May 2007 Archives

Returns to being an Economist

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It must be good being an economist these days. As Chris Hayes details in his re-cast Nation article (re-cast, that is, from essentially the same framework of this one: rationality isn't perfect, the models don't explain everything, people are taught only one thing from the start, other opinions get too little notice, etc. etc., so on and so forth) there are a lot of people who, while arguing that economics is built on a cracked and crumbling foundation, wish desperately to be considered economists themselves.

Clearly, these are people who could be anthropologists, sociologists, demographers, public policy analysts, or any number of other things. But they are fighting tooth and nail with the economic establishment, and obviously wish to be part of a new generation of economists. Some are established names, some are names from outside the academy, some are newer names looking for recognition.

So why not go off to be something other than an economist? After all, political science has seen a dramatic turn to the quantitative and empirical over the past decades. Perhaps that would be a better perch from which to lob critiques.

Since so many people still wish to lay claim to the title "economist" (or some modified version thereof, like Social Economist Economic Sociology; the real crux being that the word appear somewhere in the title), but have such fundamental problems with the establishment, I can only conclude that there are greater returns to being known by others to have a command of economics or, even better, be an economist than they are to being known as something else.

Aside: The major problem I have with people arguing that the "neoclassical consensus" is manipulating the system is that they all seem to assume that there is value in a critique simply because it is a critique. Chris Hayes' article(s) are wonderful demonstrations that a critique may exist and yet provide absolutely no value to the overarching argument. End Aside

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