Monday, June 28, 2010

Twilight of the Economists

by Ryan McMaken

Cross posted at LRC blog.

The economics profession is experiencing a crisis of legitimacy. Well, not the whole profession, just the mainstream neo-Keynesian part that comprises the majority of the professional economist corps. Austrian economics, on the other hand, is in a state of renaissance since the old Keynesian sloganeering obviously isn't working anymore.

So, in response, an economist who works for the Federal Reserve, Kartik Athreya whines that the economics bloggers are mean and are undermining the real economists with PhD's who sit around with their computer models and debate whether the government should tax everything at a rate of 40 percent or 50 percent.

In reality, this isn't a matter of PhD's, since many brilliant economists from Ludwig von Mises to Joseph Salerno have had PhD's or an equivalent degree. So what Athreya really means is that non-PhD'ed economists -who point out the Olympus-like heights to which the non-Austrians have reached in being wrong about almost everything- should just shut up.

The Screed Against The Bloggers should be recognized as its very own genre of non-fiction now. It is a genre first developed by professional journalists who couldn't stand the fact that they were being upstaged by more informative, balanced and interesting bloggers who were gaining readership at the expense of the "official" organs of public information. Now the economists have joined in the game, and it's just as unseemly.

It is also worth noting, that there is no true real distinction between an economist with a PhD and one without. The National Association of Business Economists is filled with professional economists who lack PhD's but who are paid, professional economists. Yes, the economists with PhD's perhaps make up the majority of the NABE rolls, but Athreya's claim that real economists have PhD's is an arbritary novelty invented by Athreya in an effort to perhaps make himself feel better about all those years spent writing for obscure scholarly journals that no one ever reads.