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He writes, on

Economic policy discussion on the web | vox - Research-based policy analysis and commentary from Europe's leading economists: Economics is more relevant to policy-making than ever before, but you would never know it from the public discourse. The internet is helping bridge the gap, and has led the change. But how will the internet’s role in the public discourse on economics change in the future?...

Major advances in theoretical and empirical economics now allow economists to address policy issues with much more realistic tools... economics and psychology... behavioural economics, experimental economics... the new institutional economics... contract theory... enormous new data sets... powerful statistical tools... ‘panel data’.... With all these excellent tools at hand, one might have expected the newspapers and Parliamentary debates to be filled with new insights, new results and new approaches. Alas, with few exceptions, the public debate has not moved much beyond the simplistic pro- vs anti-market exchanges that have dominated Europe since the post-war rise of welfare states. Case in point? The 2007 French Presidential election debate.

In the 1980s, brilliant young economists like Paul Krugman, Larry Summers, Jeff Sachs and Joe Stiglitz felt obliged to write Brookings or Economic Policy articles, to sit on government panels, to write policy reports, and to send Op-Ed pieces to the Financial Times.... Today’s brilliant young economists are much less interested in participating in the public debate in these ways....

Medical journals address the problem in a very different way – each article includes the hard science, but it also includes a less formal discussion of what the results mean for medicine and how they fit into the bigger picture – the “Discussion Section.” The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors has called this the “IMRAD” structure (Introduction, Methods, Results, and Discussion) and state that the structure is “not simply an arbitrary publication format, but rather a direct reflection of the process of scientific discovery.”[3] In the top economic journals, “Policy Implication” sections have fallen out of favour. Including such conjectures in a manuscript is unlikely to raise the probability of publication....

On the bright side, the internet has two features that make it an excellent vehicle for bridging the research-reality gap. Feature No.1: its technology makes publishing very cheap. Feature No.2: its global span makes it possible to find an audience.... One can spend some pleasant hours browsing the various blogs – and even learn a lot from the big blogs, like “Economist’s View”, “New Economist”, ”Marginal Revolution”, and the sites of Brad DeLong, Greg Mankiw, and Nouriel Roubini. But this is not the profession’s response to the Discussion Sections of medical journals. It is more like the collegial coffee-room discussions we used to have when there was time for such things.

What Tito Boeri, the founder of, discovered 5 years ago, was that there is a large demand for high-level public discussion of economic policy, higher than the level in newspapers or blogs. Something much more like the Discussion Section of the British Journal of Medicine: discussion of real-world, policy-relevant issues by researchers that is screened by researchers. Tito also found that there was a large supply of researchers willing to devote time – for free – to such discussion. We would probably need psychology-and-economics experts to understand the motives, but whatever they are, these economists are doing Italy a public service.