stimulus spending

Are Non-Economists Entitled To An Opinion On the Economy?

Here is a debate I've been having with my brother-in-law over the past few weeks. I'd like to hear some thoughts on it:

My stance is that economics is extraordinarily complicated. I can pretty quickly come up with a list of well-pedigreed experts and Nobel prize winners on either side of any economic issue. The list of economists who think that the stimulus saved the US economy from depression is long, but so is the list of economists who think that FDR's efforts prolonged and deepened a recession.

I am a criminal lawyer, not an economist. I took two classes (Macro and Micro) in Economics in college. I listen to podcasts such as Russ Robert's EconTalk. I've read a few books such as Paul Krugman's The Return of Depression Economics, and I read the occasional posting on sites like this. However, the more I read, the more I'm convinced that I don't have the energy or the time to really delve into the complexities of these issues to the point where I could have what I would consider an informed, intelligent opinion.

My brother-in-law, in contrast, thinks that economics can be reduced to extremely simple principles that are readily understood by anyone realistic enough to face facts: 1) if you teach a man to fish, he'll eat for years, instead of just giving him a fish 2) deficit spending will destroy our children's futures and 3) taxing rich people destroys jobs and sends investments overseas.