Quote of the Day: Nordhaus and Samuelson

Regular readers of the blog will understand why I instantly thought of Matt Nolan when I read this quote:)

Economics cannot answer questions of how much poverty is acceptable and fair, but it can help design more effective programs to increase the incomes of the poor

4 replies
  1. Carla E.
    Carla E. says:

    Awesome quote! This is actually my first time visiting your site and just wanted to say that I really enjoyed your content. I look forward to your upcoming posts 🙂

  2. raf
    raf says:

    So that suggests economics has been completely hopeless over the last 20 years with the incomes of the bottom 5 deciles of the population actually falling. Where’s all the money gone?

  3. Matt Nolan
    Matt Nolan says:


    Given that the price of the basket of goods purchased by those on low incomes prior to 2007 had grown a lot less sharply, the share of consumption between declines was actually a lot more equitable.

    Also, if there have been unequitable outcomes, why blame the economists who can only talk about design and not blame those that implement the policies – the politicians. Politicians, and society more generally, have been unwilling to distribute income in a more equal fashion – how is that the fault of economists who merely describe what is going on.

  4. raf
    raf says:

    That’s a fair comment. However, to what extent have economists (some not all) been responsible for those policies. The descendants of Mont Pelerin, for example, have been fairly insistent that their perspective be put into practice.

    So perhaps it’s better to say that economists perform a variety of functions within the political sphere, some recording, measuring, predicting and explaining and some more focused on influencing and changing policy. I would agree that the former is the more correct role.

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