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The middle part of this podcast with Nassim Taleb (author of Fooled by Randomness and the Black Swan) has an interesting discussion on the distinction between what most economists are actually doing, and those of us who have respect for the Hayekian view of the world. It all mainly boils down to the traditional economists overuse of mathematical economics and of constructing theories ex poste to fit data, as opposed to the Hayekian view that much of what is out there in the world is unknown, in fact unknowable, and that social order is possible, in fact most orderly, without the conscious design of a person or group of persons – regardless of how smart they might be.

 Here are a couple of excellent articles which are referenced in that talk:

  1. Order Defined in the Process of its Emergence, by James Buchanan
  2. High Priests and Lowly Philosophers: The Battle for the Soul of Economics”, by Peter Boettke, Christopher Coyne, and Peter Leeson.
  3. Take the Con Out of Econometrics, by Edward Leamer

For some reason the term “political economist” has fallen out of favor, which is probably the term which best describes what true economists do. Calling us “economists” allows for easy conflation with money and finance alone, and also is too far removed from the classical founding of the discipline going as far back as Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas, Adam Smith, Frederic Bastiat, etc. – in a sense we are simply philosphers who ought to understand that some things are simply not knowable.

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