Econ-Troll Taxonomy

Required reading for sites like this. See here.

By Stephen Kinsella

Senior Lecturer in Economics at the University of Limerick.

18 replies on “Econ-Troll Taxonomy”

“[The ‘Scientist’] troll, which periodically ventures into the Econ Blogworld, attempts to intimidate its enemies by the puffing up of its Physics Credentials in a strange sort of dominance display. This tactic can easily be defeated by immediately presenting the troll with a deceptively difficult or even insoluble math problem, and then ridiculing the troll for failing to solve it in short order.”

We had one of those clowns here recently. But somehow I doubt that the problem would need to be especially difficult. My guess is that a request to solve a simple Robinson Crusoe model would suffice.

Thanks for this Stephen. Made my morning!

I liked that portrait of my favourite scientist (Feynman). Very enigmatic character. You also have to love the startled expression of the horse with the lion on its back! Do many folk know who the Daleks were/are? Scared the s**t out of a lot of folk! Are they in charge somewhere close by?

One class of poster that was missing from the list was the Economics PhD student who is pursuing his studies in the US and is way more intelligent than anyone else.

How about a Taxonomy of economists and economics academics?

I suspect the diversity of opinion and all-round wackiness amongst those in the profession is as least as worthy of ridicule as the trolls.

Try classifying the members of this Adam’s family:
– Trichet: M. Expansionary Austerity
– Smaghi: Senore Headline Inflation
– Buba Chef des Jahres: “hell awaits those who prevent the work of depressions”
– Mankiw: the tax-cutting deficit hawk
– Lucas: “there’s nothing wrong with macro – crises cannot be helped”
– HW Sinn: “What? We’re in a monetary union?”

A few contributors to this site have had the odd looney idea, but I won’t go there.


I thought you would be searching for one single Krugman paper, the guy you adore so much that you compared him to Kasparov, and defend it, to show your intellectual prowess.

Can you explain, quantitatively, why the bottom of Brian Woods spring doesn’t move initially?

Can you tell what is wrong with Solows TFP paper?

Just to get you started on your presumed home turf? On previously made questions.

Before you dream about providing testing problems for people in areas, you know even less about, maybe you try simpler tasks first?

How would we call that additional category of trolls, dreaming about their economist superman qualities, but falling short of answering simple requests ?

Jesus genauer, don’t be so sensitive. It’s just a bit of fun. (An incredibly accurate portrayal it must be said – is all this trolling just done by one or two people in each category? The uncategorizable section is spot on)

The problem with banging on about permagrowth all the time is it doesn’t offer any clear realistic political proposal of how we get from our current state of permagrowth, to a sustainable Utopia. You have to deal with the world as it is, and the models that are used in the profession. Not hope the Easter bunny will come and kiss away your booboo.

@ rf: Nice of you to mention the p-word.

There is NO realistic political escape pathway. Only one very difficult one – provided you have already internalized the impossibility of the current economic Model-in-Use (sorry about this) the adherence to which has arrived us where we are – in one lousy economic s**thole. Once you have decided to ditch your olde modelo: you’re on your way!

Sustainability is no Utopia. It is just less damaging for us humans than what is being preached. There is absolutely no good reason we need to change our economic model. Nature will change it for us. And we will not like that one little bit. Better we attempt some change ourselves; which is impossible.

So we are stuck with those ‘clownish’ econs and their destructive social experiments. Their models are not clownish at all. They’re hoplessly useless.

@ genaur: If the motion was ‘stopped’ even lower you would observe a tiny movement at the distal end. What I took from the display was the totally different reactions occuring within the same closely coupled and structurally connected system. And the final chaotic outcome. A metaphor for an economy perhaps?

@ Brian Woods

Just as addendum
I’m actually sympathetic to your position, (and am not an economist by any measure – I have no models in use!)I think I understand your ideal endpoint, just can’t understand how we’re meant to get there and then maintain it. With genuine respect, is talking about permagrowth and models in use just haranguing with sound bites? Is there actually a coherent alternative political and economic system on offer? What in the name of God is it? How do you structure a post growth world economically and politically? I might not be expressing my position well, but do you see what I’m asking?


“Can you explain, quantitatively, why the bottom of Brian Woods spring doesn’t move initially?”

No, and neither can you, because it does. 😉

@ rf: “With genuine respect, is talking about permagrowth and models in use just haranguing with sound bites? ”

Yes. Its time I shut-up-shop on it. I know there will be zero progress. So let them be. I’ll return to my DIY. I have this plan to put a balcony across the back of my home. At least I can be assured of a good result, and a pleasant spot to “sip some wine and catch the rays”.

“Is there actually a coherent alternative political and economic system on offer? What in the name of God is it? How do you structure a post growth world economically and politically? I might not be expressing my position well, but do you see what I’m asking?”

You are asking fiendishly difficult questions and I have no (I think) plausible answers to give you.

To your Q1: Yes. Its a small annual decrease in aggregate economic output until you arrive at the carrying capacity of your living space. Yeah! I know!

To your Q2: This is the crux. Politicians only thrive on ‘growth’ – more goodies to hand out! Its why Easter Island is what it is. Its intractable.

Thanks for your comment. I’m signing out of irisheconomy.


…and if you cut taxes you get more tax revenue. Some people think that by looking at the trend in tax revenue from Reagan on, you can show this is not true. However, they don’t know about the fact that the information about this additional tax revenue just hasn’t got to the graphs yet – and they are lefties too. So there!


It actually stunned me, how do I get associated in your brain with “permagrowth” bulls ?

I just challenged one of the godfathers of “growth theories”, “Solows TFP”, in short language (how do you say this in your native language?), assuming that this is an economics blog, and one of the better ones.

But I have to realize that this name and acronym doesn’t mean anything to you, isn’t it?

It is Scandinavian formerly “welfare states” and Germany, and its “Ordnungspolitik”, (and me : – ) who are deeply skeptical of all this wonderous growth miracles by monetary shenanigans, simple mechanist ISLM /Fleming Mundell models.

Sustainability, long term stability, is our key value.

I did not watch your movie that far. As I said before, these seemingly erratic moves of springs are not exciting to people like me, and the mostly false, unquantitative analogies either.
And there is a very simple economic model, to live by. Live within your means, be tolerant, friendly, helpful to your neighbors, and defend your freedom and property fiercely. Borrow, if you have a solid profitable business case. Give credit, but very carefully. Not so difficult, at least to me.

Last minute:
I wonder again, (see tf above) how I get associated by you with certain positions, tax policies, or else.
I think the only times I talked about taxes in this blog, was to mention that Germany banged them up to the limit, and beyond, in order to pay for reunification.

Grumpy, it would really interest me, how you associate me with certain position. Could you provide some citations (of me), and what you interpreted. It puzzles me.


Its nothing to do with you. Its an attempt through humour, to illustrate the difference in environments that scientists and enonomists exist in.

In economics, just because something is true, and you can prove it, doesn’t mean that other people know it is false.

It is like explaining that the bottom of the spring does move, because we all (people like us) know it does – and if it doesn’t, well thats only because inertia needs to get out of the way (or something like that).

I would make a joke sabout the German sense of humour, but it might be misinterptreted 🙂


I think you’ve misread my comment

Brian Woods

Sorry to see you sign of. Hope it wasn’t to do with any rudeness on my part. Enjoy the new balcony

The comment by Aziz improved the overall quality of this post greatly.

Secret weakness: the fear that Paul Krugman has said everything they’ve thought of, but better

o plz. This isn’t accurate enough to be cutting, let alone accurate. Steve Keen may be unhealthily preoccupied with Krugman these days, but the suggestion that it’s because Krugman agrees with him too much is somewhat surreal.

Genauer comes from somewhere that is not exactly noted for humour. So, expecting him to see humour is hard. He’s serious dontcha know..mmm, serious. Anybody know if there is even a comedy scene in germ-aust-fin-Netherland?

@rf: No, not you. It was the final realization that I was attempting to draw attention to the underlying theoretical constructs (of a failing economic model) that drive peoples’ choices and behaviours – and I was not succeeding in obtaining any meaningful intellectual engagement with the econs.

@ all: Thank you all for your many useful commentaries. I learned a lot of interesting stuff. I really enjoyed the company. Disappointed I have to go.


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