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Economists Dissing Economics

Posted on the 23 August 2014 by Unlearningecon

For whatever reason, I found myself compiling a list of 20 or so quotes, mostly from well known economists, criticising mainstream economics. What’s most interesting is that although the quotes come from a wide range of economists, with different political views and from different times, they seem to have a lot in common.

The purpose of studying economics is not to acquire a set of ready-made answers to economic questions, but to learn how to avoid being deceived by economists.

― Joan Robinson

Economics is extremely useful as a form of employment for economists.

― John Kenneth Galbraith

The only function of economic forecasting is to make astrology look respectable.

― John Kenneth Galbraith

…the discipline of economics has yet to get over its childish passion for mathematics and for purely theoretical and often highly ideological speculation, at the expense of historical research and collaboration with the other social sciences.

― Thomas Piketty

Too large a proportion of recent “mathematical” economics are mere concoctions, as imprecise as the initial assumptions they rest on, which allow the author to lose sight of the complexities and interdependencies of the real world in a maze of pretentious and unhelpful symbols.

― John Maynard Keynes

We move from more or less plausible but really arbitrary assumptions, to elegantly demonstrated but irrelevant conclusions.

― Wassily Leontief

Existing economics is a theoretical system which floats in the air and which bears little relation to what happens in the real world.

― Ronald Coase

The economics profession went astray because economists, as a group, mistook beauty, clad in impressive-looking mathematics, for truth.

― Paul Krugman

Economics has become increasingly an arcane branch of mathematics rather than dealing with real economic problems.

― Milton Friedman

Modern economics is sick. Economics has increasingly become an intellectual game played for its own sake and not for its practical consequences for understanding the economic world. Economists have converted the subject into a sort of social mathematics in which analytical rigour is everything and practical relevance is nothing.

― Mark Blaug

Economics has never been a science – and it is even less now than a few years ago.

― Paul Samuelson

For far too long economists have sought to define themselves in terms of their supposedly scientific methods. In fact, those methods rely on an immoderate use of mathematical models, which are frequently no more than an excuse for occupying the terrain and masking the vacuity of the content.

― Thomas Piketty

In my youth it was said that what was too silly to be said may be sung. In modern economics it may be put into mathematics.

― Ronald Coase

If economists wished to study the horse, they wouldn’t go and look at horses. They’d sit in their studies and say to themselves, “what would I do if I were a horse?

― Ronald Coase

Any man who is only an economist is unlikely to be a good one.

― F. A. Hayek

The study of economics has been again and again led astray by the vain idea that economics must proceed according to the pattern of other sciences.

― Ludwig von Mises

The use of mathematics has brought rigor to economics. Unfortunately, it has also brought mortis.

― Robert Heilbroner

An economist is an expert who will know tomorrow why the things he predicted yesterday didn’t happen today.

― Laurence J. Peter

When an economist says the evidence is “mixed,” he or she means that theory says one thing and data says the opposite.

― Richard Thaler

The First Law of Economists: For every economist, there exists an equal and opposite economist.

The Second Law of Economists: They’re both wrong.

― David Wildasin

Economists Dissing Economics

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