Why is economic discussion considered small talk?

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TheDoctor82
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04 Mar 2010, 4:44 am

I was at the reception of my girlfriend's mom yesterday, and at both her wake, and the reception, I heard folks who were in their '50s and '60s talking about "how terrible the economy is, and how it used to be better" and all that jibber-jabber( worth noting: economics is one of my special interests...they're wrong, but that's besides the point).

It got me wondering: why oh why do people insist on talking about "the economy" in small talk--especially when they're somewhat older folk--when they obviously have no basic understanding of economics as it is? Trust me...if you know economics well enough, it's almost like listening to 5 year olds elaborate on sexual intercourse.

I just...don't understand that appeal; it's like they just think they know everything, and they know nothing...but...why is that small talk?

Economics is sort of a big thing...if ya shrug it off as "small talk", you obviously have no basic understanding of it regardless...



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04 Mar 2010, 4:53 am

It is small talk because you can't do anything about it except write your congressman. Kinda like the weather.


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TheDoctor82
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04 Mar 2010, 4:57 am

sufi wrote:
It is small talk because you can't do anything about it except write your congressman. Kinda like the weather.


I didn't know I could write my congressman about the weather....



auntblabby
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04 Mar 2010, 5:42 am

maybe it has something to do with the fact that many wags call it "the dismal science." maybe dismal=small somehow? obviously a very superficial take on it. but most folk think they know enough about the economy [at least their local area of it] to parlor-talk about it without seeming too foolish. wasn't it harry truman who said that if you lined up all the economists end to end, they still would point in all directions? just like the rest of humanity.



TheDoctor82
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04 Mar 2010, 5:51 am

auntblabby wrote:
maybe it has something to do with the fact that many wags call it "the dismal science." maybe dismal=small somehow? obviously a very superficial take on it. but most folk think they know enough about the economy [at least their local area of it] to parlor-talk about it without seeming too foolish. wasn't it harry truman who said that if you lined up all the economists end to end, they still would point in all directions? just like the rest of humanity.


fair enough; makes sense.

I just find it sad that something like economics they treat like parlor talk when it's considerably in-depth, and would be far better to be treated as such.

but then...what you said about humanity does in fact hold true....



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04 Mar 2010, 8:20 am

The thing machine.

Back in the day it was about how much the house appraised for. For most that went up a thousand a month. The other was the 401K, and the conversation was about how rich I am.

Now that fortunes have reversed, it is not how poor I am, it is the economy.

Personal credit for the bubble times, Swiss Bankers shorting the Pound and hedging the Yen when they are falling behind on ten credit cards, Home Equity loans, and those leased his and her Hummers.

While 80% may still be working, the slide in market and home values continues, but they are stuck.

Just a few years ago they were the fortunate with the full support of the Republican Party and God.

In 2005 they would have voted to abolish Food Stamps and Unemployment.

If they had any understanding of economics they would not be where they are. The Economy is like Global Warming, something too large to take personal blame for.

The other complaint I hear is Business is bad. When 80% were set up as a tax shelter, lost thousands a month, they took up space, drove up rents, and blocked new business. Now they own or have a long term lease on a storefront that showed a small profit in two out of five years, and losses that took their tax liability. Tax shelter and money laundering is not business.



EnglishInvader
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04 Mar 2010, 3:02 pm

TheDoctor82 wrote:
sufi wrote:
It is small talk because you can't do anything about it except write your congressman. Kinda like the weather.


I didn't know I could write my congressman about the weather....


There's no reason why you can't write to politicians about the weather. Just don't expect a response from them :lol:.



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04 Mar 2010, 3:35 pm

That's one thing that I will never understand. How could it possibly be small talk?


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04 Mar 2010, 5:03 pm

I think the reason has to do with the way NTs socialise and maintain social order. Economics has to do with money and assets which represents acquisition of resources. The acquisition of resources is a key factor in someones place in the social order. By making economics the subject of small talk it removes wealth from the social equation at that time. So people dont feel put down or get feelings hurt.

A factual statement about economics may indicate you know how to make some decisions to acquire wealth and increase ones social status. This could be felt as a threat. Males in particular would react this way because they want to display ability to acquire wealth to women for mating purposes.



arielhawksquill
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04 Mar 2010, 5:28 pm

The economy affects everybody, just like the weather, so it's fair game for anybody to talk about. I'm sure meteorologists are as annoyed by uninformed laymen's small talk about the weather as you are about small talk about economics, but the majority of people are neither meteorologists nor economists.



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04 Mar 2010, 6:19 pm

I used to think small talk was things like "what's up?" "how are you?" but it's more than that.

So I can do small talk after all but that depends. If I am curious about something, I am doing small talk.



LukeInFlames
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04 Mar 2010, 8:57 pm

I'm finding the angle of this discussion rather weird.

like hawksquill said... do you have to be an expert on something before you can open your mouth and talk about it? People talk about things they don't know about so they can learn more about it. tossing ideas back and forth. expressing solidarity when they agree, arguing when they don't, etc.

Most conversation is just wind, and average schmos talking about economics is probably mostly wind too. but the subject is 'in the air' at the moment, you can't deny it.

besides, even most economists don't understand 'the economy'. get a bunch in a room with opposing theories, and they start sounding like cats stuffed in a sack.

my 2 cents,

-Luke



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04 Mar 2010, 10:29 pm

TheDoctor82 wrote:
I just find it sad that something like economics they treat like parlor talk when it's considerably in-depth, and would be far better to be treated as such.
....


additional disorganized thoughts on the subject-

both economics and meteorology are both sufficiently complex subjects that nobody outside of the university bigbrained bunch can possibly have it all under their belts, at least no more than a very superficial grasp of either subject. supercomputers crunch reams of bytes day and night trying to make better sense of both areas of study. short of ultimate computer resolving power, both subjects have a certain irreducible opacity which makes viewing their most fundamental inner workings/ramifications a futile exercise. however, this never stopped anybody from b!tching about both subjects from afar, as passive pawns of the world money schemes from "echelons beyond reality" as well as folk who are trying only to stay sheltered from mysteriously fickle weather. come to think of it, in both areas one is likely to notice that "when it rains, it pours." iow, one doesn't have to be the captain of the ship to notice that it is taking on water. it is this "taking on water" that constitutes the "parlor talk" which is most of the economically-oriented small talk.



psychohist
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04 Mar 2010, 11:32 pm

TheDoctor82 wrote:
I heard folks who were in their '50s and '60s talking about "how terrible the economy is, and how it used to be better" and all that jibber-jabber( worth noting: economics is one of my special interests...they're wrong, but that's besides the point).

Actually, you are the one that is wrong about that part. Speaking as someone who did econometric modeling as a profession for a few years, the economy did used to be better, most recently back in the 1980s and 1990s. Perhaps you weren't in the job market back then.

And of course, the economy was not in a recession as recently as early 2008.

I do agree with you that small talk about the economy is pointless. Of course, that's the whole point of small talk: it's something pointless that everyone can agree on. It's obvious even to the man on the street that we're in a recession, so it's something that can be safely griped about - kind of like the weather, as sufi said.



TheDoctor82
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05 Mar 2010, 4:30 am

psychohist wrote:
TheDoctor82 wrote:
I heard folks who were in their '50s and '60s talking about "how terrible the economy is, and how it used to be better" and all that jibber-jabber( worth noting: economics is one of my special interests...they're wrong, but that's besides the point).

Actually, you are the one that is wrong about that part. Speaking as someone who did econometric modeling as a profession for a few years, the economy did used to be better, most recently back in the 1980s and 1990s. Perhaps you weren't in the job market back then.

And of course, the economy was not in a recession as recently as early 2008.

I do agree with you that small talk about the economy is pointless. Of course, that's the whole point of small talk: it's something pointless that everyone can agree on. It's obvious even to the man on the street that we're in a recession, so it's something that can be safely griped about - kind of like the weather, as sufi said.


actually good sir, the only reason I said that was because even then, they were complaining. I'm nearly 30 years old, and not only am I a fanatic for economics, but I love history and economic history.

There really are a ton of variables at play, and to be fair, I'm still trying to get in contact with several economists to ask some questions about the economies of several previous decades, including some periods in the 1800s.

In some cases, it's not that the economy actually was better, but just seemed that way because short-term solutions were being applied that in the long run would only crash and burn.

I'm not saying it in the specific instances you mentioned, but there have been several times in history when everyone said "the economy was absolutely booming"....yet "under the microscope" there was more going on than met the eye.

Naturally also many commonly believed ideas about economic history couldn't be further from the truth.

But you raised a very good point: small talk is pointless cause it's just something everyone can agree on.

Yet it also brings up another question: why is something like this a topic people "happily discuss" in this case? I understand the "nothing we can do about it" mentality( although that too is utter crap), but then....why even mention it?

People get enjoyment about making small-talk regarding seemingly depressing situations? Makes my mouth drop, and my head hurt...