Economic Inquiry: The home of economics humor!

As the Specialized Co-Editor for Miscellany of Economic Inquiry (which offers additional innovations such as a no-revisions option), I am delighted to put out this request for submissions that expose the lighter side of the dismal science:

  • Humorous articles, such as Leijonhufvud’s “Life among the Econ”, (Economic Inquiry, 1973), Gregor W. Smith’s “Japan’s Phillips Curve looks like Japan” (Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, 2008), or my own “Principles of economics, translated”, which is available in text format (Annals of Improbable Research, 2003) or on YouTube. (See below for a semi-complete list of funny articles.)
  • News headlines, real or imagined, such as a 2004 article that was originally headlined “Iraqis polled: War did more harm than good but worth it.”
  • Original economics jokes, such as “You might be an economist if…” Please don’t send me “assume a can-opener” or other jokes that are online, e.g., on JokEc.
  • Cartoons, anecdotes, and other funny stuff. I’ll even consider amusing excerpts from rejection letters, such as the 2003 referee report by a reviewer who failed to notice that the 20th century was over.

See the list below for my stab at a compendium of economics humor, and note some of these articles (and many others) can be found in Clotfelter’s On the Third Hand: Wit and Humor in the Dismal Science. If you have additions to this list, please If you have a multi-page “serious” submission, send it through the usual process, beginning with a careful read of the Submission Information. (Make sure to write on your paper that it is intended for the Miscellany section, and yes you will have to pay the submission fee.) If you are not sure whether your paper is “serious” or not, email it to me and ask me.

Funny economics articles

Please send me additions, and please note that some of these articles (and many others) can be found in Clotfelter’s On the Third Hand.

The “assume a can opener” joke (from JokEc)

A physicist, a chemist and an economist are stranded on an island, with nothing to eat. A can of soup washes ashore. The physicist says, “Lets smash the can open with a rock.” The chemist says, “Lets build a fire and heat the can first.” The economist says, “Lets assume that we have a can-opener…”

8 responses to “Economic Inquiry: The home of economics humor!”

  1. Owen Covick’s “The Quantity Theory of Drink – A Restatement” is an all-time classic from 1974, but not easy to obtain:

  2. The Irreverent Glossary produced by royall Brandis in 1972 also remains very appropriate, if a little dated in some of the references.

    Sample entry on the Phillips Curve:

    Device used to describe phenomenon which economists are unable to explain. Term derived from Phillips screwdriver which will not fit unless right screw is chosen in advance

  3. author = {Glaeser, Edward},
    title = {The Cinderella Paradox Resolved},
    journal = {Journal of Political Economy},
    year = {1992},

    [YB: Thanks, I've added this!]

  4. The Theory of Interstellar Trade by Paul Krugman (1978).

    [YB: This one is already on my list, and in fact, I helped to get it officially published, in Economic Inquiry in 2010!] But you’re right that it’s a great piece.]

    “This paper extends interplanetary trade to an interstellar setting. It is concerned chiefly with the following question: How would interest charges on goods in transit be computed when the goods travel at close to the speed of light?”

    “While the subject-matter is silly, the analysis actually does make sense. This paper, then, is a serious analysis of a ridiculous subject, which is, of course, the opposite of what is usual in economics.”

  5. Thanks for setting this up. One classic you missed:

    [YB: Thanks, I've added this!]

  6. you may want to have a look at “The lighter side of the dismal science: The humor of economics”. By: Ray, Margaret A., Social Science Journal, 03623319, 1991, Vol. 28, Issue 2


    YB: Thanks, I’ve added it!

  7. Me and a colleague have a paper out that wonders whether we can learn anything about economics and the profession from these mock papers in the Journal of Economic Methodology:

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