Outta control political incorrectness

November 15, 2012
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(This article was originally published at Statistical Modeling, Causal Inference, and Social Science, and syndicated at StatsBlogs.)

Tyler Cowen points to an interview with economists Ronald Coase and Ning Wang:

We are now working with the University of Chicago Press to launch a new journal, Man and the Economy. We chose our title carefully to signal the mission of the new journal, which is to restore economics to a study of man as he is and of the economy as it actually exists.

“We chose our title carefully,” indeed.

I’m reminded of a bizarrely-retro remark from a couple years ago by Colin (“at age 22″) Camerer. In response to the question, “Any free riding in your household?”, Camerer said:

No. Here’s why: I am one of the world’s leading experts on psychology, the brain and strategic game theory. But my wife is a woman. So it’s a tie.

One thing about being an economist, it gives you the ability to describe yourself as “one of the world’s leading experts on psychology.”

What’s with these guys? My guess is that their social circle has a bit of a country-club locker-room feel, and they find it amusing to be gratuitously politically incorrect.

Stage 1 of political incorrectness is to say rude things because you can’t be bothered to sugarcoat the truth. Stage 2 is to say rude things just for the thrill of being rude. These guys seem to be deep into stage 2.

Coase and Wang’s new journal might be great, but I bet it won’t be called “Man and the Economy.” At least, not if they want people other than Colin Camerer to contribute papers to it!

Just to be clear, I don’t think there’s anything particularly horrible about Coase and Wang’s joke; it just seems pretty silly to me, the kind of thing that could be amusingly dry in conversation but doesn’t work so well in print. Similarly for Camerer’s remark: it could be the perfect sardonic remark in the right context. Intonation is notoriously difficult to capture in typed speech.



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