We–that is, Joe Stiglitz, Aaron Edlin, and I [Brad DeLong]–aim to start an online publication, The Economists’ Voice, to be “published” by Berkeley Economic Press, to try to remedy this situation. The two youngest of us are confident that we have a very good chance of succeeding. Our confidence is based on one fact: Joe Stiglitz thinks that this will work, and his judgment in this area is very good, as is shown by the remarkable success of the Journal of Economic Perspectives which has greatly increased the flow of information across the subfields of economics, and done a remarkable job of welding the American Economic Association into a stronger intellectual community.
The Economists’ Voice will aim for pieces longer than an op-ed and shorter than (and much more readable than) a piece for a standard journal. We thus avoid the op-ed problem–the problem that op-ed space is too short for an argument, and only provides space to be shrill. But we also hope to stay short enough to be readable, and understandable. And we will aim for quick turnaround–days rather than the years of journals.
The level will be non-technical but sophisticated: perhaps what one expects to read in the Financial Times and the news pages of the Wall Street or National Journal, or perhaps a notch above. The aim will be to provide an economist’s argument and point of view on some salient and interesting issue: a survey of something interesting happening in the economy, or a call for some change in policy or institutions–which would consist of a review of what the principal important factors are, what the objective function is, what the constraints are, why the objective function is maximized at the particular set of policies or institutional arrangements that the author prefers.
We will launch the The Economists’ Voice later this year. We will succeed if we become *the* place on the internet where economists, journalists, interested observers, staffers, and others turn in search of high-quality comprehensible economic analysis.
Here is Brad’s full post.
Most of all, something like this is badly needed.
More conceptually, I view this attempt as an implicit criticism of Google. There is nothing stopping economists from posting such writings right now, and of course longer pieces can be linked to. But who will find/read them? How much credibility will those writings carry? So Brad and Co. are betting they will prove better finders, branders, certifiers, and marketers than current institutions.
Is the initial problem one of generating a greater supply of readable but sound content for the web? (“Build it and they will write.”) Or is the problem that of mobilizing audience attention for work that is already being done? (“Build it and they will come.”) A related question is why most established economists have not found blogging to be a useful medium to date.
Should the functions of certifying and commissioning/editing always be combined? What about an additional economics blog or journal that simply selects the best material already out there, analogous to www.aldaily.com or www.artsjournal.com?