Posted by: Tobias | August 21, 2008


Justin Wolfers digs up a 1977 paper by George Stigler which is the economists’ version of that old joke in which a bunch of guys in a bar just yell numbers at one another and roar with laughter after each number is called out. A bystander finds out in the course of the joke that they’re regulars, telling each other the same jokes over and over again and have started to number them, now simply yelling the numbers and then laughing at the associated joke. Anyways, Stigler’s paper suggests to do the same for for conferences in economics: just number the most commonly voiced criticisms like so:

1. Adam Smith said that.
2. Unfortunately, there is an identification problem which is not dealt with adequately in the paper.
3. The residuals are clearly non-normal, and the specification of the model is incorrect.
4. Theorizing is not fruitful at this stage; we need a series of case studies.
5. Case studies are a clue, but no real progress can be made until a model of the process is constructed.
6. The second-best consideration would, of course, vitiate the argument.
7. That is an index number problem (obs., except in Cambridge).

… and so on. Pretty funny, us economists, eh?



  1. 8

  2. Could suggest to do the same thing with ‘Management or Consultancy terms’, although it will clean up the sentences I am afraid that whole conversations / meetings / workshop or brainstorms will consist out of calling numbers.
    However the (non) results will be the same and actually might be achieved quicker but that would render manager useless, hmmm double efficiency gains?

  3. great idea. The efficiency gains from implementing this must be enormous!

    @ T:
    This is ridiculous. How would you want to implement 2SLS on this problem…?

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