Don't Be ‘A Jibbering Idiot’: Economic Principles and the Properly Trained Economist

11 Pages Posted: 18 May 2017 Last revised: 11 Jun 2017

See all articles by Peter J. Boettke

Peter J. Boettke

George Mason University - Department of Economics

Date Written: April 10, 2017


Economics, properly understood, makes sense out the complex web of historical relations that constitute reality, namely by utilizing economic theory. Economics without price theory is not economic theory, and measurement without theory isn’t empirically meaningful. However, graduate students are being increasingly trained in sophisticated procedures of optimization and statistical testing, remaining largely ignorant of economic theory as a tool to understanding economic history. This address is a renewed call for my fellow economists to continue to instill in their teaching the beauty of economic theory, as well as the empirical importance of economic history. In short, economic teaching and training must instill an understanding of economic forces at work, and properly done, instills the principles that constitute a golden key that unlocks the deepest mysteries in the human experience. Without learning the governing dynamics of human action and the mechanisms that produce the social cooperation under the division of labor, modern civilization will be left undefended against the fallacious claims that market processes are exploitative, monopolistic, and unfair.

Keywords: Economic Teaching and Training; Price Theory

JEL Classification: A22; A23; B41

Suggested Citation

Boettke, Peter J., Don't Be ‘A Jibbering Idiot’: Economic Principles and the Properly Trained Economist (April 10, 2017). GMU Working Paper in Economics No. 17-20. Available at SSRN: or

Peter J. Boettke (Contact Author)

George Mason University - Department of Economics ( email )

4400 University Drive
Fairfax, VA 22030
United States
703-993-1149 (Phone)
703-993-1133 (Fax)

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