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Economists and Chaos

By: Cielito F. Habito, PhD
 
I wrote last week of why lawyers and economists have the most maligned—and, I add, mistrusted—professions around. For lawyers, it’s largely because they can just as convincingly argue either of the two opposing sides to any particular case; it depends on who’s paying. Economists, for their part, can either be “prophets of doom” or “prophets of boom,” depending on whether they choose to see the proverbial glass of the economy as half-empty or half-full. We economists are often painted as a confused bunch, particularly notorious for not giving people a definite answer; rather, we’d start talking of what would happen on one hand, then in the next breath say “on the other hand…”—hence the joke that the hardest thing to find is a one-handed economist.
 
There’s more where that came from. There’s the one I first heard from my then boss, President Fidel V. Ramos, who joked to an audience of economists that the problem with our profession is this: “If you put three economists in the same room, you can never get them to agree with one another. Now if you had two economists in the room, they would likewise just debate endlessly. And if you had only one economist in the room, he would also just keep debating himself!” I’m glad he trusted me for his Cabinet, nonetheless.
 
And then there’s the one about Vladimir and Donald (characters updated with recent events), chatting on the sidelines of a G7 summit. Vladimir complains: “Donald, I have a big problem and I don’t know what to do about it. I have 100 bodyguards and one of them is a traitor. I don’t know which one.” Donald retorts: “You think you have a problem, Vlad? Here I am, stuck with 100 economists I have to listen to all the time before making any policy decision, and only one tells the truth.” Vladimir says: “That sounds like the same problem I have.” “Yes,” Donald replies, “but in my case, it’s never the same one!”
 
Read the full article at http://opinion.inquirer.net/101282/economists-and-chaos

1/31/2017