Economists have it easy. Jobs in B-Schools and the private sector, not to mention the Federal Reserve, keep employment and wages high, and the CEA means that economics is the only profession with its own voice in the White House. But beyond that, economists seem to have it easy in one other key way: economics is just funny. I don’t know why it is – the overpowered jargon, the absurd simplifications, whatever it is, economics has a lot of jokes.
For example, the internet is full of funny economists. Yoram Bauman is the stand-up economist, who just released a cartoon introduction to microeconomics. Jodi Beggs runs the blog Economists Do It With Models, and was recently featured at the AEA’s humor session. Oh yeah, they had a humor session at their annual meetings! Economists are featured in jokes, such as the famous can-opener joke (featured on the cover of MacKenzie et al’s Do Economists Make Markets?). Paul Krugman even wrote a humor paper on the theory of interstellar trade. And so on.
What about sociology? There was a blog thread a few years ago on Sociology light-bulb jokes, but one blog post does not a funny discipline make. I made a bit of my own for last year’s Cabaret (an annual event in the Michigan Soc department where first-years are required to entertain the department with an evening of skits).
But still, I’m left puzzled. Why is sociology so lacking in humor? Or if it’s not, where is it? Is it just an issue of disciplinary size – economics is a bigger profession, and as Smith taught us, the division of labor is limited by the extent of the market. Are we simply Too Small To Laugh?
A disturbing thought indeed. Let’s hope this year’s Cabaret proves me wrong with some enduring sociological humor that we can contribute back. Perhaps the real problem is institutional – if we had some sort of sociological humor archive, we could improve the distribution and reproduction of sociological humor. Somehow, I doubt it’ll happen. Until then, I’m left spending my mornings in econ envy. For the laughs, of course, not the money.