The Economist is out with its list of the 25 most influential economists of 2014.
And it is a disaster.
The magazine chose to exclude sitting central-bank governors, and as a result excludes the world’s most three influential economists: Fed Chair Janet Yellen, European Central Bank President Mario Draghi, and Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda.
But there’s a problem: The list still includes a number of Fed presidents and voting FOMC members.
For example, the second most influential economist of 2014 is New York Fed President Bill Dudley, who also serves as vice chairman of the FOMC and is effectively the No. 2 person at the Federal Reserve.
So then why exclude Yellen?
The list has other problems.
There are no women. Again, The Economist said it would exclude serving central-bank governors, leading to the exclusion of Yellen. But I’d argue that by including all those Fed presidents it didn’t even really stick to that criteria.
As The Wall Street Journal’s Josh Zumbrun said on Twitter, “If your ranking of ranking of influential economists includes Charles Plosser & Bill Dudley but not Janet Yellen then your methodology might be bad.”
The Economist also had a sort of, well, identity crisis with some of these selections.
Alan Blinder, the Princeton economist whom The Economist ranked No. 16 on its list, is not pictured in The Economist’s ranking. Instead, this Alan Blinder, a New York Times reporter working in its Atlanta bureau, is.
(An image of the “real” Alan Blinder is easily Google’d.)
I’m sure the “fake” Alan Blinder is a fine reporter, but he’s probably not one of the 25 most influential economists in the world.
The Economist also ran into trouble with the San Francisco Fed’s John Williams.
Instead of sticking to comments from the Fed’s Williams, The Economist attributed comments to John Williams, the proprietor of shadowstats.com, a website that aims to reveal the “truth” behind the government’s official economic data.
The debate on shadow stats is, like, a completely different discussion, but the error here is a fairly egregious.
See, for example, the commentary The Economist attributes to John Williams, Fed president, regarding the latest jobs report.
And so, overall, just not the best work out of The Economist.
The Economist outlines its critera as follows, saying it, “asked Appinions, a startup that analyses influence online, to look at a list of 500 economists — the 450 atop the [research papers in economics] list, plus some we chose ourselves. Appinions tracked how much attention was paid to their utterances in the mainstream media, the blogosphere and in social media over a 90-day period up to December 11.”
For the record, Jonathan Gruber, the MIT economist who was credited as one of the architects of The Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, who became a major headache for the White House after footage of Gruber speaking critically of voters and the law surfaced.
And as The Economist admits, “[Gruber’s] elevation is a reminder that the news cycle is also an imperfect measure: in any other quarter, he would not have troubled the ranking.”
But the thing is: No one forced The Economist to do its rankings this way, either.
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