I used to have no time for the idea that economists never agree, so economics must be a bogus science and a waste of time. Of course economists disagree, I would say. Economics is difficult, and by its nature cannot be as clear-cut as the physical sciences. But it strives to meet the most rigorous standards of evidence-gathering and scientific method. As long as it remains aware of its own limits, one should not mock the discipline for aiming high.
Economists are right to disagree. This does not stop them improving public policy or raising the standard of discussion inside and outside the profession. Judge them by those standards, I used to say.
As a lapsed member of the guild – I had a spell as an economist in the British civil service – I have a lingering sentimental attachment. But my earlier confidence that economists are not wasting their own and everybody else’s time is diminishing. Are the leaders of the profession measuring up to the standards I just mentioned? Are they helping to improve policy, or raise the standard of public understanding? You could easily argue the opposite.
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