A friend called Saturday and we spent a little while on the phone together. At some point we were discussing — not quite economics — but the tendency of some people to dismiss economics in a perhaps disingenuous way.
At that point, my friend reminded me that economics is sometimes called “witchcraft” (or worse). She then went on to state something along these lines:
I’ve said to one or two of them in my day: “If you really think economics is ‘witchcraft’ then be honest enough to treat economics just as you would treat witchcraft. That is, you don’t go around telling the world your opinion of which spell to perform in order to cure leprosy when you really don’t believe in witchcraft, do you? So, if you really think economics is witchcraft, then don’t go around telling everyone your favorite economic ‘theories’. Because that’s just hypocrisy.”
“It’s like this: If you are busy telling me what tax policies will do to job growth; what effect entrepreneurs have on the economy; whether the economy is getting better or getting worse; what anyone’s long-term chances are of moving up the economic ladder; why capitalism is better than socialism — or telling me anything like those things — then you either believe those things can be known, or you’re a lying hypocrite.”
“You see, I think — really think — you’re just playing a kid’s game with me. You’re saying, ‘economics is witchcraft’, but you only mean my knowledge of economics is witchcraft — my knowledge and not yours — because you believe your knowledge of economics is worthy of a glorious hard-on.”
She went on some more about it, but the above is about all I feel confident at this point trying to quote, or at least trying to reasonably paraphrase.
So, when if ever are we hypocrites to call economics, “witchcraft”? And when are we not?
Please Note: I’ve edited an earlier version of this post in the hopes of staying on topic.