Why are economic papers so hard to read? / Why are papers in plain english rejected?

Discussion in 'Economics' started by Acumen, Mar 19, 2009.

  1. Acumen


    I picked up a medical journal while at a cardiologist friend of mines house the other day and it was easier to understand then 99% of economic journal articles.

    Economics is an ART, not a science. Why is it that if you treat it as such and write anything other then convoluted esoteric equations you are automatically laughed out of any serious economic journal?

    This is not new, just look at Irving Fisher who was forced into printing his own works because no one else would publish them. He was the first Yale PhD in economics and even he could not get past this barrier. He came up with many important formulas, but because he explained things in plain English instead of a way that gets peoples eyes to glaze over he had to fight to get them accepted.

    When I write an economic paper, I can either word it or formulate it so that none understands it, or simplify it and include plain English explanations of the formulas. The content will be exactly the same, but one will be readable and unpublished, and the other published and unreadable.
  2. All my econ professors in college had elitist attitudes. I think that’s pretty much the norm for most people in that profession and their writing style reflects their pompous mentality.
  3. You're right.

    It's because there's some math elitism. You would not believe the variety in terms of clarity for graduate level statistics and econometrics books. Some authors just flat out don't write stuff that makes sense in a clear and concise way.

    If you read some of the books on introductory stochastic calculus, take a look at Lamberton's book versus Shreve. Shreve's book is so clean, easy to understand, has diagrams. I don't get it. Lamberton's stuff is so damn confusing it takes several reads just to understand, and the original papers from which he gets his material are 10x clearer than what he writes in his own damn book.

    It really angers me. Why write anything at all if you don't want to make your subject accessible to people who are, presumably, trying to understand something they don't know about in the first place?
  4. Economists are mostly wannabe scientists.
  5. Well, they must call it the "dismal science" for a reason. Maybe you found it :)
  6. timmyz


    that's because the intended audience for lamberton's book isn't you or other students. the intended audience is his peers in the academic community that he wants to impress.

  7. Unfortunately, this garbage is thrown around as an introductory text-book.

  8. Acumen


    I don't have a problem with Lambertons book. As if you choose to take a heavily mathematical approach it is well within readability guidelines. What I do have a problem with is the lack of the opposite end of the spectrum.

    Where are the books that are heavily qualitative?

    Why if I am qualitative am I shunned by the academics?

    Most formulas are inapplicable to any real situation, there are outside variables that render them pointless. A qualitative approach would be much more practical. Take the Austrians as an example of applying such an approach.

    Why if I choose to take a qualitative approach am I deemed an Austrian even if I do not wish to be?

    Why do the only qualitative group of economists seem to only exist on the internet as conspiracy theorists?
  9. bellman


    You are wrong to assume that all medical journals are as easy to read as the one you picked up the other day. I come from a biochemistry back ground, and trust me it is another language that we speak. You would not understand half of what is written in the technical papers. Publications distributed to doctors are another matter. That material has been diluted down so that they can understand it.

    Technical papers are difficult to read because they are just that, technical. The terms and ideas with which they delve are not part of common rhetoric. I estimate if you really want to understand one, spend a couple of weeks learning the jargon and you will be able to read most papers (assuming you have a solid background in calculus and probability).