Are there any disciplines on earth as hyped-up and overrated as economics? Every subject depends to some extent on others; you can’t, for example, understand history without a bit of geography or human biology, and you can’t master either of those without a bit of chemistry, for different reasons. The same goes for all disciplines – except, for some reason, economics, where the opinion of the experts seems to count for a great deal in discussions where their field is only one aspect.
The great example of this was the euro, which was promoted by the great and the good of the dismal science as a brilliant idea because, of course, reducing barriers between markets will make us wealthier. Of course it will, except… the tiny problem being that the different peoples of Europe have different identities, different ways of doing things, different loyalties, and that their voters want to look after their own interests over those of foreigners.
I wonder whether any publication could have got 300 historians to put in print that a united, democratic Europe was feasible? It seems unlikely, yet strangely few economists seem to have any regard for history at all. Economics is the study of human desires, needs and motivations; history is the study of how those desires and needs have panned out. How can you understand one without the other? It is surely no coincidence that the only senior Labour politician to have expressed concerns about mass immigration before it became politically expedient to do so is the party’s most noted historian, Tristram Hunt.
So as Romania and Bulgaria become the latest countries with which we have open borders, the debate will no doubt be about the economic impact, and the pro-lobby will be satisfied that the 0.1