There are some surprising ways in which the opinions of economists diverge from most other people – and some things about which economists agree that they can't stand. Here are 9 things that economists hate:
1. Tax deductions
Most people hate paying their taxes. Filling out forms and handing over a load of your money to the government is not what anyone wants to do, and if there's a chance to save money on taxes then most people are delighted with that. But not economists. They point out that tax dedications and tax loopholes create an unnecessarily complex system that benefits some more than others – and that benefits those who can afford accountants the most. Making a tax system too complicated increases the number of loopholes available and makes the system harder to manage and less fair.
2. Corporate income tax
Conversely, most people think that corporations should pair their taxes in order to benefit everyone in society. But many economists disagree. They argue that corporations should be encouraged to keep their money and reinvest it into their business, not hand it over to the government. If governments want to tax rich people then they should raise the individual income tax rate on the highest earners, not add an extra tax on companies.
3. Untaxed carbon pollution
Almost everyone agrees that climate change is a real and pressing problem, but there are many disagreements about how to combat it. One policy with only middling support is taxing carbon emissions so that companies have to pay for the pollutants that they produce. This policy is unpopular among business owners, but it has strong support from economists who argue that it makes economic sense to incentivise the cutting of carbon emissions through taxation.
4. Agricultural subsidies
In both the EU and the US, as well as elsewhere in the world, governments pay massive amounts of money in the form of subsidies for the growing of particular agricultural crops. The idea is to safeguard an essential food supply, but in practice, the policy encourages the overuse of chemicals, the growing of only certain crops, and the dumping of large amounts of unused food. Many economists agree that subsidies should be discontinued.
5. Poor economics journalism
Economics is not the easiest subject for the public to understand. Unfortunately, that means that the subject is frequently misconstrued and is blamed for various ills in society. This is not helped by articles in newspapers which perpetuate the idea that economics is incorrect or irrelevant because it is not “intuitive”.
6. Austrian Economics
Austrian Economics is an esoteric school of economics which rejects mathematical modelling and empirical testing, instead using a narrative approach that critics say is not in any way based on the real world. The famous economist Paul Krugman described the school as having “the psychology of a cult” and the whole concept of doing economics without empiricism is rejected by the large majority of economists.
Fair Trade is a label that customers like because it allows them to make more informed choices when purchasing goods like coffee which have to be sourced from other countries where very low prices or labour exploitation may be common. Economists, however, are frequently critical of the initiative, arguing that the system is ineffective at raising payment or increasing quality of life for farmers and workers – instead, the extra money goes to middlemen in the supply chain.
Gift giving during holiday seasons is one of those traditions that everyone enjoys – other than economists, apparently. Gift giving is not rational as any gift that you could give could easily replaced by cash which has a higher level of utility. So remember that when Christmas rolls around and you're trying to choose a present for the economist in your life.
9. Non-evidence-based economic policies
Because economics is complex and predictions are hard to make, there is a perception among the public and policymakers that economists disagree about everything and that one policy is as good as another. But in fact there is broad consensus among economists on key issues like the effectiveness of stimulus packages or bank bailouts, and considerable scepticism over popular political ideas like the claim that tax cuts will boost the economy. One thing almost all economists agree on is that policy should be based as far as possible on sound evidence.
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