Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Budgets and the distortions of media Economic Debates 

Today is the annual Big Parade that helps economics get a bad name for the rest of the year. Yes it is ‘the Budget’, and the media’s so-called economics experts will be on show.

One explanation of why the public perception of economics is so bleak is summarised in this quotation from a book published this month.

“What the non-specialist sees of economics is largely the kind of macroeconomic debate covered in the news programs and newspapers, the forecasts about how much the economy will grow, what will happen to inflation or the dollar, whether the financial markets will go up or down. Most of this economics is:
a) of poor quality and spuriously precise, as it is not possible to forecast these things in any detail, and shame on economists for still pretending it is;
b) jargon-ridden and possibly not understood even by the person spouting the jargon on television; and
c) being used for a purpose such as advancing one political party or gaining an investment bank some good PR.

No matter that this isn’t what most economists do, it is what most people mostly see of us. That the public face of economics is usually a dull but pompous middle-aged white man makes matters even worse.”

Coyle (2007) pp 237-238.

Food for thought here, even for LibDems?

By the way Diane Coyle’s book reads almost like a direct response to the economics arguments put forwards in the ‘Dreams of Freedom’ TV programmes – challenging, for example, the programme’s criticisms of games theory, and the view of current economics being ‘Autistic’ and debased by Cold War psychological hang-ups. More on this another time, perhaps.

Diane Coyle (2007) ‘The Soulful Science: What Economists Really Do and Why It Matters’ Princeton University Press.

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