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Economics, the study of how wealth is created and distributed, is often referred to as 'the dismal science' - though not originally because of its tendency to discount the future. The staid image of economists has recently improved thanks to popular books by and about economists using economics to explain interesting phenomena.

Not so dismal

Economics was first called 'the dismal science' in a racist publication in 1849 by English author Thomas Carlyle criticizing economists of the day for justifying emancipation from slavery on the basis of racial equality.[1] Since then, however, the expression 'dismal science' has come to embody the popular notion of a discipline constantly warning its subjects of the negative future consequences of today's excessive behaviour.

More recently, economists like Professor Steven D. Levitt[2] of the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business have created renewed interest in economics as a way of explaining social and economic conundrums. Levitt's 2006 co-authored book "Freakonomics" used economic principles and concepts to explain a range of social phenomena from how abortion lowers violent crime to why drug dealers tend to live with their mothers.[3]


  1. Why Is Economics Called the Dismal Science?.
  2. Steve Levitt. University of Chicago Graduate School of Business.
  3. Freakonomics By Steven D. Levitt, Stephen J. Dubner. Google Books.