January 4, 2008

Undercover Economist

So, this is day 3 of the course, and assuming just a chapter a day, you should be reading today about perfect markets and the world of truth. Or, given your first posting is due in just 2 more days, maybe you've already finished the first 5 chapters of Harford's book.

Well, how do you like the book so far? Can this book really be about economics? I've been through the entire book and there is not one graph in it.

Harford ends his book with:
In the end, economics is about people -- something economists have done a very bad job at explaining. And economic growth is about a better life for individuals -- more choice, less fear, less toil and hardship.
Assuming Harford is correct, why do you suppose economists have done such a bad job at explaining themselves?


Douglas Loeper said...

I don't believe it's just a matter of economists explaining themselves poorly. Not at least as a whole (take Harford's book for example or Freakonomics by Levitt). I believe it's an occurance you often run into when any given profession or group of people try to educate, explain somethign related to their field, present policy or other wise 'share ideas' with outsiders.

It's part of the human condition to assume. I assume you know what I'm talking about, I assume you'll see what I see and interpet it the same way, I assume you're caring what I'm talking about and I assume that you're going to make all the same conclusions as I do. This idea goes for not just for economists but for teachers, politicians, hobbyists or whatever you will.

It comes to the point that I believe why economists have such a poor history of explaining themselves is because those who are given the public arena to do so aren't being put in a role they should be. Being the most brillant economist of the century doesn't make you a good teacher, public speaker or representative of the Econ culture. Some are great at it, alot fail at it. Perhaps economists just need better Diplomats or PR people.

Roman Kozhevnikov said...

The popular news and media hardly ever feature economists themselves. Sure, some fancy news programs do, but not the everyday news that most people watch. Especially now that Greenspan is gone (I did see him in the news.), it seems like the economic situation in the U.S. is always filtered by news anchors, so I don't think economists are pushed to explain themselves very well. They let the numbers and publicists translate the information into "normal people" language.

Unfortunately, because of this economics may seem unreachable and un-understandable to average people. Afterall, if economists stay held up in litte offices (or big offices), how can average people ever possibly know what is going on inside their heads?

I'm glad Harford didn't use any graphs, because the basic concepts of economics don't need graphs to explain. This book isn't meant to tutor someone through a 4-year degree in economics. It is meant to shed light on topics that most people aren't aware of, or if they are aware of them, they might not be thinking of them in the most beneficial ways.

Just my $.02, though.