Washington, D.C. New York City fact of the day

Washington also seems to be full of economists. We have 10 economists for every one member of the clergy, whereas in New York City there are 15 members of the clergy for every economist.

D.C. is the only major metropolitan area with more economists than clergy.  The Miami area is the one with the highest ratio of chefs to economists.  Here is the source, via Paul Winfree.


"We have 10 economists for every one member of the clergy, whereas in New York City there are 15 members of the clergy for every economist."
Those who worship at Mammon's altar, do they count as economists or members of the clergy?

Good point, and in Miami I bet they have more models than economists. "Economists do it with models".

Bonus trivia: a popular sugary bread snack here in the Philippines is called "mammon"

How about Mises' altar?

Mammon is non-denominational.

How about Trump's altar?

Sodomy both is nondenominational and the "established" religion. That's Constitutional. Unelected, federal judges, not Congress, made the "laws" establishing sodomy as the state religion.

Sodomy is the state religion? I'm never going to church!

Is there any difference? Mises was the Caiaphas of the cult of money.

Bryan's "Cross of Gold" speech comes to mind.


Economists; clergy: distinction without a difference.


Phineas Taylor Barnum would understand

Economists are more like court astrologers than clergy, but close enough.

Both depend on a great deal of faith.

Ironically, religion's slow steady decline in the U.S. now coincides with the marginalization of empiricism.

What, pray tell, are the signs of the "marginalization of empiricism"?

Anyone who has the temerity to doubt social science studies despite most of them being chock-full of methodological flaws and weaknesses.

and yet according to the census not a single economist who works in DC lives in PG County.

First of all, it is hard to believe the data, that there is a relative ratio of 150 between New York and DC for any quantitative measure. If the data are believable, and economists present is a symptom of too much unaccountable money, then this is another argument for smaller federal government.

As mentioned above, what's the difference between clergy and econ Phds? Both classes would be decimated without ready access to other people's money(OPM). While DC has direct access to OPM through Congress, NY has indirect access to taxpayer money through the fees associated with issuing bonds.

Looking at the source, "n58policy.com" as domain name does not inspire confidence in unbiased source, I will stop short of calling total BS, did consider weir result because of small sample size in DC, but DC has 700K, Alexandria, 140K, Arlington 200K, with a total population of one million, it is hard to argue that the sample size is the problem.

Economists in Washington DC serve the same function as priests in the ancient world. The analysis in the link fails to take this into account.

The Ancients were terrified of floods, earthquakes, famines, plagues, and other natural disasters whose causes were too complex for them to understand (and even today partially remain beyond our understanding). Priests served to assure the public that so long as certain rituals were performed, these calamities would be prevented, minimized, or reversed. They could point to past instances where such a calamity was mitigated by the proper rituals commanded by their preferred deity. Rome could be saved from Hannibal if the same ritual that saved Rome from the Samnites a century earlier was performed. Further, priests were consulted before the state made important decisions. They looked at the flight of birds, they looked at the entrails of sacrificed animals, and determined if the state's new war or new building project would be a success, and if not what rituals needed to be performed to make it a success. In short, priests took seemingly random phenomena and provided an explanation for why they occurred, and policy suggestions on how to avoid them in the future. And their specialized knowledge of arcane rituals and sacred texts made them credible.

Today economists serve a similar role. Prices rise and fall, inflation goes up and down, unemployment fluctuates, the market booms and busts. Markets are incredibly complex and most of the things that happen in a market have complex causes. Economists offer explanations for these things, and policy prescriptions for how to avoid them. Another recession can be avoided if the proper ritual is performed by the king (say, the repeal of certain regulations, or an increase or decrease in certain taxes). They point to examples where a similar ritual was followed in time by good economic times. Further, when the king proposes a new law or project, they are called on to predict the future success or failure of the venture by turning to charts and graphs or to suggest that certain rituals or sacrifices must be performed before the new policy is enacted. They offer us control over the seemingly random whims of the global economy. And they sound credible, too: they have devised their own mystical language, where relatively simple concepts are transformed into impressive-sounding magic words which, strung together, are like spells that regular folks cannot understand but cannot fail to be impressed by.

In Rome many of the most important priests were to abstain from dirty practices like touching corpses or even marrying. In Washington DC the most important priests are to abstain from dirty practices like involvement in politics. Is not the Federal Reserve Chair just a sacred priest, made more mystical by relative separation from dirty, everyday Washington life? They even take care to speak in riddles like the oracles of old.

Washington has more priests than anyplace else, except maybe Brussels.

I never comment here but just want to say that I really enjoyed the comparison.


The idea that modern economists are actually trying to solve anything is a wildly naive idea. They are pure partisans, allied with one party or the other, desperately trying to explain that whatever their party does is the right move... regardless of what you see with your own eyes.

Priests of old did fill that role from time to time, but just as often they were trying to secure their own power from the King. They certainly were not always the Default PR Department For The State.

Also they were in a lot more danger. The King would say "Tell them I'm great or I will saw you into pieces." All we have now is "Tell them I'm great or I will give your grant funding to someone else."

You're right that priests in the ancient world often operated temples that sought (and often enjoyed) a level of independence from the king even if they were also funded in part by subsidies from the king. If the king took too much control over the temple, it might be seen as a sacrilege, and might be later cited as a reason why that king lost a battle, was unable to produce an heir, went bald, etc.

The Federal Reserve is definitely an analogue to that IMO. It would be scandalous to our modern religious sensibilities if the President interfered too much with the Fed. Possibly also the big think tanks.

I recall reading a comment on EconLog about that, that when people talk about a meritocracy today they mean rule by intellectuals, but not so long ago the relevant metric of merit was brawn rather than brains. The world was ruled by people who made good warriors while the geniuses shoveled manure and wrote impotent theses on how the legitimacy of government rested on the consent of the governed. Perhaps in the past, the priesthood was a mechanism by which intellectuals secured power by bargaining with the brawn elite - in exchange for helping keep the people contented with their rulers, the priesthood would be given a privileged status along with some nice digs and the freedom to pursue intellectual studies. Maybe it's still that way - our rulers are a bit less brawny, but more charismatic today, but the high intelligence priesthood still makes the same deal. Give us some money and consult us from time to time when the economy seems to head south and we'll issue some reassuring proclamations so the rabble doesn't get too pitchforky.

Clearly you don't know what applied economists do for a living. They make large salaries for a variety of reasons, such as corporations believing in their projections about a particular industry, or their assessments about costs in the production process.

How many goats do I need to sacrifice to find out in advance when the stock market is going to crash?

Jokey comments aside ...

I think this may reflect that there is no serious professional threshold to calling yourself an economist.

D.C. is full of people with master's degrees in economics from Maryland and other nearby schools.

For better or worse, economics is one of the fields where an MA is closer to a BA than an MA is to a Ph.D.

In my case, the single (true) MA class I took in economics was filled with bureaucrats trying to raise their pay grade.

Now my education is on the "... of science" side of things, which may be the difference, but I'm surprised at the notion there's any field where a master's degree is closer to a doctorate than to a bachelor's.

In a fair number of applied natural sciences and in engineering this isn’t so uncommon. If employers like to train staff themselves as oil, railroads, and many manufacturers and engineering firms do, a doctorate is not exactly a recommendation in the private sector.

I think it depends on how much the field is reliant on government licensing and employment.

Someone has to pull together the data for all those quarterly government reports.

I am not sure I would trust a consultant that led with the headline "DC is the Only Major Metro Area to Have More Economists than Chefs" when his own table shows that the Boston-Cambridge-Nashua Metro Area has 2.5 Economists per chef (0.4 chefs per economist). I guess Boston is not a major Metro Area. I also find it interesting the Areas like Houston-Galveston were left out, almost as if he was cherry picking data to support his headline.

Look at the table again. Boston has 2.9 chefs per economist. You have the figure wrong and the ratio backward.

Houston has a lot of chefs.


Are places with a higher proportion of economists in greater need for economists, or a lesser need for them (because they have so many)? Do places with a higher proportion of clergy in greater need for clergy, or a lesser need for them (because they have so many)? As for Miami, the economy of the place is irrational (the place is prone to hurricanes and will likely be submerged in a few dozen years from rising seas) and could use more economists. And it's hot, really hot. Why they have so many chefs is a mystery to me. I don't have much of an appetite when it's hot. Really hot.

Praying must work - DC prints it and NY prays to control it.

Preying must work. Washington does it. And so does New York City.

And Brasilia of course.

Years ago, I was playing with an database that showed demographics of federal employees over departments and agencies. In one search, I discovered that Washington, DC had, by a factor of 10 or more, more social science degrees. A logical result, but a big cultural difference compared to the rest of the country.

Almost as if the Pentagon wasn't across the Potomac from DC, or that the largest single discretionary item in the federal budget is military spending, clocking in at over 50% - https://www.thebalance.com/current-us-discretionary-federal-budget-and-spending-3306308

Well the people with technical expertise are most likely going to be applying it while the people with administrative expertise will be doing the same.

I think many people look at someone like Paul Krugman and think he's the definition of an economist. Far from it. For example, applied microeconomists make all sorts of projections and cost calculations that would bore the average citizen but are essential to the public and private sector. I am proud of my economist wife (I married well, Tyler) who in addition to being a good mother also bakes many varieties of breads and makes an assortment of cheeses as well. I think this qualifies her as a chef.

How do they define "economist"? Any degree in econ? PhD in econ? Employed as an economist? Couldn't find it on the site.

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