Friday, April 13, 2012

Quote of the Day

"The true task of economics appears to me to be quite different, especially in a modern mass democracy. Its unglamorous but all the more useful mission is to make the logic of things heard in the midst of the passions and interests of public life, to bring to light inconvenient facts and relationships, to weigh everything and assign it due place, to prick bubbles and expose illusions and confusions, and to counter political enthusiasm and its possible aberrations with economic
reason and demagogy with truth
." - Willhelm Ropke (1957)

HT Don Boudreaux. Ironically, this is precisely why a spend so much time arguing with libertarians like Don. You all know there are libertarians I have a great deal of respect for - and who make high quality contributions to the discussion. But there is a lot of bad libertarian commentary out there too, and it's (part of) the task of economists to combat that, particularly because this particular ideology is so good at posing as economic wisdom.

But this is also the sort of thing that has really sucked me into the science and engineering labor market work. It's an interesting labor market to be sure. Unlike the "labor market" writ large, there are a lot of neat institutions, incentives, and problems that make it a great niche to study. But it's also a labor market that's susceptible to a lot of "political enthusiasms" and "demagogy", which means that analyzing it closely can contribute a lot to the debate.

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