Phil Greenspun finds a gem:
Lecture 3 within “Modern Economic Issues”, by Robert Whaples, is titled “Economists’ View of the Future”. The course seems to have been published early in 2008 and perhaps recorded in 2007, since many statistics from 2006 are cited. One of the lecturer’s aims seems to have been to present listeners with a comprehensive view of thought by economists around the U.S.
Given this backdrop of pessimism and continually being proved wrong by events, what did the economists surveyed circa 2007 predict about 2008 through 2018 in the United States? Nearly all predicted the strong growth that had prevailed in the 1990s and through 2006 to continue virtually unabated. The only real debate was among those who through the strong growth was permanent and those who thought there would be reversion towards a less spectacular level of growth. Of those interviewed by Whaples, not a single economist, apparently, predicted the Collapse of 2008 and subsequent stagnation!
Greenspun takes this failure as mitigating current pessimism:
So next time that an economist shows up in an Op-Ed column or on TV to explain why lackluster growth is the new normal for the U.S. remember that, not too long ago, probably the same person was predicting a very bullish 2008 through 2018 and that the growth of 1991-2006 was the “new normal”.
I don’t see it. All the track record shows that the macroeconomic herd has limited predictive capacities. Predicting that lackluster growth is the “new normal” in America, however, may as easily be wrong because growth will cease altogether as it could be because growth will rebound.
This does offer a powerful refutation of macroeconomics’ argument from authority.
Unfortunately, much of the public puts climate scientists and economists in the same category: “the experts”. Whether there are any experts in macroeconomics is not clear from where I am sitting. Climate scientists’ claims have far more prognostic power than those of economists. To be fair, climate science only makes predictions about physics, not about human behavior, so we have an easier task.
A big problem is that neither the public nor the economists perceive this advantage. Economics is the enemy of sustainability not only because of its compulsion to discount the future, but also because of its aura of hubris and incompetence that tars all of academia. One way economics supports the status quo is by devaluing all expert predictions in the public’s view.
(Mederated comments in this thread here)