I just read this good post (which I discovered from a tweet by Claudia Sahm, @Claudia_Sahm on Twitter) about why academic economists don’t participate much in public discourse. It is aimed at UK academics, but to some extent applies elsewhere, too. The main point is that the incentives are all wrong, as the only thing UK universities want from faculty members is a stream of publications in esteemed journals, and furthermore academics can be awful at explaining to the general public their subject matter (and the general public wants to hear from journalists who pose as experts anyway, independently of whether these get things right).
Danny Blanchflower remarked on Twitter that UK economic discourse lacked much engagement from academics. This was a follow-up to a Paul Krugman post where he disparaged UK economic discourse, and used as his metric the fact that there was a lot of focus on the deficit. And that in turn derives from Simon Wren Lewis’ developing caricature of UK’s ‘mediamacro’.
Well, this blog is about why – supposing the assessment of our discourse to be true, which I don’t really accept in the way it was put – you shouldn’t blame the academics. Or perhaps anyone, except the market.
The first reason why is that there is little or no financial incentive to take part.
UK economics departments are partly assessed on ‘impact’. But there is almost no link to that and me, for example, piling into a debate about whether inflation 2pp below the BoE’s target is, as George…
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