Great quote from deep within a 1000+ comment thread on The Guardian Music Blog. It’s on the weekly Readers Recommend blog, where after the deadline at noon on Monday it turns by tradition into an open thread, and the subject turned to the uses and abuses of history. Readers Recommend regular Abahachi had this to say:
History is great at explaining why something happened, and reasonably good at offering explanations of what is currently happening, and that’s why it’s vital. On the whole historians are very realistic about the limitations of their knowledge and foresight, and will be the first to say “Yes, but it’s more complicated than that.” It’s people like the damned economists, who convince themselves (largely by ignoring all of history) that they fully understand the way the world works and so can issue instructions about how it should be refashioned according to their views on how it ought to work, that are dangerous.
Indeed. Economists who set themselves up as experts in totally unrelated fields from criminology to climate science are an absolute bloody menace. And because they’ve got academic qualifications too many people who ought to know better (such as politicians) take them seriously, despite the fact that qualifications in economics aren’t always relevant outside their field. It’s like expecting literary critics to be good at engineering (or vice-versa).