May 03, 2004

Economic Debunking

Tyler Cowen talks about the sad state of economic knowledge in the US over at Marginal Revolution. The idea is being batted around for economists to collectively concentrate on removing economic illiteracy regarding topics that a broad majority have reached a consensus on. Tyler Cowen isn't so fond of the idea:

I have mixed feelings toward this attitude. Even if more instruction would improve economic performance, I am concerned it would damage our long-run ability to track truth. Plus for me it would make economics less fun. I, for one, would not devote my life to being a missionary for the theory of free trade and comparative advantage.

What he's missing is the idea of attacking economic illiteracy in the same way that junk science is being addressed. You don't need to devote an awful lot of man hours because economic errors tend to come in recognizable varieties and types. There's no real need to craft individualized debunkings, just a Frequently Debunked Idiocy (FDI) list that is maintained and done clearly and entertainingly. Like good economists, there could be a division of labor with each economist participating in the project just taking their usual low level efforts at debunking and submitting them for inclusion into the FDI list. After awhile, you don't even have to do the common debunkings anymore as there will be dozens of relevant ones on most topics available.

Posted by TMLutas at May 3, 2004 02:00 PM