Kuta Beach

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Saturday, 12 June 2010

Economics is Useless

I recently had lunch with a work friend. During this lunch he asked me what my career plan was. I told him that my plan was to just stick with the job I have. I wouldn't say I love my job, but it's reasonable. My friend and I both work in public finance. He told me that he is keen on going to university to do a masters and then working specifically in health and education, areas he is interested in.

Personally, I am not really interested in going back to university because I feel like I have been in university for a long time. I spent a lot of time in university studying economics. Many people have the impression that you do in your carrer what you study in university. For physicians, lawyers, and accountants, this may be the case, but even though I studied economics in university, I find I do not use what I learned in university in my career very much. In fact, most people who study economics, I find, do not use economics much in their career other than those who work in economic forecasting or economic consultancies like Access Economics. The reality is that there really is not much job opportunities for economists, and studying economics is not really a good career move. I studied it because it was an interesting discipline. Furthermore, many work colleagues who have studied economics are keen on moving to other areas. I know one colleague who works in the public sector who is keen in studying graduate medicine because she believes that economics is a dubious science (it's called the dismal science for a reason). Economics can hardly be called a science in the same way that physics is a science. In physics, almost everything can be proven with a laboratory experiment. In economics, it's very difficult to do laboratory experiments, so economists resort to econometrics to prove things. Having studied it for a long time at university, I find econometrics to be highly questionable. It's not uncommon to see one economist using econometrics to prove one thing and then a month later find another economist using econometrics to prove the exact opposite. Economics has transitioned from an honest science into a tool of propaganda. If politicians want to implement some policy, they usually pay off some professional economist to produce some report filled with mathematics and statistics to provide ammunition in favour of the argument. Economists will only be useful so long as the public is duped or amazed by their impressive numbers and formulae.

It's easy to understand how a physician, an engineer, a lawyer, an accountant, or even a prostitute is useful in the labor market. Not so for economists.

This is why I am thinking about a career change. I need to ask myself what is it that I have a passion for. One thing I am passionate about is investing. I would love to be a financial adviser. Useful professionals like physicians and lawyers actually fix people's problems. If someone is sick, they see a physician and the physician helps fix the disease. If someone has a legal problem then they see a lawyer. But nobody has "economic problems." However, people do have problems with personal finance, e.g. where do I put my money, how do I minimize tax, how do I buy shares, and so forth. In order to fix these problems you do not go to an economist! Rather, you see a financial adviser who probably has a background in accounting or tax law. I would like to see myself in a role where I can actually help people and be useful.

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