Why bank economists get all the good TV slots

I mentioned a few weeks ago the essay “Life Among the Econ”. In the latest issue of Economic Papers, Alex Millmow and Jerry Courvisanos take up the theme, arguing that Australian academic economists should be less reticent when it comes to participating in policy debates. Here’s their abstract – click on the title for the full text.

The Two Tribes of ‘The Econ’: A Study of Economists and Economic Media Commentary in Australia
Alex Millmow and Jerry Courvisanos
This article discusses and speculates upon an interesting and unsettling development within the Australian economic profession. It argues that there is a schism within the profession when it comes to providing economic commentary to the media. It appears that only financial market economists are having their voices heard. This has implications for the acceptance of economic policy since they usually uphold the interests of their employer. Apart from giving an untoward bias to policy academic economists suffer in turn from a lack of recognition and reach. We present evidence showing that today’s generation of academic economists, in contrast to previous generations, are becoming reticent on matters of public policy.

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8 Responses to Why bank economists get all the good TV slots

  1. Ujang says:

    In Indonesia, the incentive structure is such that newly minted economics PhDs would earn so much recognition (and wealth) from appearing on TV and non-academic seminars that many of them won’t have time to do any actual academic research. Giving economic commentary is not a form of “outreach” from the academia because they were never really in. It does have the similar effect of making the existing but small number of academic economists restrained from engaging in policy debates publicly.

  2. Gavin says:

    So where are all the economists hiding?

    The Australian Government Department of Employment and Workplace Relations was recently unable to recruit a new Chief Economist from outside the department, and has ongoing difficulty finding enough economics grads.

    Discalimer: I work for DEWR, and the above is public knowledge,

  3. christine says:

    Ha. Ha ha ha. You’re kidding aren’t you? I strongly encourage these guys to do a comparison of Australia and Canada. It’s not just that economics commentary is massively better informed in Australia (as the authors point out), but that academics are doing a lot more of the work in Australia than over here. I suspect this is true on a per capita basis if you compare with the US, too (though not sure per capita is the right comparison – how many Krugmans does one country need?).

    Also: if you add up quantity, financial market economists are going to win because they are asked to comment every day on minor, largely irrelevant things. No self-respecting academic economist would do this. And they shouldn’t.

    I would actually like more hard evidence – this seems to me to be rather impressionistic. The only real attempt at evidence was the Fin Review table, but I don’t really know how to read that. And how do we deal with blogs?

    On DEWR recruiting problems: as an undergrad, I didn’t take labour or public econ because the names sounded boring compared with international or development. Likewise, DEWR sounds boring compared with, say, Treasury, or Foreign Affairs, or Environment or whatever it’s called now or, for some people, Allen Consulting or the Commonwealth Bank. And “Canberra” sounds even more boring to most people. Not fair or sensible, but likely true. Sorry! Any way to make it sound exciting?

  4. Treasury is having recruriting problems too – they have been employing graduates from other disciplines and sending them back to uni to build their economics knowledge.

  5. Andrew Leigh says:

    I think the DEWR issue may also have to do with how that particular department is perceived by outside researchers. Rightly or wrongly, many Australian economists seem to have the sense that DEWR isn’t terribly keen on publicly-disseminated research — at least on important questions where we don’t already know the answer.

  6. Patrick says:

    The banks are having recruitment problems as well, don’t worry! As is everyone in financial services or related fields.

    how many Krugmans does one country need‘? – one less than America presently has, I’d suggest 🙂

  7. christine says:

    Treasury’s having recruiting problems? Wow. Perhaps the difference between now and back in my day was that I managed to graduate in the middle of a recession. Still reckon the Canberra fixed effect remains, but. The main reason for people in my cohort finding other jobs was they wanted to get out of Canberra – though I always rather liked the place myself.

    Patrick – glad someone used the lead in.

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