Mick Jagger could have been an economist, and “satisfaction” would have been “maximum utility.”

Did you know that the celebrated R’g Stone studied at the London School of Economics?  For a list of others who majored in economics, see the compilation by McCloskey, Klamer, and Ziliak.  These three authors of a new textbook also state: 

Professional economists are well-paid and enjoy some social prestige.” 

While I would not disagree, economics does have its own inherent intellectual magnetism.  

For one, only smart people can be really good economists.  So that if you run across one who claims to be an economist, what matters is the Larry Summers’ question:  “Is he smart?”  True, there are dumb economists, and I have met a few, but I can tell who they are a mile away!  Not that you have to be a mathematician, but the thinking process is decidedly not at a mundane level.  And often, we remain true to ourselves when we happily admit that we don’t know!

For another, once you get the hang of it, the “truths” of economics are uniquely satisfying.  It is not the truth of faith or religion, but a truth of self-enlightenment.  There is a zen aspect to the discipline.

Finally, because economics is also conversation, as argued by McCloskey, you can’t do economics in a vacuum.  It means you have to be human, even as your subject matter is, as Ronald Coase would say, “human choice.”  We can therefore remind ourselves of our follies as well as our smarts, even if the latter might only happen once in a while.


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