Searching for Economics; Joking with Economists

Article excerpt

The mantra "It's the economy, stupid!" from the Clinton-Gore 1992 election campaign is still widely quoted, although not always as it was originally meant. Now it's sometimes a critique of the Clinton administration's economic policies; sometimes of other governments' policies. Frequently, the word "economy" is replaced with a different concept. Search "it's the * stupid" economy on Google (the syntax doesn't work terribly well at other search engines/ and you find many variations on the economic theme. Other words that show up in the asterisk wild card space are stories, cities, community, media, latency, oil, wealth, policy, data, war, fitness, immigration, and even stupidity. Expand to two words, using two asterisks instead of one within the double quotes and still excluding the word economy, provides you with new alternatives such as cow feed, electoral system, corporate state, U.S. policy, business model, cognitive dissonance, free speech, and public schools. Pretty impressive breadth of topics, isn't it?

Regardless of what other words might be substituted for "the economy," economic research remains important in the business, academic, and political worlds. Politicians are adept at either blaming or praising the economy, depending upon how their political fortunes are faring. Ordinary people worry about the economy in more practical terms, wondering how much goods will cost and what interest rates will be. Businesses rely on economic forecasting for strategic planning. Although the economists' self-deprecating joke claims: "Economic forecasters assume everything, except responsibility."

From a research perspective on economics and the economy, consider both qualitative and the quantitative, as well as the practical and theoretical. A nation's economy is described in numbers, but academicians use words to explain those numbers. Scholarly papers forecasting the state of the economy are more than equally matched with opinion pieces in the daily press that also attempt to forecast the state of the economy. The scholarly literature is where you find the theoretical; the popular press is where you find quick analysis and factual reporting. Governments provide the underlying numbers.

The scholarly literature on economics is written by, no shock here, economists. What exactly do economists do? The U.S. Occupational Outlook Handbook [www. bls.gov/oco/ocos055.htm] says, "Economists study how society distributes scarce resources such as land, labor, raw materials, and machinery to produce goods and services. They conduct research, collect and analyze data, monitor economic trends, and develop forecasts. They research issues such as energy costs, inflation, interest rates, exchange rates, business cycles, taxes, or employment levels." The OOH points out that mathematics is integral to the work of economists and that economists can be employed in corporations, form their own consulting/research firms, or join the government. It also claims there's a rising demand for economists, so it would not be unusual to expect a concomitant rise in requests for economic information. What the OOH doesn't mention is that economists also have a sense of humor. What other profession puts a list of economist jokes on a scholarly Web page [http://netec.mcc.ac.uk/JokEc.html]? Here's a sample:

   "An economist is someone who didn't have enough
   personality to become an accountant."

ECONOMIC LITERATURE INDEX

The traditional bastion of scholarly literature in economics has been EconLit, the database of the American Economics Association, which is available on CSA, Dialog, EBSCOhost, OCLC, Ovid, ScienceDirect, and SilverPlatter. Association members can search using EconLit CD-ROMs at a much reduced rate. The database indexes six documerit types: journal articles, books, collective volume articles, dissertations, working papers, and book reviews. With a backfile to 1969, it is one of the more venerable databases around. …