Do economists have even more hubris than physicists?

It’s hard to believe, but it’s a valid question. Tyler Cowen demonstrates his arrogance by questioning the validity of epidemiology, and he asks a series of stupid questions that show how little thought he has put into the subject.

a. As a class of scientists, how much are epidemiologists paid? Is good or bad news better for their salaries?

You know, there’s this thing called “Google” which economists apparently haven’t heard about yet. If you look it up, it turns out that epidemiologists work in public health — which should already tell you they don’t get absurdly rich at this job — and they make on average about $69K per year. I would ask what the point of the question is. Does their salary say something about the accuracy of their conclusions? Because, near as I can tell, salaries under capitalism have nothing to do with intellectual rigor.

The employment of epidemiologists is not contingent on whether their results are good news or bad news, but on the quality and accuracy of their work. Why? Is it different for economists?

b. How smart are they? What are their average GRE scores?

Holy shit. Cowen reveals his own ignorant biases there.

Epidemiology requires solid skills in statistics and biology, neither of which are exactly easy-peasy topics. Their GRE scores were good enough to get them into demanding academic programs. There aren’t any shortcuts.

c. Are they hired into thick, liquid academic and institutional markets? And how meritocratic are those markets?

“Thick, liquid”? That sounds like economics jargon. I have no idea what he’s talking about, and I won’t pretend to know, unlike some.

I can say that academia is only loosely meritocratic. There are a lot of built-in cultural biases that mean we get some incompetent people, and some brilliant people get excluded. The question ought to be whether epidemiology is more or less meritocratic than economics. The evidence here says “more”.

d. What is their overall track record on predictions, whether before or during this crisis?

Crack an epidemiology textbook. There are a lot of variables and a lot of case studies. Unlike in economics, failed models tend to be rapidly discarded.

e. On average, what is the political orientation of epidemiologists? And compared to other academics? Which social welfare function do they use when they make non-trivial recommendations?

Fuck me. Like most educated academics, they probably skew liberal and Democratic. Their recommendations favor maximizing public health and minimizing death and illness. That’s their job. Economists seem to be much more twisted by flaky ideological concerns.

He has more questions, but I’ve had enough. What a chuzzlewit.


  1. knut7777 says

    … Unlike in economics, failed models tend to be rapidly discarded….

    That observation should be skywritten every day above every econ school and think tank in the country.

  2. blf says

    Do economists have even more hubris than physicists? — Physics is an indisputable science, economics (as it seems to be commonly(?) practised) less so… So, exercising my own hubris as a Mathematically-educated engineer, I’d speculate Yes!


    @1, The (admittedly not too reliable, yet useful) Urban Dictionary defines Chuzzlewit as “A stupid accident prone idiot. One who makes mistakes frequently and often makes an idiot of themselves in public. Someone who is often laughed at because they are such an idiot.” Using that definition, I’d concur with poopyhead’s description.

  3. Ben Wright says

    “Every discipline apart from my own is trivially easy to master.”

    shorter Tyler Chuzzlewit

  4. christoph says

    “…and he asks a series of stupid questions…”

    There are no stupid questions-just stupid people.

  5. blf says

    Despite the (deserved!) general pile-on of economists here, there are some who do get it. I know I’ve referenced this article before (and in particular, an illustration of “flattening the curve” it contains), so apologies for the repeat, It’s not exponential: An economist’s view of the epidemiological curve (12-March-2020): “The spread of COVID-19 is not going to follow an exponential curve — and grave errors will follow if analysts believe it will. The number of new cases rises rapidly, peaks, and then declines. It’s called the epidemiological curve. It’s not a theory or hypothesis; it plays out that way every flu season. It is how it has played out in China and Korea for COVID-19. Flattening the peak to avoid overloading the healthcare system is the main medical goal of the seemingly extreme containment policies we have seen to date.”

    Another article, Infection Trajectory: See Which Countries are Flattening Their COVID-19 Curve (updated daily) — not entirely clear if the authour considers themselves an economist, but they are the editor at an economics site — also clearly gets it. This article, in fact, also points out an omission in the previous article, which failed to take into account healthcare workers becoming sick and hence, possibly, reducing the number of ICU beds available due to lack of trained staff.

    Due to the lockdown here in France and the NY Times paywall / anti-adblocker policies, I don’t know what Paul Krugman has been writing, but presume he also gets it.

  6. says

    @#3, blf:

    I was making a (feeble) joke about the Dickens novel. Both the Chuzzlewits — who are both named Martin, a grandfather and grandson — start off as greedy, self-willed assholes, but both of them undergo transformations as a result of their own bad behavior and mend their ways. (It’s not my favorite Dickens novel by any means — I don’t like the blanket characterizations of Americans, and I found the ending to be disappointing in its treatment of Tom Pinch — but it’s one I can tolerate. How anybody can read the smug wad of finger-wagging Victorian jocosity which is The Pickwick Papers and not end up violently ill, I cannot understand. And yet at the time that was his most popular book and people spend decades hoping he’d write another one like it… At least Lewis Carroll’s more nauseating passages — which are mostly in his relatively unknown works, like Sylvie and Bruno, have the excuse that he was writing for children.)

  7. says

    @#7, blf:

    Does anybody really believe that the curve will be exponential, though? (Or perhaps I should be a little more careful: does anybody who has the mathematics skill to understand what an exponential curve is, who also takes the time to create even a primitive model at all, believe it?) You can generally turn a healthy human into an infected human with relative ease, but you can’t create infected humans out of nowhere. Even if the infections somehow grew exponentially as long as they grew they would necessarily eventually hit a peak — and it’s not like people stay sick with it forever, either. IIRC, the described maximum time between initial exposure and the last possible moment of being contagious is about 6 weeks in the most excruciating corner case possible, and expected to be much less than that for most people. Even if sand is pouring into the tub at an ever-increasing rate, it’s also leaking back out that way, too.

  8. chrislawson says

    My god. The narcissism burns bright with this one. “Which social welfare function do they use when they make non-trivial recommendations?” Clearly this fool has decided to JAQ about an entire field without looking at one. single. paper. If he was to read an epidemiology paper, even if he didn’t understand it well, he would know what outcomes measures (i.e. “welfare functions”) they use. Because they would be mentioned many times throughout the paper. And put in tables. And on graph axes.

  9. blf says

    “Thick, liquid”? That sounds like economics jargon. I have no idea what he’s talking about, and I won’t pretend to know, unlike some.

    I also have no idea, but out of curiosity — or perhaps a mixture of boredom and procrastination — did look it up:

    Thick: “A thick market has many buyers and sellers” (Ye Pfffft! of All Knowledge); “raising the number of buyers available to each seller and the number of sellers available to each buyer, raises the thickness, or the effective number of participants, of every market” (Trade and Market Thickness: Effects on Organizations (PDF), seems to be undated, but obviously 2002 or later).

    Liquid: “quickly purchase or sell an asset without causing a drastic change in the asset’s price” (Ye Pffft! of All Knowledge). I cannot actually find any definition which makes much sense (to me) for the context quoted in the OP, but will speculate Are [epidemiologists] hired into […] liquid academic and institutional markets? basically translates into something like “how hard is it to recruit one?”, which is presumably a code for something like “how expensive are they?”.

    So what I suspect the eejit is asking is something along the lines of “how common are unemployed epidemiologists?”, with the implication the more there are, the easier it is to hire one which will spout whatever nonsense you want them to spout — projecting (not sure if the eejit, myself, or both of us are doing this) what happens with economists: Only hire ones that spout the party line.

  10. lochaber says

    There’s something special about economist complaining that “it’s not an exponential curve”

    Sure, it’s not perfectly exponential, because once everyone is infected, the infection rate slows down…

    But, sure, constant, continuous, unending economic growth is not only reasonable, but “necessary”

    Nevermind what will happen when we exhaust resources, or make our environment uninhabitable…

  11. chrislawson says

    All you need to do is read the comments to see the kind of thick-skulled conspiracy-prone libertarian dickheads he writes for. All these morons shouting about what’s wrong with epidemiology when they wouldn’t even know what the field is — many of them even stating that epidemiologists are social scientists who don’t do experiments! — and Cowen just laps it up, the ignorant fraud.

  12. stroppy says

    “Do economists have even more hubris than physicists?”

    Just my personal experience FWIW (with exceptions of course); economists dwarf physicists in arrogance. More than that, they spread it around infecting MBAs and financiers with it, who then act as multipliers of contempt for great swaths of the rest of humanity.

  13. blf says

    does anybody who has the mathematics skill to understand what an exponential curve is, who also takes the time to create even a primitive model at all, believe it?

    Possibly. Hint: Generalissimo Google™, despite all the flaws, is useful…

    ● Reality of exponential growth of COVID-19 shows South Africa’s lockdown is right: “As a computer scientist who also works in bioinformatics, I’m very familiar with exponential growth. It is this background that makes it clear to me that [South African President Cyril] Ramaphosa has done the right thing.”

    ● Forbes, Why ‘Exponential Growth’ Is So Scary For The COVID-19 Coronavirus.

    However, in both of the above examples, the authours do realise — long into the respective articles — the increase in infections cannot actually be exponential other than at the start. So whilst they don’t “believe” it, they (and/or their editors) do seem to be abusing the term.

    The SETI Institute comments on this abuse of “exponential”, Coronavirus and Exponential Growth:

    Astute readers of media will have noticed that in the last two years the use of the word “exponential” has suddenly become fashionable. In the majority of cases, a writer will use it to mean “a lot”, as in “streamed video content has grown exponentially.”

    But of course, the word is historically grounded in algebra, and was first used by Descartes to describe, for example, something whose growth with time can be characterized as t^a, where a is the exponent. […]

    In the case of the coronavirus, the growth in the number of infected persons will inevitably be exponential, at least for a while. That’s because the rate of new infections clearly depends on the number of people who are already contagious. The resulting tally of the infected will increase very rapidly — as is typical of exponential growth. Note that it’s not that the number is large, but only the behavior of the growth rate that merits the designation “exponential.”

    I suspect — without doing any searching to confirm — some(? many?) of the undeniable uses of “exponential” in relation to Covid-19 cases are in the sense of “a lot”.

  14. blf says

    lochaber@12, Ha! Yes… (giggles) Good point.

    I’m unfamiliar with that individual’s other writings, so it’s possible he also gets at least part of that criticism. But I certainly share your expressed cynicism.

  15. Pierce R. Butler says

    One advantage physicists hold over economists is that physicists’ instruments get their readings directly from the phenomena under study and report them with high degrees of accuracy and precision, whereas economists get their figures from a long chain of intermediate entities, nearly all of which have strong incentives to distort the numbers in poorly-measured ways.

  16. garnetstar says

    This Chuzzlewit is asking about the “track records” of epidemiologist’s “predictions”? What does “predictions” mean? Shouldn’t he ask about epidemiologists’ accomplishments?

    Does he have any idea how many epidemics epidemiology has nipped in the bud? I remember the hantavirus outbreak in the Southwest (which was killing people right and left, in days), MERS, SARS, Machupo (the South American virus that causes hemmorrhagic fever), Lassa fever, the first Ebola and Marburg outbreak in the 1970’s, West Nile virus, Eastern equine encephalitis, etc., etc., etc? The reason that these didn’t become mass killers worldwide, and so attract his attention, was epidemiology and related scienes.

    I’m just a chemist, but I’ve heard of all that epidemiology.

    Again, one of the prime characteristics of such dunces, by which they can always be identified, is that they refuse to learn what data or knowledge has been accumulated in any field that they decide to pronounce on.

  17. says

    “Which social welfare function do they use when they make non-trivial recommendations?”
    That’s the only question I find interesting as we have to remember that number of deaths due to coronavirus is not the only metric to use.
    We can reduce number of deaths from coronavirus significantly by ordering everyone to stay home for a month, but with no running water, electricity and food we may end up with more deaths than due to the pandemic itself.
    Economic damage leads to increase in suicide rate, substance abuse and overdose, violent crimes and all of those events increase the number of people breaking the law in next generation, so it is important to use appropriate and as selective as possible measures.
    That doesn’t mean it is possible to attempt to restart economy before coronavirus is under control, because even without measures at all it would crash the economy anyway.

  18. garnetstar says

    Gorski @19, ITA. But, epidmeologists don’t know any of the factors you mention, which will indeed increase the number of deaths and will have to be taken into account when choosing to implement any policy. All epidemiologists know is how to stop the outbreak of viruses, so they’ll make recommendations on that. It’s up to others to evaluate what damage implementing a recommendation will cause, and make a decision on that.

    Not to mention that the gold standard for decades of how to stop a virus when it’s just an outbreak instead of an epidemic is to test, track contacts, and isolate only those who are infected. That is what epidemiologists will recommend first, and the rest of the economy can go on as usual. If a government is too stupid or venal (speaking from the USA here) to follow those recommendations, well, the next recommendations are less good, in all ways.

  19. chrislawson says


    The modelling curves for epidemics are exponential functions even after the initial growth.

    Here’s a neat paper crunching the maths on epidemic models and comparing them to some real epidemic data. You don’t have to follow all the maths (I didn’t try, it’s dense and extensive and covers several different approaches with differing notations), but you can see that all the models have an exponential function in them. This is pretty obvious when you think about how we could model an epidemic — it has to be an exponential function to make sense. Just as radioactive half-life is an exponential function, as is calculating interest, as is the binomial distribution curve.

    I keep wavering, thinking this is not too much of a mistake by Cowen because it’s an easy thing to miss. But then I recall that he made this mistake because he was too busy fake-rebutting the entire discipline of epidemiology for the purpose of puffing up his psychopathic economics to do even a superficial job of researching what he was criticising, and I lose all sympathy.

  20. blf says

    Both the Chuzzlewits — who are both named Martin, a grandfather and grandson — start off as greedy, self-willed assholes, but both of them undergo transformations as a result of their own bad behavior and mend their ways.

    Apropos of nothing at all, The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit has the extended Chuzzlewit family as characters, including (besides the two Martins), Anthony & Jonas — neither of whom is ever a pleasant character (e.g., Jonas commits murder, and may also be responsible for the death of Anthony, his own father) — and others.

    Most of that is from the cited Ye Pffft! of All Knowledge article — my own memories of the novel is that it was so boring I put it down fairly early and never picked it up again. I’ve no recollection of ever hearing anyone called a “chuzzlewit” before, so had to look up term to help decipher what was meant.

  21. chrislawson says


    Funny how no epidemiologists recommended everyone stay home for a month, including essential industry workers. It’s almost as if they had already taken these things into consideration!

  22. says

    Cowen’s questions are the economist’s equivalent of a critical theorist trying to understand science as a literary text.

  23. says

    A quibble on the definitions of liquidity cited above (EXTREME SARCASM WARNING):

    As libertarian-fringe law-and-economics advocates like Cowan use the term “liquidity,” they are talking about only a subset of the “turn one asset into another asset” general definition from classical political economy. To the fringe influenced by Hayek, van der Mises, et al. — that is, those who reject the concepts of the veil of ignorance and original position, which (after all) were most-popularly explained by a philosopher and not an economist, so they must necessarily be discounted (puns intended) — “liquidity” concerns only translation of an asset into immediately-spendable, infinitely-divisible currency and/or equivalent financial instruments. That’s because to this fringe, only currency and financial instruments are “capital.” This limitation would come as a real surprise to Adam Smith and the others who invented the concept of “capitalism.” That, if one unwound everything, the Drumpf family would not qualify as “capitalists” if this limitation were applied strictly at each stage is a rather delicious irony.*

    tl;dr Cowan is hiding behind jargon to disguise his aristocratic pretensions (at least, this time); most of the time, he trumpets them.

    They’re not; they’re mercantilists wearing capitalists’ clothing, but for reasons far beyond Cowan’s understanding (this is one of my areas of scholarly expertise… and not his).

  24. blf says

    Tyler Cowan is(? was?) associated with the economics(?) department at George Mason University (GMU), which RationalWiki summarizes, in part, as:

    Their public policy and economics departments employ a number of professors well-known for libertarian-leaning views, spread across the spectrum of small-government philosophy, ranging from absolutely brilliant (despite general Austrian School leanings) all the way on down to full-on crazy (again, with some climate denial mixed in for good measure). They’re all part of the Mercatus Center, which is funded by Koch Industries. As sketchy as that may be, also eschewing that it has basically become the new de-facto Fortress of Solitude for the Austrian School of Economics, GMU’s business and economic departments are highly respected and held in exceptionally high regard. […]

    In other words (in my reading), a fairly decent, respected department (they are fairly highed rated (see link)), but with enough cranks and crank-connections Cowen would not be seen as a crank. Or as GMU is summarised (see link): “[… i]s also a hotbed of crankery and prime supplier of experts for hire. Most of its crank hires are employed in global warming denial, libertarian wingnuttery, and the occasional creationism.”

  25. robert79 says

    I read the first question and thought: “why on earth would someone’s income say anything about how smart they are? Generally people in public health have other motivation (doing the right thing, for example) than money, so I’d expect an inverse relationship between income and quality.”

    The I realised it was posed by an economist…

  26. blf says

    Correction to me@27, based on xohjoh2n@26, “Tyler Cowan is(? was?) associated with an economics professor in the economics(?) department at George Mason University […]” and still a crank.

  27. says

    @28: This is consistent with the whole libertarian-economics meme. In Anglo-Saxon nations, government workers are almost invariably paid less than their (as-exact-as-exists) private-sector counterparts, so the government people necessarily aren’t as smart as the private-sector folks because the government people are not rationally maximizing their economicfinancial power. It ignores, however, that in the non-Anglo-Saxon world things are much more mixed, with in many systems the government workers being paid more than their (as-exact-as-exists) private-sector counterparts, often using the excuse that those systems are “less developed” and/or “transitioning to capitalism from an inferior economic order.”+ The less said about government positions for which there isn’t an exact private-sector counterpart (like “military officer” and “legislator” and so on), the better.

    That’s liberatarian code for “non-Western-European and non-white,” a necessary consequence of their underpinnings. Really? Austrian school? Have any of these maroons actually looked at the circumstances and contexts under which the Austrian School arose?

  28. kebil says

    No epidemiologist that I have talked to believes the curves would remain exponential forever. The curves were exponential until social distancing and mass shutdowns took effect. Exponential growth is characterized by rates doubling over a given time period, and for the first few weeks in New York cases were doubling every 3 days, then every 4 days, etc. If there had been no measures taken, the virus would have continued to double at this pace until a sizable portion of the population had been infected and the virus stopped being able to find new victims. Epidemiologists are very well aware of this, it is not like we are new at this. Even the earliest models predicted that cases would level off, and that the worst case scenario would not see everybody infected. However, economists are pissed off that people listened to the models (all models are wrong, some are useful), shut down the economy, and did not listen to those who said the “cure was worse than the disease”

  29. blf says

    kebil@31, The two cited articles in @7 were directed (mostly) at economists, and (otherwise) at lay readers; the first indeed made quite clear epidemiologists know the general “shape” / behaviour of the curves. Both were written by economists, and neither said said the cure [is] worse than the disease.

    The second cited article, which claims to be updated daily, starts with a graph comparing the confirmed numbers in various countries. Eyeballing it, the initial States rate was a doubling every two days, one of the highest early rates, with a few locales, such as Spain and Iran, being “faster” (doubling every day). Of course, the States is woefully behind in its testing, so the actual rate is unknown.

  30. unclefrogy says

    it always amazes me that some people ask really dumb questions about mostly scientific or engineering subjects, and yes there are really dumb questions. They are always totally ignorant of what ever subject at question and sound like they think that everyone else including the people who have spent their whole career studying the particular question is as ignorant about it as they are. There is a smug conceit that I find very off putting in their questions. There is never any real questioning about the data like in this case how many are infected how is the growth rate if infections changing , no all the questions almost entirely seem to assume that there are no more facts the questioner knows and that they are just making it up, rather like they do in their own fields of politics and economics as well as religion which make an art of cherry picking what really amounts to debating points and not objective data. In fact they seem to doubt the value of even striving for objective data in order to make decisions.
    Libertarians are a special breed of fundamentalists rather like evangelical christians store front preachers. and about as useful.
    uncle frogy

  31. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    First, note that Tyler is a Koch-sucker–the institute he runs having been founded and funded by the Koch family. So we can expect him to just be flat wrong. The thing that surprised me was the shallowness and laziness of the analysis. Looks like another case of “stupidity sent to college.”
    And on the general question of whether economists are more hubristic than physicists–it depends on the physicist and the economist. However, most in both disciplines have a lot more justification for hubris than this guy.

  32. Alt-X says

    I blame that NPR podcast. Where an economist pretends to solve every human problem. Ego.

  33. paulambos says

    Anyone who invokes social welfare functions should be required to explain the St. Petersburg Paradox.

  34. chrislawson says


    I still cling ridiculously to the “no such thing as a stupid question” tenet — but that’s because I’d rather people cleared up their misunderstandings by asking them openly and not getting demeaned for it. The problem with Cowen is not that he asked a dumb question, it’s that he asked the question in that way to specifically dismiss an possibility of learning about epidemiology. His goal was to undermine the work of people much more knowledgeable than himself in a field that right now is of primary importance to the entire world population.

    The fact that he is an economist, a field full of exponential equations, and still poses this question shows that he could understand it if only he used knowledge he should already have. What Cowen said is exactly as idiotic as someone noting that interest is an exponential function, yet the balance of their bank account isn’t climbing like a rocket, therefore there’s no such thing as an interest-bearing account.

  35. unclefrogy says

    the stupid questions like these kind of argumentative questions that are asked by people like this “economist’ are like the this. man gets on a bus which has a big banner on the front naming it as the Disneyland express the driver says welcome to the Disneyland bus. the man then asks does this bus go to Disneyland? and further are you sure you know how to get there from here.
    they ask because they doubt that they do not believe that bus driver is not really going there nor even knows where it is while all indications are to the contrary. stupid questions stupid questioner hard to tell, troolish behavior is apparent however

    uncle frogy

  36. militantagnostic says

    If you plot the data on a semilog graph as I have done for Canada and the Benighted States, you will get a significant stretch of straight line (indicating exponential growth) before the curve begins to fall below the straight line. The deviation occurs well before the fraction of the population that is infected is large enough for the virus to start running out of people to infect. What could possibly be causing this? I am sure it has nothing to do with listening to the advice of epidemiologists. I think Cowen is projecting his habit of ignoring all the undeliying assumptions (that are not valid in the “real world”), that underly his brand of economics onto epidemiologists. If astronomy functioned at the intellectual level of economics there would be an Austrian School and a Chicago School of geocentric economists.

  37. says

    @#22, blf

    Apropos of nothing at all, The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit has the extended Chuzzlewit family as characters, including (besides the two Martins), Anthony & Jonas — neither of whom is ever a pleasant character (e.g., Jonas commits murder, and may also be responsible for the death of Anthony, his own father) — and others.

    I forgot about those two, but Anthony actually does repent before he dies. (In fact — spoiler alert if anybody hasn’t read it and plans to — he isn’t actually murdered. Jonas gets as far as preparing to murder him, possibly, buying some poison from a chemist who is in his debt, but he hesitates, Anthony finds the poisoned cough drops, and as Chuffey describes:

    ‘that was what he said next, crying like a little child: “He shall not weary for my death, Chuff. He shall have it now; he shall marry where he has a fancy, Chuff, although it don’t please me; and you and I will go away and live upon a little. I always loved him; perhaps he’ll love me then. It’s a dreadful thing to have my own child thirsting for my death. But I might have known it. I have sown, and I must reap. He shall believe that I am taking this; and when I see that he is sorry, and has all he wants, I’ll tell him that I found it out, and I’ll forgive him. He’ll make a better man of his own son, and be a better man himself, perhaps, Chuff!”’

    Anthony actually dies of natural causes.

    Jonas, it’s true, does not repent — he doesn’t get a chance to, because after his father’s death he commits another, actual murder, plus an act of deliberate fraud against yet a third victim, and he’s an abusive husband to boot, and is caught, and ends up poisoning himself when the police take him into custody. He does suffer from the fear of being found out, though:

    He dreamed at one time that he was lying calmly in his bed, thinking of a moonlight night and the noise of wheels, when the old clerk put his head in at the door, and beckoned him. […] a terrible figure started from the throng, and cried out that it was the Last Day for all the world. The cry being spread, there was a wild hurrying on to Judgment; and the press became so great that he and his companion (who was constantly changing, and was never the same man two minutes together, though he never saw one man come or another go), stood aside in a porch, fearfully surveying the multitude; in which there were many faces that he knew, and many that he did not know, but dreamed he did; when all at once a struggling head rose up among the rest—livid and deadly, but the same as he had known it—and denounced him as having appointed that direful day to happen. They closed together. As he strove to free the hand in which he held a club, and strike the blow he had so often thought of, he started to the knowledge of his waking purpose and the rising of the sun.

  38. DanDare says

    Paullambos @36 thanks for pointing me to the St Petersburg Paradox. Fills a hole in just the right place for my understanding of many things. Especially why libertarians tend to be horribly wrong.

  39. xohjoh2n says

    @36, @43:

    It’s an interesting point (though I can’t see how it’s as problematic as some apparently seem to think it is), but I don’t see how it relates to the matter at hand. Maybe I’m just being thick, but how does it relate to any prospective “social welfare function” or libertarians?

  40. Frederic Bourgault-Christie says

    Of course right-wing neo-classical economists have far more hubris than physicians. Their ideas get less challenged. They are able to live in an echo chamber, publishing for Heritage or CATO and writing technical papers with false assumptions that everyone in the field knows are dubious. Despite the fact that the consensus in economics, to say nothing of all the disciplines discussing economic matters, is not what the right wing claims it to be.

    What is hilarious is that we can ask them how their immense economic knowledge has had provably positive impacts. Did it stop the 2008 recession? Nope. . People like Mankiw, not even an arch-conservative, really think that near-tautologies are incredible insights to provide.

  41. xohjoh2n says

    As for “what economists believe”:

    (Pretty pro-science there…)

    Linked from Krugman which also says:

    So where is this coming from? I’ve seen some people portray it as a conflict between epidemiologists and economists, but that’s all wrong. Serious economists know what they don’t know — they recognize and respect experts from other disciplines. A survey of economists found almost unanimous support for “tolerating a very large contraction in economic activity until the spread of infections has dropped significantly.”

    No, this push to reopen is coming not from economists but from cranks and cronies. That is, it’s coming on one side from people who may describe themselves as economists but whom the professionals consider cranks