Rational people don't waste their time worrying about rationality. So yes, economists are irrational oddities. Why should anyone care what they have to say? Well, beneath all of their fancy rhetoric, self-absorption, and masturbatory erudition, many economists actually have quite interesting things to say. Unfortunately, because they rarely communicate in any language spoken by humans, the majority of their most salient points are never known. Economicese. That's their language. It's like legalese, but far more rational and ten times more impenetrable. Fear not, though. I'm here to translate.
I'm a good translator because I barely speak the language myself. What? That's not encouraging? I used to worry about it, too. However, after some years studying economics I came to realize something important. It's the language of economics that is often incoherent. Let's illustrate this with a little analogy. Imagine learning a language. Say, French. After learning the basic grammar rules, your language teacher tells you they no longer apply when using bigger words or a thick accent. More still, actually learning French really isn't important. It's a very common language, and no one will be impressed by it. Better to learn Yiddish. If you become really good with Yiddish you'll be better able to intimidate your French speaking friends. If you simply belittle them enough for not speaking Yiddish, they'll feel too marginalized and will be too embarrassed to argue.
So it goes with economics. The most powerful, most well-established, most understood concepts - such as scarcity, the law of demand, and opportunity cost - get overshadowed by discussions of things like augmented Dickey-Fuller tests and instrumental variables. Do those latter concepts/approaches merit discussion? Certainly. But, not at the expense of communicating effectively. Complex methodology should not become an automatic replacement for simpler, more effective, more honest approaches, if such techniques suffice. Discussions limited to an elite cadre are not as subject to critique, and they are not as likely to be disseminated and operationalized. Indeed, much within economics is worse than wrong. Yes. Worse than wrong. A concept cannot be wrong if it cannot ever by operationalized or evaluated. Pure theory is fun for musing. Just like I enjoy those old metal puzzles with rings and odd shapes, I also enjoy musing over the financial applications of geometric Brownian motion. But, such theoretical musings are nothing more than an academic reverie if never applied. Many economists are beginning to realize this. Economics is waking up.
What if economics weren't the "dismal science"? What if economists spent a bit less time salivating over autoregressive distributed lags and a bit more time actively fighting inner-city poverty and malnutrition? What if economists creatively engaged with data analysis using tools and programs not developed 30 years ago? What if economists actually acknowledged the Web 2.0 revolution and used wonderful software tools and apps to better share their knowledge? What if economists actually had hearts?
Wow. Now that would be an incredible world in which to live. That would be a world in which I'd actually want to be known as an economist. Well, thank Schumpeter. Something good may yet come from this awful recession, because that spark of creative energy, that urge for a rebirth in the discipline of economics - it's just perceptible. You can see it flare up on the blogosphere and smolder in the Twitterverse. Once in a while, it even burns its way into newspapers and mainstream media. Most established economists, when they see this flame of renaissance, they unzip their pants and piss on it for all their worth. But not all. Somehow, I believe this fire of energy and truth will not be easily extinguished.
So, that brings me to my conclusion. Just what the hell my blog is about. All popular blogs try to capture some some unique angle, to tease out snippets of wisdom in a particularly specialized niche. I'm doing more of the same. My niche of note: new economics. I aim to use this blog as a forum to bring together the disparate voices of the economic renaissance. Every time I read an article or listen to a debate worthy of attention, I'll make certain to share it. In particular, I aim to pay particular attention to new methods, models, and the search for novel approaches.
I'd love to have you join me in the quest. Follow my blog. Share it with friends. Maybe it will lead to nothing. Then again, every avalanche starts with a pebble.