In response to this from Paul Krugman:
Communicating Economics: A somewhat belated response to Roger Farmer, who accused me of cribbing from his writings. The truth is sadder; I haven’t read any of his stuff. I’ve tried, a couple of times, but found it very hard to penetrate and gave up — and several other economists I’ve talked to had the same reaction.
Just to be clear, I’m not saying that there’s nothing there; there may well be, and maybe it’s even profound. But neither I nor most economists are going to make the effort of puzzling through difficult writings unless we’re given some sort of proof of concept — a motivating example, a simple and effective summary, something to indicate that the effort will be worthwhile. Sorry, but I won’t commit to sitting through your two-hour movie if you can’t show me an interesting three-minute trailer.
And look, it has always been this way. Keynes’s General Theory is a famously difficult book — but it opens with three sparkling chapters, a sort of book within the book, that gives readers a very good sense of where he’s going and why it matters.
What every economist, and for that matter every writer on any subject, needs to realize is that unless you are a powerful person and people are looking for clues about what you’ll do next, nobody has to read what you write — and lecturing them about what they’re missing doesn’t help. You have to provide the hook, the pitch, whatever you want to call it, that pulls them in. It’s part of the job.
Roger Farmer, via email, asked me to post the following:
Farmer Communicating Economics
Here is a link to one of the papers that Paul finds so hard to penetrate.
Here is a link to a popular blog piece on Keynes.
Here is a link to my book on the Great Recession for the general public, How the Economy Works, Confidence Crashes and Self-Fulfilling Prophecies.