Dear Austan: You might think that it was quite a shock for me–“the world’s first and only stand-up economist“–to find a Wall Street Journal blog with the headline “Austan Goolsbee, stand-up economist“.
But in fact I was not shocked, or even surprised. You and your colleagues in the Obama administration have been quite active in redrawing the line between the public and private sectors, and it would not have been rational for me to expect that economics comedy would be immune from the onslaught.
Now, I could take your comedy endeavors as a threat and respond by hiring lobbyists to protect my turf, or by making an appearance on Fox News as “Joe the comedian”. But unlike plumbers or insurance executives or most other private sector businesses, stand-up comedians oppose barriers to entry. Although it pains me to remember the times I was crushed in comedy competitions by high school drop-outs telling fart jokes, I also remember that those crushing defeats made me stronger.
So I welcome the competition, even from the government (heck, especially from the government!) and in fact this letter is an open invitation for you to come join me in performing at the American Economic Association humor session in Atlanta on January 3, 2010. The humor session is free and open to the public, and will also feature Hugo Mialon of Emory University, Jodi N. Beggs of economistsdoitwithmodels.com, and country music legend Merle Hazard. University of Wisconsin professor Ken West will be emceeing, so you can RSVP to him or to me, or just show up unannounced and wait for Ken to invite you onstage. We even have a title for your presentation: Stand-Up Economics: The Public Option!
Regards, and hope to see you in Atlanta,
yoram bauman phd, standupeconomist.com
“the world’s first and only [private sector] stand-up economist”