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Stop pretending to be an economist

Illustration by Madalyn Drewno

IT’S NOT THE ECONOMY STUPID

A  friend of mine once said, “You know what the problem is with being an economist? Everyone has an opinion about the economy, but no one goes up to a geologist and says, ‘Igneous rocks are hogwash.’”

A specter is haunting America—the specter of pretentiousness. While this is a familiar pandemic that mankind has endured since its escape from Pandora’s box, it arises in cycles of growth and decay like a herpes outbreak. In these times of polarization and information overload, observers are noticing an eruption of self-diagnosed economists. From online forums to classroom discussions, people feel the need to share their self-prescribed expertise. Now that the quota of pseudo intellectuals has surpassed, it’s time for the messenger to deliver the message.

Stop. Stop knocking down free trade. Stop blaming immigrants for unemployment. Stop using Claudia Goldin to disprove the gender wage gap when she set specific assumptions on her models. Stop preaching the glory of laissez-faire capitalism when it’s the lack of regulations in tulips, stocks, and mortgages that crashed the market in 1637, 1929, and 2008, respectively. An undergraduate student attending a state college in the Midwest, is not Alan Greenspan. A student may share his terrible ideology-driven intuition, but they not only lack the credentials but also the knowledge to be a legitimate economist.

We live in an age that politicizes everything, from science to religion. Economics is not the exception. Everyone has opinions on how to spend money. Everyone also likes to be right. Some people are so averse to being wrong that they embrace validation rather than accept their ignorance. This type of mindset perpetuates arguments that are founded on opinions rather than facts. Ironically, the subject that most members of society do not understand is the subject they like to argue about the most.

Unfortunately, unlike many other politicized subjects, economics is convoluted and boring. This is a statement that everyone in the Third Estate can agree on: it’s easier to simplify and mythicize economics when it’s already a malleable, man-made abstraction. What complicates this matter further is the fact that academics can be just as clueless about the economy. Not every economist is a millionaire, because theory and application do not always correlate with one another. The very definition of stagflation is a bewildering phenomenon to Keynesian economists, who theorize economies should alternate between times of high unemployment and high inflation—but never both.

Due to the subjectivity of this academic field, economics can be characterized as politics masquerading as a science. That doesn’t deny the fact that there are many people who do not comprehend it despite what they claim. Economic discussions do not have to be erratic, opinionated, and emotional. It’s absolutely okay to admit error and ignorance, because your vocal opponents are probably in the same circumstance. So put down your Ayn Rand and Karl Marx literature, and seek an education to challenge your beliefs, not confirm them. While individual capitalists quibble over policies in America, Soviet ghosts are playing the world’s smallest theremin in a Siberian Gulag.

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