It affects every aspect of our lives, is often said to be the root of all evil, and the analysis of the world that it makes possible - what we call 'the economy' - is so important to us that economists have become the high priests of our society. Yet, oddly, there is absolutely no consensus among economists about what money really is.
An essential pedagogic step here is to relegate the teaching of mathematical methods in economics to mathematics departments. Any mathematical training in economics, if it occurs at all, should come after students have at the very least completed course work in basic calculus, algebra and differential equations (the last being one about which most economists are woefully ignorant). This simultaneously explains why neoclassical economists obsess too much about proofs and why non-neoclassical economists, like those in the Circuit School, experience such difficulties in translating excellent verbal ideas about credit creation into coherent dynamic models of a monetary production economy.
It is often sadly remarked that the bad economists present their errors to the public better than the good economists present their truths. It is often complained that demagogues can be more plausible in putting forward economic nonsense from the platform than the honest men who try to show what is wrong with it.
I write with two things in mind. I want to be right with my fellow economists. After all, I've made my life as a professional economist, so I'm careful that my economics is as it should be. But I have long felt that there's no economic proposition that can't be stated in clear, accessible language. So I try to be right with my fellow economists, but I try to have an audience of any interested, intelligent person.
John Kenneth Galbraith
There is a small minority of well-educated people with relatively sensible views on economics, and an extremely tiny minority of economists with highly sensible views. Then there's everybody else. ... To win, a politician needs to please the median voter. It makes little difference if a few thousand economists think you a fool.
Probably the only people left who think that economics deserves a Nobel Prize are economists. It confirms their conceit that they're doing 'science' rather than the less tidy task of observing the world and trying to make sense of it. This, after all, is done by mere historians, political scientists, anthropologists, sociologists, and (heaven forbid) even journalists. Economists are loath to admit that they belong in such raffish company.
Robert J. Samuelson
Economics, over the years, has become more and more abstract and divorced from events in the real world. Economists, by and large, do not study the workings of the actual economic system. They theorize about it. As Ely Devons, an English economist, once said in a meeting: 'If economists wanted to study the horse, they wouldn't go around and look at horses. They'd sit in their studies and say to themselves, 'What would I do if I were a horse?' '
Mathematical economics is old enough to be respectable, but not all economists respect it. It has powerful supporters and impressive testimonials, yet many capable economists deny that mathematics, except as a shorthand or expository device, can be applied to economic reasoning. There have even been rumors that mathematics is used in economics (and in other social sciences) either for the deliberate purpose of mystification or to confer dignity upon common places as French was once used in diplomatic communications.
James R Newman
I cannot disagree with you that having something like 500 economists is extremely unhealthy. As you say, it is not conducive to independent, objective research. You and I know there has been censorship of the material published. Equally important, the location of the economists in the Federal Reserve has had a significant influence on the kind of research they do, biasing that research toward noncontroversial technical papers on method as opposed to substantive papers on policy and results
All that the State need do, and can do, in order to preserve the monetary system undisturbed, is to refrain from such intervention. That is the essence of the monetary theory of the classical economists and their immediate successors, the Currency School. It is possible to refine and amplify this doctrine with the aid of the modern subjective theory; but it is impossible to overthrow it, and impossible to put anything else in its place. Those who are able to forget it only show that they are unable to think as economists.
Ludwig von Mises
Until the Great Depression, most economists clung to a vision of capitalism as a perfect or nearly perfect system. That vision wasn't sustainable in the face of mass unemployment, but as memories of the Depression faded, economists fell back in love with the old, idealized vision of an economy in which rational individuals interact in perfect markets.
Physicists only talk to physicists, economists to economists-worse still, nuclear physicists only talk to nuclear physicists and econometricians to econometricians. One wonders sometimes if science will not grind to a stop in an assemblage of walled-in hermits, each mumbling to himself words in a private language that only he can understand.
Kenneth E. Boulding
One the one hand, our economists treat human beings as rational actors making choices to maximize their own economic benefit. On the other hand, the same companies that hire those economists also pay for advertising campaigns that use the raw materials of myth and magic to encourage people to act against their own best interests, whether it's a matter of buying overpriced fizzy sugar water or the much more serious matter of continuing to support the unthinking pursuit of business as usual in the teeth of approaching disaster.
John Michael Greer
Economists have a singular method of procedure. There are only two kinds of institutions for them, artificial and natural. The institutions of feudalism are artificial institutions, those of the bourgeoisie are natural institutions. In this, they resemble the theologians, who likewise establish two kinds of religion. Every religion which is not theirs is an invention of men, while their own is an emanation from God. When the economists say the present-day relations-the relations of bourgeois production-are natural, they imply that these are the relations in which wealth is created and productive forces developed in conformity with the laws of nature. These relations therefore are themselves natural laws independent of the influence of time. They are eternal laws which must always govern society. Thus, there has been history, but there is no longer any. There has been history, since there were institutions of feudalism, and in these institutions of feudalism we find quite different relations of production from those of bourgeois society, which the economists try to pass off as natural and, as such, eternal.