Puzzles and Problems Redux
| Peter Klein |
In an earlier post, “Economics: Puzzles or Problems?”, I noted the tendency of talented young economists to focus on clever, yet ultimately unimportant, puzzles rather than the traditional “big problems” of economics (inflation, unemployment, poverty, economic growth, regulation, political economy, etc.). Steve Levitt, and the brand of “Freakonomics” he inspired, is usually singled out as the main culprit here. A recent piece in The New Republic, “Freaks and Geeks,” takes Levitt and company to task not only for wasting their time and talent, but also for being dilettantes who get key facts wrong (a point raised by Steve Sailer). Here are responses from Levitt (very unhappy), Joshua Angrist (also unhappy, though not for personal reasons), Josh Wright (mildly unhappy), and Greg Mankiw (neutral). Sadly, no one has picked up my (very clever) reference to the relationship between Wittgenstein and Popper.