Thursday, April 5, 2012
In the Blogosphere, Econ Looks Macro
I’m mainly a microeconomist. There are lots of folks like me. I don’t know the percentages, but surely microeconomists make up a large proportion of the global econ profession. Lots of important ideas and empirical discoveries are flowing through the micro pipeline all the time.
Yet if you didn’t know anything else about economics other than what you read in the blogosphere, you’d think that most economists were on the macro side, that the main schools of thought in macro determine how we are sorted intellectually, that the real-world importance of economics is mainly about economic growth, employment, inflation, etc., and that macro is where the new ideas are.
How come? Is it because the financial crisis and its global consequences, like the bitter politics of fiscal budgets, are currently at center stage? Or because the news cycle in macro is so much faster, with new data points popping up every day? Or is it because the ideological implications of macroeconomic disputes are more apparent than most micro dustups? Or because key players, like Mark Thoma (who should wear a headband saying “I am a public good”) and Paul Krugman, are mainly macro?
Actually, there are huge things happening on the micro side of the aisle. Climate change remains one of the world’s fundamental challenges, the battle against mass poverty has taken a micro-ish turn, and a slow-mo intellectual drama of vast significance is taking place in welfare economics—it’s crumbling under the weight of behavioral econ and related threats. Applied micro is largely on autopilot, so theoretical developments are mostly out of view, but the whole idea of the blogosphere is that everything is potentially in view.
How do we get to where millions of online readers feel the day is not complete without a dose of microeconomic controversy, or that their vocabulary is missing something if it doesn’t include network externalities and subgame perfection?