Lecture: Seven Sects of Macroeconomic Error, Part II
Seven Sects of Macroeconomic Error

Daniel Davies: the "-ist" in "Economist" Is Like the "-ist" in "Trotskyist," Not Like the "-ist" in "Scientist"


D-squared Digest -- FOR bigger pies and shorter hours and AGAINST more or less everything else: The "ist" of science and the "ist" of ideology: Bits and pieces of talk around the way about "is economics a science and if so why to economists disagree so much and so loudly?".

This confusion disappears if you make sure to remember that the "ist" at the end of the word "economist" should be taken not as analogous to "scientist", but rather to "Trotskyist". Robert Conquest was an expert on socialism, but not a socialist; seemingly someone like Tim Worstall (who has no economics degree and, frankly, no realistic prospect of getting one from any university of better-than-sickening quality) is perfectly right to call himself an "economist", while someone like me (who has two economics degrees and makes a living doing a form of economics) probably isn't.

Update: Worstall writes in, in comments, to say that he does have a degree in economics, from the LSE! Well I'll be a monkey's uncle. While this doesn't actually change my view of his knowledge of economics (how could it, he posts the evidence every day on his blog), I am clearly in the wrong here and apologise. Tim also says that he has never claimed to be an economist, although my whole point here is that he should do. The term "economist" has lost all meaning in terms of technical ability these days and simply refers to a party affiliation. Words drift and this one doesn't mean the same thing it used to. Tim, Megan McArdle and Richard Posner are all economists. I'm not one. Paul Krugman isn't any more. Brad DeLong is only just one.