Economics Joke Time

Time for an open thread!

EM provided an economics joke that is new to me:

Q: Why are economists so rarely called out for being the wankers they are?

A: Because they rely on “the invisible hand”.

The Standup Economist has a routine that has become a classic:

And of course, there are the economist variants of the lightbulb joke, originating in a 1994 Wharton Journal, as later recapped in Forbes:

Q: How many economists does it take to change a light bulb?

A1: None. The darkness will cause the light bulb to change by itself.

A2: None. If it really needed changing, market forces would have caused it to happen.

A3: None. If the government would just leave it alone, it would screw itself in.

A4: None. There is no need to change the light bulb. All the conditions for illumination are in place.

A5: None. Because, look! It’s getting brighter! It’s definitely getting brighter!!!

A6: None. They’re all waiting for the unseen hand of the market to correct the lighting disequilibrium.

I hope readers will pipe up with more economist/economics jokes. For instance, A5 should probably be updated to mention the confidence fairy…

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  1. tony

    Q:What do you call an economist that makes a prediction?


    Two economists are walking on the street. They notice a pile of horseshit, and the older one says to the younger one: “I’ll pay you twenty thousand if you eat that.” The younger one ponders for a moment, then agrees and eats it. They walk a bit more and run into another pile of horse feces. So the younger one tells the elder: “I’ll pay you twenty thousand if you eat that!”. The older economist considers the offer and starts eating. After a while the younger economists stops and asks: “What was the point of this? We both ate a pile shit and neither of us got richer.” The older one answers: “What are you talking about? We both produced and received twenty thousand worth in income and services.”

    1. ben

      GDP. Great deposits of poo.

      All economists should resolve in 2016 to think about why GDP in itself is horse shit.

  2. Clive

    “Knock Knock”

    “Who’s there?”

    “Janet Yellen”

    “Well there’s no need to shout, I heard you knocking”

      1. Clive

        You’re lucky. I was going to dredge up some old stand-bys like:

        “This economy is really terrible.”

        “How bad is the economy?”

        “The economy is so bad, this year oysters are making fake pearls…”

        “The economy is so bad, organised crime just laid off 10 judges…”

        (and so on)

  3. Paul Jonker-Hoffrén

    “Knock Knock!”

    “Who’s there?”

    “It’s Return to Growth!”

    Two years later…

    “Knock Knock!”

    “Who’s there?”

    “It’s Return to Growth!”

    And ad finitum…

  4. ambrit

    Q: Where do Central Banks hide their “secret” QE plans?
    A: Where else, in their #Fail Safes.

    A8: I didn’t know they had lights in Platos’ Cave.

    1. JTMcPhee

      I heard The Economy repealed that particular Law (actually more of a trend, Summers 2008) a long time ago…

      1. not a law

        Please, S&D is not a “law,” it’s actually a theory, and that’s all it ever was or will be or can be. To a physical scientist, comparing the “Law” of Supply & Demand to something like the Law of Gravity is a joke.

  5. Dave Chekouras

    One. To replace the bulb with an LED, then recommend exporting filament bulbs for economic growth.

  6. craazyboy

    Q: How many economists does it take to change a light bulb?

    A: Three. A micro-economist to hold the ladder, a macro-economist to rotate the room, and a university economist to develop the math model and forecast how long it will take.

  7. Skip Intro

    Q: What’s the difference between an economist and a used car salesman?

    A: The used car salesman knows when she’s lying.

    Two economists walk into a bar, which is funny, ’cause you’d think they would have seen it.

    But seriously, this site lives off the language and basic mythos provided by centuries of economics as a ‘science’, and this mockery of the profession in general smacks of the ingratitude of the stable boy mocking the horses for the steaming piles he shovels. Without economists to provide the intellectual KY-jelly, do you think we’d enjoy this more?

    1. Gerldam

      If it is a salesman then it should read “he knows when he is lying”. This has become a bad habit to write “she” for any job when everybody knows that 90% of people engaged in that profession are men.

  8. Rob Lewis

    And this venerable chestnut…

    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.”

    1. Steve H.

      Very nice, it made me think of Yogi (“In practice there is”), which made me think of Will Rogers (perhaps with the resurgence of Stockman, as Will coined ‘trickle down’ and ‘trickle up’), to whom this quote is attributed:

      An economist’s guess is liable to be as good as anybody else’s.

  9. Clarence Worley

    The Village Economist he was there,
    P*nis in his hand,
    Waiting for the time when
    supply would meet demand

  10. S M Tenneshaw

    The Fed Reserve provides all the economist comedy one could ever need. After all, its last two spokescruds are a Groucho Marx imitator, followed by a Saturday morning cartoon animation of a dish of vanilla pudding.

  11. Ulysses

    A mathematician, an accountant and an economist apply for the same job at an oil company.

    The interviewer calls in the mathematician and asks “What do two plus two equal?” The mathematician replies “Four.” The interviewer asks “Four, exactly?” The mathematician looks at the interviewer hard and says “Yes, four, exactly.”

    Then the interviewer calls in the accountant and asks the same question “What do two plus two equal?” The accountant says “On average, four – give or take ten percent, but on average, four.”

    Then the interviewer calls in the economist and poses the same question “What do two plus two equal?” The economist gets up, locks the door, closes the shade, sits down next to the interviewer and says, “What do you want it to equal”?

    1. guest

      I knew it in a somewhat different form:

      A mathematician, an engineer, and an economist are being interviewed for a job. At last, they are asked: “How much is one plus one?”

      Each of them suspects a trap, and is hesitant to answer.

      The mathematician thinks for a moment, and says “I’m not sure, but it definitely converges”.

      The engineer says “I’m not sure, but it definitely is on the order of one”.

      The economist gets up, closes the door, and says “How much do you want it to be?”.

    2. gordon

      Another variation:
      The MD calls the accountant into his office and asks “What’s the profit for this year likely to be?”
      The accountant answers: “What would you like it to be?”

    3. Irrational

      The version I have previously heard had the economist’s answer come from an accountant – but that was back around Enron times.

  12. Paul

    An economist is someone who will tell you tomorrow why what they predicted yesterday didn’t happen today.

    An economist, a physicist, and an engineer are stranded on an island with a can of food, and no opener.

    The engineer says, “Let’s smash the can open with a rock and eat”.
    The physicist replies, “Naw, that’s going to splatter the food all over the place. Let’s light a fire, the expanding gases will force the can to pop open and presto: warm food!”
    The economist says, “Bad idea: the can will explode and the food will be all over the place. Now… let’s assume we have a can opener….”

  13. Blue Meme

    A physician, an engineer, and an economist were discussing who among them belonged to the oldest profession. The physician said, “Remember, on the sixth day God took a rib from Adam and fashioned Eve, making him the first surgeon. Therefore, medicine is the oldest profession.”

    The engineer replied, “But, before that, God created the heavens and earth from chaos, thus he was the first engineer. Therefore, engineering is an older profession than medicine.”

    Then, the economist spoke up. “Yes,” he said, “But who do you think created the chaos?”

  14. aj

    The First Law of Economists: For every economist, there exists an equal and opposite economist.
    The Second Law of Economists: They’re both wrong.

    1. fresno dan

      Pareto’s law of optimal economic theory:
      an economic theory has reached an optimal state when no other economist can make it wronger

  15. RBHolb

    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.”

    1. gordon

      JKG has some excellent one-liners. My favourite:

      “The trouble with competition is that in the end somebody wins.”

  16. Joe Hill

    “Again, since I’m not an economist I really have no idea what the wrong solution is.”

    ~ @RudyHavenstein

  17. Ramanan

    [The financial crisis is worse than thought …]

    James Hacker: Bernard, Humphrey should have seen this coming and warned me.

    Bernard Woolley: I don’t think Sir Humphrey understands economics, Prime Minister; he did read Classics, you know.

    James Hacker: What about Sir Frank? He’s head of the Treasury!

    Bernard Woolley: Well I’m afraid he’s at an even greater disadvantage in understanding economics: he’s an economist.

    – Yes Prime Minister, A Real Partnership

  18. PhillyJoeD

    A scientist, an engineer and an economist are shipwrecked on a sandy atoll with no food but a fat #10 can of beans. It’s enough, carefully rationed, to sustain them for weeks. But it’s sealed tight and they have no tools. Must be opened gently, the container preserved… The scientist sets up evaporating pans to collect caustic salts to etch the can lid through. The engineer piles sand to build a drop he calculates is tall enough to crack the can open without shattering it. And the economist lays down on the beach, laughing at them. — After a day’s hot labor with little achieved, the scientist tells the economist, “Okay, you’re so smart, how would you do it?!” The economist picks up the can, presents it grandly to the other two, and says, “ASSUME this can is open.”

  19. fresno dan

    assume a can opener….

    That is not the joke. Here is the joke: Describing any situation or circumstances in the world…

    yup, its not 42…its a can opener

    1. flora

      Economists: purveyors of fictions upon which the superstructure of organized robbery is raised.
      (apologies to Ambrose Bierce)

  20. Ivy

    If you laid all the economists end to end,

    it would probably be a good thing.

    They still wouldn’t reach a conclusion.

  21. ben

    A farmer and two bankers are shipwrecked on an island. Two weeks later help finally arrives. The bankers greet their rescuer who remarks how well they look.

    BankerA: “we realised the potential of the natural resources on this island were tremendous”.

    BankerB: “I created some fiat money, we divided it up. I lent BankerA ten times my share for a coconut farm startup, he invested ten times his share in an accountancy startup.”

    Rescuer: “well that’s amazing, only where is it all, I don’t see any produce – how did you actually survive?”

    BankerA: “We each used our debt to invest in futures given the fertile land it was clear the land could generate wealth once labour was applied. We both realised significant paper profits. Oh and we ate the farmer”


    Bankers live off our backs.

  22. optimader

    How many Marxist economists does it take to screw in a light bulb?
    None. The bulb contains the seeds of its own revolution.

  23. Nortino

    What did the supply curve say to the demand curve?

    If you shift a little to the right, I’ll give you some more of what you want.


    Why did the economist cross the road?

    Because his models predicted he would.

  24. TG

    “Market Failure” is the name that economists who believe that the market cannot ever fail use when the market fails.

  25. Globus Pallidus XI

    Q: How many economists does it take to screw in a light bulb?

    A: Nominally two or more, but it will have to be a really large light bulb or the economists might not fit inside.

  26. craazyman

    oh man, these are some really bad jokes guys (and ladies). don’t quit the day jobs, unless you’re economists, then please do.

    rim shot. wow that’s not even funny

    Here’s some really bad ones I made up. These are bad, they are not funny and you’d get booed if you tried them on a crowd Wow they are bad . . . .

    What did the economist say when asked if he knew any good economist jokes?
    He said, “yeah, the joke’s on you.”

    (that’s a cerebral joke, you have to think about it for a while, and then it might be funny if you’re weird, but probabaly not if your a normal person)

    How can there be a free market when there’s not even a free lunch?

    -wow, that’s a bad joke. It’s not even a joke, really

    What’s the difference between an economics textbook and a pile of bullshit?
    The smell.

    Whoa! (still not very good, as a joke)

    These aren’t vvery good jjokes, I’m afraid.

    Maybe economists just aren’t funny. Why aren’t economists funny? It seems incredible how unfunny they are.

    How many economists does it take before you can find one that’s funny?
    Nobody knows, cause we’re still counting

    whoa! Rim shot. Wow that’s not funny either. See the problem.

    1. Synoia

      Hmm, it seems you should take your own advice to heart. :-)

      What is a person called who claims to predict the future and has a history of failure fails?

      a) A Charlatan
      b) An Economist
      c) A prophet

  27. TG

    How many economists does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

    Only one, but the lightbulb has to be hanging from the ceiling. Because economists can only screw things up.

  28. hidflect

    Castro and his band of rebels had just taken Havana and declared victory. Standing at the top of a grand, winding staircase, Castro wasted no time in forming his government. “Who amongst you is an economist?” he asked. Che Guevara enthusiastically waved his hand shouting, “Me! Me!”. Castro promptly said, “Then you are our new Finance Minister!”. After all the positions had been handed out, Che pulled Castro aside and asked, “Why did you make me Finance Minister?”. Castro explained, “Because you said you were an economist”. And Che replied, “I thought you asked who was a Communist!”.

    This is supposed to be a true story. Che Guevara was actually Finance Minister of Cuba…

    1. alex morfesis

      Well neither fidel nor ernie lynch “took” havana…they had to be woken up from their usual hangover by their nytimes handler for the “staged” foto shoots…cienfuegos and prio were busy trying to start running a country by actually prepping to have some people ready to drive the buses the morning after the “made for tv” revolution…which is how we end up with fidel and ernie lynch as the guys who ran in front of the mob and declared a parade…which is funny enough…

  29. James McFadden

    “Did you ever think that making a speech on economics is a lot like pissing down your leg? It seems hot to you, but it never does to anyone else.” Lyndon Johnson

  30. jim Cornehls

    Two destitute economists who had lost their jobs, their wives, their children, their homes and all their assets were walking down an alley, searching for food scraps from garbage cans. One spots a dead cat, already cold and stiff. He says “Hey, let’s eat that dead cat.” The other economist says “No, I’m waiting for a free, hot lunch.” The first economist says: “I thought you were an economist. There’s no such thing as a free lunch, TANSTAAFL.

    They continue to walk and in about 15 minutes the economist who ate the dead cat vomits, throwing up the cat’s remains. The second economist says, “All your economic theories are wrong. See, I told you I’d get a free, hot lunch.”

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