The Downside to Specialization

A brewer friend of mine once related to me how frustrated he can get when he overhears folks spouting ignorant nonsense about beer, usually in an attempt to impress someone with a knowledge of the craft. He asked me if I felt I had the same experience with economics, and I replied that since economic matters are not a topic of conversation that arise terribly often at light-hearted get-togethers, I didn't experience too much chagrin. But that's changed now that the election and troubles with the economy are favored topics of discussion, and I am often reminded of a passage JN Keynes, father of the more famous JM Kenyes, wrote in a book on political economy:

[P]eople think themselves competent to reason about economic problems, however complex, without any such preparatory scientific training as would be universally considered essential in other departments of enquiry. This temptation to discuss economic questions without adequate scientific preparation is all the greater, because economic conditions exert so powerful an influence upon men’s material interests. ‘Few men,’ says General Walker, 'are so presumptuous to dispute with the chemist or mechanician upon points connected with the studies and labours of his life; but almost any man who can read and write feels himself at liberty to form and maintain opinions of his own upon trade and money.’

It is highly unfortunate that the nature of economics is such that it is often at the center stage of political discourse, because it is there that logic and truth go to die. If, by some strange turn of events, brewing were to become the main plank of the parties' platforms, we would soon be hearing from Republicans that sugar fermentation needn't result in alcohol while Democrats insist that the primary determinant of a beer's taste is the shape of the bottle in which the beer is stored.