Abnormal Economics

Over at CoreEconomics, Joshua Gans points out that Steve Levitt’s research is no longer judged to be normal economics. Or at least his work doesn’t belong with the “normal papers.” From the “content alert” for the latest edition of the European Economic Review:


Or perhaps it’s our friend John List who is “special.”

Mark Gurwell

I'm not sure what you are objecting to/amused by/confused a bout/etc here. In my own field (astronomy) journals routine have 'special sections' devoted to a particular theme. Sometimes they are a single paper, sometimes a series of papers, unified around the theme. In this case, the special section is listed at the very top as themed around 'Surveys'. And the Levitt & List paper is in that section. Seems awfully mundane to me (the ToC listing, not the paper which I have not read!).


It's John who's special--he's A List!

Scott Wentland

Well, to be fair, it is called "Freakonomics," not "Normonomics."

I suppose "abnormal" is synonymous with "freak".


Psychology has seperate branches for normal and abnormal. Why can't economics?


Dear Daniel;

It now does-

David Heigham

Supernormal (well, they list them above the normals) is not abnormal.

Matter of fact, I think the Review's terminology is very polite. Shouldn't the stuff where the pretty hypothesis has not been tested in the real world be listed as "subnormal" economics?


That's pretty funny, actually Justin! Someone asked me recently to describe Steve's research and I was kind of stumped for an easy categorization. I talked about logic, reasoning and analysis...and my questioner seemed to lose interest.

This shouldn't be a problem for while yet--the Clark medal is given for influence while the Nobels are normally named for "Contributions to "blank" economics.

This is what what Kuhn would call abnormal science, right?


I think what's "abnormal" is the concept of field experiments for most trained economists. We were trained to sit in a chair and invent reality according to our models and not soil them with actual human behavior. Martin Mayer wrote (or quoted someone) thirty years ago that the single flaw in econometric models was that buried deep inside the computer was a model of a little human being and the human being was an economist. Thus we build models of behavior based on the rationality that we bring to our view of humanity. No wonder we amost never get it right.


lol. I am sad to find that I was beaten to the "John deserves his own List" joke.

Neil Lintern

I never understood anything about economics until i read freakonomics, I still don't understand much.
But I understand the lateral thinking from a very intelligent
man.Where would we be if the likes of Einstein and Newton thought normally?