At the Scott Adams blog at Dilbert.com we find Adams asking How Often are Economists Wrong?
Adams opens by making the point that while experts may be wrong at times, what matters is weather consulting them produces a better result on average than whatever is the alternative. Economists, like most experts, are likely to be more reliable than the public at large, depending on the sort of question asked. Adams goes on to say
If the question involves predicting the value of the stock market next year, economists aren't any better than a monkey with a dart board. And they know it. But if the question is whether using food crops for ethanol could hurt the economy more than it helps, or whether free trade is a good idea, or whether a gas tax holiday makes sense, you would be wise to listen.No its not. But while economist are more likely to be right on these issues, votes still believe politicians. Why? (Cue Bryan Caplan) Voters have only themselves to blame for bad economic policy and the resulting bad outcomes.
Economists are also historians when it comes to their field. They would know, for example, that government price controls would be a disaster because they have failed in the past. If doing X with the economy caused Y to happen the last three times someone tried it, wouldn't you like to know it? Economists already do.
When you are talking about the global economy, making the right decisions just barely more often than before is a huge deal. So the bar is set low for economists. They only need to be right more often than the public and the politicians. Is that so hard?
(HT: Eric Crampton)