More economists with balls needed

by Chris Becker

From the bowels of Ross Gittins comes “Positions vacant: the nation needs economists (women preferred)

Never in the field of economic conflict was so much analytical effort devoted to so few… as in Reserve Bank governor Philip Lowe’s one-man crusade to save the economics profession.

This latter-day Lord Kitchener wants more young Australians studying economics at high school and university… His message: Your country needs you…

According to the 2016 census, fewer than 3000 people work as economists, even though there are 73,000 people with post-school qualifications in economics. What’s worse, only about two-thirds of people working as economists actually hold a qualification in economics.

Young women, in particular, should look at themselves in the mirror and ask the hard question: for what good reason have I not to become an economist? Why should I squander my life on any lesser calling than the orderly regulation of mammon?

How about increasing the professionalism of the industry instead?

How about some accountability for the botched forecasts, the dodgy ‘cash for comment’ economic modelling, the complete misreading of the housing bubble and the mining boom, the obsession with headline GDP over wellbeing, and the lack of rigour at the top of the field – the RBA and Treasury?

How about some questions about why no professional (sic) economist picked the greatest financial disaster of the 21st century? Or why there has been no serious consideration of removing some of the failed “theories” that brought about the GFC from the Bibles and Gospels espoused at the economic degree factories across the land?

How about less propaganda about how loading yourself or your country to the eyeballs in debt on unproductive assets like property while eschewing any sort of real investment say in infrastructure, energy or heaven forbid – blue sky research, just because the latter can’t be “modelled”?

Or what about admitting that turning the dial up to 11 on the immigration meter hasn’t brought prosperity to all, only inflated an empty GDP figure and the ego of economists who espouse that failed con-game?

And finally, how about picking someone based on their merit, their character and their ability instead of their gender?

What has gender got to do with being a good economist? There’s plenty of sub-par female AND male economists out there, or do we have to do a Gillette ad for failing to empower the flailing female ones too?

Maybe Ross Gittins doesn’t have the cajones to stand up to the dismal scientists at Martin Place and tell them to take a good hard and long look at themselves and realise their “science” has a lot of catching up to do.

Latest posts by Chris Becker (see all)


  1. This has gone way beyond economics………the juggernaut of history is bearing down on us. Our leaders can sense that the usual methods are not working but can’t see that they are doing anything wrong

    We need leaders who are capable of original thought, who can craft a society and economy that can co-exist with a shrinking world output……..I can’t see any in the world yet.

    • SupernovaMEMBER

      Obviously their economic models are not working, but their public sector union remuneration packages/benefits are so generous why would they speak the truth, when doing so would cause their loss of obscene benefits? Only public sector “servants” are rewarded for “pretend success”! The monetary system they support, is modelled to primarily support themselves before the private marketplace. After all, when reality of their failed models begins to become exposed, they just press “zero’s” to positively reinforce the economy again… simple you could train a monkey for the task.

      • You may not be entirely wrong about public sector economists but you cannot be serious about ignoring economists in the private sector. Surely thats where the majority are and where they’ve caused endless trouble with their lies. And in academia they have incentives to get their models right.

    • Rent Seeking Missile

      And examining incentives.
      But then, Gittins never really has been much good at economics.

  2. God Bless the profession for its incompetence, conflict of interest and cowardice. For without them, my business would not be a success (nor would MacroBusiness)…

    Phil Lowe = Graeme Wheeler 2.0


  3. “More economists with balls” = toxic misogyny. Turns me on.

    “What’s worse, only about two-thirds of people working as economists actually hold a qualification in economics.”. I hear that it is much worse than that in the field of Demography.

  4. Chris,

    I can’t help but feel you’ve been sucked in by a headline. Gender gets a small mention, lucky to be 5% of the article and anyway, Gittins minor mention falls somewhat flat with 60/40, far more major disparities in other fields.

    • “far more major disparities in other fields.”

      Like the Diversity and Inclusion departments within HR?

      • Jason,

        Anywhere where women dominate you’ll usually find that the jobs are low paid. HR is viewed as a necessity, a loathed necessity with little power in management except to lord it over employees. One of the few areas where women outnumber men at the top, not because of discrimination, but because men aren’t interested. No real power and doesn’t pay as well for management.

        Nursing is still low in numbers for men, yet as a % men make it higher up into management.

        Maybe you can champion men into…say….cleaning, childcare.

      • Dennis, will you be such an accommodating idealist for jobs where men dominate and aren’t in white collar roles, but also earn more money?

      • Simon,

        Yes. Just like men, not all women will have what’s necessary to make it up the so called professional ladder and I’d say that the trades would be a bonus for them. What trade pays less than childcare?

    • The gender mention was unmentionable. The gist of the article, as per Lowe’s want is to make economics more attractive, particularly to women.
      You do not need to increase the quota of someones gender in any profession if there’s no reasonable restriction to them entering said profession.

      • I’ve reread the article and still don’t think gender is anywhere near the guts of the article; mostly the diversity of employment, falling numbers studying it etc with the headline catch on women.

        As to “……. if there’s no reasonable restriction to them entering said profession.” Well, that’s the problem, how do you measure that? I’d say Economics would be an area where women wouldn’t have been historically encouraged (though not as discouraged as I would have thought if it’s 60/40). My take is that 5% of it is “women, please consider” and that’s about it. Considering women make up 50% of the pop and you don’t encourage them to consider the field the net you cast for those who have the required competencies is halved.

      • Its not just the headline:
        There’s this quip about a study down by a woman, and no use of air quotes to denote some sarcasm – why was that necessary?
        “….Rochelle Guttmann (ably assisted by James Bishop, a mere male)”
        There’s this:
        “Whether you’re talking economists or people with economics degrees, more than 60 per cent of them are men. Lowe believes – as does his teenage daughter, apparently – this disparity must be corrected.”
        Why MUST it be corrected? That’s the gist of the article – we need more economists, and they should be women to make it 50/50 instead of 60/40.

      • I guess we view it from different perspectives; gist means main point or theme, I don’t think the gender topic was the main point.

        AS to mentioning gender, again if you need more people and you aren’t looking at the whole field you’re reducing your possibilities. Doesn’t mean lowering standards / requirements, unless you (not you personally) think women are less likely to measure up.

        As to the Gittins mere male, an old guy’s attempt at humour!

      • You do not need to increase the quota of someones gender in any profession if there’s no reasonable restriction to them entering said profession.

        Goodness…way to misunderstand Gender quota’s and their role in the post feminist time frame.
        hint: it sure as F ain’t about increased efficacy, you can bet your left nut on that…and your right one too, if you want the job
        it all comes down to a simple equation where S>>D

      • fisho,

        So men dominate in the more highly rewarded professions because they’re just more capable? Or, maybe, it’s because women have been discriminated against for…..ever! So, even if you’re correct, has it ALWAYS been the best person for the job? No, it’s been the best man for the job.

        I find the competency argument laughable, women should be able to climb above and beyond their ability, just as men have done forever, and still do!

      • My point is that in a market where S==D even approximately than all applicants get jobs
        However if S>D we typically first sort by some expectation of outcome (if you get the job how will I as your boss/employer benefit)
        But when S>>D all available positions will be somewhat presorted by the over-qualification of some applicants ( if Bachelor degrees are common than the Masters degree holder has an advantage, when masters become common it’s PhD’s that see advantage and so on. making the candidature presorted) against this backdrop any attempt to increase gender ratios has to bypass the organizations “over-qualification” selection bias. which has an direct impact on efficacy

      • Sorry just one last point.
        Desirable jobs like RBA / Treasury are typically not advertised but rather get filled through other channels
        So if you want a job in the RBA’s analytics or modelling sections you’d be much better advised to do some post grad courses with Robert Kohn at UNSW than with Billy Mittchel at UoN….it’s the feeder system, both candidates might have done the same course work but I know which one gets the job.
        Btw I’d love to see Billy teach Econometrics that’s be a real laugh.

  5. Jumping jack flash

    I think a qualification in psychology would be all you need to be an economist, at least a modern economist – so you can better understand popular delusions and the madness of crowds.

    Today’s economy has been distilled into a constant series of frenetic get-rich-quick schemes that everyone piles into as soon as they are discovered. Impulsive, almost primal, FOMO drives everyone. Sanity doesn’t really come into it any more.

    And to best understand insanity and primal urges, you need the psychology qualification.

    A qualification in “economics” would simply get you bogged down with rational thinking, and that doesn’t apply, at least not lately.

    • Agree. I firmly believe an economics qualification is a barrier to understanding the economy.
      Psychologists get better statistics training too.

  6. I studied Economics and Japanese at UWA. Result? Unemployment and poverty. At least I understood why I was on the dole.

  7. I dont agree with everything you post on here Chris Becker but you knocked this out of the PARK!!!!!!!!!!!!!! So so so true.

  8. now I’m not saying women are irrational, forget when they are wrong and often unable to substantiate their arguments but what exactly is stopping them from being economists?

  9. “or do we have to do a Gillette ad for failing to empower the flailing female ones too?”

    Just fell in love with Chris.

    • Watch this “ad” instead:

      For the record, there’s no such thing as toxic masculinity. That’s PC talk for “a bad man”. There’s been bad men (and women) since there’s been men.

      • On come on, “For the record, there’s no such thing as toxic masculinity.” and on the alternate Gillette ad!

        Nice emotive stuff like fireMEN rescuing people, soldiers etc. Why? Because we still limit (until recently) women doing those jobs and for the military we still will not allow women to hold combat positions, and yet, having hiked and ridden I’ve come across numerous women who are not just physically strong, but mentally tough who could easily hold those jobs and it also ignores history (Vietnam and China for starters). Btw, I’d also add men don’t go into them because of the community aspect, it’s for the danger / risk aspect that interests them.

        Why do men make up the big majority of suicides? Because of toxic masculinity, be quiet, suck it up, you’re a man, don’t whinge about whatever it is you’re experiencing. And the flow on to that is increased drug use and homelessness. They’re are the downsides of male privilege. If men didn’t have the societal pressure to be “Tough, Strong, Protector, Earner” etc, and women had EQUAL opportunity, then men overall would have less pressure on them to be EVERYTHING, and likely be more emotionally stable. Maybe young men would be less likely to need to prove themselves physically and in risk taking behaviours.

        Btw, the other stats about men making up most of the homicide stats, they’re also the perpetrators. Two women a week, on average, in this country are murdered per week, by their partner or a male who believes they have some right over her. The least safe place for a woman (statistically) on a Saturday night is her own home.

        The effects of Bad Women (toxic femininity) has nowhere near the same impact on men as the reverse does on women or society in general

        To tone it down to bad men / women just doesn’t do it justice.

      • SupernovaMEMBER

        Goodness, now we’re really having a gender war. Those public sector university feminists (misandrists) such as Julia Gillard and Hillary Clinton will go ballistic!

      • Trout à la Crème

        Masculinity is defined as ‘POSSESSION of the qualities traditionally associated with men’. I need to see evidence that it’s possible to POSSESS a thing in a toxic manner. Possessing a thing is a pretty passive state. Can one toxically own their shoes? If one knits as a hobby, and also behaves in a toxic manner, is she engaging in toxic knitting? Are the jumpers that result from the knitting themselves toxic? If you unravel the jumper, is the wool still toxic?
        You are either saying that ‘men are toxic’ or you are saying that SOME men are toxic. If the former, then u are a prejudiced ‘mens’ hating bigot engaging in non respect worthy behaviour. If the latter, you are saying that ‘toxicity’ is not a *male* trait, in which case the expression is inappropriate. A person can be male, and behave in a toxic way in addition to that, but this is simply a person being toxic. No need to bring up ‘masculinity’.

      • lolol. Some men are afraid of equality as they would have to compete against a larger pool and since women make up 50% of the pop, they’ll likely make up 50% of the smarts, and the boys are scared!

        Mansplaining is real, it’s the male version of Oldsplaining: Sonny, buy a house as soon as ya can, house prices Neeeeeever go down!

      • Trout à la Crème

        Dennis making the other person the subject of conversation, as you have done here, is a sign of having no argument. That will be my assumption going forward. Feminists bloviate incessantly about ‘toxic masculinity’, but never make a squeak about toxic *femininity*. If feminism represents ‘equality’, that’s a mighty odd way of showing it. And the 50% is another feminist lie, the so called 50% is a 50% floor as a worse case scenario. There is no feminist project to remove women when they become greater than 50%. That is power without accountability, ie. corruption. So you are yet to explain exactly where the endpoint of feminism will be situated. Clearly, precisely, and concretely.

      • For the record, there’s no such thing as toxic masculinity. That’s PC talk for “a bad man”.

        Suggesting there are not distinct organised subcultures – Reactionaries, “Pickup artists”, “jocks”, to name a few – who take extremist viewpoints on ostensibly masculine traits and use that to justify (and frequently advocate) discrimination, antagonism and violence, particularly towards women, non-heterosexuals and other men perceived as “weak”, seems a bit detached from reality.

        It is one of the causes of things like male suicide, and ignoring it or pretending it doesn’t exist, isn’t going to make it – and the problems is causes – go away.

      • You are either saying that ‘men are toxic’ or you are saying that SOME men are toxic. If the former, then u are a prejudiced ‘mens’ hating bigot engaging in non respect worthy behaviour. If the latter, you are saying that ‘toxicity’ is not a *male* trait, in which case the expression is inappropriate. A person can be male, and behave in a toxic way in addition to that, but this is simply a person being toxic. No need to bring up ‘masculinity’.

        That’s not how you logic, bro.

      • @Supernova

        You may want to check your privilege first – you can’t say “ballistic” because it makes reference to “balls” so, I suggest you find a female equivalent say “ovaristic” ?

      • Trout à la Crème,

        What a load of nonsensical waffle, just in case you’re confused I’m mean both posts. Bloviate, now that left me p1ssing my pants with laughter, you showed yourself as an expert at it.

        Now tell us ALL about the impact of toxic femininity.

  10. “fewer than 3000 people work as economists, even though there are 73,000 people with post-school qualifications in economics.”
    Clearly the nation needs fewer economists then, no?

    • Econmists are generally employed to get things approved/green lighted in Australia. Sometimes clients actually ‘want to know‘ but it is rare and most don’t see the value. In the private sector, econmists are nearly universally viewed as a waste of money that could be better spent elsewhere with tight project budgets and a neccessary evil to fulfil regulatory obligations. This entirely explains the outcomes quoted and employment stats above.

      I genuinely feel that a combination of poor training (narrow ideological focus at nearly all major economic university faculties – feeding the demand for ‘yes’ Econmists noted above) and the utterly relentless way the profession has been exploited and has been complicit in justifying moving our society in a thoroughly inhumane direction means it is hard to recommend anyone to study economics, let alone try and practice it!

      And as the stats above atest, and appealing to everyone’s base economic instincts, the line you paid them for: “After all, who is actually going to pay for difficult economists, our analysis concludes there is no demand to warrant it.”

  11. Economics died when money became a tradeable ‘resource’ or ‘asset’ that can be brought into existence at stroke of a key. Problems with debt infestation will continue until this is corrected. And to those who keep harping on about climate change and emissions etc, the environment will continue to be trashed until economists are allowed to get back into policy driving seat and replace the financial leeches. I’m a female And an economist. Men have been in charge for a long time and stuff it up each few decades, perhaps we try the girls at the helm? Perhaps not in my lifetime….

    • Even StevenMEMBER

      You’ve got my vote Georgi! Sounds like the current economic brains trust are stuck in group think. Anything to shake that up would be good.

  12. Excellent work Chris. Nonsense such as this needs to be identified as such by all who see it.

  13. I think the last paragraph of Ross Gittens’ article is the most telling

    So which skills make economists well-paid? Apart from their knowledge of economics, economists have skill in maths that’s way above the average for other skilled occupations, and above-average analytical skill for reasoning and problem solving (which is what brings the big bucks).

    Looking for the catch? You’ve found it. If you’re weak on maths, you might be happier as a journo.

    Hmmm kinda gels with what I’ve heard is happening
    For instance the RBA’s modelling department more often employees Applied mathematicians, Physicists and Engineers than Economists…I suggest you look at the formal qualifications for those that are accredited with having developed on the RBA’s new “Martin” macro Economic model or better still their Real Australian TWI model for exchange rate modelling.

    Naturally I mean the individuals that actually did the coding and designed the model

  14. Thanks for your comment fisho, I read through the article on MARTIN. It looks like they’re using the same inputs, still concerned with inflation, still viewing the world through the lens of policy makers and Martin Place employees. I wonder how having a new model will help without fixing the GIGO.

    • At the moment I suspect the expectation is more about developing core modeling skills than accurate models.
      Today’s models still lean heavily on DSGE but are focusing more and more on big data methods that extract meaning from huge noisy data sets with techniques like Kalman filtering. This makes it far more important that the job candidates understand the difference between Particle filters and Unscented scented Kalman filters than that they can write an essay comparing and contrasting Milton Friedman with John Maynard Keynes.

      • Fisho …

        You must be aware of all the questions surrounding DSGE and how writing about he contrasts between Milton and Keynes plays a massive roll in determining the pull to use such models. Not to mention if such models are actually part of the problem or not ….

    • Rent Seeking Missile

      Woah! Great vid. Very telling.
      And I thought the reason economists ignored talking about money was because they were plain stoopid.

      • Did you even read the first few comments …. yet I missed Bernard’s mention of corruption and fraud front running anything ….

  15. First problem is confusing ideology with economics …. next is wonky models completely unattached to reality [cough rational agent – binary – atomtistic] … and then compounding error by viewing society as a market …

  16. Economists are people who are too smart for their own good and not smart enough for anyone else’s.

    p.s. Geez, skippy, with all that chortling, sighing and coughing, you really need to see a doctor. Several, actually.

    • Yeborsky ….

      Well it comes from watching people talk about stuff with a pretense of certainty about a complex topic ,from maybe one faucet, of a multifaceted subject matter. Even arguing using the general term “economist or economics” is fraught with logical errors, as a categorical error at onset, everything afterwards is just bolted onto it e.g. there is no such thing as monolithic economics i.e. we have schools of thought with huge differences in approach and application. Cee contends Krugman is a Keynesian when its more apt to call him an American neo – new Keynesian … cough bastardized Keynesian – see Joan Robinson on that perspective and then attempts to use it to fat finger Keynesian’s for not having a commodity money crank twitch.

      I mean I have referred to Lars more than once and if Cees information baseline is as deep and currant as portrayed, would know how hes taken to task on more than one front. Hell I was taking Krugman to task on this blog back in the early days along with any other quisling neoclassical, much to migs befuddlement, and now were graced with the new classical’s … hay we can make this still work if’n we just bolt more stuff onto a set of wonky axioms and she’ll be sweet.

      That’s not to mention economics is more aptly put as sociopolitical theory, emphasis on what constitutes theory. Not to mention the heterodox observations about how some political [ideological] sorts gamed the whole thing to provide an endless self licking ice cream cone, but then create a walled garden by which to control the examination – who’s Marx = socialists and commies = we all starve [tm]. Some of which is nothing more than virtue signaling narrative writing which would make even Bernays blush – at its audacity – endless stream of terms like real, sound, science, et al bolt onto antiquarian theological dogma …. barf ….

      Just to keep it simple … mainstream economics is responsible for – our – currant dilemma, not economics in and of its self. Extenuating failure on consumers, money, banking, politics, et al is discussing the results of dominate economics during the neoliberal period – after the stage was set. Hence its incumbent to understand the historical roots behind it and its ex ante foundations. Just saying “economics” compounds error by ignoring all the facts in a rather convenient manner and lacks in any distinctions e.g. Keynesians had nothing to do with it, nor did post Keynesian … so why would one lump everyone in the same reductive sample aka like mainstream economics does and then complain about it.

      WOW … Keynes even said he was the only non Keynesian in a room full of them, not to mention the group defined as Keynesian loathed econmetrics which mainstream economics has a dead set hard on for which then befalls the same Keynes view on if the information changes so does your mind [????] um nope we just bolt on more econmetrics till it works or someone gets a false positive and runs with it ….

      Reducing complexity to the point of meaninglessness … hows that been working from a theoretical stand point … here comes the Bayesians ….

      • Ditto … considering not being able to converse about the subject matter, yet compelled to respond anyway. So which is it, above your pay grade or trying to be a small target, but get a dig in anyway.

        Curious how I’ve never encountered a comment by you that has anything to add beside taking a dump and scurrying off …

  17. Rent Seeking Missile

    All good points, I agree 100%.
    Gittins is just virtue signalling about women. It´s obligatory these days. We live in a world full of lies where those who don´t pay respect to the Gods of Diversity are chased from the temples for heresy.
    And its ‘cojones’.

    • The point remains that in an academic field, it has a dominate gender bias, of which, one could easily argue it has a semblance to certain religious groups. These same groups use virtue signaling to retain gender dominate roles, which imo, is actually historically inaccurate, but feel compelled to take a ridged stance all the same. In this case the gender issue is created at onset by the legacy group which then attempts to frame the objective point around others seeking inclusion on gender issues without regard to competency or past dominance.

      I mean considering the outcomes of male dominated economics one would find it hard to argue firstly competency let alone that inclusion of females would be any worse.

      But then the whole Deirdre McCloskey thing was a hoot …. at least your not a socialist …. phew …