For the 10th consecutive December, the magazine has chosen to look back on the past year through a distinctive prism: ideas.
Our digest of short entries refracts the light beam of human inspiration, breaking it up into its constituent colors — innovations and insights from a spectrum of fields, including economics, biology, engineering, medicine, literature, sports, music and, of course, raw-meat clothing. Happy thinking!
Until recently, the economics profession largely controlled the production, dissemination and interpretation of economic data. Now there’s a new trend afoot: do-it-yourself macroeconomics, in which ordinary citizens pull apart the data and come to their own conclusions.
The democratization of economics owes much to the financial crisis that first hit in 2007. That ongoing catastrophe, which few economists predicted, tarnished the profession’s reputation, prompting some to look elsewhere for answers. They turned to — where else? — the Internet, where vast amounts of economic data that had once been hidden from public view were now online. Sites like FRED, maintained by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, enabled anyone with a connection to the Web to download data on everything from local home-price indexes to credit-card balances to weekly fluctuations in diesel prices.
At the same time, a growing army of knowledgeable “econo-bloggers” began analyzing the data available online. Strikingly, many of the authors of these blogs — the brains behind the Big Picture, Calculated Risk, Mish’s Global Economic Trend Analysis and others — aren’t academic economists but people with real-world experience in financial markets. Their Web sites offer sophisticated interpretations of economic data and hold passionate debates with their readers over the merits of the data. As a result, economic data that were formerly greeted with grudging acceptance by the public — the latest unemployment figures, for example — are now the catalyst for endless popular exegeses.
Please see the article for a wide variety of other ideas.
Mike “Mish” Shedlock