Economists teach that the market is the fundamental social phenomenon, and its culmination is money. Anthropologists teach that culture is the fundamental social phenomenon, and its culmination is the sacred. Such is the confrontation—man the producer of consumption goods vs. man the producer of culture, the maximizing animal vs. the reverent one.
Allan Bloom, The Closing of the American Mind (New York: 1988), pp. 361-363
Anyone who believes exponential growth can go on forever in a finite world is either a madman or an economist.
Kenneth Boulding, "The Economics of the Coming Spaceship Earth" (1966), in Victor D. Lippit, ed., Radical Political Economy, Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe. p 362.
If economists wished to study the horse, they wouldn't go and look at horses. They'd sit in their studies and say to themselves, "What would I do if I were a horse?"
Ronald Coase, speech to the International Society of New Institutional Economics, September 17, 1999, Washington DC. Coase claims he was quoting fellow economist Ely Devons, who reportedly said this in a meeting.
You cannot successfully use your technical knowledge unless you are a fairly educated person, and, in particular, have some knowledge of the whole field of the social sciences as well as some knowledge of history and philosophy. Of course real competence in some particular field comes first. Unless you really know your economics or whatever your special field is, you will be simply a fraud. But if you know economics and nothing else, you will be a bane to mankind, good, perhaps, for writing articles for other economists to read, but for nothing else.
Friedrich Hayek (1991). "On being an economist." In: W. W. Bartley and S. Kresge (eds.), The Trend of Economic Thinking; Essays on Political Economists and Economic History, Volume III, London. Routledge. p. 38
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. But the basic reason for this ought not to be mysterious. The reason is that the demagogues and bad economists are presenting half-truths. They are speaking only of the immediate effect of a proposed policy or its effect upon a single group. As far as they go they may often be right. In these cases the answer consists in showing that the proposed policy would also have longer and less desirable effects, or that it could benefit one group only at the expense of all other groups. The answer consists in supplementing and correcting the half-truth with the other half. But to consider all the chief effects of a proposed course on everybody often requires a long, complicated, and dull chain of reasoning. Most of the audience finds this chain of reasoning difficult to follow and soon becomes bored and inattentive. The bad economists rationalize this intellectual debility and laziness by assuring the audience that it need not even attempt to follow the reasoning or judge it on its merits because it is only “classicism” or “laissez-faire,” or “capitalist apologetics” or whatever other term of abuse may happen to strike them as effective.
The ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed the world is ruled by little else. Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist. Madmen in authority, who hear voices in the air, are distilling their frenzy from some academic scribbler of a few years back. I am sure that the power of vested interests is vastly exaggerated compared with the gradual encroachment of ideas. Not, indeed, immediately, but after a certain interval; for in the field of economic and political philosophy there are not many who are influenced by new theories after they are twenty-five or thirty years of age, so that the ideas which civil servants and politicians and even agitators apply to current events are not likely to be the newest. But, soon or late, it is ideas, not vested interests, which are dangerous for good or evil.
John Maynard Keynes, The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, Ch. 24 "Concluding Notes" p. 383-
It is no coincidence that the novel and economics science were born at the same time. Economists are tellers of stories and makers of poems. ~ Donald McClouskey
Economics is the study of how society manages its scarce resources. In most societies, resources are allocated not by an all-powerful dictator but through the combined actions of millions of households and firms. Economists therefore study how people make decisions: how much they work, what they buy, how much they save, and how they invest their savings. Economists also study how people interact with one another. For instance, they examine how the multitude of buyers and sellers of a good together determine the price at which the good is sold and the quantity that is sold. Finally, economists analyze forces and trends that affect the economy as a whole, including the growth in average income, the fraction of the population that cannot find work, and the rate at which prices are rising.
N. Gregory Mankiw, Principle of Economics (6th ed., 2012), Ch. 1. Ten Principles of Economics
In bourgeois economics - and in the epoch of production to which it corresponds — this complete working-out of the human content appears as a complete emptying- out, this universal objectification as total alienation, and the tearing-down of all limited, one-sided aims as sacrifice of the human end-in-itself to an entirely external end.
Karl Marx, Historical Materialism, in Karl Marx: A Reader, p. 200
Economists are tellers of stories and makers of poems.
Donald McClouskey, Storytelling in Economics (1990).
The purpose of studying economics is not to acquire a set of ready-made answers to economic questions, but to learn how to avoid being deceived by economists.
Joan Robinson, “Marx, Marshall And Keynes” (1955), Occasional Paper No. 9, The Delhi School of Economics, University Of Delhi, Delhi.
Economics is not simply a topic on which to express opinions or vent emotions. It is a systematic study of what happens when you do specific things in specific ways. In economic analysis, the methods used by a Marxist economist like Oskar Lange did not differ in any fundamental way from the methods used by a conservative economist like Milton Friedman.
This is really odd that economists are expected to predict the future, because no on expect other people in other disciplines to predict the future. Nobody says to the biologists: What is the next stage in evolution? If you can't expect the next stage in evolution... well I guess biology just isn't a science and, that no one should listen to you. Nobody says to the political scientist: Well... you know, who is going to win the next election? If you can't tell me now, then I guess, you know, political science does not mean anything. But somehow economics takes this burden, that people in economics are supposed to be able to forecast the future.
Timothy Taylor, in Economics, 3rd Edition (The Great Courses) (2008), Chapter 1: "How Economists Think."
Economists are being indoctrinated into a cardboard version of human nature, which they hold true to such a degree that their own behavior has begun to resemble it. Psychological tests have shown that economics majors are more egoistic than the average college student. Exposure in class after class to the capitalist self-interest model apparently kills off whatever prosocial tendencies these students have to begin with. They give up trusting others, and conversely others give up trusting them.
Frans de Waal, Our Inner Ape: A Leading Primatologist Explains Why We Are Who We Are (2006), p. 243.
Bernard: I don't think Sir Humphrey understands economics, Prime Minister; he did read Classics, you know. Jim Hacker: What about Sir Frank? He's head of the Treasury! Bernard: Well I'm afraid he's at an even greater disadvantage in understanding economics: he's an economist.