Monday, December 03, 2007

Autism and Economics

After reading a previous post, a father (who happens also to be an economist) registers a complaint:


I enjoy reading your blog. But I have a complaint today.

I am not one of those who is perpetually offended by incorrect words or descriptions. In fact, I find most such people to be petty totalitarians-in-training.

I did do a full stop, however, when I ran into the phrase "post-autistic economics." As the father of two daughters with autism, it strikes me as a particularly odious phrase.

People with autism have enough difficulties without having their problems used as a punchline by intellectuals.

I fully understand that you did not invent the term, but a word of reproach for its inventors might be in order.

Thank you.
[name withheld]

The French students who coined the term "post-autistic economics" chose it because they feel that mainstream economists share some of the deficiencies associated with the condition of autism. But I agree with the letter writer that use of the term indicates a lack of empathy and understanding for those who live with actual, severe autism.

Addendum: For those interested in the topic of actual autism, let me recommend the book A Different Kind of Boy, written by economist Daniel Mont about his autistic and mathematically gifted son Alex. It may be the most moving book I have ever read written by an economist. I also recommend the novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, which is written in the first person from the standpoint of a character with autism.