Economics Quotes (33 quotes)
Among the current discussions, the impact of new and sophisticated methods in the study of the past occupies an important place. The new 'scientific' or 'cliometric' history—born of the marriage contracted between historical problems and advanced statistical analysis, with economic theory as bridesmaid and the computer as best man—has made tremendous advances in the last generation.
Among the social sciences, economists are the snobs. Economics, with its numbers and graphs and curves, at least has the coloration and paraphernalia of a hard science. It's not just putting on sandals and trekking out to take notes on some tribe.
Chemical engineering is the profession in which a knowledge of mathematics, chemistry and other natural sciences gained by study, experience and practice is applied with judgment to develop economic ways of using materials and energy for the benefit of mankind.
I have long aspired to make our company a noble prototype of industry, penetrating in science, reliable in engineering, creative in aesthetics and wholesomely prosperous in economics.
I think we may picture those domains where understanding exists, whether in physics, chemistry, biology, psychology, economics or any other discipline as cultivated valleys in a formidably mountainous country. We may recognise in principle that we all inhabit the same world but in practice we do well to cultivate our own valleys, with an occasional assault on the more accessible foothills, rather than to build roads in a vain attempt at colonisation.
If a man is in any sense a real mathematician, then it is a hundred to one that his mathematics will be far better than anything else he can do, and that it would be silly if he surrendered any decent opportunity of exercising his one talent in order to do undistinguished work in other fields. Such a sacrifice could be justified only by economic necessity of age.
If farm ecology and economics go wrong, nothing else will go right in agriculture.
Mathematical economics is old enough to be respectable, but not all economists respect it. It has powerful supporters and impressive testimonials, yet many capable economists deny that mathematics, except as a shorthand or expository device, can be applied to economic reasoning. There have even been rumors that mathematics is used in economics (and in other social sciences) either for the deliberate purpose of mystification or to confer dignity upon commonplaces as French was once used in diplomatic communications. …. To be sure, mathematics can be extended to any branch of knowledge, including economics, provided the concepts are so clearly defined as to permit accurate symbolic representation. That is only another way of saying that in some branches of discourse it is desirable to know what you are talking about.
Models so constructed, though of no practical value, serve a useful academic function. The oldest problem in economic education is how to exclude the incompetent. The requirement that there be an ability to master difficult models, including ones for which mathematical competence is required, is a highly useful screening device.
My decision to leave applied mathematics for economics was in part tied to the widely-held popular belief in the 1960s that macroeconomics had made fundamental inroads into controlling business cycles and stopping dysfunctional unemployment and inflation.
Now if we want poets to interpret physical science as Milton and Shelley did (Shelley and Keats were the last English poets who were at all up-to-date in their chemical knowledge), we must see that our possible poets are instructed, as their masters were, in science and economics.
Once early in the morning, at two or three in the morning, when the master was asleep, the books in the library began to quarrel with each other as to which was the king of the library. The dictionary contended quite angrily that he was the master of the library because without words there would be no communication at all. The book of science argued stridently that he was the master of the library for without science there would have been no printing press or any of the other wonders of the world. The book of poetry claimed that he was the king, the master of the library, because he gave surcease and calm to his master when he was troubled. The books of philosophy, the economic books, all put in their claims, and the clamor was great and the noise at its height when a small low voice was heard from an old brown book lying in the center of the table and the voice said, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” And all of the noise and the clamor in the library ceased, and there was a hush in the library, for all of the books knew who the real master of the library was.
Professor [Max] Planck, of Berlin, the famous originator of the Quantum Theory, once remarked to me that in early life he had thought of studying economics, but had found it too difficult! Professor Planck could easily master the whole corpus of mathematical economics in a few days. He did not mean that! But the amalgam of logic and intuition and the wide knowledge of facts, most of which are not precise, which is required for economic interpretation in its highest form is, quite truly, overwhelmingly difficult for those whose gift mainly consists in the power to imagine and pursue to their furthest points the implications and prior conditions of comparatively simple facts which are known with a high degree of precision.
Prolonged commitment to mathematical exercises in economics can be damaging. It leads to the atrophy of judgement and intuition which are indispensable for real solutions and, on occasion, leads also to a habit of mind which simply excludes the mathematically inconvenient factors from consideration.
Some years ago John Kenneth Galbraith wrote in an essay on his efforts at writing a history of economics: “As one approaches the present, one is filled with a sense of hopelessness; in a year and possibly even a month, there is now more economic comment in the supposedly serious literature than survives from the whole of the thousand years commonly denominated as the Middle Ages … anyone who claims to be familiar with it all is a confessing liar.” I believe that all physicists would subscribe to the same sentiments regarding their own professional literature. I do at any rate.
That the master manufacturer, by dividing the work to be executed into different processes, each requiring different degrees of skill or of force, can purchase precisely the precise quantity of both which is necessary for each process; whereas, if the whole work were executed by one workman, that person must possess sufficient skill to perform the most difficult, and sufficient strength to execute the most laborious, of the operations into which the art is divided.
The engineer who counts cost as nothing as compared to the result, who holds himself above the consideration of dollars and cents, has missed his vocation.
The investigation of causal relations between economic phenomena presents many problems of peculiar difficulty, and offers many opportunities for fallacious conclusions. Since the statistician can seldom or never make experiments for himself, he has to accept the data of daily experience, and discuss as best he can the relations of a whole group of changes; he cannot, like the physicist, narrow down the issue to the effect of one variation at a time. The problems of statistics are in this sense far more complex than the problems of physics.
The links between ecosystem and human health are many and obvious: the value in wetlands of filtering pollutants out of groundwater aquifers; the potential future medical use of different plants’ genetic material; the human health effects of heavy metal accumulation in fish and shellfish. It is clear that healthy ecosystems provide the underpinnings for the long-term health of economics and societies.
The monogram of our national initials, which is the symbol for our monetary unit, the dollar, is almost as frequently conjoined to the figures of an engineer’s calculations as are the symbols indicating feet, minutes, pounds, or gallons. … This statement, while true in regard to the work of all engineers, applies particularly to that of the mechanical engineer…
The problems of analyzing war operations are … rather nearer, in general, to many problems, say of biology or of economics, than to most problems of physics, where usually a great deal of numerical data are ascertainable about relatively simple phenomena.
The saying often quoted from Lord Kelvin… that “where you cannot measure your knowledge is meagre and unsatisfactory,” as applied in mental and social science, is misleading and pernicious. This is another way of saying that these sciences are not science in the sense of physical science and cannot attempt to be such without forfeiting their proper nature and function. Insistence on a concretely quantitative economics means the use of statistics of physical magnitudes, whose economic meaning and significance is uncertain and dubious. (Even wheat is approximately homogeneous only if measured in economic terms.) And a similar statement would even apply more to other social sciences. In this field, the Kelvin dictum very largely means in practice, “if you cannot measure, measure anyhow!”
The study of economics does not seem to require any specialised gifts of an unusually high order. Is it not, intellectually regarded, a very easy subject compared with the higher branches of philosophy and pure science? Yet good, or even competent, economists are the rarest of birds. An easy subject, at which very few excel! The paradox finds its explanation, perhaps, in that the master-economist must possess a rare combination of gifts. He must reach a high standard in several different directions and must combine talents not often found together. He must be mathematician, historian, statesman, philosopher—in some degree. He must understand symbols and speak in words. He must contemplate the particular in terms of the general, and touch abstract and concrete in the same flight of thought. He must study the present in the light of the past for the purposes of the future. No part of man's nature or his institutions must lie entirely outside his regard. He must be purposeful and disinterested in a simultaneous mood; as aloof and incorruptible as an artist, yet sometimes as near the earth as a politician.
The time has come to link ecology to economic and human development. When you have seen one ant, one bird, one tree, you have not seen them all. What is happening to the rain forests of Madagascar and Brazil will affect us all.
The world has changed far more in the past 100 years than in any other century in history. The reason is not political or economic but technological—technologies that flowed directly from advances in basic science. Clearly, no scientist better represents those advances than Albert Einstein: TIME’s Person of the Century.
The worst thing that will probably happen—in fact is already well underway—is not energy depletion, economic collapse, conventional war, or the expansion of totalitarian governments. As terrible as these catastrophes would be for us, they can be repaired in a few generations. The one process now going on that will take millions of years to correct is loss of genetic and species diversity by the destruction of natural habitats. This is the folly our descendants are least likely to forgive us.
This long run is a misleading guide to current affairs. In the long run we are all dead. Economists set themselves too easy, too useless a task if in tempestuous seasons they can only tell us that when the storm is long past the ocean is flat again.
To overturn orthodoxy is no easier in science than in philosophy, religion, economics, or any of the other disciplines through which we try to comprehend the world and the society in which we live.
Without an acquaintance with chemistry, the statesman must remain a stranger to the true vital interests of the state, to the means of its organic development and improvement; ... The highest economic or material interests of a country, the increased and more profitable production of food for man and animals, ... are most closely linked with the advancement and diffusion of the natural sciences, especially of chemistry.
[Lord of the Rings] is … a piece of literature, … and not real history. … Its economics, science, artefacts, religion, and philosophy are defective, or at least sketchy.
Lacandon jungle burned for agriculture in Chiapas, Mexico (by Jami Dwyer) (source)
[Destroying rain forest for economic gain] is like burning a Renaissance painting to cook a meal.
[The surplus of basic knowledge of the atomic nucleus was] largely used up [during the war with the atomic bomb as the dividend.] We must, without further delay restore this surplus in preparation for the important peacetime job for the nucleus - power production. ... Many of the proposed applications of atomic power - even for interplanetary rockets - seem to be within the realm of possibility provided the economic factor is ruled out completely, and the doubtful physical and chemical factors are weighted heavily on the optimistic side. ... The development of economic atomic power is not a simple extrapolation of knowledge gained during the bomb work. It is a new and difficult project to reach a satisfactory answer. Needless to say, it is vital that the atomic policy legislation now being considered by the congress recognizes the essential nature of this peacetime job, and that it not only permits but encourages the cooperative research-engineering effort of industrial, government and university laboratories for the task. ... We must learn how to generate the still higher energy particles of the cosmic rays - up to 1,000,000,000 volts, for they will unlock new domains in the nucleus.
…persons, with big wigs many of them and austere aspect, whom I take to be Professors of the Dismal Science…
Coining “Dismal Science” as a nickname for Political Economy (though used earlier referring to social science in an article, Dec 1849).
Coining “Dismal Science” as a nickname for Political Economy (though used earlier referring to social science in an article, Dec 1849).