How does the world work? In this complex world there are any number of experts, specialists, and commentators who are eager to tell us what to think about various topics, what the meaning of events is, and what event caused what. For me, as I imagine for many, growing up was a process of being regularly disabused of the notion that any significant portion of those presented to inform us have the slightest idea what they are talking about. Not so much a phenomenon in the hard sciences that rarely push deeply into popular discussion, but in the softer sciences, especially that curious discipline with pretenses to rigor and that increasingly dominates our world: economics. For in a world as frighteningly uncertain as it is complex, you can can be reasonably certain that the people spouting opaque, contradictory, or meaningless burblings about emerging markets or where bond rates are going have not the slightest idea if what they are saying is true.
So where does that leave us? On our own, like Larry Gopnik’s students, unable to figure anything out, yet responsible for it on the midterm. And there is always a midterm. Life tests us constantly and we often don’t even understand the questions. But maybe we can figure some of it out, or at least make the questions comprehensible. That is what I hope to do with this blog, through reading, thinking, writing, and hopefully through the participation of readers.
As Keynes warned:
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 exempt from any intellectual influences, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist.