It’s complicated

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Human genome at ten: Life is complicated (H/T Dr. Daniel MacArthur). This is one reason that economists are in more demand than historians in public life. Economics is reducible in a way that history is usually not, or at least historians tend not to be interested in doing. Also, the average economist is much smarter than the average historian, so they’re quicker on their feet with dense brevity (though subject matter does matter, the average physicist is much smarter than the average biologist, but physics is too abstruse and without the prominence of nuclear weapons/energy of less importance to the public).

Note: Before people yell at me about generalizations about intelligence, if you read this blog you do know that I really like history and biology. Just google GRE scores.


  1. Hé, hé, hé….
    This is why the Singularitarians have it right on one point: it’s all about intelligence, that is, our ability to handle the world’s complexity.
    Unfortunately no one really know what intelligence IS (yet).

  2. The fact of being smarter has allowed economists to get away with misrepresenting their results as better grounded than they are. Not only are few non-economists able to refute economists’ errors, when a refutation is made (for example, of general equilibrium) economists are able to brush it off, since few in the general public are able to understand the refutation either.

    By and large I’d say that the science of economics is an argument against IQ worship; a lot of economists are failed physicists who dropped down into what they thought of as an easier field and tried to model it on physics. They failed, but they were able to fool people. (to say nothing of the fact that even physics is looking at non-equilibrium now).

    Daniel Davies of Crooked Timber thinks that economics is a fake science with a real science trapped inside it. There’s a lot of valuable stuff in econ, it’s just mixed in with the crap.

  3. Not April fool story?

  4. Economists try to reduce things to an ideal state too often and then try to use it to explain the wider economy. A lot macro theory is based off of assumption that humans are rational agents and easily interchangeable (equivalent abilities).

    Apparently economists don’t talk to humans very often.

  5. Economics has, in fact, taught us quite a bit.

    If two people, or nations, are comparatively different in how well they can perform certain activities, they are better off engaging in free trade, even of one person/nation has an absolte advantage in everything.

    If the government creates too much money, that will lead to inflation.

    Allowing free exchange of a good will lead to an equilibrium price. If the government mandates a different price, that will result in a deadweight loss to society.

    A monopoly will produce fewer goods than a competitive market. This also results in a deadweight loss.

    Companies should produce goods until the marginal cost of the next good equals the marginal revenue.

    If you say, “Well, all of this is obvious!”, my reply is that is was not the least bit obvious to most people 250 years ago.

    Carlyle called economics “the dismal science” because it proved things people didn’t want to believe. It has been under attack ever since for the same reasons.

  6. John: apparently, economics also taught us how to make mountains disappear. As in, the mountain of hidden assumptions that are required to make most of these points true. :)

  7. That article should have ended with its title. Instead, it went on and on for four pages without saying a single thing that is interesting or original.

    Since you are generalizing about intelligence, what’s your take on biology majors who become journalists?
    (That’s you too, right? Blogging is a form of journalism).

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