Archive for the ‘Insanity’ Category
Who is the closest person out there to being a “mad economist”, in the sense of a mad scientist?
I have a hard time thinking of anyone who really qualifies. I think this is because mad scientists do practical things that directly affect the real world- either by building crazy things (death ray, killer robot, 5 assed baboon, et c), or by using crazy methods for research (harming human/animal subjects, making their base underwater/ in an active volcano / on the moon).
Economists tend to be bound to relatively boring methods (doing math on a chalkboard or analyzing data on a computer) that lead to relatively boring outcomes (writing papers that expand our understanding of the world a bit and possibly tell policymakers what to do).
The recent trend toward lab and field experiments in economics certainly expands the possibilities for madness. Prisoners’ Dilemma experiments are a nice touch here, especially when someone decided to run them with actual prisoners. The Phillips machine was a fun one-off. But I can’t think of anything that rises to the level of psychology’s Milgram Experiment, much less the things that have been done in the “real” sciences of biology, chemistry and physics.
Occasionally economists get some power within companies, or start their own. But coming up with a new strategy for a hedge fund or designing auctions for Google doesn’t really get into “madness” territory either. Economists are forever telling the government what to do, but rarely get listened to. During total war they have been vested with lots of power over the economy, though I haven’t heard of any particularly crazy things they did with this power. Levitt’s long con to catch terrorists was a nice touch. Armen Alchian used economics to discover that lithium was the moderator for the atomic bomb, but his only plan to use that information was to write a paper about it, and he abandoned even that at the request of the government.
But is there anything an economist has done that rises to the level of a Tesla, Mengele, Musk, or TunaPig? Anything an economist might do that could match a single invention of Drs Kreiger, Evil, or Horrible?
In general, PhD economists (myself certainly included) are too much thinkers rather than doers. The closest people we have to mad economists are probably people who learned some undergraduate economics, then went out to change the world- people like Elon Musk or Dread Pirate Roberts.
Who am I forgetting? What would a real mad economist look like?
My native Maine seems to produce about a story a year featuring backwoods types who do really messed up things, but this story blows away all the others.
Apparently a wannabe-Nazi living in Belfast was building a dirty bomb to set off at the Presidential Inauguration, but was murdered by a vigilante (his wife?).
The only thing more bizarre than the story is that almost no media outlets have picked it up, despite the fact that the story broke in early February.
Wikileaks speculates that the story hasn’t spread because it doesn’t fit with anyone’s political agenda, but that doesn’t seem like enough. Any thoughts? Are reporters outside of Maine and the blogosphere just that bad at their jobs?
My own thoughts echoed with hyperbole in The Guardian.
“Clubs are such insufferable dungeons of misery, the inmates have to take mood-altering substances to make their ordeal seem halfway tolerable. This leads them to believe they “enjoy” clubbing. They don’t. No one does. They just enjoy drugs.”
Certainly if a critical mass of people decide something is cool, their dream becomes a reality, regardless of how far-out it may have been in the first place. Of course by breaking such a taboo, however silly, the author declared himself a loser to nearly his entire London peer group. He should flee the inevitable rejection sooner rather than later, and go crawl under a rock in Wales.