Ever wonder why economics is often incomprehensible?

In Economic Inquiiy (Oct. 1992), economists David N. Laband and Christopher N. Taylor, of Salisbury State University and Auburn University, respectively, explain why most economists are wretched writers.

There are numerous margins upon which the professional acceptance and acclaim of an author’s research findings may hinge. Writing style is but one of those margins

Other margins include, but are not limited to: the timing of the contribution, caliber of data, innovativeness of statistical technique, theoretical insight, and importance of contribution to the work of other scientists. By definition, a scholar cannot possess a comparative advantage with respect to operating on all of these margins simultaneously.

It seems doubtful, if not extremely unlikely, that any scholar routinely maximizes on all margins simultaneously, without regard to the costs of doing so. The scholar who wishes maximize his expected return per unit of work effort balances off the expected net marginal benefits of devoting resources to one aspect of his work against the expected net marginal benefits of devoting resources to any of the other aspects of his work.

The efficient scholar operates at the point where expected net returns to incremental effort are equalized across all relevant margins of productivity.



Winter 1993. (Pg. 16)

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