More Poisonous: E-cigs or Economists?

I know certain people (C.Z.) will say that I should have already canceled my subscription to and stopped reading The New York Times. But I just can’t. I need that weekly fix of newsprint on my fingers, forehead and doors. Regularly, though, I find myself frustrated by what I’m reading. And so I retire to this blog to piss and moan about it.

Look, e-cigarettes are dangerous. But “Selling a Poison by the Barrel: Liquid Nicotine for E-Cigarettes” is a bit hyperbolic. Especially when you go on to say, “The problems with adults, like those with children, owe to carelessness and lack of understanding of the risks.”

I mean, poison? As someone who just started smoking an e-cig in place of regular cigarettes (haven’t had one since I walked into the vaporizer shop a month or so ago), I was a bit worried. But if you’re only telling me I shouldn’t drink it, inject it or allow much on my skin because it’s transdermal, let’s not call it a poison. Legit e-cigarette sellers tell you this when you buy your first e-cig. Good places walk you through everything as if you were buying a new car. It can take up to 45 minutes.

Everyone likes to say, “But it hasn’t been proven . . .” Exactly. Nothing has been proven about e-cigs. You can’t say they hurt you anymore than you can say they can. So let’s just back off a little and not get our whities in a wad just because those who vape happen to exhale a visible water vapor.

On the other hand, there was finally some honesty from an economist in yesterday’s Times:

Do you want to know a dirty little secret of economists who give policy advice? When we do so, we are often speaking not just as economic scientists, but also as political philosophers. Our recommendations are based not only on our understanding of how the world works, but also on our judgments about what makes a good society.

Now, of course, that isn’t the entire truth. The entire truth is that “scientists” shouldn’t be put after the word “economic” in anything but satire. The dismal science isn’t dismal. It isn’t a science. At best, it belongs in the social science department. It may well belong in the humanities alongside literary criticism, philosophy and rhetoric. But it sure as hell isn’t a science.

Economists are just lacking politicians. They cloak their personal beliefs and ideologies in the shroud of some numbers and present their biased policy proposals. Half of them operate from a purely fictional Adam Smith/Milton Friedman premise. We’d do better to listen to anthropologists. Seriously.

So I’m glad the Times published this piece. At least one of them has come clean, even if he did far overuse the word “scientist” in his piece. He should never consider himself a real scientist. His are beliefs. Often wrong beliefs — like his argument on the minimum wage. But that’s just him being intellectually dishonest and, at the same time, encouraging readers not to believe other economists who agree with a minimum wage hike. Quite clever, actually.

But let’s be done with this, too: Economists are not scientists. They have no special view into the economy or its future or what this or that policy action may do to it. They’re just wannabe politicians. Take their opinions thusly.

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