Arnold King writes in The American, Economics: A Million Mutinies Now, 2/27/12.
The conspiracy theorists and behavioral economists appeal to those who dislike economics. As economists, we remind people of some unpleasant truths. Such unpleasant truths are deserving of respect, even if not all economists are.
One unpleasant truth is that resources are finite. As individuals, we would each like unlimited access to medical services without having to pay for them. But economists will point out that this is not possible, and instead hard choices must be made. It would be easier to make health policy if resources were not finite, and people are understandably resentful when the consequences of finite resources are spelled out.
Another unpleasant truth is that the “intention heuristic” does not work on a large scale. The “intention heuristic” is to judge the morality of a policy by its intentions, without regard to its consequences. Instead, an economist will point out that a higher minimum wage might harm low-skilled workers, even though the intention is the opposite. It would be a lot easier to assess policy if the “intention heuristic” were reliable, and people are understandably resentful when the problems with that heuristic are exposed.
Arnold’s article concisely describes the economics factions in a brief chart. He makes a point the people seemed disappointed in the profession because they do not accurately predict the future and they do not make magic. Predictions are most wrong during the most extreme periods when the need for accuracy is most valued. Efforts to contrive a unified theory of human behavior are dashed upon the rocks of human evolution, technological progress, and delusional certainty.
Good economics deals with a reality that often contradicts political promises. A good economist accepts reality. Political ideologues do not.