Is Econ The Anti-Glamour?

In the unlikely event that they remembered me (and my mediocre grades), my college economics professors would be, no doubt, thrilled to hear that I’ve finally developed an interest in their subject. Thanks to proponents of “pop economics” like Freakonomics authors (and bloggers) Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner, these days I’m downright entertained by the discipline. The freaky duo and their pop peers apply economic principles to practical subjects – like baby naming – creating accessible, but academic, discussions of everyday problems.

Accessible, academic, and entertaining, but seriously lacking in the glamour department.

In fact, I think economics might just be the polar opposite of glamorous. Where glamour invokes mystery and seduction, econ seeks to compartmentalize, deconstruct and explain.

The differences between the two are readily apparent, even in their language. For example, compare this:

As my research agenda has turned lately to thinking more about business and how companies can maximize their profits, I’ve spent a lot of time pondering customer service.

Shoes With this:

Manolo says, the Manolo is not surprised by this story about the Zappos extraordinary customer service.

Those are the first sentences of blog posts by Freakonomic’s Levitt and the undeniably glamorous Manolo the Shoeblogger (interviewed by DG here). The subject of both posts is exactly the same: this tale of amazing customer service on behalf of online shoe retailer Zappos. Zappos sounds like a pretty impressive, well-run company - plus, shoes! - and both blogs regularly sing its praises, for exactly the same reasons. But in such a different way.

The Manolo’s opening sentence might be short and to the point, but its tone very quickly conveys that the blog as a whole is fun and funny and just a little bit exotic, sort of like a tongue-in-cheek romance novel (for more of that, and another Zappos link, check out this post). Levitt’s tone, on the other hand, is a combination of academic and businesslike – pure economist. And he’s one of the accessible ones!

This isn’t a criticism of the world’s economists, by the way. Not everybody can - or should - be a super-fantastic shoeblogger. But I can’t help but wonder if there’s somebody out there who has the capability to glam up economics. Of course, given the current state of the economy, glamorous intrigue and mystery might not be the recipe for recovery. Then again, it just might.