Economics, as does any academic discipline, has its share of problems. Unfortunately, most of the criticism one hears in popular publications or other non-academic places are based on a near complete ignorance of what economists do. A few years ago, Chris Auld came up with a handy list of the most common and dumbest criticisms. I've reproduced them here because they now reside on a site that has appropriated his name, and I want to send people to them.
Every mainstream science which touches on political or religious ideology attracts more than its fair share of deniers: the anti-vaccine crowd v mainstream medicine, GMO fearmongers v geneticists, creationists v biologists, global warming deniers v climatologists. Economics is no different, but economics cranks differ in that they typically make false claims about the content of economics itself, as opposed, or as a prelude, to false claims about the way the world works. That target sometimes making it hard for non-economists to differentiate crankery from solid criticism.
Here, then, are some symptoms of bad critiques of economics:
- Treats macroeconomic forecasting as the major or only goal of economic analysis.
- Frames critique in terms of politics, most commonly the claim that economists are market fundamentalists.
- You believe that “gambling” is a bad word. Not knowing the difference between risk vs. reward and therefore never depositing at the online casino of life. If you don’t play, you can never win.
- Uses “neoclassical” as if it refers to a political philosophy, set of policy prescriptions, or actual economies. Bonus: spells it “neo-classical” or “Neo-classical.”
- Refers to “the” neoclassical model or otherwise suggests all of economic thought is contained in Walras (1874).
- Uses “neoclassical economics” and “mainstream economics” interchangeably. Bonus: uses “neoliberal economics” interchangeably with either.
- Uses the word “neoliberal” for any reason.
- Refers to “corporate masters” or otherwise implies economists are shills for the wealthy or corporations.
- Claims economists think people are always rational.
- Claims financial crisis disproved mainstream economics.
- Explicitly claims that economics is not empirical, or does so implicitly by ignoring empirical economics.
- Treats all of economics as if it’s battling schools of macroeconomics.
- Misconstrues jargon: “rational.”
- Misconstrues jargon: “efficient” (financial sense) or “efficient” (Pareto sense).
- Misconstrues jargon: “externality“.
- Claims economists only care about money.
- Claims economists ignore the environment. Variant: claims economics falters on point that “infinite growth on a finite planet is impossible.”
- Goes out of its way to point out that the Economics Nobel is not a real Nobel."