Economics and similar, for the sleep-deprived
A subtle change has been made to the comments links, so they no longer pop up. Does this in any way help with the problem about comments not appearing on permalinked posts, readers?
Update: seemingly not
Update: Oh yeah!
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Freakonomics does Hayek, oh my
How important was Hayek? A JSTOR search will give the answer! With much fuckuppery, including the surprising news that a search for references to Friedrich August (von) Hayek using the term "FH Hayek" doesn't turn up many results. Plenty of methodological issues without which it wouldn't be Freakonomics, but really, on questions like this I tend to take the view that "if something isn't worth doing, it isn't worth doing well".
The trouble is that this citation count is intrinsically screwed as a methodology - for example, I would hazard a guess that Katarina Juselius would get at least half as many JSTOR citations as Hayek. She was co-author with Soren Johansen of a really amazingly useful paper that sorted out how to test for cointegration in vector-error-correction models and was cited by nearly every applied paper in the 80s and 90s, and she's a perfectly good economist, but I would strongly suspect that my non-Danish general readers had never heard of her.
And even beyond that, take a look at Wolfers' final excuse for this monumentally screwed exercise:
"What’s the point of this analysis, anyway? My personal sense is that Hayek belongs among the 64 Nobel Laureates in Economics. Equally, I don’t think he has had the influence of Smith, Marx, Keynes or Friedman. But that’s just my opinion, and my conjecture isn’t worth much—hence the need to gather data instead. So I came up with my simple comparison. Sure, it’s not perfect, but now at least we’re talking about data, instead of opinions"
Well, yes, we are talking about data instead of opinions, but look at the quality of the answers we're getting - perhaps in context, this is good evidence that we should stop pretending that this is a question that can be answered by data and go back to talking about (reasoned, good-faith) opinions.
I probably wouldn't have written about this if it was merely irritating, but it's actually harmful - I have plenty of good mates who work in the British university system, which is going through a period of funding cuts and in which this sort of performance measurement through citations is absolutely rife. I really do not like the idea of anyone losing their job or having their degree program closed down on the basis of Freakonomics.
 Name misspelled out of ignorance of how to do the relevant Unicode, sorry. Update: Misspelling of "Katrina Juselius" rather less excusable and corrected, also sorry.
this item posted by the management 3/17/2010 01:53:00 AM