What did we know, and when did we know it?

There’s been an interesting discussion on some economics blogs about the state of economics knowledge. It’s part of a larger and perennial discussion/debate about what we should research and teach.

Despairing for their professions:

Brad DeLong reacts to an answer by Larry Summers about which economists are relevant:

Asked to name where to turn to understand what was going on in 2008, Summers cited three dead men, a book written 33 years ago, and another written the century before last.

Paul Krugman has been despairing for a while:

[W]e’re living in a Dark Age of macroeconomics. Remember, what defined the Dark Ages wasn’t the fact that they were primitive — the Bronze Age was primitive, too. What made the Dark Ages dark was the fact that so much knowledge had been lost, that so much known to the Greeks and Romans had been forgotten by the barbarian kingdoms that followed.

In New Zealand, the NZAE may be able to help. We have members from throughout the profession, both producers and consumers of economics knowledge. By talking with each other, we might be able to figure out what the relevant knowledge is and how to produce and transmit it.

But that raises some questions. Is there a market failure in the production of knowledge? That is, are economists really not producing the kind and amount of knowledge that is being demanded by knowledge consumers? Furthermore, would co-ordination help the problem?

The alternative is that the right amounts and kinds of information are being produced to satisfy those with an effective demand for it.