Mark Carney is under siege—and he isn't the only expert in the dockby George Magnus / October 31, 2016 / Leave a comment
Economics and economists have been the butt of jokes forever. As a rookie economist at Bank of America in San Francisco once, I heard the then CEO’s quip about economists so often that it made me wince. He’d say, “you know an economist, it’s someone who knows 365 ways to make love but doesn’t know any women.” John Kenneth Galbraith, renowned economic wit and thinker, once said self-deprecatingly that the only function of economic forecasting is to make astrology look respectable. You get the picture: economists sometimes make bad forecasts, and we all know some economists who occasionally sound like they have just landed from Mars.
We don’t claim to be clairvoyants, though, and expect to get things wrong from time to time. Importantly, just as writing prescriptions doesn’t describe adequately what doctors do, so forecasting isn’t even the most important things that economists do.
Economic experts in the dock
What’s new nowadays is criticism, normally by those with a political agenda, of economists that is more about anger than analysis, and sometimes crosses the border to insult or abuse. Last week, for example, Daily Telegraph columnist Allister Heath launched an infantile and rather pointless tirade about economists, seemingly vexed by their largely critical view of Brexit. He insisted that redemption could only come by having a parliamentary inquiry into the failure of forecasting, and curiously lambasted them for the recent legal decision to classify Uber drivers as employees.