They walk where no mortals dare. They face challenges that melt the resolve of ordinary people. They fearlessly stride the pathways of the world, towering over the feeble masses. Commoners worship them as gods, without whom their lives would dissipate into madness and chaos. Who are these giants that rule the world and whose wisdom is essential to our daily existence? They are economists.
Obtain a PhD in economics and you immediately achieve superhuman understanding of the world. Others gain respect and knowledge through years of study and experience, but economists alone become gods; true modern-day oracles. And among them are those special few anointed by a mysterious coven of Swedes as winners of the Nobel Prize. They walk the earth like Tyrannosaurus Rex, crushing anyone who stands in their way or questions their divine pronouncements.
OK, let’s get real. Sure, some economists do provide some value to the world, but no amount of charts, graphs, or cockamamie theories justify abandoning reality. Common sense rarely comes into play when you’re faced with the arcane proclamations of someone who happens to have studied economic theory. And the worst of the bunch are those who’ve won Nobel Prizes for quantifying aspects of markets that a merchant running a bodega in New York could have told you in less eloquent ways, but just as accurately.
A perfect example of the undue reverence given to economists is an interview done last year by MSNBC anchor Contessa Brewer with Congressman Mo Brooks (R-AL). (It’s available on YouTube and well worth watching for a great laugh.) While he’s explaining why President Obama’s fiscal policies are flawed and counterproductive, she questions the validity of his opinions by citing some big name economists like Bernanke and Geithner. She then asks him if he has a degree in economics, implying that his thoughtful and knowledgeable answers have no value unless he has a degree. Mr. Brooks replies that not only does he have a degree, but it was awarded by Duke University with highest honors. That shut her up. Mercifully, she was dropped by the network a month later.
The reason for this critique of economists is the debate over the current state – and the future direction – of the world economy. Should the governments of Europe cut their budgets (referred to with the distressing name “austerity”), or should they spend money that they don’t have by borrowing or printing it (referred to with the soothing term “stimulating”)?