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Balanced Fare: We Report, You Deride

Friday, February 28, 2003

TAPPED Out on Economists

When the link to "The Onion" is slow, there is always "TAPPED". And how do they bring a wry smile to our weary visage today? Not satisfied with putting out a first class blog, they have decided to determine just who in this great wide world can claim the title of "economist":

...We finally found a link to the White House press release, titled "250 Economists Endorse President Bush's Jobs and Growth Plan". We could point out that they only have 250 economists to the 450 that are opposed to Bush's plan, but it's more interesting to look at what, exactly, the meaning of the word "economist" is.

There follows a long bit "exposing" the absence of credentials amongst many of the signers, before we get to the payoff:

Now, one needn't be a credentialed economist to have an opinion on the Bush budget. But traditionally, you don't get to call yourself an economist without that sheepskin.

Although it is always delightful to hear a forward looking liberal invoke "tradition", my immediate response is "Says who?" Donald Luskin dances all over this point, but I am not so easily satisfied. Off I went to the website of the American Economic Association, and checked their job openings.

The phrase "barrel fishing" came to mind. Checking the commercial openings hardly seemed to be necessary - those capitalist whores will hand a paycheck and a fancy title to any charlatan that can help them make a buck. However, I had hopes that the US Government might be stodgy, unimaginative, and strict in their standards. Wrong! After one hit on a job requiring a PhD in Economics, my next two were here and here.

So what's up with this:

"Candidates should have the ability to write for a general audience. Experience working at a research institution and graduate training in economics or public policy are preferred." and

"Qualifications include advanced degree--Ph.D. or Master's degree in economics, policy analysis or related discipline with a strong quantitative background and at least two years of experience in health policy.

TOTALLY non-traditional! A mere Master's Degree? My Goodness, Jane Galt could declare herself to be an economist, and the US Gov't would agree!

Well, the shock was a bit much, so I retreated to the academic sector, where I felt confident that reason, right, and traditional values would be upheld. But what now?

"Qualifications include a Ph.D. in economics, mathematics, statistics, or a related field (mathematical economics)";

"The successful candidate will: have an outstanding research record and an international reputation in the field of real estate finance; have demonstrated a potential for leadership through publication in internationally recognized journals, external fund raising, and leadership of a research group."
[Oh, man, they want an ex-Wall Streeter, and that is at Cambridge!]

"Candidates should have a Ph.D. in economics or finance"; Ooops, TAPPED said this: "Emile J. Brinkmann of the Mortgage Bankers Association of America has a Ph.D. -- in finance, not economics.

Well, I lost interest at that point, although I would love to find a graceful segue to mathematician John Maynard Keynes.

However, another point still troubles me. Is it a tradition in journalism that reporters go to journalism school? TAPPED does a lot of reporting - I hope their staff are all properly credentialed, and not simple talented but untrained cross-over types.

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