Don’t Ask me About the Economy

When people get to know that I am an economist, for instance on a flight, I often get asked about the economy or even the stock market. I just make up some stuff if the mood strikes me but sometimes I tell them that I don’t know. You tell me, I say.

As it happens, I am not interested in the economy per se. I am a serious student of economics but am only marginally interested in the economies of countries. What’s reported in the media regarding macroeconomic variables such as inflation, unemployment, GDP growth rates , etc., are to me mostly noise that can be profitably ignored. News is mostly noise anyway. It’s literally noise in the case of TV news but also figuratively speaking news is noise because the signal is hard to discern in the meaningless drivel that gets shoveled around.

An interest in economics is not the same as an interest in economies. One can be fascinated by economics without a correponding interest in the state of the economy, and vice versa. Journalists and reporters who usually report on the economy are generally uninterested in economics and are often lamentably ignorant of even the basic principles of economics.

Something along the same lines occurs in the context of politics. I am seriously interested in politics — the discipline — but I am not interested in political parties, and politicians and their shenanigans. It comes as a surprise to many when they learn that I am not interested in the political scene in India. My disdain for day to day political news is absolute.

All this is not to say that somehow my interests elevate me to some higher plane of consciousness; they don’t. This is just a confession of what interests me. Your mileage may vary. As the Americanism puts it, different strokes for different folks. Some people sitting in India want to know about the unemployment rate in the US. Sitting in the US, I am supremely indifferent to the unemployment rate in the US. It takes all the time I have trying to understand economics and I don’t have time to waste on the economy.

Bottom line: some people mistakenly believe that they are interested in economics when in truth they’re only interested in the economy and probably don’t know any economics at all.

{This post brought to you thanks to my friend Indermohan Singh, who asked me about the US economy.}



Categories: Economics

4 replies

  1. As a trader I completely disagree with this your statement “What’s reported in the media regarding macroeconomic variables such as inflation, unemployment, GDP growth rates , etc., are to me mostly noise that can be profitably ignored. News is mostly noise anyway. It’s literally noise in the case of TV news but also figuratively speaking news is noise because the signal is hard to discern in the meaningless drivel that gets shoveled around”.

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    • Well, my precious, which bits of my statement do you disagree with and why? That news is not mostly noise? Or that the news only reports macroeconomic data? Or that meaningless drivel gets shoveled around? Inquiring minds would like to know.

      Like

      • News (or expectation of some news) influence on forex market significantly.

        Like

        • I would be the last person to deny the fact that news influences people. News definitely matters. News alters perceptions and therefore expectations. Therefore people whose business it is to be able to predict the behavior of people need to pay attention to the news. But that does not invalidate my point that news is mostly garbage. Fact is people consume garbage and it affects their health, and that fact is relevant to doctors. But we who are not in the doctoring business can avoid the garbage and also following the news about people’s consumption habits.

          Liked by 1 person

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