Monday, June 7, 2010

Five Second ... Sociology of Economics

I'm thankful to Blattman who linked to this Mankiw post in his comment section last week on "The Sociology of Economics." The five second version between Mankiw, his questioner, and his questioner's economist friend:

Why is that
1. The economists are the most aggressive people in the room. 
2. The economists are the only social-scientists in the room that are willing to argue with the statisticians.
3. There seems to no love lost between the economists and other social-sciences.

The friend's answers
1. "In general, economists are smarter (we may be better looking too). ... Smart people don't have the time waiting for the less-smart to catch up. If we can finish up the seminar in 10 minutes, then why not do it?"
2. Economics graduate school is not for slackers. It's like boot-camp in the Army.
Third, the set of advocates who are economists is quite small (I don't know if this reflects treatment or selection). In general, economists are more likely to make up their minds about whether a particular policy works based on theory or data. They may have priors, but not the the sort of "do-gooder"priors that advocates have. One of the reasons that economists are so aggressive with the non-economists is that we want to expose all the priors immediately. In my view, a lot of non-economics social science is straight advocacy. There is an important role for advocacy. It may influence policy more than science. But the nature of advocacy is to simplify and ignore nuance and confounding. But our (economists) beef with advocacy isn't its lack of nuance. We just get really upset when advocacy masquerades as science.
Fourth, the economics job-market is just that -- a market.

Mankiw's additional answer: "Perhaps the skills that make a good economist are, for some reason, negatively correlated with the attributes associated with being an agreeable human being. That is, economics may attract people with a particular set of personality attributes, and perhaps these attributes are not the same set of attributes you might choose for your next dinner party."  ISTJ's seem prone to be economists in particular.

Your correspondent is usually scored as INTJ.

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