Why don’t people want to elect economists to run stuff?

Because everyone hates them

Topics: Politics, Economics, Science,

Two economists have come together to research the question of whether or not countries are smart enough to put economists in charge of everything. Their surprising conclusion: Nope, not really! There are hardly any economist prime ministers and surprisingly not that many economist central bankers, at least if we’re talking PhD economists and not “guys who took an Econ class once.”

At Ezra Klein’s WonkBlog, Brad Plumer summarizes the study and asks, “why aren’t more countries run by economists?” Here’s why: Because everyone hates economists. Economists are the worst. They’re usually very convinced of their own genius, though. And they act like because they use math, their “science” is more sciencey than sociology or whatever, but it is still mostly just a bunch of made-up stuff. If a bunch of economists had been running the world prior to the 2008 financial crisis the 2008 financial crisis would not have been averted because almost no one predicted it.

But the most important reason there aren’t a ton of economist prime ministers is that economists disdain politics. Economists tend to get a great deal of pleasure out of loudly attacking very popular policies (higher minimum wage! tax code giveaways to the upper-middle-class!) and they generally talk about normal people as little mindless “economic units” or something awful and dehumanizing like that. Economists don’t want to “campaign” and convince people to vote for them, they just want to be appointed to positions of power by people who actually did shake a bunch of hands and tell people what they wanted to hear. An economist doesn’t want to be an elected official who answers to voters, because that sucks.

Conveniently, the researchers did not bother to answer the question of whether countries that put economists in charge of stuff actually have better economic outcomes. But the economist in charge of Europe’s central bank is currently purposefully imposing disastrous austerity on a bunch of countries that did not elect him, so really if you want to know why we don’t let economists run stuff look at Spain’s youth unemployment rate.

Alex Pareene

Alex Pareene writes about politics for Salon and is the author of "The Rude Guide to Mitt." Email him at apareene@salon.com and follow him on Twitter @pareene

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Burger King Japan

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Burger King's black cheeseburger: Made with squid ink and bamboo charcoal, arguably a symbol of meat's destructive effect on the planet. Only available in Japan.

    Elite Daily/Twitter

    2014's fast food atrocities

    McDonald's Black Burger: Because the laws of competition say that once Burger King introduces a black cheeseburger, it's only a matter of time before McDonald's follows suit. You still don't have to eat it.


    2014's fast food atrocities

    Domino's Specialty Chicken: It's like regular pizza, except instead of a crust, there's fried chicken. The company's marketing officer calls it "one of the most creative, innovative menu items we have ever had” -- brain power put to good use.


    2014's fast food atrocities

    Arby's Meat Mountain: The viral off-menu product containing eight different types of meat that, on second read, was probably engineered by Arby's all along. Horrific, regardless.


    2014's fast food atrocities

    KFC'S ZINGER DOUBLE DOWN KING: A sandwich made by adding a burger patty to the infamous chicken-instead-of-buns creation can only be described using all caps. NO BUN ALL MEAT. Only available in South Korea.

    Taco Bell

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Taco Bell's Waffle Taco: It took two years for Taco Bell to develop this waffle folded in the shape of a taco, the stand-out star of its new breakfast menu.

    Michele Parente/Twitter

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Krispy Kreme Triple Cheeseburger: Only attendees at the San Diego County Fair were given the opportunity to taste the official version of this donut-hamburger-heart attack combo. The rest of America has reasonable odds of not dropping dead tomorrow.

    Taco Bell

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Taco Bell's Quesarito: A burrito wrapped in a quesadilla inside an enigma. Quarantined to one store in Oklahoma City.


    2014's fast food atrocities

    Boston Pizza's Pizza Cake: The people's choice winner of a Canadian pizza chain's contest whose real aim, we'd imagine, is to prove that there's no such thing as "too far." Currently in development.


    2014's fast food atrocities

    7-Eleven's Doritos Loaded: "For something decadent and artificial by design," wrote one impassioned reviewer, "it only tasted of the latter."

  • Recent Slide Shows



Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>