Wednesday, February 11, 2009

As Economists Lose Jobs, Shouldn't This Blog Be Happy?

Strange is the day when we're posting a story about lousy economists losing their jobs and we're not happy about it. We'll return to that in a minute, but first, a confession. Prior to the Great Recession, we sort of always assumed that anyone who studied economics was kind of a bag who just wanted to get rich and had no real problem with structural class inequalities. They just wanted to understand the process through which wealth gets centralized (late-capitalism), and help it along, skimming a lil bit for themselves along the way. How wrong we were! Ironically, we are the bags.

There are plenty of great economists out there. Paul Krugman at the NY Times is the obvious favorite pick of a villainous lefty blog like this one. As Pareene over at Gawker wrote the other day, Krugman's righteous anger was honed during the Bush years, and is now aimed at the potential short-comings of the Obama administration and the obstructionist congressional Republicans. He has become, or maybe he's always been, the de facto spokesperson for liberals when it comes to economic issues.

We're fans of Andrew Leonard, over at Salon, and Tyler and Alex at Marginal Revolution, even though MR is goddamn impossible to understand half the time. They'll run lighter stories, like this one about saying "I love you," (hell of a coincidence in that one, too) that deal with everyday matters through an economics lens. Calculated Risk is a good one to check out when something huge happens. Planet Money on NPR has a wonderful, and jargon-free, podcast and blog.

Why mention all this shit? To return to the beginning of this post, job prospects for economists are looking kind of weak. Owen, at Valleywag, writes:

"The Wall Street Journal reports that the job market for practitioners of the dismal science is dreadful. Columbia University isn't hiring anyone this year. Three other colleges have stopped looking for economics professors. Harvard's hiring one professor, rather than two or three.

And academia is one of the few job options left, with investment banks having disappeared altogether."

We certainly aren't mourning the downfall of inherently irresponsible investment banks. Those guys can all go fuck themselves chapped (gftc) for all we care. Most ended up far better than they had any right to, and those who didn't got what was coming to them.

But there is something ironic about having your eyes opened to the wide spectrum of thought in the econ world right as it is facing a crisis of it's own. The world will be better off if a majority of undergrads decide to dedicate their life to public policy or non-profit work as opposed to studying economics, without question. Some one's gotta do that, though, and if Econ 101 was only taught by one professor, Krugman might not have become the superman he is now.

Here he is in action, opposite Bill O'Reilly, laying down the pipe.

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