Mencken on Economists

by Don Boudreaux on May 16, 2004

in Weblogs

Of all Americans ever to put quill to parchment, or fingers to a keyboard, the one who surely possessed the greatest talent to blog is, alas, a man who likely never set his eyes on a computer: H.L. Mencken.
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Here’s Mencken on the economics profession:

Its dismalness is largely a delusion, due to the fact that its chief ornaments, at least in our own day, are university professors. The professor must be an obscurantist or he is nothing; he has a special and unmatchable talent for dullness; his central aim is not to expose the truth clearly, but to exhibit his profundity, his esotericity — in brief, to stagger sophomores and other professors.

Later in the same essay (“The Dismal Science”) Mencken laments “the mental timorousness and conformity which go inevitably with school-teaching.”

Allowing for Mencken’s acceptable exercise of journalistic overstatement, his description, penned sometime in the 1920s and reprinted in his Prejudices: A Selection, rings true today.

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