PEF in The Globe and Mail
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For those economists about to rock, we salute you
The Globe and Mail
Mon 17 Sep 2007
Section: Globe Life
Byline: Rebecca Dube
Is economics on a highway to hell?
University of Calgary associate professor Robert Oxoby may be forgiven for thinking so.
His study examining how the songs of two different AC/DC frontmen influence decision-making made international headlines after it was noted by famed Freakonomics co-author Steven Levitt.
. . . the joke reawakened some serious criticism of the very type of economics Dr. Levitt has popularized.
Though he scoffed at the notion of an economist studying AC/DC, the Freakonomics author is known for his offbeat research subjects, such as sumo wrestling and the game show The Weakest Link . An article in The New Republic last April questioned whether Dr. Levitt and his admirers are transforming economics into “cute-o-nomics,” bypassing weighty questions in favour of cleverness. The problem is not that Dr. Oxoby wrote a joke paper, one Canadian economist says, but that it was taken seriously.
“Oxoby’s paper – complete with references, graphs, and university letterhead – is a brilliant parody of what has become the mainstay of academic economics,” says Erin Weir of the Progressive Economics Forum. “The scholarly journals are full of short, blandly written articles that provide mathematically precise responses to very narrowly defined questions of dubious relevance.”