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A People’s Economics

NEW HAVEN – We are in the midst of a boom in popular economics: books, articles, blogs, public lectures, all followed closely by the general public.

I recently participated in a panel discussion of this phenomenon at the American Economic Association annual meeting in Denver. An apparent paradox emerged from the discussion: the boom in popular economics comes at a time when the general public seems to have lost faith in professional economists, because almost all of us failed to predict, or even warn of, the current economic crisis, the biggest since the Great Depression.

So, why is the public buying more books by professional economists?

The most interesting explanation I heard was that economics has become more interesting, because it no longer seems to be a finished and closed discipline. It is no fun to read a book or article that says that economic forecasting is best left to computer models that you, the general reader, would need a Ph.D. to understand.