What Do Economists Know?

Alan Budd

Published: September 2004

How would you respond to a group of high school students when asked “What do economists know?”. Alan Budd’s answers will be familiar to readers of World Economics but bear repeating. Economics, unlike, say, Physics, tends to attract beliefs and opinions by non-specialists held with as much assurance as those of the experts within the discipline. After all, isn’t economics just common sense? No, there are facts—which are often surprising and counter-intuitive—that have been determined only by the special skills of economists. Certainly there are things economists don’t know. But economists can be confident about quite a lot of what they do think they know, even when they are disbelieved by large parts of the public not to mention political leaders and policy makers. Sir Alan revisits some fundamentals.

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