Tuesday, November 15, 2005

It's a long way to the top if you want to do economics 

Chad the Elder must have a lot of time on his hands in China.
As a rule, economists are not often the subject of heated and passionate debate.
You haven't read what they say about me on the campus discussion list! But of course, I had to read on after that teaser. What he discusses is this article in the China Daily that suggests mainstream economists are causing problems in China. This has been going on for awhile in China, and it stems from an article last Friday also in the China Daily that too many people are practicing economics without a license. They act too much as mouthpieces for the organizations they work for. Says the fellow in this interview,
A real economist should make academic research the first priority, not personal wealth, fame and rank. In western society, some economists become officials in government and big banks, but only after they have made distinguished and independent research achievements. And one day, they expect to return to their original field and resume research. Wealth, fame and rank are not their goals.
Those aren't my goals? Phew! I thought I was a failure. Wait until I tell the Missus! As Chad notes,
...what the hell are they smoking if they think being an economist is the way to pursue fame and wealth?
You have no idea, brother. No. Idea. At. All.

There is a serious question within this, and it's about economists as policy advisors. We play that role both formally and informally, and blogs have been a way for policy advice to be dispensed easily. Are econ blogs written by academic economists better than those written by corporate economists? I find both kinds useful. Those written by government and financial types, like David Altig's Macroblog (he a Federal Reserve economist, with Fedwatcher Tim Duy chipping in), or Arnold Kling, or the Don Luskins and Larry Kudlows in the blogosphere, contribute greatly to the understanding of daily events. They're like getting four pages of a financial paper's opeds every day. Academics can do that too, and some do it well, but the think-pieces of, say, a Nouriel Roubini or the two great minds at Cafe Hayek are the comparative advantage we have. There are hundreds of such blogs, and if you want to find new ones they are mostly aggregated at the Economics Roundtable.

"Mostly" because the owner of ERT still won't use my stuff. But then, this is no way to seek fame and wealth, or so I'm told.