As the great Andy Zaltzman once said, “Fundamentally, [economics is] witchcraft in a pinstriped suit — it’s the art of telling people exactly what’s going to happen and then explaining why it didn’t.” Well, if economics is a form of witchcraft, one library stands alone in Edinburgh, Scotland, on an economic witch hunt.
Too many times in the past have economic “experts” sworn that their calculations were reliable, only to stand by with jaws on the floor as one economic recession (1929, for example) after another (2008, for another example) swept in like tornados. Somehow, the unfolding of events seemed to make perfect sense after the fact. But economic predictions were far from on the money.
And in this library, it’s all written down.
It’s called the Library of Mistakes, and this collection of literature has one goal: sensible economics, whimsically if not desperately hoping to educate the next generation of economists.
In the library is a small, cozy room lined with over 2,000 books, all on the topics of economics and finance. Writers like Karl Marx, Milton Friedman, Paul Krugman, and Michael Lewis are gathered together to address the economies of every country on the planet at their highest highs and lowest lows, and why.
It was formed after 2008 (read: after a devastating recession), and its curators say it’s an intellectual homage to “smart people [who] keep doing stupid things.”
According to them, economics shouldn’t only be the pursuit of those seeking economic employment in the fields of economics – should we really rely on them to keep the economy running well for all of its members? Rather, every person should have a chance to understand and better shape the economy they live within – and every person is another chance to do so. Most importantly, we should learn from past mistakes.
And like all other libraries, the sole purpose at this one is exactly that – to learn. And – if all will be for the best in the best of all possible worlds – prevent another recession.