NEWSFLASH! In September I will join The Conversation as its Business and Economy Editor. I have been honoured to work at The Age for the past ten years, originally alongside the legendry Tim Colebatch, and for the past four years as economics editor in my own right.

At The Conversation, my job will be to make the best thinking from Australia's 40 univerisites accessible to the widest possible audience. That means you. From the new year I will also write a weekly column.

On this site are most of the important things I have written for Fairfax and the ABC over the past few decades. I recommend the Search function. The site is a record for you, as well as me.

I'll continue to post great things from The Conversation and other places here, and also on Twitter and Facebook. Enjoy.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Can economists be funny?

Well yes. I have a friend who these days can't stop laughing the moment any of them open their mouths.

But what I mean is: can they be intentionally funny?

The American Economic Association set out to examine this in its first-ever humour session this month.

Among the speakers was The Standup Economist, who (re)performed this piece. Enjoy it.

Also, Robert Oxoby of the University of Calgary (re)presented his seminal paper:
On the Efficiency of AC/DC: Bon Scott versus Brian Johnson Yes. ACDC.

Anyway, economists aren't that funny - although the UK's Tim Harford is getting there:

One of the funnier economists has just been awarded the Nobel Prize. Yes, Paul Krugman.

A trade specialist, in 1978 he investigated Interstellar Trade (enjoy).

As he put it:

"This paper extends interplanetary trade to an interstellar setting. It is concerned chiefly with the following question: How would interest charges on goods in transit be computed when the goods travel at close to the speed of light?"

As he says:

"While the subject-matter is silly, the analysis actually does make sense. This paper, then, is a serious analysis of a ridiculous subject, which is, of course, the opposite of what is usual in economics."

Oh yes. And there's former Fed Vice Chairman Alan Blinder's The Economics of Brushing Teeth.

Any more? I'll bet there are. Names please. And I am not talking about hoaxes. They're mean.

(Although I think Keith Windschuttle is wrong when he says about the latest hoax of Quadrant that "if it were any other editor who had fallen for such a hoax, it wouldn't be a story". Strewth! If it had been the been the editor of a more real publication it would have been a bigger story. Even if it had been the editor of Angry Penguins.)

UPDATE: There's actually been a book: On The Third Hand - Humor in the dismal Science, edited by Caroline Postelle. Some of it is here. It looks good.

UPDATE 2 (2011) The Standup Economist has a massive list, here.