Canadian academic economists have a low public profile. Offhand, it's pretty easy to come up with at least three reasons for that:
- We're Canadian.
- We're academics.
- We're economists.
That pretty much adds up to the trifecta in the category of "people whose opinion is not eagerly sought out".
But I think there's more to it than that. There are lots of people whose opinion isn't in any particularly great demand, but who seek the spotlight anyway in order to promote their policy agenda. What's special about us is that we don't seem to need to do that. The Canadian economics community is pretty small, so academic and public-sector economists know each other fairly well. Government economists are people we've met at conferences, people we've gone to graduate school with, or (more and more frequently for me) people we've had as students. We don't need to mount a public relations campaign in order to get a sympathetic hearing at the Department of Finance or the Bank of Canada.
Three of the most important policy initiatives that have been implemented by the federal government during my career are the FTA/NAFTA, the adoption of the Goods and Services Tax (GST), and the Bank of Canada's decision to adopt inflation targets. None of these policies can be characterised as a being a response to popular opinion: they all had their origins in the interactions between academic and public-sector economists. Even if this process has had the effect of producing good policy outcomes, the disconnect between how policies are made and what is being discussed in public is not healthy in a democracy.
Academic economists play an important role in developing Canadian public policy, and we have a commensurately important obligation to try to explain them as best as we can to the non-economist public. This blog is my own small contribution.
In addition to analyses of what's happening in Canada, I'll also be discussing basic concepts (all economics bloggers end up doing that anyway, so I might as well put it in my mission statement), commenting on developments in the world economy, and posting on any topic that I find interesting enough to write about.