Jan 4, 2013

The way economists communicate ideas

This is from Greg Mankiw's blog
Last October, Amazon introduced a new feature: a list of bestselling authors, aggregating across all books an author has written. Here is the list of the top 100 authors. 
For an economist, perusing the list is a humbling experience. As far as I can tell, not a single member of our profession made the list. I wonder whether Galbriath might have made it in his day, as he had written a large number of books accessible to general audiences. But these days, not a single one of us has wide enough readership to make it onto the list. The next time you are tempted to lament the sad state of the public discussion of economic policy, remember that we economists are probably not doing enough to educate the public.  
We just don't write things that people want to read.If you want to know what economists come closest, you can look at this list of bestselling authors in business and investment, a category that includes economics. Several of us make this less selective list.
We should remember that economists compete against great writers out there, including fiction-writers. Mankiw's post reminds me of why economics has been called the dismal science - not a very bright and welcoming nickname. My guess is that the majority of economists are doing research, and probably very few of them are trying to communicate economics ideas to the public. For a layperson it is very difficult if not impossible to understand an article from the top journals. Economics needs more intermediaries that can make the link between the highly technical (mathematical) papers and common knowledge to show how economics can be useful in the day a day life of people. 

Probably economics is not as beautiful as it is necessary. 

HT: Peter Boettke

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