On the surface, two articles that popped up yesterday seem to be at odds. The cover story for the new issue of The Economist asks "What Went Wrong with Economics?" Yet the first page of the Personal section in yesterday's edition of The Wall Street Journal touts economists as "The New Stars of the Blogosphere."
Is economics (and by extension, are economists) to be reviled or revered? As it turns out, there's a bit of truth in both pieces. And the real story lies somewhere between the two extremes.
Let me start with the downer. The piece in The Economist spends considerable time on the fact that economists failed to see the current economic crisis developing. According to the intro paragraph, prior to the housing market collapse, economics was seen as the way to explain just about everything "from drug-dealing to sumo-wrestling." But then the bubble burst, financial powerhouses failed and policy-makers and theorists scrambled for an explanation.
The article continues by pointing out the problems were largely the result of shortcomings within the two areas of macroeconomics and financial economics. And in both cases, the cause may have been unjustified confidence in certain topics of study. As is often the case, it may have been the outsiders who were part of the problem - taking ideas and theories and fitting them to the moment rather than taking them to heart.
But as we see in the article and as was mentioned here recently, the event may provide the impetus for new interest the area and new research on relevant topics. That is often the case in this and other professions. And that provides a lead-in to the second article.
The Wall Street Journal piece talks about how economist bloggers have seen a rise in popularity. Economists with the ability to translate the complicated into the colloquial, to explain without equations, have been partially responsible for increased interest in the workings of the economy at all levels. And some of the bloggers highlighted are among the best. (Additional links in the story lead to lists of the top blogs, ranking them for originality, “geekiness,” and readability. (Several of them are on my blogroll.)
My question for you is "has the current economy increased your interest and your students' interest in things economic?" I look forward to your comments.