Has economics failed?

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The FT has an article under this heading this morning.

Tom Clark of Prospect magazine says it has, echoing Howard Reed. His argument is:

Here’s the rub. The great economic problems of our age, perhaps every age, are about uncertainty. The greatest economists have always devised models to prove particular points in one context, then cheerfully discarded them in another. But teaching and assessment has emphasised mastery of models over the critical facilities to take them to bits. The last few cohorts of youngsters who, in England at least, have grown up being spoon-fed for interminable school exams, arrive at university and find that the short-cut to a first-class degree is not critical thinking or even accuracy, but spurious precision.

Chris Giles of the FT (predictably) says all is hunky dory in the world of economics. He says:

Economics is fundamentally a study of how the world works and how to make it a better place. So long as you don’t expect soothsaying, it is remarkably successful in this endeavour, shining light on many of the most important and difficult questions facing society.

Which is soothsaying, which he illustrates by adding:

If you want a careful analysis of who really gains and loses from Donald Trump’s tax cuts, the dangers inherent in the continued growth of debt, the importance of smartphones for the working lives of people in east Asia or the historical effects of imposing trade barriers, economics informs and economists can give good answers. At last week’s Spring meetings of the IMF and World Bank, economic analysis provided interesting evidence on each of these subjects, among many more.

Spot the micro I say.

And he adds:

It is important not to get hung up on mistakes, even big ones.

Oh yes it is Giles: they cost lives, literally. People who have died on trolleys in A&E or from hypothermia because they could not afford to heat their homes are testimony to that.

The FT is asking for contributions to the debate:

As part of an initiative to spotlight our readers’ opinions, weare extending this debate to you. Has economics ceased to provide us with useful insights? Send your opinion (maximum 250 words) to ask@ft.com by Sunday April 29. We will publish a selection of the best in the FT next week.

If you want to do 250 words here instead I am open to offers, but I will use my editorial discretion. Your chances of getting published are probably somewhat higher though.