Arnold Kling  

Scholastics and Pietists

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Daniel J. D'Amico and Daniel B. Klein write,


scholastics are more concerned with speaking to each other, distilling results, and passing them down through intermediaries to the laity. Pietistic figures are more interested in speaking directly to the everyman. They see themselves, not as the representative of an exalted priesthood, but as a facilitator or prompter of direct access to important truths and insights.

...It is natural to look to the Harvard department, the apex of the economics pyramid, for exemplification of the scholastic approach. George Mason, on the other hand, has an unusual emphasis in policy discourse and economic homiletics. Taking those two departments as representative of “scholastic” and “pietistic,” a comparison of website usage reflects the character of each. Harvard economists are clearly devoted to publishing in peer-reviewed, scholastic forums leaving them relatively less time to pursue other publications. Their web presence reflects this preference as it puts striking emphasis on sharing current working papers. George Mason reveals a preference for reaching audiences outside of the academy and into the laity. They publish extensively in alternative outlets and make a fuller use of the web to share their ideas and research.


The study leaves me wondering whether the results represent pure comparative advantage or whether there is an ideological factor involved. If they were to get similar results using Chicago as the scholastic department (as I suspect they might), then that might tend to rule against the ideological factor.

Another statistical measure they might have tried to employ is the ratio of hits on regular Google to hits on Google scholar, what I call the Internet amplification factor.

One may view blogs as in part a form of economic journalism. I believe that professional economic journalists tend to be an unimpressive lot, perhaps because they are chosen by editors who themselves are economically ignorant and biased. Economics bloggers face the selection biases of the pubic, not professional editors. Mankiw, DeLong, and Cowen/Tabarrok usually show up in the top five. My guess is that the people who read those blogs are much better off than comparable readers who rely solely on mainstream economic journalism.


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CATEGORIES: Economic Methods



COMMENTS (1 to date)
Katherine writes:

I'm not sure that Harvard and the University of Chicago are all that ideologically opposed to each other. Perhaps, they differ in the particulars, but both departments seem to worship mathematics as the be-all, end-all of economic inquiry and methodology. I recently read a paper, written by a new-generation Chicago economist, that looked like some poor sap's real analysis homework. Unfortunately, the divorce of deductive and inductive reasoning seems to be a trend omnipresent among elite departments.

Of course, this comment is barely sufficient to address the question, but it's my two cents. It also briefly explains why I have fallen out of love with economics. As Prof. McCloskey might say, the study of economics has become a bit too boyish, particularly as it concerns the effective use of tools (e.g. mathematics), for a women who knows that there is more to human behavior than Max. U and his Prudence-Only ethos.

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