The culture of academic economics
Students who aspire to become economists, may think that all they need to do is learn the techniques, do the exams, and get on with it. How naïve students can be. In this chapter I reveal to them what it takes to become an academic economist, that is, an economist at a university. For, so I would warn them, it makes a world of difference whether they want to work inside or outside academia. How so, they will find out shortly. The inside view that I am about to provide of the world of scientific economists may also be clarifying for those who are looking at it from the outside. Just like visiting a foreign country, the outsider is likely to be puzzled, if not dumbfounded when finding out what academic economists actually do each day. We say that we are busy so what are we doing when we teach only a few hours a week? When they visit us in our university departments they may catch us chatting a great deal, if they catch us at all as most of the time we are absent, working at home or attending a conference at some resort. And when they prod us with urgent economic questions (“where is the dollar heading?” and “what should governments do to get out of the crisis?”) they may scratch their head because of the evasiveness and the variety of the answers they get – if we bother to give the answers as we may be too preoccupied with our research.