Saturday, November 2, 2013

Something to keep in mind

This point came up in an article on what makes a good criticism of economics:
And sorry economists, this sign also works the other way.  There have been some great economic analyses of other fields, but if you’re reading an economic critique of another academic field – “if only they were more statistically rigorous like us” – there’s a good chance it’s breaching the equivalent 18 signs for that field.
The 18 signs come from Chris Auld

I actually think that this piece is really important.  Just like economists do not like outsiders wandering into economics and making sweeping statements about how the field has issues, other fields aren't thrilled when economists do it. 

Now there are some borderline cases: health economists often know a lot about epidemiology, for example.  But then they also, most of the time, tend to be cautious.  I've worked with enough health economists now that I certainly realize the dangers of boldly striding into their field. 

The most polarizing figure, for a long time, was Emily Oster.  But she is really smart and her health related work has become really first rate at this point (any field can occasionally welcome a smart and careful self-taught pundit).  In fact, recently she has been on the side of the weight of the data with her pregnancy book (which I expected to loathe given the pre-publication advertising).  This isn't to say she got everything right, but that I am now convinced she has taken the time to understand the field and make important contributions.

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