Live! Nude! Economists!


James M. Buchanan not pictured

A new essay by James M. Buchanan, called "Why Economists Have No Clothes" [PDF] which asks "Why have economists had so little meaningful to say about the 2008 crises? Where and when did the 'science' get off the track? Can anything be done to restore respectability to Economics as a useful area of inquiry?"

Very readable. For instance:

Economists, and perhaps those are most closely associated in their inquiries with the monetary institutions in being, have almost totally failed in their basic understanding of the constitutional elements that must be present in any viable regime. In particular, these economists are unlikely sources of inspiration for the quantum leaps in attitudes that are needed here. There is no need for some 'beyond science' competence. As in other aspects of modernity, return to classical understandings and their implications could be transformative. It is time that nonmonetary economists return to their elementary textbooks.

Via Tyler Cowen

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  1. Are there no women economists?

    1. Economics is addition and subtraction. Women are really best when multiplying.

    2. Maybe in the same sense as finding women in a drag show. The regulars keep running thm off.

        1. He wasn’t spoofing me. That really was my drag show comment.

          1. I was actually referring to his woman-math joke. I actually think drag show research makes a lot of sense.

      1. Writer and expert on drag shows? Now that’s an interesting libertarian.

        1. Hey man, when your novels are as action packed as mine ar you have to do the research to make them realistic.

    3. Grace (shudder) tsiang, gatekeeper for aspiring undergraduate monetarists. Sadly, even her academic duties skew matronly over research.

    4. According to Bryan Caplan’s The Myth of the Rational Voter, the economics profession is 97% male.

  2. He needs broader shoulders, pronounced abs and a tighter ass. This story is about the naked guy? Right?

    1. If anyone comes looking for me I’ll be in my bunk.

      1. Bunk beds? I knew a teenager could be the boys is a verbal sword fight.

        1. I knew a teenager could be the boys is a verbal sword fight.


          1. verbal sword fight?: similar to the Godwin’s Law:”online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches” VSF? is the fact that every argument discussed by a male eventually leads to a comparison of your dicks.

          2. I think it might be a really long anagram.

            1. A Towering Nuke Abases Bi-Dwarf’s Lychee-Toed Bright Love.

              1. If you had a dick, I’d suck it.

                1. Hence,Gobbler lost the verbal sword fight?.

                2. That’s OK, I’m good. But you could knead me like a bag of oleomargarine some cold winter night, if you wish.

                3. Looks like you’ve got a groupie, NutraSweet. Now, combined with your mom, that makes 2 for you.

                  1. And what are you, bright boy?

                    I’m am your north, your south, your east and west and you know it.

                    1. Until you make a woman out of me, I’m merely a schoolgirl in love.

                    2. I told you that my ceramic knife was sharp. It’d be just a quick snicker-snack.

                    3. Episiarch & SugarFree, I have an idea for your first Valentine’s day together:

  3. As much as I admire Mises and Hayek, I don’t wanna be seein’ their junk.

    There’s wisdom here, but it needs to go further. I think the fault lies in the obsession with the mathematization of economics. As I recall, Mises (and Rothbard?) had harsh words for just this sort of economic myopia brought about by the fetish of using math for what is essentially a non-mathematical phenomenon. Events have borne them out.

    1. I can agree to a degree, but math does have its uses in economics. Basic econ theory becomes much easier to fully comprehend with an understanding of simple calculus and probability. I agree with Alfred Marshall:
      “(1) Use mathematics as shorthand language, rather than as an engine of inquiry. (2) Keep to them till you have done. (3) Translate into English. (4) Then illustrate by examples that are important in real life (5) Burn the mathematics. (6) If you can’t succeed in 4, burn 3. This I do often.”

      I’ve represented questions on my econ exams as simple calculus problems before translating the math into a paragraph explaining myself. It saves a lot of studying. On the flip side, I also had a professor tell us property rights were vital for developing economies and backed it up with a scatter plot of property rights against GDP per capita. That was absurd.

      1. I’m inclined to agree. My background is in the hard sciences, so I can’t speak from firsthand knowledge, but Nassim Nicholas Taleb made an interesting point in The Black Swan when he criticized economists for applying the mathematics of the physical sciences to the social sciences. It’s an easy trap to fall into, and at least to this novice it would seem to explain most mainstream economists’ inability to predict significant events (or, I should say, their continuing forecasting–and reliance there upon–despite the fact that they clearly cannot predict significant events).

    2. Yup. The Austrians are not silent about this. Heck, even a lot of non-Austrian micros are not silent about this. Only the macroeconomists don’t have anything meaningful to say about the bust. I think they’re embarassed because it seems like only last week they were claiming they have fixed the boom/bust cycle.

  4. Plenty of economists have had something to say, just not the shills, hacks, and court magicians that count as “mainstream” economics.

    1. Agree.

      Sort of like the nonsense when Obama claims that “all the economics agree” with him and the like…

    2. There is always plenty of people that had something to say… but may be that is just better we don’t ear them…

      Manchester 2010

  5. Math means formulas means predictability means controlability where you are nothing more than an input to the formulas ‘they’ discover. If biology is a better analog to economics than physics is, then they have to accept you as an autonomous entity, and accept that complex systems can arise without a central designer.

    Since this post mentions the 2008 crisis, I shall now link to my pretty short description of the real cause of it.

    1. Using math isn’t so bad unless it turns into dick measuring contest to see who can come up with the gnarliest function to take the derivative of, in the name of finding optimal extrema.

    2. I like to compare economics to population biology. Predator/prey population dynamics is very well understood, and mathematical, but you don’t see biologists going around making rabbit population predictions. Yet economists do the equivalent all the time.

  6. Well, if you just look at the dummies in the Fed and on Wall Street, then sure they don’t have much to say.

    But if you look at others like Roubini etc they had plenty of warnings.

    The efficeient market hypothesis should now be dead. It’s time to start using behavioral and balance sheet economics.

  7. Plenty of economists have been trying to explain the negative correlation between growth of government and growth of the economy since FDR started the destruction of the US economy and continue to warn today. Even before then they were warning that the interest rate policies of the federal reserve would amplify both the up and down cycles and would lead to larger boom/bust cycles. If anyone really feels that no economists either predicted or explained the recent problems then they are just listening to the wrong ones.

    1. Economists are more like historians than futurists anyway. The ones getting mainstream famous trying to be futurists turn out to be as good as that Population Bomb fraud. Lots of book sales and talk show appearances, not a lot of correct predictions.

  8. K M-W damn you!

    Trying to find some Chlorox? for my eyes.

  9. It’s posts like this that make me think that KMW actually IS The Bukkakinator.

  10. If he was turned a bit more we could get a look at his lobster; )

  11. Who said economics should work like this:

    1. Propose a theory.
    2. Makes sure the math works.
    3. Explain it in English.
    4. Burn the math.

    Veblen, maybe?

    1. Where is the line item for underpants?

  12. “I just can’t find anyone I’m into, sexually. My desires are too specific.”
    “What do you mean? What are you into?”
    “It’s embarrassing.”
    “Are we friends? We’re friends. Tell me.”
    “Rabbis and babies.”
    “No no no. I’m not into babies, or even rabbis, really, but, like, people who look like both. Thick hair, neckbeard, but with a hairless ass, no body hair, just the beard, the hair up here, the things that say ‘rabbi.’ It, like, doesn’t exist. Genes are involved, I think.”
    “You so won’t believe me, but I know a guy, and he’s so available! I’ll call him right now. He’ll so like you. Ringing!”
    “Really? I’ve been looking my whole life! This is amazing. Thanks so much. You are the best.”
    “Ringing! He’s probably busy, but I’ll leave a message, have him call you. He’s very busy, very successful. An economist!”

    1. I misread it the first time: I thought it read “rabbits and babies”.

  13. “As in other aspects of modernity, return to classical understandings and their implications could be transformative.”

    Yes, “modernity” is the cause of all our problems. I love the “could be transformative” line, which, obviously, implies that, on the other hand, a “return to classical understandings and their implications” might not amount to a hill of beans.

    Oh, and did the “monetary economists” predict our current economic agony? I don’t recall Alan Greenspan, Greg. Mankiw, et al. sounding the alarm.

  14. I thought there would be a pictorial with Veronique de Rugy.

  15. Economics is a social science, like climatology. Those people have no answers.

    1. Um, just because Al Gore has bastardized climatology doesn’t mean there still aren’t real climatologists out there.

      1. He had help with that bastardization.

  16. The only math that counted in the meltdown was watching personal savings rates systematically and monotonically (big word for kinda in a straight line) go down to zero. No matter what the causes for this spendthrift descent (there were many, most related in some way to government interventions), even a three handed economist could have declared a zero savings rate wasn’t sustainable, if only that economist had any common sense or courage of his or her convictions.

    The new math is government debt and government taxation/regulation — how are they increasing and how are they increasing and crowding out private investment? Sadly, we are already at the point where there can’t possibly be the surge in private investment that is necessary for a strong and sustainable economic expansion. The statists have bowled us over; now they are pinning us down.

    1. As I’ve said in general regarding government/regulation etc. It’s no longer a question if we can win this war of government expansion. The enemy has occupied us, is living in our houses, drinking our beer and sleeping with our women.

      1. What do Islamofascists have to do with this thread?

  17. If markets really are better at aggregating information than anyone can be…are economists supposed to be better at that than all the market information available? …just because they’re economists? …’cause they went to school?

    Was there anyone who really thought that before the present downturn?

    There are a lot of times too, when you’re just looking for the best case scenario, the worst case scenario and the most likely scenario…all of that can be really useful if you’re planning two quarters ahead.

    Besides, the study of meteorology isn’t about putting a stop to winter, and, despite what you may have heard, economics isn’t all about stopping market downturns.

    …economic downturns can’t be stopped. They’re a necessary part of the process. …ask Cavanaugh, he explains it really well.

    I mean, the reason the USSR fell wasn’t because we had better economists. Seriously. They couldn’t get rid of economic downturns either. …and they tried really hard.

    1. …the study of meteorology isn’t about putting a stop to winter, and, despite what you may have heard, economics isn’t all about stopping market downturns.

      That’s true, but meteorologists don’t completely miss when a hurricane is about to hit the coast. They may be off a little on the timing and location of impact, but nobody goes to bed with a forecast of sunny skies and wakes up the next morning to find a ten-foot storm surge heading toward their front door.

          1. I saw it coming, but no one would listen!

        1. Good point. The bright side is the French Quarter was still too soggy to burn after the Super Bowl victory.

        2. Katrina wasn’t a surprise.

  18. Wow. Since the webathon, we’ve seen nary a picture of LobsterGirl, but have been treated to pictures of Ayn Rand in an S&M outfit and the bare ass of a male economics professor. I want my donation back!

    1. Suki has Lobster Girl up on one of the blogs, but I am too lazy to look for it. We don’t seek donations.

  19. Tulpa, we need to go on a road trip to find Lobster Girl.

    Sounds like a bad movie…..

  20. Matt Welch is in Colombia, trying to hunt her down. Or was that a dream?

  21. We need an RV, a crack team of Reason commentarians, and some midgets. Then, it’s off to find Lobster Girl.

    I tells ya, the movie rights will be worth millions.

    WHOS WITH ME?!?!

    1. I never wrote a screen play before so I will take care of the novel and novel length magazine dispatches.

      Who has a camera? Magazines like pictures.

      1. I’ll bring the beer!

  22. Is there only that one picture of Lobster Girl?

      1. That’s just sooooo wrong…

  23. Is there only that one picture of Lobster Girl?

    Yep, but its traceable to a Flikr account, so we have a lead.

  24. Why have economists had so little meaningful to say about the 2008 crises? Where and when did the ‘science’ get off the track? Can anything be done to restore respectability to Economics as a useful area of inquiry?”

    Yes – become an Austrian.(*)

    (*) Meaning: Become an economist of the Austrian School of Economics.

  25. Meaning: Become an economist of the Austrian School of Economics.

    I can’t become Governor of CA instead?

    1. Re: Johnny Longtorso,

      I can’t become Governor of CA instead?

      You want to be married to Maria Shriver???

  26. Can I assume that there will also be massive quantities of booze and drugs? If so, count me in!

    Of course, we have to bring a steel cage to determine who gets lobster girl, once we find her. I am so going to put SF into a figure-four leg lock!

    1. I will cede Lobster Girl for the sake of peace. But I still want to go… I could be Cookie, the gruff but lovable chef for the wagon train.

      1. I think she is a great piece too.

      2. I got your four food groups right here: beans, bacon, whiskey, and lard

    2. Dude, don’t you know chicks are reuseable? Didn’t you see “A Boy and his Dog?”

  27. Who volunteers to be the gimp?

    1. Leave Steve Smith out of this.

  28. In a recent speech Obama gave a glimpse of his mad accounting and economic skills.

    During the daily briefing, he took the stage and said that ‘soon businesses could start borrowing money to expand their payrolls.’ Not an exact quote.

    In Obamaville Obamingrad, this is how it works. You borrow a bunch of money to hire people. Selling products and making a profit are just details of greed.

    1. Re: John Tagliaferro,

      During the daily briefing, he took the stage and said that ‘soon businesses could start borrowing money to expand their payrolls.‘ (Not an exact quote.)

      The quote has a ring of verisimilitude considering the other pearls of financial wisdom and business acumen from the university professor . . .

      “Borrow money to make payroll” – now, why didn’t I think of that?

      1. Probably because it doesn’t work very well out here in the world.

    2. I heard that and it made me realize that he really does believes that the only reason companies exist is to create jobs. Not products, not a return on investment. Just jobs. Everything else is dirty.

      1. Not sure why he isn’t advocating people volunteer to businesses that can’t get loans, just like the labor he got as a “community organizer.”

  29. Govt just exists to create jobs (for his cronies) is the only clean thing on Earth, so of course he sees business that way.

    1. The SugarFree trained bot strikes again!

  30. i remember? i was in hospital and it was on the tv and i said to my dad imagin if that ended up on the internet

  31. This makes perfect sense because so often in the sciences abandoning new knowledge works–that’s probably why it happens so often. Of course if you’re advocating Austrian economics, you’re going to have to throw out the scientific method too.

  32. the man is the personable man TYF220GDH

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