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Astral Codex Ten Podcast

Sep 1, 2020

[Related: Tyler Cowen on rationalistsNoah Smith on rationalistsWill Wilkinson on rationalists, etc]

If I were an actor in an improv show, and my prompt was “annoying person who’s never read any economics, criticizing economists”, I think I could nail it. I’d say something like:

Economists think that they can figure out everything by sitting in their armchairs and coming up with ‘models’ based on ideas like ‘the only motivation is greed’ or ‘everyone behaves perfectly rationally’. But they didn’t predict the housing bubble, they didn’t predict the subprime mortgage crisis, and they didn’t predict Lehman Brothers. All they ever do is talk about how capitalism is perfect and government regulation never works, then act shocked when the real world doesn’t conform to their theories.

This criticism’s very clichedness should make it suspect. It would be very strange if there were a standard set of criticisms of economists, which practically everyone knew about and agreed with, and the only people who hadn’t gotten the message yet were economists themselves. If any moron on a street corner could correctly point out the errors being made by bigshot PhDs, why would the PhDs never consider changing?