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President Biden – having heard of the frustration of predecessors Truman and Reagan who, vexed by the ambivalent nature, the “this or that”, the duality of all recommendations from economists bemoaned the lack of one-armed economists – should be pleased to learn that the Johns Hopkins University has inaugurated an innovative program, a PhD for one-armed economists.

Let us first dispose of some nonsense, possibly originating from former President Trump. According to this apocrypha, President Biden has taped to his desk the following summary of his knowledge of economics:

  • Microeconomics   Supply and demand for short economists
  • Macroneconomics  Supply and demand for French economists
  • Macaronieconomics Public policy pastas prepared by professors at Padua Poly
  • A consensus of economists   A contradiction in terms
  • A unanimity of economists   An oxymoron
  • An economists’ compromise The lobbyist asks for sixty-four billion, the Administration balks at seventy, the horrified House condemns as irresponsible any number over seventy-five, the aghast Senate declines to contemplate anything above eighty, so an elite entourage of eminent economists brings order out of chaos by brokering a compromise at ninety billion
  • Monetizing the public debt   The Treasury sells bonds to banks which then sell them to the Fed which instructs the Bureau of Engraving and Printing to print enough dollars to pay for them, not to be confused with such obscenities as “running the printing press” or “printing money.”
  • Inflation   Principal product of the Fed
  • Deflation   The only consolation for depression and a balm that a callous cabal of central bankers commits to kill
  • Central bankers   Visually impaired economists, blind to bubbles
  • Independence of the Fed   A fiction so Congress and the Administration can claim they do not share the blame for inflation
  • The Invisible Hand.   A doctrine promulgated by Adam Smith in 1776, a doctrine to which politicians and economists profess fealty, which, however, they are not permitted to apply in Washington, DC.   Future Hopkins’ graduates will have an invisible hand.

Have we had any one-armed economists? At least on the subject of inflation, Nobel Laureate Milton Friedman may have been one-armed. Always asserting that inflation was a monetary phenomenon, “No two ways about it,” he would have ridiculed the current search for the monopolists, big companies, Russian oligarchs or other perpetrators that were causing it. But as a one-armed economist he knew the trauma of knotting his tie and touch-typing his manuscripts.

Now back to the new Johns Hopkins program. Through its Department of Economics, Hopkins grants a PhD on completion of course work, an oral exam, a dissertation and – thanks to students in its medical school – a free amputation. Faculty members who designed this new program, perturbed by the slow growth in its enrollment, are of course divided into two schools of thought: One School has it that before launching the program there should have been surveys, double blind studies and Bayesian revision.   The other School thinks delay in enrollments has occurred because the sole graduate of the program denigrates it:  she says the medical students forgot she was left-handed.


  • Love the “economist’s compromise” bullet!

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