04 Dec 2014

Stephen Williamson Needs an Occam’s Razor for Christmas

Humor 8 Comments

Williamson discusses the recent paper talking about the hierarchy in the economics profession (HT2 MR):

Ultimately, Fourcade et al. think that our biggest problem is our self-regard. Of course, people with high self-regard are very visible, by definition, so outsiders are bound to get a distorted picture. We’re not all Larry Summers clones. But if we do, on average, have a high level of self-regard, maybe that’s just defensive. Economists typically get little sympathy from any direction. In universities, people in the humanities hate us, the other social scientists (like Fourcade et al.) think we’re a**holes, and if we have to live in business schools we’re thought to be impractical. Natural scientists seem to think we’re pretending to be physicists. In the St. Louis Fed, where I currently reside, I think the non-economists just think we’re weird. Oh well. It’s a dirty job. Someone has to do it.

I have a straightforward theory to explain these disparate perceptions of economists.

8 Responses to “Stephen Williamson Needs an Occam’s Razor for Christmas”

  1. Daniel Kuehn says:

    Bob’s one of them self-hatin’ economists.

    • Z says:

      That’s why he always cuts himself with Occam’s razor.

    • Major.Freedom says:

      No, Bob is actually an economist.

      Williamson was referring to the political strategists, historical revisionists, and the kooky quantitative tarot card readers.

  2. Bogart says:

    The issue is much worse than Non-Austrian Economists masquerading as physicists. When was the last building you were in build by a physicist? The real horrifying issue is that Non-Austrian Economists masquerade as engineers. If they were true engineers then they would incorporate large safety factors in their calculations of things just in case they were wrong.

    • Bob Roddis says:

      Great point. Further, if there existed the equivalent of a Nobel Prize in engineering, working engineers wouldn’t completely suppress and ignore without understanding the views of an opponent and severe critic who previously won the prize.

    • AcePL says:

      Heh… The Non-Austrian Economists do not masquerade as physicists. They BELIEVE THEY ARE GODS WHO KNOW BETTER.

      Or they are f*****g b******s because they know they’re wrong but admitting that will mean their reputation and livelihood destroyed. Also, since situation is such as it is… Romanian Solution cannot be excluded.

      • guest says:

        You used one too many asterisks.

        … Or four too few.

      • Major.Freedom says:

        Yeah but don’t forget, those b******s would not even be in that position they’re in, to the scope and extent of doing what they do, if it weren’t for the consumer-driven desires to MAKE them Gods.

        Technocratic economists are able to act the way they do to the extent that they do, because they are sought after by stakeholders, who are mostly a reflection of the philosophical environment, to read the tea leaves and tell us what the world of mankind will be in the future.

        An uncertain future, which is a reality, is frightening to a population of child-like adults who seek to be told what to do by mommy and daddy government.

        A particular habit of human psychology, developed and crystalized over the years through irrationalist philosophy, is the need for a grand social plan. This need for a social plan, requires prognosticators. In ages past this function was primarily performed by sages and mystics. Now we have technocrats and quants who are sought to give sermons about the secrets of our future that can be unlocked if we copy the methods of physicists and chemists. Those scientists have been so successful in their fields of inquiry, so surely it must also be the path to predicting our own knowledge and actions, the subject matter of economics!

        It was a perfect storm. The tidal wave of enthusiasm and eagerness for the success of the natural sciences, combined with the noble goal of bringing all of human society to the promised land, combined with the unification of science and state (which I think must be made separate like the separation of church and state), has resulted in this paradigm in human history.

        At some point, this newest shift will be abandoned. One would think zero successes in discovering anything using the methods of the physicists would have quickened the pace of abandonment, but history always surprises.

        Economists are by and large being asked to do what they are physically (intellectually) incapable of doing. Philosphical introspection enables us to learn we cannot predict our own future knowledge by assuming constancies in relations, and to the extent our actions depend on our knowledge, we cannot predict our own future actions that way either.

        The methods developed for the natural sciences was borne out action in a world of non-acting objects. The methods developed to study non-acting objects was a result of action being structured this way. Action is structured as only one aspect of the world. Action is structured as co-existing with non-action. Any science from actors that studies “the external world” will necessarily be valid for non-acting objects. It cannot be assumed as valid for action itself. For action, a qualitatively different method is required, for the same reason that a specific method is required for non-acting objects. Not just any method is appropriate for non-acting objects. We have to use a specific method. The same is true for action.

        Time will heal all wounds.

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