July 20, 2010
Apparently, all of us little people just need to sit down and keep quiet… so sayeth Kartik Athreya, senior economist for the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond.
In a recent paper entitled “Economics is Hard. Don’t Let Bloggers Tell You Otherwise,” Mr. Athreya chastised the world of bloggers, talking heads, and anyone else who isn’t named Kartik Athreya for speaking their minds about economic policy. Clearly, everyone else is too stupid to have an opinion.
“Writers who have not taken a year of PhD coursework in a decent economics department (and passed their PhD qualifying exams), cannot meaningfully advance the discussion on economic policy,” wrote Athreya. “[I]t is exceedingly unlikely that these authors have anything interesting to say about economic policy.”
Yeah, OK, there are a lot of dimwits out there… but this sort of “shut up and do as you’re told” mentality is precisely what is so flawed about the system to begin with.
Let’s be honest, though, this isn’t indigenous just to the United States. The powers that be have been doing this for centuries. Even the Greeks, arguably among the more enlightened of early civilizations, sentenced Socrates to death for asking too many annoying questions.
Over the years, intellectual discourse has bee squashed through fear and coercion, giving rise to such illustrious events as the Dark Ages and Inquisition. These days, if anyone gets out of hand, they send the cops out in their blackest, most intimidating paramilitary gear… just to send a message.
It should be encouraged to question, to argue… the decisions that these people are making behind the curtain are far too important to be left to faith, especially when they have such a dismal track record.
At some point in the future, perhaps decades from now, I think people will look back with astonishment at this period in history.
They’ll wonder how such a small group of people could become empowered to conjure up trillions of dollars, blow trillions more, bail out their banker buddies, erode the value of people’s savings, wage senseless wars, wreck entire economies through misallocation of resources, and yet ridicule public discourse as ignorant and irrelevant…
In any different context, this would all seem completely insane.
Mr. Athreya could have spared himself and the taxpayers a couple of hours by simply penning his own resignation, rather than criticize those who dare to question the intellectual righteousness of his bosses.