David R. Henderson  

Bravo for Scott Sumner

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Should Macroeconometric Models... Capitalism and the Jews...

Co-blogger Bryan posted on one part of Scott Sumner's recent post on non-blog blogging. I find other parts of Sumner's post way more interesting. For example:

Now my biggest problem is time--I spend 6 to 10 hours a day on the blog, seven days a week.
Wow! Now I understand why the quality of his posts and his responses to commenters is so incredibly high.
So that's the goal of my blog, to constantly use theoretical arguments, empirical data, clever metaphors, and historical analogies that make people see the current situation in a new way. Whatever works, as long as it is not dishonest.
That one's beautiful. There's a true teacher.
In the real world I am not nearly as successful as it may appear from my blog. I got turned down by the AEA convention. In 2008 and 2009 I sent papers on the economic crisis out to journals like the JMCB and the JPE, journals that I have published at in the past. But now for the first time in my life the articles come back without even being sent out to a referee. "It's not the sort of thing we publish" they'd say. I gather this means they don't see enough equations. I hope it doesn't mean "because it addresses the most important macroeconomic problem since the 1930s." If you look at macro journals from the early 1930s they were actually discussing the current problems with the economy. Indeed as recently as the 1990s I often published non-technical papers in the JMCB. But those days are gone. They are looking for more VAR studies, more DSGE models. So at the higher levels of economics I am pretty much a dinosaur.
"It's not the sort of thing we publish" with no explanation? That one's troubling. It does raise the question (no, it doesn't beg the question--look at a logic text), though, about who is the dinosaur. After all, what motivates us to publish in high-ranked refereed journals? Sure, we get tenure, we get promoted, we get raises, and those are all good motivators. But if you're an economist, think back to why you wanted in the game in the first place. (Jerry McGuire moment talking to Rod Tidwell in the Arizona Cardinals' locker room.) Wasn't it because you wanted to influence how people thought? Wasn't it that you had important things you had learned or planned to learn and that you wanted other people to understand those things? So is the dinosaur Scott Sumner using the latest tools for communication and getting serious economists, academics, and, I would bet, some central bankers, around the world reading him? Or is the dinosaur the journal that says, without apparent explanation, "It's not the sort of thing we publish"?

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COMMENTS (5 to date)
ajb writes:

Most outsiders don't understand how much of the conflict in economics proper isn't about ideology, it's about methods and technique. It doesn't matter how outrageous or unpopular your ideas are, if the math is really good and interesting (where interesting is defined by the elites) you get published. If your ideas are interesting but insufficiently technical (again of the right form) you either get booted out or relegated to the margins of academia. This is the deepest problem that professional economic scholarship faces. There are some exceptions to this, but they are quite (ahem) exceptional.

jenn writes:

I'm just happy to see that someone still knows the difference between "raising" a question and "begging a question."

calmo writes:

ajb conflating economics with econometrics?
The failure of the discipline, economics, esp the vested principals...all those years of rocket-science like mathematics (wasn't that the message with the presentation of Kashkari? -a mechanical engineering graduate serving then Sec-Treasurer, former rugby star?) to concede that the models have no real characterization apart from a certain academic --licenced and tenured world that serves the public, eventually (those long and variable lags). Nobody likes to look stupid in front of a mathematician...not immediately.
So kudos to Scott and Nick and Mark and a few others.

Tom Dougherty writes:

I, too, found the other parts of Scott Sumners’ post more interesting than what Bryan had focused on. (In fact, I found Bryan's comments to be quite perplexing). The scary part of was it sounded like Scott was going to give up blogging altogether. Happily, it turns out, that he is just going to cut down a bit.

ajb writes:

I confuse nothing. I merely observe and don't approve. Whether we think modern econ is a failure or merely defective, its gatekeepers have set the rules and there is zero evidence that they are willing to give up this prerogative, nor that all the world's critics will have any real influence on what the profession values. Indeed I predict we'll see more papers that are just as pointless but now disguised as "real world" discussions of panics, Keynesianism, and irrational behavior. But it'll be the same game with no attempt to do more than signal the cleverness of the researchers.

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