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The Wall Street Journal on Economists and Autism (and why isn’t the Wall Street Journal free online?)

After Slate wrote about an economics paper alleging a link between TV and autism, I blogged my skepticism regarding the claim. I haven’t seen or heard anything since that time to change my opinion.

Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal revisited that paper on autism, but also embedded the discussion into a larger question of whether economists and economic techniques should be aimed at answering questions outside of economics. It was a pretty interesting article, but unfortunately unless you are a Wall Street Journal subscriber you will have to take my word for it because the Wall Street Journal is one of the few newspapers that don’t give away most of their content free online.

As an aside, isn’t it strange that we live in a world where I’m puzzled as to why the WSJ won’t give away their product for free? In general, it doesn’t seem like a good idea to give your product away if you are a company, but given that most newspapers do, why doesn’t the WSJ? Is it that there is something different about their readership that makes free online a bad idea for the WSJ, but a good idea for others? I doubt it. My guess is that either it is a good idea to give free access or it isn’t. Either the WSJ is making a mistake or other newspapers that do give stuff away are making a mistake. I’d like to know the answer to this question, and I’m sure the newspapers would like to know too.