Celebrity economists skewered

10 May, 2011

Well done to Richard Tol for putting the boot into celebrity economists.  His piece in the Irish Times (here) compared for various economists the ratio of the number of citations in the popular literature and the number of citations in scholarly literature – on the basis that, in Tol’s words, “media exposure should be commensurate with expertise – the mouth should not be larger than the brain”. 

The table which was carried in the newspaper does not seem to be available in the online version, but is available here.  Let me mention some of the results.

Hardly surprising that top of the heap is our hyperactive old friend (and Brian Lenihan’s) David McWilliams with a ratio of 27.0, although, to be fair, David has a second career as a popular author and one-man stage performer.  Dark and gloomy Constantin Gurdgiev  comes in at a hefty 6.65.  Down the other end of the table are Alan Ahearne (0.13), Richard Tol himself (0.04),Philip Lane (0.01) and Jim Markusen (0.00).

Celebrity economists are a group about which I have blogged previously

Whenever I hear somebody described as a “well-known economist”, I think of the expression “celebrity chef”. Usually the latter is somebody who is too busy being a celebrity to devote sufficient energy to getting the chef bit right. The drug of fame and the lure of publicity seem often to eat away at the proper exercise of the very craft in which they made their name.

Incidentally, Richard Tol, who works for the Irish Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) is, according to Wikipedia, among the US Senate Republican Party’s “list of scientists disputing man-made global warming claims”, which stated that Tol “dismissed the idea that mankind must act now to prevent catastrophic global warming”.  Village magazine did a hatchet job on him earlier this year.  Tol, however, characterises his position as simply arguing that the economic costs of climate policy should be kept in proportion to its benefits.

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