Lack of Bestselling Economists

1/03/2013 02:27:00 PM
Mankiw laments a lack of economists on Amazon's list of bestselling authors:
"these days, not a single one of us has wide enough readership to make it onto the list. The next time you are tempted to lament the sad state of the public discussion of economic policy, remember that we economists are probably not doing enough to educate the public. We just don't write things that people want to read."
I certainly see his point. I can't help but have two thoughts, one pessimistic and the other optimistic. On the pessimistic side, I'm not so sure that wider readership would necessarily help the public discussion of economic policy much--economists tend to be argumentative by nature, which projects the sense of confusion to outsiders. But, on the optimistic side: Amazon's list is incomplete. In recent years we've witnessed the rise of the econosphere--the blogs and op-eds authored by economists--and a few of these have managed to get ranked pretty high among general online blogs. Indeed, it may well be the case that books aren't the best medium for economists to engage the public. I know I have a Joseph Stiglitz book on my shelf that I never finished, and part of the reason is that macroeconomics tends to be time-sensitive--I simply don't need to know what Stiglitz prescribed for the economy back in 2009, we've moved on and face a different challenge now. The blog and op-ed format lets economists weigh in on timely issues, and perhaps that's the way it should be.