular case of a guy, he got his economics PHD from a top 30 department in US, and later became president of his country. He is the first economist to rule the country (preceded by a number of architects, advocates, ingeneers, political scientists, medicine doctors, and even military officers...). I won't argue in favor or against his policies, but he is the most beloved national leader in maybe a century, he has support from more than 70% of the people in the country and no one of his supporters would ever think to question his ethical behavior (tautologic... maybe). Sorry if I missed the point... I just wanted to give a counterexample... economists are not always hated

I thought you were talking about Ricardo Lagos in Chile. He got his Econ PhD from Duke, and yes, he was beloved by everyone in his country when his period ended. First economist ever to get the presidency. He left office with those figures.

However I agree. It's not true that everybody hates us economists just for the sake of it.

Explorer
04-10-2008, 04:36 AM
I thought you were talking about Ricardo Lagos in Chile. He got his Econ PhD from Duke, and yes, he was beloved by everyone in his country when his period ended. First economist ever to get the presidency. He left office with those figures.

However I agree. It's not true that everybody hates us economists just for the sake of it.

Let's not forget, however, that Lagos is a social democrat. I don't think he is a representative agent as far as economists are concerned.

YoungEconomist
04-10-2008, 04:55 AM
Let's not forget, however, that Lagos is a social democrat. I don't think he is a representative agent as far as economists are concerned.

The average academic economist is a little left of center.

canecon
04-10-2008, 05:07 AM
The average academic economist is a little left of center.

Source?

Explorer
04-10-2008, 07:05 AM
The average academic economist is a little left of center.

Lagos really is a socialist. If the average economist is a socialist, then there is even more I don't know about economics and economists.

AstralTraveller
04-10-2008, 12:06 PM
Lagos really is a socialist. If the average economist is a socialist, then there is even more I don't know about economics and economists.
Don't miss out that, while Lagos is a socialist on paper, most chileans will tell you that his economic policies were mostly pro-market. Probably b/c of his US econ background.

YoungEconomist
04-10-2008, 03:23 PM
Source?

Bryan Caplan. I can't remember where I read it, but it was probably on his website. According to surveys, academic economists are slightly left of center. However, their opinion still differs from other people slightly left of center when it comes to many things (such as trade, regulation of business, etc).


Lagos really is a socialist. If the average economist is a socialist, then there is even more I don't know about economics and economists.

I never said the average economist was a socialist. All I said was that the average academic economist was slightly left of center.

The way I understand it, there was a time when a significant minority of academic economists were socialists. And that Hayek's "The Use of Knowledge in Society" was essentially directed towards some of these economists.


Don't miss out that, while Lagos is a socialist on paper, most chileans will tell you that his economic policies were mostly pro-market. Probably b/c of his US econ background.

Can you really call someone a socialist if they agree with pro-market policies?

AstralTraveller
04-10-2008, 03:30 PM
Can you really call someone a socialist if they agree with pro-market policies?
Not really, but it happens. A lot. They call themselves "renewed socialists", who only keep their name but believe in capitalism as any FED economist next door. :p

Explorer
04-10-2008, 06:09 PM
Not really, but it happens. A lot. They call themselves "renewed socialists", who only keep their name but believe in capitalism as any FED economist next door. :p

AstralTraveller, as much as I like your signature, I have to say that even if Lagos really is an angel, one data point is not gonna save economists from being called "Evil".

AstralTraveller
04-10-2008, 06:18 PM
AstralTraveller, as much as I like your signature, I have to say that even if Lagos really is an angel, one data point is not gonna save economists from being called "Evil".

1) Lagos does not seem to be an angel. I don't know him, anyway.
2) I agree it's just one pata point for anything.
3) if our degree of "evilness" is to be measured by popular opinion, yes, we economists ARE evil.
4) I hope I am not evil, but again, I'm not sure. I'm working on it, though ;)

All I know is I'm having a good laugh for lunch :p

fp3690
04-10-2008, 11:24 PM
Bryan Kaplan is masonomist. They tend to miss the shades of gray.

KGkhan23
04-12-2008, 12:39 AM
The average academic economist is a little left of center.

Just to add to what YoungEconomist said...

Mankiw: "In my department at Harvard, I would guess that Democrats outnumber Republicans among the faculty"

Greg Mankiw's Blog: Does econ make people conservative? (http://gregmankiw.blogspot.com/2006/12/does-econ-make-people-conservative.html)

I know it's not scientific, just something I came across.

Also, regarding the Paul Bloom comment that was mentioned at the beginning of this thread- the Freakonomics blog also discussed it, and soon after they posted, Stephen Dubner received this email:

Hi Stephen,
I just read your entry on the Freakonomics blog, and thought I should send a quick reply.
Yes, my remark about evil economists was a joke. This was perfectly clear at the talk and its clear if you watch the video, but not from the NYTimes article, unfortunately. After I make the remark and people laugh, I then say To put it more fairly , and go on to make the point that economists tend to reason consequentially, and are less sensitive to other considerations such as taboo, disgust status quo bias, and so on. I actually think that economists are right to do so in general, and Ive argued in particular that disgust is useless as a guide for moral behavior. So, no, I dont think youre evil!
Best,
pb
Not that it matters, the question of whether economists are evil is still a valid one as far as I'm concerned. Just wanted to point that out.

fp3690
04-12-2008, 02:07 PM
I have in mind some that just have to be evil. But the same is true for any profession. Some physicists use their knowledge to develop rocket missiles, why is that less evil?

bscout
04-12-2008, 02:35 PM
This thread is one of the best examples of a Byzantine discussion. Time does not seems to be scarce (or you have a very weird utility function). :p

YoungEconomist
04-12-2008, 03:24 PM
This thread is one of the best examples of a Byzantine discussion. Time does not seems to be scarce (or you have a very weird utility function). :p

What's a "Byzantine discussion?"