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What to say in economics seminars

Written By: Jason Shafrin - Aug• 22•08

Justin Wolfers writes in the Freakonomics blog that economists should limit their objections during academic seminars to a list of comments to make discussions of research papers more efficient. Here are some of my favorite:

  • Adam Smith said that.
  • Unfortunately, there is an identification problem which is not dealt with adequately in the paper.
  • The residuals are clearly non-normal, and the specification of the model is incorrect.
  • Have you tried two-stage least squares?
  • The conclusions change if you introduce uncertainty.
  • I proved the main results in a paper published years ago.
  • The market cannot, of course, deal satisfactorily with that externality.
  • But what if transaction costs are not zero?
  • What empirical finding would contradict your theory?
  • What happens when you extend the analysis to the later (or earlier) period?
  • That is alright in theory, but it doesn’t work out in practice.
  • The problem cannot be dealt with by partial equilibrium methods; it requires a general equilibrium formulation.
  • Is there a weak instruments problem?
  • The conclusion rests on the assumption of fixed tastes, but (of course) tastes have surely changed.
  • The trouble with the present situation is that the property rights have not been fully assigned.
  • How did you handle endogeneity problem?

This list is likely only entertaining for academic economics. Wolfers wonders if the economics fields ability to characterize objections to research paper with such a list may suggest “…a methodological narrowness to neoclassical economics. But equally, it is the clarity of the framework that gives economic analysis its power.”

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