I have a longstanding hatred of economists. Here’s why: The discipline of economics shows no deference to the problem of human suffering, and therefore does not deserve to be the primary lens through which the people in power look at the world — and yet it is. Economics is also too polymorphous; one can use it to justify any malicious act, and even when it’s wrong its practitioners can twist it any way they wish so as to absolve themselves of error.
But worst of all, it imposes a flawed model of rationality on a world (and a species) that is in no way rational, to the point that in almost every case it blames the victims of its practitioners for the errors of its practitioners. Which is a neat, if evil, trick. Read this piece at the Guardian if you want to learn more about that.
The history of the “rational actor” as the basis of many economic theories baffles me, sort of. On the one hand, I understand that the reason the “rational actor” models exist in the first place is because they are the most convenient tool available to justify the kleptomania of the wealthy; but on the other hand, those models are so transparently wrong, I can’t believe that anyone fell for them, no matter how badly they wanted to. The primacy of raw emotion in the human decision-making process seems so incredibly self-evident that anyone proposing a theory of “rational action” should have been laughed out of the room. I mean, don’t economists have emotions? Are they just not self-aware enough to realize that they do?
Logic doesn’t make decisions. You will never have enough information or time to make a purely rational choice — there’s always more investigating and fact-finding that you can do — and at some point your gut will have to step in. For example:
What are we having for dinner tonight?
(Assuming that you are in a position where you can actually have dinner tonight, and/or have a choice as to what you might eat.)
A rational approach to this question would be to determine what nutrients you are currently deficient in, followed by figuring out the most cost-effective way to deliver those nutrients to your body with the least amount of effort. Hardly anybody does this. There’s no simple, reliable method to instantly assess your nutritional needs, nor to quickly correlate those requirements with the food options available to you, or to plot the cost/benefit ratio of all those options, at least not before it’s become time for breakfast.
Most people just go with what they feel like eating, even if it’s bad for them.
I imagine economists eat (something other than babies, I mean). I imagine some of them are quite unhealthy due to their food choices. And I imagine that many of those some go to work every morning and do a lot of calculations based on models based on “rational actors” and they never see the irony of that situation.