Saturday, June 26, 2010


...another great article by Mr. Das:

It seems that the global financial crisis is the economist’s moment in the sun. They are busily "solving" the problem, sometime with pet theories or, more often, rehashing old ones. Unsurprisingly, there have been spats between economists with allegiances to different camps. Most notable fights include Paul Krugman versus Stephen Roach, Martin Wolf versus Niall Ferguson etc. If Friedman had been alive, then it would have been Milton versus all comers. If Keynes had been alive, then the jousts would have at least been witty and cultured. No modern economist can touch Keynes and John Kenneth Galbraith for pungent wit.

Most economists, it seems, believe strongly in their own superior intelligence and take themselves far too seriously. In his open letter of 22 July 2001 to Joseph Stiglitz, Kenneth Rogoff identified this problem: "One of my favourite stories from that era is a lunch with you and our former colleague, Carl Shapiro, at which the two of you started discussing whether Paul Volcker merited your vote for a tenured appointment at Princeton. At one point, you turned to me and said, "Ken, you used to work for Volcker at the Fed. Tell me, is he really smart?" I responded something to the effect of "Well, he was arguably the greatest Federal Reserve Chairman of the twentieth century" To which you replied, "But is he smart like us?" Economists have delusions of adequacy and a related assured self-confidence that they bring to any problem.

Rogoff went on note that in one of Stiglitz’s books – "Globalisation and its Discontents": "… I failed to detect a single instance where you, Joe Stiglitz, admit to having been even slightly wrong about a major real world problem. When the U.S. economy booms in the 1990s, you take some credit. But when anything goes wrong, it is because lesser mortals like Federal Reserve Chairman Greenspan or then-Treasury Secretary Rubin did not listen to your advice." Rogoff concluded that Stiglitz was "… a towering genius. Like your fellow Nobel Prize winner, John Nash, you have a "beautiful mind." As a policymaker, however, you were just a bit less impressive."

Writing in his preface to Benjamin Graham’s "Intelligent Investor", Warren Buffet observed that: "…not only does a sky-high IQ not guarantee success but it could also pose a danger…I therefore urge the relevant regulatory bodies of the United Studies and Canada to incorporate an IQ test into their securities licensing exams. … nobody would be allowed to work in the financial markets in any capacity with a score of 115 or higher. Finance is too important to be left to smart people." One could add economics should definitely never be left to economists.

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