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ESSA

Economics, The Science for Everyone


Yongjoon Paek

By

April 1st, 2012


There is a certain irony in economics. We economists would like to call ourselves scientists, but unlike the other scientists who are able to indulge in debate amongst the learned few of their field, economists are burdened with the obligation to debate amongst society as a whole.


Source: Photo illustraton/FogStock LLC/Newscom

There is a certain irony in economics. We economists would like to call ourselves scientists, but unlike the other scientists who are able to indulge in debate amongst the learned few of their field, economists are burdened with the obligation to debate amongst society as a whole. Where society includes scientists and non-scientists, people who are as educated as you and those who are not, people who often feel the unpleasantness of being too full and those who equally often must feel the unpleasantness of being hungry (don’t forget everyone in between too!).     

Almost ‘everyone’ has their own idea of how an economy should be, regardless of, on which rung in the societal ladder you stand.  This may seem as a caveat to quality debate and implementation of sound theory at first (the most obvious example being the deceptive blurring of the lines between politics and economics). However, this unique characteristic of economics being the science of the people has flowered a delightful phenomenon.

It is a tiring cliché to read about the wonders of the internet and how extraordinarily effective it has been as a mean to disseminate information. Nevertheless, this phenomenon has provided economists from everywhere in the world to engage in discussion and debate in the comfort of their own office (yes I am talking about blogging). It has also allowed the ‘people’ to have a voice in discussion, by either directly commenting on a post… or making a blog themselves.

What intrigued me to think about the blossoming of the blogo-sphere of economists was how unprecedented it is. Sure the IT people have active blogs where they get together and suggest better ways to do things; and sure, the theoretical physicist could have a blog where he talks about subatomic particles and string theory. But who has ever seen such an inclusive and competitive blogging niche like that of economics?

Even as I’m writing, economists are literally ‘battling it out’ with each other, and with quite a bit of passion too. One example would be Paul Krugman’s recent post “The Microfoundation Thing (wonkish)”. This post is Paul Krugman’s opinion on microfounded models as a response to Mark Thoma whose post was a response to Simon Wren-Lewis!  And the people put their votes on who they agree with by showing some sort of fan-dom to the economists. Who knew? Economists can be internet celebrities too.

What this has done, is that it has created a kind of entertainment culture, while increasing the inclusiveness and quality of economic information available to everyone. This is a good thing because now, by regularly following a few prominent economics blogs, we can be entertained (well I am anyway), be informed about the different economic perspectives of different economists, and have a voice.

As economists, and also as people participating in the economy, we should actively take part in this new phenomenon. Embrace it to amplify your own voice and views on the economy. If everybody actively engages in these debates, who knows? Maybe in the long run, the invisible hand will correctly pick out the correct theory, policy and argument.

The views expressed within this article are those of the author and do not represent the views of the ESSA Committee or the Society's sponsors. Use of any content from this article should clearly attribute the work to the author and not to ESSA or its sponsors.

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