questionable beauty

Economists using mathematical expressions to decorate arguments about the perfection of market systems may believe that their work is beautiful. Outsiders see instantly that it isn’t. Quite apart from the messy problems and ugly realities of the economic world (capitalist or otherwise), no one with a sense of aesthetics would take the clumsy algebra of a typical professional economics article as a work of beauty. The main purpose of the math is not to clarify, or to charm, but to intimidate. And the tactic is effective. An idea that would come across as simpleminded in English can be made “impressive looking” with a sufficient string of Greek symbols. A complaint about the argument can be deflected, most easily, on the ground that the complainer must not understand the math.

(Galbraith, James K., 2014: The End of Normal. The Great Crisis and the Future of Growth; New York et altera: Simon & Schuster: 67)


But it being identified as not being an economist may also be perceived as praise.



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