The Internet And An Abundance Of Plain-English Writing Have Made Economics Accessible To Everyone.
Economics is the study of how societies use scarce resources to produce valuable goods and services and distribute them across society. The articles posted on this website are selected from major think tanks, public institutions, and sometimes economics blogs. In selecting the articles, I apply the criteria in the table below as best I can.
Standards for Articles Posted on This Site
|Selection Criteria||Desired Attributes|
|Framing of Issue||Minimal ideology indicated, emphasis on empirical methods. For example, if the writing is imbued with ‘corrupt capitalism’ or ‘ big government solutions’ as original sins, the analyses and solutions will be heavy on platitudes, light on messy real world complexity. Narrative should be driven by empirical analysis, logical consistency and recognize both private and social costs & benefits as appropriate.|
|Recognition of Nuance & Complexity||Good economic analysis acknowledges the nuance and complexity in the issue itself, the varied market and public sector influences, and potential weaknesses or risks in prescribed solutions. See framing of issue.|
|References, Data Support||Article/paper provides additional related links or references to supporting studies or data sources. Author discloses shortcomings of available data as appropriate.|
|Clarity of Writing||main idea (thesis) – explanation / reasoning (justification) – evidence / example (support)|
Why These Criterion?
I tend to favor analyses that recognize nuance and complexity and reject political ideology as the primary message. Why? Ideologues too often confuse platitudes for economic principles, emphasize dogmatic consistency over pragmatism, and thus ignore real world glaring variations and exceptions that conflict with their a priori beliefs about how the world works. Humility about economics and a focus on empirically-driven solutions to problems often accompany writings that acknowledge nuance and complexity.
Do Economists Believe They Are Biased?
Economists generally believe they are free of ideological bias. A survey of 2400 professional economists conducted in 2019 clearly demonstrated the opposite is true. The analysis by the survey’s authors at the link below scores well when applying the above criterion. A good read…
Then, What Good Is Economics?
Economics is a useful discipline to frame our larger reality, grasp how a given economic issue affects us, and temper our political/economic understanding of the world around us.
From Ben Bernanke:
“Economics… is superb at explaining to policymakers precisely why the choices they made in the past were wrong. About the future, not so much. However, careful economic analysis does have one important benefit, which is that it can help kill ideas that are completely logically inconsistent or wildly at variance with the data. This insight covers at least 90 percent of proposed economic policies.”
Ben Bernanke , 2013 speech at the Baccalaureate Ceremony at Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey
From Professor Paul Romer, Nobel Prize recipient, Who Wishes All Economists Would Adopt the Late Physicist Richard Feynman’s Scientific Integrity:
“Call this Feynman integrity.”
“…That is the idea that we all hope you have learned in studying science in school—we never explicitly say what this is, but just hope that you catch on by all the examples of scientific investigation… It’s a kind of scientific integrity, a principle of scientific thought that corresponds to a kind of utter honesty—a kind of leaning over backwards. For example, if you’re doing an experiment, you should report everything that you think might make it invalid—not only what you think is right about it: other causes that could possibly explain your results; and things you thought of that you’ve eliminated by some other experiment, and how they worked—to make sure the other fellow can tell they have been eliminated.
Details that could throw doubt on your interpretation must be given, if you know them. You must do the best you can—if you know anything at all wrong, or possibly wrong—to explain it. If you make a theory, for example, and advertise it, or put it out, then you must also put down all the facts that disagree with it, as well as those that agree with it. There is also a more subtle problem. When you have put a lot of ideas together to make an elaborate theory, you want to make sure, when explaining what it fits, that those things it fits are not just the things that gave you the idea for the theory; but that the finished theory makes something else come out right, in addition.
In summary, the idea is to try to give all of the information to help others to judge the value of your contribution; not just the information that leads to judgment in one particular direction or another.”
Full text of Feynman’s 1974 commencement address here:
Economics is incorporating findings of ‘behavioral economics’, a relatively new development (several decades) that is helping the field to evolve– the goal being eventually there will be no need for a separate behavioral economics theory.
“Behavioral economics (BE) uses psychological experimentation to develop theories about human decision making and has identified a range of biases as a result of the way people think and feel. BE is trying to change the way economists think about people’s perceptions of value and expressed preferences. According to BE, people are not always self-interested, benefits maximizing, and costs minimizing individuals with stable preferences…”