01 Mar 2012

Don’t Mess With Mises

Economics, Mises 4 Comments

On the plane back from Canada I was going through the relevant portion of The Theory of Money and Credit for my online class. I thought this passage was pretty funny:

The most important results of research in the social sciences leave the multitude apathetic, but any set of figures awakens its interest. Its history becomes a series of dates, its economics a collection of statistical data. No objection is more often brought against economics by laymen than that there are no economic laws; and if an attempt is made to meet this objection, then almost invariably the request is made that an example of such a law should be named and expounded – as if fragments of systems, whose study demands years of thought on the part of the expert, could be made intelligible to the novice in a few minutes. Only by letting fall morsels of statistics is it possible for the economic theorist to maintain his prestige in the face of questions of this sort. (pp. 187-188)

4 Responses to “Don’t Mess With Mises”

  1. Jonathan M.F. Catalán says:

    Is the average person in 2012 more learned than the average person in 1912? Mises seems to have made the impossible possible with Human Action, and Hazlitt with Economics in One Lesson — maybe the average person is now capable of understanding a re-explanation of what demanded “years of thought” by part of the expert.

    Anyways, teaching the layman complex economics seems the task of a good writer/economist, since it is a good writer/economist who can reorganize complex theory into something ordered, and communicated in terms that are understandable by the average person.

  2. Tel says:

    I’ve seen the same point made in a slightly less congenial manner.


  3. Marc says:

    Cue the Rothbard quote on “it is no crime to be ignorant of economics…But it is totally irresponsible to have a loud and vociferous opinion…”

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