Economic Common Sense Goes Derp

You know the story.  We just don’t train people in manufacturing, and thus we’d have more people employed, but there’s just that skills gap, right?

Wrong.  Turns out the problem is that manufacturing has changed, and employers paying the properly-educated people lousy wages means they’re not interested. The skills gap is made up – but in danger of becoming a real skills gap.

Or maybe that war stimulates the economy – which is usually based on the experience of World War II, which wasn’t what we thought and really doesn’t apply to today.

We can go through more of course.  Remember when home investment was a great and unbeatable idea?  That was one ruined economy ago.  We could talk about the idea that certain degrees are always employable, or how MySpace was unbeatable, or . . . you get the idea.

It doesn’t take much work to dredge up economic myths.  Just look at how the Freakonomics guys became famous with one simple book.  Really I need to find a way to make money by telling people they’re full of it.  Maybe it can be like the Monty Python argument sketch.

I treasure these stories, in fact I seek them out, because a lot of economic common sense is just plain wrong.  A lot of us get taught many things are too good to be true, but it seems that when we dress it up with economic language, we somehow will believe anything.

We have to remember how much crap we believe, economically.  A few things I’ve found help me stay aware of real economic issues:

You Need To be Informed: Follow economic news.  Yes I harped on this for years, but trust me.  I usually follow:

You Need To Be Hands On: Do as much of your own budget and financial planning as possible (but hire or ask for help when you need to).  That visceral understanding is very helpful.

Economics Is A Religion: Like it or not a lot of people deal with economics as areas of unquestioning faith and overarching universal assumptions – and they’re often full of it.  Don’t trust someone who doesn’t show sufficient explanation or skepticism.

Economics Has Plenty of Conmen:  Merely look at Jim Cramer and why John Stewart took him apart.  Don’t trust anyone who doesn’t have some credibility, puts on a crazy show, or sells out.  There is money in selling people B.S.

It May Change:  Much as Nate Silver’s poll analyses brought attention to how many pundits are full of it, I’m hoping the trend towards reality-intensive news and analysis continues.  I’m not gonna hold my breath, but still, it’s promising.

We all believe plenty of economic myths because a lot of it is ideology, it is hope, it is information, and it is wrapped around a damned difficult science.  But for the sake of our careers, we can try and disarm it.

Besides we’re geeks.  We’re good at information and thinking out of the box.

– Steven Savage

Steven Savage is a Geek 2.0 writer, speaker, blogger, and job coach.  He blogs on careers at, nerd and geek culture at, and does a site of creative tools at He can be reached at