Archaeological Economics

Human Skeleton - Med

One of the great things about economics is that it teaches us unintuitive truths about how the world works and why people do what they do. Situations that appears one way viewed in the light of emotions and gut instincts often appears quite differently under the dismal science's X-Ray.

Over at Cafe Hayek, Russell Roberts has coined the term Archaeological Economics to refer to exploring the truth behind news articles using economics. The idea immediately brings to mind fictional economist-sleuth Henry Spearman, who solved mysteries using his intimate knowledge of human self-interest and its manifestations.

This is not merely an academic exercise. Consider John Allen Paulos' fine book A Mathematician Reads The Newspaper, in which he exposes the continual misuse of numbers and statistics in newspaper articles. By showing the unsavory bones behind the pretty media skin, he gives his readers the tools to be more critical and accurate in their own media consumption. Perhaps economists can do the same for fallacious assumptions about altruistic motivation.

Russell's first attempt is a great start, and we Catallarchists would like to get into the game. So comment with news articles you'd like to see some digging done on, and perhaps we can unearth a few more skeletons.

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