I’m An Economist, So I Tell Lies for a Living
The American Enterprise Institute’s Dr. Arthur Brooks sometimes begins public talks with a laugh line: "I’m an economist, so I tell lies for a living."
There are loose corollaries to Brooks’ statement in the (unofficial, but oft-proven) "Laws of Economists":
The First Law: For every economist, there exists an equal and opposite economist.
The Second Law: They’re both wrong.
The Third Law: Both: "They’re wrong."
Brooks was joking, of course. He was alluding to the difficulties and uncertainties of economic forecasting and the ways in which even known current and historical data are variously interpreted, used and misused by followers of competing economic methods.
But, when applied to some of his colleagues, Brooks’ statement and the Third Law are exact.
An entire class of modern American economists, including the New York Times’ Paul Krugman — the left’s favorite Keynesian — has become little more than liberal Democratic sock puppets.
Krugman himself wrote: "Someone once said about partisan analysts that they use economic data the way a drunkard uses a lamppost: for support rather than illumination."
Krugman is absolutely right, but he intended only to disparage other economists, proving once again that self-identified liberals like Krugman possess only limited self-awareness and no sense of irony at all.
Often, even when partisan Keynesians like Krugman must know their conclusions are unsupported, they have misused and concealed facts in favor of their preferred narratives, while speaking down to and lecturing the rest of us.
Long on proclamations, but short on empirical confirmations, Krugman and other degreed Keynesians offer suppositions, many apparently lifted from the daily Democratic National Committee talking points memo, and expect/hope that similarly-biased and less "credentialed" readers will accept them as "data."
The list of Krugman’s published partisan fantasies is extensive: "Republicans are radicals," conservatives are "delusional…about economics," House Republicans are "blackmailers," deficit spending doesn’t matter, inflation isn’t a problem, Obamacare is working, government austerity is bad.
Keynesians got it wrong in the 1920s when austerity reversed the Depression of 1920, in the 1930s when Keynesian spending policies deepened and prolonged the Great Depression, in the 1940s when Keynesian alarm over deep post-war budget cuts proved overblown, in the 1990s when Keynesians opposed spending drawdowns after the Iron Curtain fell, and again in 2009 when a massive Keynesian stimulus did nothing for the American economy beyond increasing deficits and the national debt by more than $1 trillion.
The University of Chicago’s Dr. Richard Thaler is credited with saying, "When an economist says the evidence is ‘mixed,’ he means that theory says one thing and data says the opposite."
That’s why Keynesians always go with their theories — the data have never confirmed their policy preferences.
Winston Churchill joked: "If you put two economists in a room, you get two opinions, unless one of them is Lord Keynes, in which case you get three opinions.
And George Bernard Shaw wagged: "If all economists were laid end to end they would not reach a conclusion."
All of which leads to one inescapable conclusion: "God created economists to make weather forecasters look good." — Anonymous.