What’s the point of economists?

Just had to reference this article from Economia – the magazine for Chartered Accountants.

It starts off by saying that economists only get things right about 4 times out of 10.  If I have read the grade boundaries issued by one of the exam boards correctly that would have been enough to get a grade F at GCSE economics units 11 and 12.  And if we use the lower mark “3 or 4 times” offered later in the article it is barely even enough for a grade G.

It then goes on to say economics is not a black and white science – but then what is?  Even the physics of light has to take account of colour.

The profession is likened to a sports coach who cannot guarantee a win even by putting out the best team possible.  Except that economists do not seem to get the sack for repeated poor performance.

Or economists should be likened to medics who would not be able to predict when you are going to get ill but should be able to advise you how to get better.  Except that economists do not seem to be able to agree on a course of treatment – should we spend our way out of recession or should we cut back on public expenditure to balance the books.  Or should we do a George Osborne and try a bit of both – cut back on public expenditure till it hurts and still borrow more.

And then the article talks about the benefit of hindsight giving us 20/20 vision.  But again I am not sure that it does, as economists don’t seem to be able to agree whether they should have been expected to predict the 2008 financial crisis.

But perhaps I am biased in my thinking that economics is not science if we follow the Oxford dictionaries definition:

The intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behaviour of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment

It is included as a social science:

The scientific study of human society and social relationships

which attempts to use scientific methodology but is severely limited because it is not easy (or even legal) to experiment on human society and relationships – so that it is limited to observation without being able to test any theories about how economics works.