I've actually studied economics in college, and while there may be a few interesting points that can be gleaned from it, economics 'on the whole' in its modern incarnations is basically just a shakey and nonsensical social science in the same vain as "gender studies" or "womyn's studies" when it comes to being used as a means understanding reality, for a variety of reasons:

1. Professional economists themselves don't actually claim to be able to make predictions with accuracy anymore than meteorologists do since just like every vein of social science, it deals with chaotic systems - if a weatherman told you he had invented the 'perfect system' which allowed him to predict exactly what the weather would be 100% of the time, he'd be written of as a crank, so a fool who's read a book or two about "Austrian economics" or "Keynesian economics" and claims to be able to be able to accurately predict how an economy will be have 100% of the time is every bit as much of a crank.

A lot of what passes for 'economics' is right up there with some Kevin Trudeau infomercial scam or shady self-help book a la "The Law of Attraction", to the point that planing your life and career choices around a horoscope or a fortune cookie would be a safer bet.

2. In reality, actual entrepreneurs and financially successful people don't plan their lives around some silly economics forecast on the TV - they understand how to actually take educated risks and adapt to the situations on the ground, rather than just "pick a safe bet" like "derp, STEM degrees, derp".

That's basically the difference between how a professional gambler thinks and acts, versus the average Joe who goes to Vegas and winds up broke - the average Joe doesn't learn how to actually think, strategise, and take risks based on the situations on the ground, they just "pick what someone told them is a safe bet" because it gives them a false sense of security.

3. As mentioned above, in practice, economic theories never actually play out in any real-life situation like they theoretically would on paper, which is why it would more or less be akin to someone reading a freshman level sociology course and thinking that they'd actually understanding how manage a group of soldiers as a military commander.

The reality is that, for most of human history, people didn't have the luxury of fiat currencies, economic 'forecasts', yada yada = they had to trade and barter, get by with their wits, and be mindful of the situations around them, rather than just memorize some little piece of economic 'advise', and pull their minds completely out of the present while just running it as a little 'script' in the back of their head that saves them the trouble of having to actually pay attention to what's going on around them, or use any common sense.

Truth is, in any real world situations, there are too many diverse variables and factors; the guy with the "better resume" might not get hired over the next guy because guy #2 happens to be a fan of the same football team as the boss.

There are also stories of waiters who worked their way up into fancy restaurants frequented by rich people making more money from their tips than the guy with the master's in chemistry is at his desk job.

So the truth is that other than simplistic, rudimentary principles such as "don't be lazy if you want a good job" - any generic, "one size fits all" piece of "specific advice" which doesn't require a person to use any actual judgment and adapt to the actual circumstances in front of their face doesn't really work;

Hell in "person A's" specific life and circumstances, there might be more lucrative in pursuing a career as a barber than in pursuing a degree; and in actual practice, there's really no way of knowing with certainty that the football team you were a fan of didn't play more role in getting you hired at an interview than whatever credentials you had listed on your boring resume.

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I didn't read past your first paragraph cause honestly your writing gives me a headache.

That being said, I've always called economics the philosophy of business. It deals with ideals and thought exercises rather than anything concrete.

"reading an entry-level book on psychology or sociology which mainly just deals with abstract theories wouldn't lend itself to being translated into practical or real-world applications"

a) There's a big difference between reading an entry-level book on any topic and studying that topic in depth full-time for several years.

b) Nonetheless I can think of plenty of abstract psychological, sociological, economic (etc.) theories that can 1. be understood by reading an entry-level book and b) can be translated into real-life applications. Can't you?

Correct. But you haven't presented any evidence showing that sociology, psychology, economics (etc.) are flawed practices; or at least any more flawed than other fields or practices.

No you explained why you believe they are sketchy but that belief is rooted in a misunderstanding of what economists study and what they claim they can do. It's like you're dismissing the field of law as a whole because of Judge Judy, or the field of journalism as a whole because of Maury Povich.

Fair enough. But if your point is that pop economics shouldn't be valued as highly as you believe it is, you should probably title your thread differently.

Not tightly controlled or predictable - like quantum mechanics? 


Just because something isn't predictable at the smallest (quantum) level, doesn't mean that it isn't predictable at the large, macro level.  I can't tell you the speed and position of an electron, but I can tell you how the molecule that atom is part of reacts.  I can't tell you if Joe's Widget Shack will be fail, but I can predict that large tax increases reduce consumer spending.

Or how about this, from my area of expertise: aerodynamics.  I can design an airplane that flies safely and well using Bernoulli's Equation.  But Bernoulli's equation is actually a very poor model of how air actually behaves.  So why is it so useful?  Because it is an excellent predictor of the results of the fluid behavior at the high level.  It will give you the correct answer +/- 15%.  I have better tools that will give you the correct answer +/- 5%, but they take 10x or more the work and math.  And for 100x the time and effort I can give the answer +/- 2%.  But I can never predict the answer perfectly.

And air molecules don't make decisions like people, they follow the rules.

Economics cannot predict things perfectly because of complexity and non-deterministic factors. i.e. Chaos.  But if it gives more useful answers than random guessing then it has value.

 

Not just more useful answers; more educated, informed answers.

You can ask me what's wrong with you or you can ask your doctor. Both of us are essentially guessing, but one of us has a sound foundation from which he can make that guess and far better chances of being right. That's the value, IMO.

(PS: Not you you. You know what I mean.)

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