We had an interesting discussion recently regarding a way that economics is a community, more so than other academic fields such as epidemiology, statistics, political science, etc.
But I ask you, where are the numerous cases of leading epidemiologists screaming bloody murder to the press, or on their blogs, or in any other manner, that the most commonly used model for this all-important policy analysis is deeply wrong and in some regards close to a fraud?
As Delaney noted, statisticians and epidemiologists have been writing about this on their (our) blogs! Maybe Cowen was been spending too much time following pundits on twitter?
I asked Cowen what he thought about this, and he replied:
Not remotely like what economists do when say Judy Shelton is nominated for the Fed. And Shelton is not even the most important event of our lifetimes.
Interesting point. I don’t think that statisticians and epidemiologists—or, for that matter, sociologists or political scientists or computer scientists—have the sense of being a community in the same way that economists do. Economists can, to first approximation, “speak with one voice.” They identify with their profession. Even the “heterodox” economists seem keenly sensitive that they are part of the economics community, even when feeling they are in the minority on some issues. This is a strength (or, sometimes a weakness) of the economics profession, that economists think of “economist” as their primary identity. I don’t feel like statisticians or epidemiologists have that same feeling of loyalty/love/hate/belonging to their professions. Maybe I’d say that economics has some aspects of an ethnicity, in the way that we see lapsed Catholics, or Jews who are annoyed at Henry Kissinger, or whatever. A sense of community and belonging, even if you don’t feel like you completely belong.
Perhaps one indication of this is that I’ve never heard of Judy Shelton! And I bet that most statisticians have no idea who’s in charge of the Census Bureau or the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
I think this is an important general issue to consider, the cohesion of academic fields. I remain struck by the idea that economists feel a certain responsibility for each other, and expect other fields such as epidemiologists to do the same.
P.S. Lots of interesting discussion in comments, which leads me to want to clarify one point. The above post is not intended to be a criticism of economics or economists. It’s just an observation, or an impression I have, that the field of economics is more cohesive than other academic fields in social science. Cohesion is neither good or bad in itself.