Heterodox Economics Newsletter

Issue 285 September 13, 2021 web pdf Heterodox Economics Directory

According to the conventional view in economics, you should check, whether it is truly rational to read the remainder of this editorial. As the actual use-value of the Newsletter rests in the items collected below, the editorial is just an ornament, a kind of ceremonial exercise that is difficult to classify. Additionally, the editorial knows no headline & you simply do not know what will come. My rumblings might entertain or bore you, they could inspire you or make you feel angry, they could motivate you to engage with a subject or increase your confidence to ignore another. Reading or not reading an editorial might seem like a very small and simple thing to decide, but actually it's full of contingencies. While it is much less relevant than "the prospect of a European war", it is fundamentally uncertain in a similar way. Relieve in the form of certainty about its content only comes after reading, but then the price in the form of invested time has already been paid.

In a similar way, you could ask yourself, whether it is truly rational to write these editorials. I admit: Before today I have never asked myself this question, which probably makes me seem a little dull in the views of many mainstream colleagues ;-)

But taking this seriously for a moment, I find that I cannot come up with a good justification in terms of net utility. Although I occasionally receive kind reactions in the form of interesting comments as well as complimentary words, the number of responses is far too low to infer the share of readers that does read this editorial. From a quantitative viewpoint I am also totally ignorant, about the share of subscribers that is attracted by the editorial or the share of readers that actually enjoys reading it. It's somewhat brutal as, in comparison to the reader, the author's costs are greater, his or her stakes are bigger and uncertainty about the merits of the outcome never fades. Ironically, performance could be measured in theory, but is actually invisible because of lack of data.

While all these uncertainties and ambiguities are real, they do not bother me much. The reason I get up early every third Sunday to write up these short pieces is simply that I deem it honorable to craft the ornament. I take it as a great opportunity to contribute to the community and to informally share some thoughts and experiences. And as an ornament does not necessarily have to 'perform' in the conventional sense, but should leave space for experimental, personal and occasionally even funny stuff, I am also satisfied with leaving its impact unmeasured.

I admit: Given the on-going and problematic tendencies to incentivize researchers on all levels by counting publications, citations, international contacts, public impact, conference-participations or grant-money attracted to fully quantify competition on the academic labor-market, it is actually quite a relieve to publicly spell out to leave some impact unmeasured ;-)

For me, two implications follow from all this: For one, uncertainty is everywhere, in the small and big, the relevant and the irrelevant things and coins our behavioral patterns at least as much as incentives are supposed to do. For another, my confession to fully abstract from impact in the first place could also serve as a reminder that admitting to follow your intrinsic motivations & interests, is also good scientific practice: at least in my humble view, idle curiosity, creative exploration and critical assessments are the true basis of science, while citation counts on GoogleScholar are only a neat add-on.

Thanks for reading and all the best ;-)

Jakob

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