Why Don’t Politicians Have PhDs in Economics?

It seems like every politician in Washington KNOWS the absolute solution to our economic problems.  But how do they know?  The Tea Party has Washington gridlocked because they claim to know, but is their knowledge based on anything substantial?  Are their opinions backed by something other than wanting to promote Christianity and pay less taxes?  How many politicians have advanced degrees in economics, government and political science?

I’m sorry, but it seems to me that all politicians are out for themselves, and their positions are based on personal desires and the special interests of the people that support them.  I’d be far more impressed with the Democrats and Republicans if they each based their policies on giant economic models backed by an army of PhD researchers.  Politicians have no intellectual authority behind their opinions even though they hold them so strongly.  In fact, after recent events I’d be happy to replace all our political leaders in Congress with robots and referendums.


Every major university and think tank in the United States should be developing an economic model.  All their economic and political PhD students, postdocs, and faculty should be researching and writing to support these models.  All the models should compete, like weather models and global warming models, to see which ones best reflect actual reality.  We need to get away from opinions, away from us versus them.  It’s obvious that many of our leaders don’t know shit about economics.

The makers of Sim City should create Sim Economy so we can all play and study how our economy works.


We all need a better economic and political education.  Maybe we have saps for leaders because we’re not smart enough to elect anything better.  If we learn anything from this current political/economic crisis, it’s that we need to elect smarter politicians.  Or replace them with AI robots.

JWH – 10/15/13

6 thoughts on “Why Don’t Politicians Have PhDs in Economics?”

  1. Many economists stick to the party line of the chicago school of economics even as ever more evidence sinks it. But politicians, corporations and wealthy billionaires hand out cash donations, jobs and other forms of patronage to keep many economists supporting failed science.

    The same problem you point out in our politicians infects all levels of our society, and it starts at the dumbocracy that continues to re-elect over 90% of senators and representatives every election. I personally am rooting for a zombie apocalypse or nuclear war.

    1. That’s why we need to build competing economic models. No human can comprehend the complexity of our economy, and to claim such an understanding is silly. It’s doubtful that even one massive computer model can give us the insight we need. We need many competing models that evolve over time.

      Starting over after an apocalypse would not be the solution I’d want. Isn’t that accepting the belief that human nature can’t handle anything more complex than an Amish society?

      1. No model could ever model the complexity of our economy, at least until the processing power is high enough to simulate the planet down to individual atoms in realtime. I reject any form of Ludism. The only reason I would want to end civilization is we’ve constructed a society that is deeply flawed. It has grown to deal with our over-population and resulting scarcity of resources. We only advance when forced to, which caused our existing problems.

        The only solutions I see are those that require people to not be people. Which is why Communism and Libertarianism are useless, unless you enjoy genocide and oppression. Granted, zombies and nuclear bombs are genocidal, so it is 90% joke when I suggest it. The 10% of my that doesn’t think its a joke recognizes our problems are due what we are and our limited, selfish nature. Society has neutered genetic evolution, but societal evolution is constrained by that same nature. Rebooting humanity would allow evolution to continue and could lead to a better species taking our place.

  2. I’d agree that a greater understanding of economics and government is needed but, as you point out, would say that goes for the general population not just politicians. More expertise in economics within government would be positive (although the Federal Reserve is supposed to constitute the well of expertise within government). On the other hand we make the mistake of seeing everything through the economics prism: “the economy, stupid”, growth as a mantra, employment as an end in itself… I think the economic models do compete to an extent. My guess is society as a whole should become more aware of economic realities so as to gain a greater understanding of what can and can’t be done with money, and in particular the power that goes with it. In defense of politicians, some of them have a better understanding of political realities than the average Joe and they’re subject to real checks, so they do reflect the mood of the nation. For instance the Tea Party may have staged a coup with the government shutdown but a coup is just the kind of thing you’d expect from the Tea Party, because the movement is traditionally involved with resisting government and they enjoy substantial popular support even if it’s waning at the moment. By and large, people get the government they deserve in these democracies. I guess what I’m saying is I find the lack of ethics of the anonymous ultra-rich more threatening than the ignorance of politicians. It’s worth asking if politicians are working for the middle class or for the rich. They certainly mediate between the two. If you consider the electoral college, campaign finance laws, and lobbying then it’s an accepted part of society that the mandate of the politician is skewed toward the moneyed establishment, right? I’m off on a tangent…

    1. I agree JF, it’s more than just economics, it is also ethics. See this article in the Rolling Stone about looting pension funds – this is both an economic and ethical issue. I believe many of the politicians that passionately campaign for the good of the country are unethically working to make themselves and others rich. All too often politics is thinly veiled efforts to push new ways to make very few people richer. And I’m not totally against that, but the first concern should always be the total health of the economy. We should have a government that benefits the most people and not the few.

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