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The Humility of Masonomics

Here’s a letter to the Washington Post:

Wisely skeptical of stimulus policies, Robert Samuelson writes “Economists have been taught in graduate school that advances in their discipline make it possible to stabilize and, within broad boundaries, control economic activity” (“Cheap money can’t buy a strong economy,” June 24).

That’s true for most economics students, but not for those studying at George Mason University.  Our Economics program honors a very different tradition, one rooted in the wisdom of Adam Smith and brought to prominence in the 20th century by the Nobel laureate F.A. Hayek.  Furthered by GMU’s own Nobel economists, Vernon Smith (now at Chapman University) and the late James Buchanan, this tradition – dubbed “Masonomics” by the economist Arnold Kling – counsels deep skepticism of those who claim to possess the intellectual and moral capacity to be trusted to “control economic activity.”

Additionally, our scholarship informs us Masonomists that market economies are vastly more complex and, when free, more creative and resilient than is revealed in typical textbooks and by even the most awe-inspiring mathematical models.

The result is that our program inoculates students against – rather than injects them with – the hubris that fills too many other economists today with the delusion that they are capable of consciously ‘controlling’ or ‘guiding’ economic activity for the public good.

Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA  22030