An economist walks into a bar…


Did you ever see the 1991 Albert Brooks movie Defending Your Life? A movie that clearly could not be made today because it includes neither super heroes nor special effects and isn’t a sequel, it’s about a schmo (Brooks) who dies only to find heaven has an entrance exam of sorts in which you literally defend your life. Well the other day I watched a very good TED talk by my friend Bob Litan in which he defended his entire profession -- economics. I know no braver man.

Few of us would defend our professions. I’m a journalist -- what is there to say about that except that being a Congressman is worse? Yet Bob Litan volunteered for this gig, which he does with remarkable energy for a guy the size of a meerkat.

Bob names names and shows us the huge effect specific modern economists have had on our technological lives -- everything from Internet dating to how to efficiently end ad auctions. A lot of this I didn’t know and you may not have known, either.

It’s a way of thinking far beyond Freakonomics that has changed the way we all live, whether we knew it or not.

How would you defend your profession?

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