The Book of Trogool

Tidbits, 7 September 2009

Happy Labor Day, US readers. Time to clean out the “toblog” tag on del.icio.us again:

Like many, I am watching the global economy with equal shares fascination and horror. That pursuit led me to this article, which I read through wholly without my librarian goggles on, until I was happily surprised by the kicker at the end for dataphiles:

The last ten years have seen a quiet revolution in the practice of economics. For years theorists held the intellectual high ground.? The typical empirical analysis in economics utilized a few dozen, or at most a few hundred, observations transcribed by hand?

But the IT revolution has altered the lay of the intellectual land? The data sets used in empirical economics today are enormous, with observations running into the millions? But now it is on the empirical side where the capacity to do high-quality research is expanding most dramatically, be the topic beer sales or asset pricing. And, revealingly, it is now empirically oriented graduate students who are the hot property when top doctoral programs seek to hire new faculty.

Not surprisingly, the best students have responded. The top young economists are, increasingly, empirically oriented. They are concerned not with theoretical flights of fancy but with the facts on the ground. To the extent that their work is rooted concretely in observation of the real world, it is less likely to sway with the latest fad and fashion. Or so one hopes.

The ability to acquire and manipulate large datasets is changing the entire discipline of economics, is how I read that. That’s quite a strong statement.

I have more, but they need to wait until I finish the megaposts on library classification. I promise I’m working on them!