As someone with the job title “economist”, a large number of my friends only contact me when they want advice on buying currency or whether to fix their mortgage or buy as asset. After providing my thoughts about why things might happen, and what the risks are, I often get the comment “damned two handed economist, not willing to take a position”.
People think they are insulting me. However, if that is the actual attitude of my friends in this case I’d gladly point out that they are being utter morons. Instead, I take this as a compliment.
If I was going to “take a position”, why would I rattle it off to someone, instead of actually taking on the risk of doing so myself – if I genuinely thought that buying and selling currency offered me a good risk adjusted rate of return at this point in my life, then I’d do that, rather than just suggesting it to people.
When giving advice, I simply want people to be aware of the risk involved in the choices they are making – and the fact that there are reasons why asset prices may move one way or the other (and a good number of unforecastable, or unforeseeable, things that may pop up). To give this advice, I need to to be two-handed. It is my job, as a good friend, to help inform not to tell my mates what to do.
It would be the height of arrogance to pretend that, with my training as an economist, I could instantly turn around and fill the role of a professional risk manager for a certain asset class, or the CEO of a firm for a certain product. Instead, I pull together news, ideas, and a good dollop of statistical analysis to provide information for people that will make decisions – filling a role in the production process, not trying to control it.
So economists, stop being so defensive about being called “two-handed” and stop feeling as if you have to take a specific “position” to have worth. The world is complicated, and your advice (if based on intense questioning and analysis combined with clear communication) is valuable in the way it helps people make choices. Embrace the fact you’re born with two hands and make sure you use both of them!