David R. Henderson  

You Know You're an Economist When . . .

Think tanks, idea factories no... Today's Necessary Skills, Tomo...
It was an obvious evolutionary step. As pasteurization, refrigeration, and an efficient network of rail lines developed, so did national brewing companies.
This is from Daniel Okrent, Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition, which I blogged about last week. It's the first book I've been reading on my two-week vacation at my cottage in Minaki, Ontario.

When I read that line, I got a warm fuzzy feeling. It's not because I particularly like beer. I don't. It's because I love seeing good economic analysis.

It occurred to me to start a game, kind of like the game "You know you're a redneck when . . ."

You know you're an economist when . . .

If you care to play, complete the sentence in the comments.

I don't have the internet at my cottage and so I might not check in for a day or two. But I will read them.

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CATEGORIES: Economic Philosophy

COMMENTS (27 to date)
Daniel Kuehn writes:

There is a sign nearby that says "YOUR AD HERE", and every single time I think of "aggregate demand".

Also, the other day I tried to justify not doing as much baby-proofing by essentially walking Kate through the Peltzman effect. (I didn't win). It wasn't entirely facetious - call it free range parenting if you want but I think sometimes kids need to get exposed to that stuff to figure out it's a bad idea.

Greg G writes:

You know your an economist when...
you can come up with a set of statistics to support any side in any economic controversy.

Dave Tufte writes:

You know you're an economist when you wonder whether David Henderson's hedonic income might be higher if he spent his two weeks in Minaki earlier in the season.

Aren't the biting insects worse than few weeks back?

Isn't it (starting to get) a little too cold at night up there?

Isn't the long summer day at 50 degrees north about an hour shorter already than it was 6 weeks ago?

mike shupp writes:

"You know you're an economist when..."

I was going to say "... when you can immediately grasp how improvements in technology and access to resources translate into additional consumer goods and productivity increases."

But the professionals here have cleverer (and snarkier) than an amateur like I might hope to be.

Don Boudreaux writes:

... for example, you understand that government price controls - ceilings and floors - invariably harm the people that are the ostensible beneficiaries of such controls. Economists understand that, say, minimum-wage legislation must harm at least some low-skilled workers - and that the low-skilled workers who are harmed are very much likely to be the very poorest of poor workers.* Relatedly, good economists understand also that (1) there are many margins on which buyers and sellers can adjust to price controls, (2) statistics are often poorly designed to detect many of these adjustments, and, therefore, (3) the failure of statistics to reveal the negative consequences of price controls is no good reason to jettison the economic theory.
* Yes, the good economist understands that in theory the existence of monopsony power among employers can in principle enable the imposition of minimum-wage legislation to improve the lot of all low-skilled workers, but this economist understands also that (1) such monopsony power is highly unlikely to exist in any economy reasonably described as market-oriented, and (2) such monopsony power is only a necessary condition for minimum-wage legislation even to be potentially beneficial to all low-skilled workers; it doesn't even being to be a sufficient condition.

ThomasH writes:

When you choose Aug 15 for lunch with another economist. :)

AMW writes:

"You know you're an economist when..."

You get fired up when you hear the words "you can't put a price on..."

Fonzy Shazam writes:

AMW, that might be the winner.

Here is my second-place entry:

You know you're an economist when...

...you see tradeoffs and incentives when everyone sees matter-of-fact outcomes.

James G writes:

You know you're an economist when...

the first things that come to mind after hearing the word 'utility' aren't gas and electric.

Jacob writes:


Yoram Bauman has you beat

Foobarista writes:

You know you're an economist when you realize that you've described a problem with more than two "other hands".

I sometimes wonder if economists are really those Thai gods with a zillion arms with all the "other hands" they describe :)

(Truman always wanted a one-handed economist...)

You know you're an economist when buying and selling human organs sounds like a great way to make the world a better place.

ThomasH writes:

When a, "program on Fantasy Football and Economics" attracts your attention


vikingvista writes:

...when you understand that prohibiting trade doesn't change human nature or desires, it stifles the least boldly aggressive competition and deprives traders of useful signals--particularly the usual protections of market transparency.

Cases in point--abused child immigrants engaging border smugglers, widespread decapitations between competing drug cartels, and poor low skilled kids entering the labor market for the first time via the violent illegal drug trade.

liberty writes:

...you hear people on a bus talking about "socializing" and you assume they must be Marxists.

(true story)

Bill writes:

Hearing someone talk about a "free good" is like hearing fingernails on a blackboard (remember those?)

Andrew writes:

.... you discuss the incentives available when discussing the behavior of your toddler with your spouse.

happyjuggler0 writes:

...you pay someone to cut your grass and trim your hedges because it saves you money.

Bill writes:

A day rarely passes without your noticing an argument based on the sunk cost fallacy.

AMW writes:

... you've ever told your child, "if a thing's worth doing, it's worth doing until marginal cost equals marginal benefit."

AMW writes:

... you've chided your wife for buying a $5 warranty on a $50 tricycle.

AMW writes:

... you hear someone say "a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush," and you respond "if you're sufficiently risk averse."

AMW writes:

... you don't understand why people are insulted when you tell them they're rationally ignorant.

David R. Henderson writes:

I just checked in for the day. Good ones, guys and gals. I especially enjoyed “can’t put a price on,” “Peltzman effect,” “utility”, and “socializing.” Oh, and $5 warranty.
To Dave Tufte,
Weather here is gorgeous, which is why I’m wrapping this up in a minute. Mosquitoes are not bad. Slightly cold at night but apparently July sucked and was worse. Randomness.
Is the inside joke that that was the infamous day that Nixon imposed price controls?

Daublin writes:

When you hear about a "rich" country, and you assume it has lots of productivity rather than lots of money.

Mr. Econotarian writes:

You know that it is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest, but you still eek out a "thank you" at the counter.

Kitty_T writes:

... you think the best thing about the Project Runway premier is that it gives you the chance to introduce the idea of Bayesian updating to your 7 year old.

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