The importance of economists

In the comments of a recent post I claimed that philosophers and economists have little sway over important social policy decisions. Discussing the subject with colleagues I was pointed to this stunning quote by Keynes:

The ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed the world is ruled by little else. Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist. Madmen in authority, who hear voices in the air, are distilling their frenzy from some academic scribbler of a few years back. I am sure that the power of vested interests is vastly exaggerated compared with the gradual encroachment of ideas.

I’d like to believe it but is there any empirical support? Not that I’d really want to kill such a beautiful idea with brutal facts.

3 replies
  1. Mark Hubbard
    Mark Hubbard says:

    Well look at the damage Keynes has done: I would argue he’s been responsible for the moral, philosophic and economic destruction of the West.
    Seems to prove his point.

  2. Mark Hubbard
    Mark Hubbard says:

    … Afterthought. My above post could not be resisted, James, and it’s the Truth, but I don’t say it to bring you down: by the language you use, you have an obvious joy in your job … don’t ever lose it. You’re lucky. Good on you. Great to see some passion amongst these oh so level headed economists, even if misplaced.
    Just keep away from those economists that repair to utilitarianism and the unbridled evil of statists like Keynes. I hope at some stage you join the wannabe free world 😉

    • jamesz
      jamesz says:

      Thanks Mark, we certainly don’t take offence at those jibes! All of us on this blog love working as economists, which is why we spend our spare time writing about it, too 😛

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