Blogs & Comment

The economists' election

Canadian economists can make direct interventions into debates using Twitter.

While Parliamentary Press Gallery reporters have been telling themselves that this is the first “Twitter Election”, the truth is a bit more focused, and in many ways more important. This is the first election in which a large number of Canadian economists are making direct, unmediated, real-time interventions into the debates over policy and the various party platforms.

These interventions are coming from a number of places. Apart from the usual op-eds in newspapers, the gang over at Worthwhile Canadian Initiative has been adding bodies and blogging up a storm for months. Some of that crew — including Stephen Gordon and Frances Woolley — have joined other big hitters such as Jeff Rubin at the Globe and Mail’s Economy Lab.

But far and away the most interesting development has been the insta-punditry a lot of economists are doing on Twitter. These include Mike Moffat (@MikePMoffatt) from London’s Ivey School of Business, Stephen Gordon (@stephenfgordon) of Laval, and Kevin Milligan (@kevinmilligan) of UBC. Along with old hands like Jack Mintz (@jackmintz) of Calgary’s School of Public Policy, these academics are engaging with journalists, party staffers and spin doctors, and other academics. Very little of it is the usual horse-race political analysis — it is hard-nosed analysis of platform items like the F35 fighter jet purchase, the Liberal party’s Cap and Trade plan, and the relative merits  of further corporate tax cuts.

It’s part of a trend that, in the US anyway, has seen a great deal of top-level economic debate migrate from academic journals to the blogosphere (e.g. Marginal Revolution). Canadian economists have been slower to shift their work online, but this election seems to have accelerated the process. This disintermediation of economic expertise will have a profound impact on how policy gets debated in this country, if not actually implemented. This blog will be paying attention; readers should too.

For the record, I’m on Twitter @jandrewpotter