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ECONOMICS / SOCIOLOGY PHRASE BOOK

by Jeffrey A. Smith and Kermit Daniel

Every so often, you may find yourself a bit bored by the prospect of another evening at Jimmy's spent talking only to your economist friends. After all, even stories about the faculty members' children get tiresome at the third or fourth telling. In this situation, you might want to think about interacting socially with students in one of the University's many other disciplines. Beware! If you attempt to do this without preparation, you will quickly find that you become lost in dense of fog of apparently random jargon, confusing rules for politically correct speech and dress, and general incomprehension.

To help circumvent this problem, we have prepared the ECONOMICS TO SOCIOLOGY PHRASE BOOK to help economists adjust their way of speaking in a manner that will make it comprehensible to Sociologists. We chose Sociologists rather than Political Scientists because the latter tend to be unpleasant, emaciated people with glazed eyes, while Sociologists are often entertaining and cute. Unlike Anthropologists, they can be invited to parties without much worry for the safety of the silverware, and their rhetoric, when treated like background music, has a pleasant, lyrical rhythm. Who knows? If you use the phrase book carefully enough, you might even end up engaged to one. To see how to use the phrase book, consider the sentence

 Those poor people need more money.  

Look up the word "need" in the Sociology column and replace it with the corresponding economics term, to form the translated sentence

Those poor people want more money.  

Wasn't that easy? Next time you want to talk to a Sociologist, or - perish the thought - read an article in a Sociology journal, just keep the phrase book handy and you'll have no trouble at all.

Section I: Sociology to Economics
Sociological Term or PhraseEconomics Term or Phrase
rational behaviorthe use of decision rules based on explicit mathematical calculation, combined with a utility function in which monetary wealth is the only argument.
needwant
different value orientationslaziness
is correlated withis correlated with
determinesis correlated with
is caused byis correlated with
structuralinstitutional
crosstabsnon-parametric regression
empirical workcrosstabs
structural analysisOLS regression
sophisticated structural analysislogit model
endogenousendogenous
exogenousendogenous
position in the urban hierarchywhat size town you live in
causal nexusgeneral equilibrium
exploitationcontract
discriminationwage differential
low wage jobslow productivity workers
corporate elitehigh productivity workers
patriarchy (I)sexual division of labor based on technological differences
patriarchy (II)family
bourgeois sexual privatismmonogamy
non-normative family arrangementssingle motherhood
social capital (I)decentralized insurance within long term relationships
social capital (II)your friends
model (I)explanation
model (II)diagram involving circles and arrows
classa group of students
social classa group of especially friendly students
class behaviorunexploited opportunities for gain
MarxistMarxist
socialistMarxist
communistMarxist
CommunistMarxist
governmentstate
profit maximizationrevenue maximization
profit maximizingbehavior discrimination
monopolistlarge firm
unemploymentleisure
labor force detachmentleisure
macroeconomicsKeynesian demand management
conservative macroeconomicsneoclassical economics
neoclassical economicseconomics
Marxist economicssociology
socializationinformation capital
hypersegregationhyperbole
Section II: Economics to Sociology
Economics Term or PhraseSociological Term or Phrase
elasticityzero
information costschanging tastes
technological changechanging tastes
relative price changechanging tastes
rational behaviorconsistent behavior
structuralabsurd mathematical abstraction
economicsex post rationalization for maintaining current institutional arrangements
CastroFidel
dictatorleader

You might be an economist if…

…every November you celebrate Day of the Deadweight Loss.


Here are ten ways to tell you might be sitting next to an economist:

  1. He refuses to listen to the safety announcement because “in the long run, we’re all dead”
  2. He keeps telling you that “there is no such thing” as a “complimentary refreshment service”
  3. He avoids prolonged conversation with you because he has a “rational expectation” that you’re an idiot since you chose the middle seat
  4. But he offers to trade his aisle seat for yours in a competitive auction with the woman sitting behind you
  5. He plonks his elbow on the arm rest because space has a “higher marginal utility” for him than for you
  6. When he elbows you in the ribs, he says he is simply trying to “nudge” you into better behaviour
  7. When he opens the overhead locker, a copy of Thomas Piketty’s “Capital in the 21st century” falls out and hits you on the head
  8. But then he uses the book as a footrest
  9. He only relaxes when the plane reaches 35,000 feet because then it’s in “general equilibrium”
  10. Spends all the flight scribbling Greek letters into a notebook. Turns out it’s not a series of equations; he’s part of the IMF negotiating team en route to Athens.
  11. Adds an extra point to a “top 10 list” because he believes in “quantitative reasoning”


The economist’s standard reply after hearing positive results from some pragmatic policy initiative:
“That’s all well and good in practice. Let’s see how it works in theory.”


An economist and a friend were visiting the zoo. They stopped by the tiger cage, and the friend remarked that they looked so sweet, just like house cats. The economist said, “Why don’t you just reach in the cage and pet them? It will be okay.”
The friend reached in, and one of the tigers attacked and tore his arm off.
“Why did you tell me it would be okay?”
The economist just shrugged. “My model assumed the tiger wouldn’t bite.”


“Economists put decimal points in their forecasts to show that they have a sense of humour” — William Gilmore Simms


Psychologists are starting to use economists instead of rats in their experiments, for three reasons:

  1. There are more economists available.
  2. They will work for less.
  3. There are some things rats won’t do.