Monday, December 19, 2005

We be hot 

Who knew economics could become the sexiest trade alive?
...economics is the hottest undergrad degree at Harvard and New York University; the number of econ majors is up some 40 percent over the past five years. Still not convinced? Two words: Angelina Jolie. Last fall she teamed with leading economist Jeffrey Sachs in an MTV documentary about Kenya's economy. That's hot.
Newsweek credits Freakonomics and Confessions of an Economic Hit Man. I can take or leave Freakonomics -- it's a fun read, but to think that's what economics is all about is at least misleading. It's a bit like deciding to be a county coroner because you saw a cool episode of Quincy. (The allusion to forensic medicine is intentional; see Gary Galles.) Confessions has been around over a year; it's a look at international economic consulting in conjunction with large international projects to write reports that encourage irresponsible lending by banks and international financial institutions. Folks like the late Jude Wanniski seemed to like the book; I thumbed it at a BN and thought it looked interesting but not exciting. But if it got me to sit next to Angelina Jolie, hell yes I'd read it! But there's not much new in there that we didn't know from other, more scholarly critical books of the World Bank or the IMF (sit down, Mr. Stiglitz, we're not talking about you). And it's interesting that what Newsweek thinks makes economics hot is an attack on international financial institutions and "an MTV documentary about Kenya's economy." Don't ask me why, but this makes me crabby.


h/t: reader jw