PEF in The Globe and Mail

Several of us regularly provide media commentary through our jobs at the CCPA, CAW and CLC. Once in a while, reporters quote statements posted on this blog in that capacity. However, the Progressive Economics Forum itself rarely receives media coverage.

The excerpts below are from page L4 of today’s Globe and Mail. This story drew upon my “Levitt’s Been Thunderstruck” post.


For those economists about to rock, we salute you
The Globe and Mail
Mon 17 Sep 2007
Page: L4
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.”


  • I think that Oxoby’s success with his offbeat approach should create a mental note for the strategic passageways of getting the progressive economic messages into the mainstream.

    I hate to say this but the unfolding state of economic study, understanding and discourse is dominated by the neoclassical view in the west. Given the hyper numeric, quasi- scientific based veneer that gets coated on this tradition, seems to circumvent much in the way of a public interest or user friendly discourse. The way I see the PEF economic views are typically personified is kind of like the role of the terrorist repair-people in Terry Gilliam’s movie “Brazil”. However, for those that have not seen the movie, the terrorists repair people are actually the “good guys” for the majority. Potentially I give the PEF too much credit in such a comparison.

    However, the more stories such as the above, the more the interface with the public domain the field can interact with these people and the more the political gets hitched up to the economy. Fundamentally the day that political economy was separated into two distinct spheres by the powers that be, was the death of each. Of course I do not have to say that to those that come from a political economy background. I also do not like to be such a brute with two traditional fields of study, but the older I get and the more I study, the more the perceived reality lines up with this thesis.

    If it were not for the fact that so much of our current and future were so intimately connected to the ways of our economic means of production and the choices we make over them, it would be quite humorous. Which I guess is Gilliam’s point in his movie.


  • Erin:

    I absolutely love your “scholarly journals” quote.

    I’ve added it the “favourite quotes” section of my Facebook profile.

    You are the man.

    (And I need to get a life, but that’s another story…)

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