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What's the Economist's Point of View?

By Adam Martin

A Liberty Classic Book Review of The Economic Point of View: An Essay on the History of Economic Thought, by Israel Kirzner.1 What is economics, really? One popular answer to this question is: who cares? Economics is what economists do. Frank Knight famously quipped, in response to this attitude, "and economists are those who do economics."2 The glib, circular answer also does a poor job explaining the emotional weight of answers to this question. Economists sometimes refer to economics as "the queen of the social sciences." Just about the nastiest thing one economist can say to another is that his or her work is "not really economics." On the flip side, some scholars treat economics with disdain or condescension. Whether this is due to the content of economics or the behavior of economists I leave to the reader. On more than one occasion, even friendly scholars in other fields have qualified their kind compliments to me with, "You know a lot about this, for an economi...

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