Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Unsettling economic jargon

We economists are among themselves, they obviously use jargon. But when they use that jargon with a larger audience, said audience is sometimes uneasy about some of the formulations we use. The fact is that we see markets in many situations, à la Becker, where other would rather look for emotions, instinct or morals.

Take for example the term marriage market. We often model marriage as a search matching problem not unlike the labor market. But the term we use for it has in the general public of a slave market, and thus John Doe has little understanding for our jargon.

Or look at the child quantity vs. quality trade-off. Now, that is a way to get people riling against us, as we treat children like commodities. Even human capital is offending. This term was designated in 2004 as the "unword" of the year in Germany, as it "degrades the workforce and people in general to economic quantities only."

Economists have a hard time getting their point through with the general public. Maybe changing the jargon a little would help, even if this means giving in to political correctness.

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