…comes from pages 86-87 of Bruno Leoni’s 1961 work Freedom and the Law (3rd Edition, emphasis added):
Common citizens were the real actors in this respect [the formation of common law], just as they still are the real actors in the formation of the language and, at least partially, in economic transactions in the countries of the West. The grammarians who epitomize the rules of a language or the statisticians who make records of prices or of quantities of goods exchanged in the market of a country could better be described as simple spectators of what is happening around them than as rulers of their fellow citizens as far as language or the economy is concerned.
JMM: The economist as a scientist is one who observes, records, and explains phenomena. Our models and metrics work best when they are describing these outcomes. To use them to be prescriptive fundamentally changes the nature of the being. For example, to try to manipulate the price system to get higher wages (eg, a minimum wage) causes distortions: less labor is purchased, overall wages may drop, etc. Tariffs, as a means to produce more profit for firms, lead to overall poverty. It’s easy to boost some metric merely by monkeying about with its components. But do not fall into the mistake of thinking that now higher metric is comparable to the metric one observed before. GDP manipulated is not the same as GDP arisen from market transactions even though they superficially look the same.
The good economist, like the good jurist or the good grammarian or the good scientist, observes the world. He does not try to impose his own viewpoints onto the data. He is a discoverer of economic relations (or legal relations or grammatical relations etc), not a creator of one.
Somewhere along the line, this simple fact was lost. Economists are all about “policy recommendations” now. Optimal tariff this and carbon tax that. They have ceased being economists and have become applied mathematicians. Likewise, judges, lawyers, and legislators have ceased trying to discover the law (that the law is) and have moved toward telling us what the law should be. As such, they have ceased being judges, lawyers, and legislators and moved into being commanders of humanity. What they do can no longer be called law; it is a farce wearing the guise of law.