Egg on their faces
ECONOMICS IS often referred to as a “science”. There’s some truth in that. But the events of recent months have again reminded that that claim is also subject to a great many limitations. David Smith, business editor and economics columnist of the London Sunday Times, notes: “Economics hasn’t covered itself with glory in predicting the situation we now find ourselves in. The bankers’ models didn’t work – and neither did those of economists.”
A little more humility from all economics practitioners is called for, at least in some areas.
That applies to many other “semisciences” – such as psychology, sociology, climate, human rights and many others. Mind you, “proper science” also needs constant monitoring.
Take this simple but important example. For generations it was widely believed that eggs were good, healthy food. Then a bunch of “experts’’ concluded that in fact eggs – or the yolks, anyway – were actually extremely harmful, because they apparently caused an excessively dangerous build-up of cholesterol. That became unquestioned received wisdom, though lots of people took no notice.
However, two researchers at Britain’s Surrey University – Juliet Gray and Bruce Griffin – have now concluded after extended study 40 years later that the whole egg/ cholesterol thesis is simply “a myth”.
So should we be surprised economics is also complicated by fads and fashions that are often primarily politically motivated?