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Aug 16, 2009 3:12 pm

Do Historians Have One?

I just returned from a visit with editors and contributors of Econ Journal Watch. This is an online journal that critiques the stuffy, math-oriented, and statist articles in highbrow economic journals. It does other things, too -- for example, Daniel Klein and Gavin Kennedy conduct a dignified debate over whether Adam Smith's use of the term"invisible hand" was just a casual metaphor (May 2009). (Klein edits the journal.)

But EJW also points out the establishment's erroneous assumptions and illogic and offers more market-oriented alternatives. For example, David Henderson challenges the

smug assumptions of two economists arguing that smoke-free ordinances raise restaurant profits (May 2008).

And William Davis and Bob Kennedy point out that most establishment economists write as though American democracy is a "wise, reliable, melioristic" process (May 2009). Then they discuss a survey revealing that these same economists are actually quite skeptical of the political process; thus, establishment economists' policy prescriptions tend to be at odds with their personal beliefs (May 2009).

The peer-reviewed journal is sponsored by the American Institute of Economic Research in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. It is not a blog and doesn't accept online comments, but it has good readership for an academic journal (you can see the number of hits under "Archive") and its cites are quite respectable. In spite of its belligerence against the current economic establishment, it's gained quite a bit of traction since it started in 2004. Do historians have such a thing?

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Jeffrey Rogers Hummel - 5/26/2009

Jane: History does have something similar to Econ Journal Watch, although it is not completely parallel, given that economics has a journal culture whereas history has a book culture. The Historical Society was created in the late 1990s by prominent historians across the political spectrum in response to the political correctness and topical straightjackets of the mainstream historical associations. The Historical Society has two publications. One is a refereed journal. But what I think is most similar to Econ Journal Watch is their newsletter, Historically Speaking, which frequently contains long articles debating about or critiquing of current historical writings.

Jonathan Dresner - 5/26/2009

"Fundamental tenets of the discipline"

Seems to me that those are not uncontested, even in economics. Your description of the journal suggests that they take a particular point of view, yes.

Jane S. Shaw - 5/26/2009

Are you saying that a journal reflecting the fundamental tenets of the discipline--the factors that affect voluntary trade and exchange--and that calls on the leading journals to take those tenets into account is just offering a "single theoretical perspective"?

Jonathan Dresner - 5/25/2009

Why would we need a journal offering attacks on other historians from a single theoretical perspective?

There's probably one or two out there, mind you, but why bother?

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