“What is the matter with economists?”
That is the disturbing question raised by a new University of Reading research report that concludes from an analysis of the 25 most-followed economists on Twitter that economists’ comments are not only less accessible to non-specialists than those issued by scientists but also use more complex words than other disciplines, neglect such inclusive words as “we” and “our”, and give low priority to readability.
But reassurance is at hand. Poppleton’s Head of Economics, Professor Murray Bund, has told our reporter Keith Ponting (30) that there are “deep flaws” in the Reading research.
“This report totally fails to recognise the distinctive nature of my discipline. It seems totally unaware that any move towards greater comprehensibility by economists might reveal their total inability to either resolve or predict events in what is vulgarly known as ‘the real world’.”
Professor Bund was even more exercised by the Reading researchers’ suggestion that economists tended to “talk at rather than to people”. He told Ponting that this completely ignored a central feature of economic discourse. “Economists”, he insisted, “neither talk at or to people. They are only truly themselves when they talk to other economists.”
According to Professor Bund, there were even more “egregious failures of understanding” in the Reading research. “There is the quite outrageous suggestion from one researcher that the discipline’s reliance on the model of humans as rational beings may lead students in economics to become more selfish and arrogant towards the end of their course.”
“Not true?” queried Ponting.
“Of course economics graduates feel superior to all other graduates,” admitted Professor Bund. “But this has nothing whatsoever to do with our deeply ingrained model of human beings as rational animals. It is empirically derived from the knowledge shared by all professional economists that their enduring lack of comprehensibility and predictive capacity has never for a moment inhibited their appointment to extremely well-salaried employment.”
(Professor Bund’s latest tweet: “Hi there. I’m using Rehn-Meidner theory to effect a synthesis between a flex-price Kaldorian model of profit margins and a Kaleckian model of profit margin. Very exciting!”)
“I never expected to say this, but I wholeheartedly agree with the minister. Today’s students are dangerously ill-informed about the university system.”
That was how Ted Odgers, of our Department of Media and Cultural Studies, reacted to the news that universities minister Sam Gyimah had recently declared his surprise on encountering a student who had “no idea what a Russell Group university is”.
Mr Odgers, who recently received a golden brazier award for his contributions to picketing, pointed out that this was by no means the only area of student ignorance. “It’s hard to believe, but there are still students who arrive at university completely unaware of the fact that they will be largely taught by underpaid and overworked graduate assistants because of the need for serving academics to devote their time to satisfying the dubious metrics of the next research excellence framework.”
And that was far from exhausting students’ lack of knowledge. “The minister would surely be even more shocked to learn that there are some undergraduates who still arrive at university believing that the value of their degree resides in its capacity to develop a predilection for intellectual enquiry, without knowing that the universities minister himself has defined such value as residing solely in the salary they obtain after graduation. It truly is a shocking level of ignorance.”