Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux on March 19, 2014

in Economics, Science, Scientism

… is from page 81 of my emeritus colleague Gordon Tullock’s “Commentary” on my colleague Dan Klein’s splendid 2001 Institute of Economic Affairs monograph,  A Plea to Economists Who Favour Liberty: Assist the Everyman (link added):

Henry Hazlitt was for many years the Economic Correspondent for the New York Times.  During all this period, the New York Times opposed minimum wages.  No doubt this was an example of his influence.  When he retired, it became an advocate of minimum wages.  Granted the influence of the New York Times, it seems likely that Hazlitt did more to improve economic policy than any five full professors of economics during this period.

Dan’s 2001 monograph is one that I wish more economists – especially young economists (including those still pursuing undergraduate studies) – would read and take to heart.  Doing so would rid at least a number of them of the notion that mastery of technique is, by itself, evidence of economic understanding.  It is no such thing.  While such mastery can be very useful, it can also be harmful if it is regarded (as it too-often is) as a substitute for wisdom, reflection, broad learning, and empathy with those many people who aren’t economists and who don’t think like economists.  A lathe in the hands of a master carpenter is a tool for producing lovely and evocative woodworks.  That same lathe in the hands of someone who chiefly gets a kick out of his or her ability to turn the lathe on and to whip pieces of wood across its spinning blades – someone who thinks that the main goal is to use the lathe - is a device merely for ruining wood.

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