Nassim Taleb is not a fan of economists.
If you have read his books or if you follow him on Twitter or Facebook, you’d know.
He even engages individual economists, like Karl Whelan earlier this year, in debates worthy of reality TV.
We pulled a sample of Taleb’s best anti-economist quotes from his Facebook and Twitter pages, his paper “The Skin In The Game Heuristic for Protection Against Tail Events”, and an interview with the Financial Times. Mixed in there is a fair amount of disdain for journalists too.:
- An economist is a mixture of 1) a businessman without common sense, 2) a physicist without brain, and 3) a speculator without balls.
- A prostitute who sells her body (temporarily) is vastly more honorable than someone who sells his opinion for promotion or job tenure.
- The artificial gives us hangovers, the natural inverse-hangovers. The joys of post-exercise, breaking a fast, meeting a friend, helping someone in trouble, or humiliating an economist are examples of inverse hangovers. Antifragility = series of earned inverse hangovers. They don’t come for free.
- Those with brains no balls become mathematicians, those with balls no brains join the mafia, those w no balls no brains become economists.
- To have a great day: 1) Smile at a stranger, 2) Surprise someone by saying something unexpectedly nice, 3) Give some genuine attention to an elderly, 4) Invite someone who doesn’t have many friends for coffee, 5) Humiliate an economist, publicly, or create deep anxiety inside a Harvard professor.
- A trader listened to the firm’s “chief” economist’s predictions about gold, then lost a bundle. The trader was asked to leave the firm. He then angrily asked him boss who was firing him: “Why do you fire me alone not the economist? He is too responsible for the loss.” The Boss: “You idiot, we are not firing you for losing money; we are firing you for listening to the economist.”
- Discussing growth without concern for fragility: like studying construction without thinking of collapses. Think like engineer not economist.
- OPEN DISCUSSION: Back to skin in the game. It looks like skin in the game does not necessarily work because it makes people more careful, rather but because it allows the risk taker to exit the gene pool and stop transferring the risk to others. A bad driver exposed to harm would eventually die and stop killing people on the road; shielded from harm he would keep killing others ad infinitum, as if he were an economist a la JS or PK.
- Success in all endeavours is requires absence of specific qualities. 1) To succeed in crime requires absence of empathy, 2) To succeed in banking you need absence of shame at hiding risks, 3) To succeed in school requires absence of common sense, 4) To succeed in economics requires absence of understanding of probability, risk, or 2nd order effects and about anything, 5) To succeed in journalism requires inability to think about matters that have an infinitesimal small chance of being relevant next January, …6) But to succeed in life requires a total inability to do anything that makes you uncomfortable when you look at yourself in the mirror.
- [On his greatest disappointment]: That I am unable to destroy the economics establishment, the press.
- Friends, I wonder if someone has computed how much would be saved if we shut down economics and political science departments in universities. Those who need to research these subjects can do so on their private time.
- Being nice to the wicked (or economist) is equivalent to being nasty with the virtuous.