Blogosfera – um debate de diletantes ou um contributo válido para o policy making? Paul Krugman dá uma resposta especialmente inspirada (e inspiradora) em In praise of econnowonkery.
The overall effect is that we’re having a conversation in which issues get hashed over with a cycle time of months or even weeks, not the years characteristic of conventional academic discourse. Is that a problem?
OK, first point: many people seem to have a much-idealized vision of the academic process, in which wise and careful referees peer-review papers to make sure that they are rock-solid before they go out. In reality, while many referees do their best, many others have pet peeves and ideological biases that at best greatly delay the publication of important work and at worst make it almost impossible to publish in a refereed journal. Gans and Shepherd wrote about this almost 20 years ago, and the situation has surely not improved.
I’m told by younger colleagues, in particular, that anything bearing on the business cycle that has even a vaguely Keynesian feel can be counted on to encounter a very hostile reception; this creates some big problems of relevance for proper journal publication under current circumstances.
A second point is that events are moving fast, and the long lead times of conventional publication essentially guarantee that it will be irrelevant to current policy issues.
Still, all of this would be cold comfort if wonkblogging was just generating noise and confusion. But from where I sit, the reality has been just the opposite.
Look at one important recent case — no, not Reinhart/Rogoff, but Alesina/Ardagna on expansionary austerity. Now, as it happens the original A/A paper was circulated through relatively “proper” channels: released as an NBER working paper, then published in a conference volume, which means that it was at least lightly refereed. Proper science!
Except that it was all wrong. And how did we find out that it was all wrong? First through critiques posted at the Roosevelt Institute, then through detailed analysis of cases by the IMF. The wonkosphere was a much better,much more reliable source of knowledge than the proper academic literature.
And I would say that in general the quality of economic discussion we’ve been having in recent years is the best I’ve ever seen. Yes, there’s junk economics out there, but when was that not true? And yes, it can be hard for lay readers — or for that matter, it seems, quite a few people with heavy economic credentials — to tell the junk from the real insights; but again, when wasn’t that true? As far as real, insightful, useful discussion of matters economic is concerned, this is actually a golden age.
Of course, these useful insights have been largely ignored by policy makers. But once again, when was that not true?
So wonk on proudly. As Martha Stewart would say, it’s a good thing.