Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Haikunomic 03: Economists mind their P's and Q's

P?!? Q?!?? Wait, do that again!
Walrasian magic.

Blink and you'll miss it, that is today's lesson. In fact, the term "Walrasian magic" is actually trademarked by one Hays Golden, technically used here without his permission. A quick google search confirms that he has systematically shut down or otherwise prevented all other sites on the entire interwebs from ever using the term. Therefore enjoy this haiku for the next few fleeting moments of its existence; they are surely its last.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Lying, part 2

In Lying, part 1, I assumed it was one party's goal to communicate the truth, and the other party's goal to receive it. Today I want to consider the scenario where the second party still wants the truth but the first party doesn't want to give it to them. In this case the first party might justifiably lie to protect its private information.

Many people will probably agree that we have a right to try to keep certain things private. If I were secretly a Justin Beiber fan, I might not want to admit that...and why should I have to? You aren't entitled to know.

Of course, you could ask me, "Are you a closet Justin Beiber fan?" The act of asking still doesn't entitle you to know, but what are my options now? I can say yes or no...or of course I can decline to answer. And while you might be tempted to think that I can protect my private information by simply refusing to answer questions -- a fine-sounding claim in a vacuum, perhaps -- the fact is, we don't live in a vacuum. If lying isn't allowed, I can either say yes or nothing...but unfortunately both of those really mean yes here, don't they? Because in this world, people don't decline to answer that question when the answer is no...they just say no. In our equilibrium, silence speaks as loud as any affirmation. It communicates information that I might not want to communicate, and if it's my right to not communicate it, shouldn't I be allowed to say no?

Here is how I think about it: We say some words, okay. But rather than immediately analyzing those words for literal truth-value and accepting or rejecting them based on that, why not follow along with what actually happens to them in the real world? In the real world, these words are passed to the recipient as signals, who then interprets their actual meaning based on what tends to be true whenever people send such signals. In a peer group where some fraction of people are secretly Justin Beiber fans but no one wants to admit it, the question is posed: "Are you a Justin Beiber fan?" In this world, the actual meaning of silence is not "yes or no," it's "yes." And while we're at it, the actual meaning of "no" is not "no," it's "yes or no"! That's what the words mean when that's what everyone uses them to mean. There is reality -- the actual meaning -- and then there is our map of it, complete with all the handy labels we've constructed for referring to it. In this context, banning literal lies is like restricting the real-world places we're allowed to visit simply because of how they happen to be labeled on the map. It feels like a totally artificial restriction to me. It feels like it misses the point.


If we accept that words exist for the express purpose of communicating (as I argued briefly in Lying part 1), then there's no reason I shouldn't be able to wield them as necessary to communicate whatever I am justified in communicating, including nothing at all, as the case may be. In particular, I feel justified in protecting my private information. I could leave it at that, but as a sort of endnote, I'll also go into the source of this supposed justification for those who do want a closer look.

I realize this argument is not all-encompassing enough to convince everyone, but hopefully it is a good starting point for a discussion. As always, you are invited to share any concerns you may have in the comments.

Endnote: Information versus physical goods

May I suggest that we think of pieces of information in the same category as physical goods? Information has many characteristics in common with the usual goods, while other aspects are relatively uncommon or perhaps even nonexistent among physical commodities; nevertheless it does not appear to be a qualitatively different animal, and it seems that the same sort of analysis should generally apply well to it. In some contexts it is non-rival and non-excludable; other times it is neither of those things. Positive and negative externalities to ownership may abound. Marginal cost is often low, but other times prohibitively steep. People would often value information quite highly if it weren't so costly to we describe the transmission process by transaction costs, or just roll them into the value of the information itself? We don't seem to have free disposal; you can usually throw away a physical good, but it's difficult to get information out of your head once it's in there (although it does depreciate, and evolve, and turn all sorts of funny colors over time). A lot of information is like an experience good, meaning you don't necessarily know how much you will value it until the very act of consuming it...

Rest assured that the list goes on, and on some more. We will surely pay information its proper due some other time; for now, you should just get a sense that information interfaces well with the ways we think about standard goods. A piece of information has value to people and can be bought, sold, traded, or given away; it is, in an economic sense, a real thing of real value, qualitatively no different from any other sort of good. So that's the way I'm inclined to treat it.

And for that reason, it makes a lot of sense to apply the same standards to the transfer of information and physical goods.

In particular, physical good can change hands by mutual consent, but there's also such a thing as theft. Similarly, information can change hands by mutual consent, but there are also ways of intentionally taking it from an unwilling party. I view that as theft and apply the same moral standard to it. (NB: if you have never thought about it this way before, this almost certainly sounds more extreme than it actually turns out to be. At the same time, it does have many significant implications. In any case, this deserves a lot more commentary, but I'll reserve it for another time). In the context of the example above, not lying is equivalent to acquiescing to being stolen from. When someone tries to grab something from you, do you have to give it to them passively, or are you allowed to hold on?

That question does not have a "correct" answer, taken alone. But it probably has a correct answer taking your most deeply held beliefs as given. If you happen to feel one way about physical goods and another way about information, why? On a deep level, I think the concept of ownership applies equally well to physical goods as it does to private information. And if you try to apply different standards to the two, I suspect I can lead you down a path that ends in something that contradicts your more deeply held beliefs.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Lying, part 1

I have at least one friend who believes it is never justified to tell a lie. Hmm.

I have two basic problems with this, and one rather more complicated problem. First, there is a difference between speaking the truth and communicating the truth. Second, lying is often necessary to keep one's private information private (which I feel is generally my right). Third, people don't necessarily want the truth (or the truth might not be in their interest, whether or not they are aware of it). I will cover these in 3 separate posts; I think there's some worthwhile discussion to be had here, regardless of whether you would go as far as my friend on this matter.

Before diving in, here's a general take-away I'm hoping to get across: Whether lying is good or bad is not a one-party question that should be answered in a vacuum. It really matters what everyone else is doing. It matters what equilibrium we're in, because that determines how are actions are interpreted, and the interpretation is what we should really care about.

Lying, Part 1.

For the first point, assume we're in a context where we want to get the truth across. That is, we want to communicate the truth. Then should we feel compelled to speak the truth? The two questions that arise are:
  1. Can communicating the truth can actually differ from speaking the truth?
  2. If they do indeed differ, is it really fair to assume our goal is to communicate the truth, or might we justifiably care about speaking the truth instead?
The answer to #2 seems pretty clear to me (but speak up if you disagree!): If you are going to swear allegiance to the truth, it would strike me as oddly disingenuous to care about the act of saying true words rather than the act of communicating true the same way that you might frown on "implying" a falsity without technically lying. Who cares what the words literally say? Words exist for exactly one reason, and that is to that's the standard by which I am inclined to judge them.

On the other hand, perhaps it isn't immediately obvious that speaking and communicating the truth can even differ, but a simple example should make clear that a lie can easily move us closer to communicating the truth. [Note: I will not be discussing technicalities, such as the trivial case where a lie communicates the truth because it is true under colloquial understanding but technically false when taken extremely literally. I am interested in the case where one person is unambiguously lied to in the colloquial sense, and nevertheless ends up closer to understanding the truth, by some reasonable measure].

So, let's say you did your homework, but on the way to school, an improbable chain of events transpired during which it was stolen. When the teacher asks where your homework is, do you tell her about the neighbor's escaped pet monkey who attacked you and grabbed it out of your hands, or do you just tell her you "lost it"? Well, do you want her to think that you didn't do the homework and have no respect for her intelligence, or just that you didn't do the homework? (Because, like it or not, that's how your stories will be respectively interpreted). The choice is yours; for my part, I will choose the option that actually communicates something closer to the truth.

The point is this: You want the teacher to know the truth? Tough. Speak the truth if you like, but given that we aren't in a world where everyone always speaks the truth, whatever you say is simply a piece of data that goes into her likelihood function to update her posterior probabilities over what's true. That's all the control you have over her grasp of the truth. And if you really care about the truth itself, rather than simply the act of saying true words, then you should try to say words that will move her closer to the truth.
[Flag: The above says that in our current equilibrium, a lie may make us better off; it does not necessarily say we're better off than we would be in an equilibrium where nobody lies. With respect to this point, it can make sense that a religion (or some other set of social norms) might try to compel everyone to honesty. Nevertheless, it is our job to decide the best course of action given that they did not fully succeed, given that we live in a world where honesty is not ubiquitous, given that by our own actions we cannot move society to the desired equilibrium. If this point bothers you, I am happy to entertain discussion! In any case though, I suspect the next paragraph is fatal to honesty-as-unqualified-virtue, even in a world with total honesty.]
Furthermore, even if someone completely trusts you, you still have to worry about correlation between things you do and don't mention. Pretty much anything you can say is going to lead them to update their beliefs on the likelihood of any number of related things, possibly in the wrong direction to ill effect. For instance, you may say (truthfully) "I'm from neighborhood X" and that may cause them to revise their impression of you in a number of erroneous ways. Depending on the circumstances, it may simply be better to say something else. Alternatively you could say, "I'm from neighborhood X, but I don't have characteristic A, or B, or C, or D, or...." But that may be prohibitively costly, or altogether impossible.


As I have said, I think the goal of words should be communication. And if that is the goal, then adding an additional constraint can only inhibit your pursuit of that goal. In trying to get closest to communicating the truth, restricting yourself to literally true sentences can only make your solution worse. Why does the best route to understanding a truth always have to be made up of actual true sentences?

Another moral is this: A rule like "Never tell a lie" seems attractive because it's unambiguous and easy to follow. But in my experience, unambiguous and easy-to-follow rules tend to fall apart as soon as you ask, "Wait, what should I really care about?" Reality is generally far too multidimensional and messy to admit such a cut-and-dry rule. Once we recognize that communication is what matters, we are forced to acknowledge that the corresponding rule, "Never communicate a falsity," is not followable! There are tradeoffs. Just about anything you do will, in reality, move people closer to the truth along some dimensions and farther along others. So in deciding what to do, it becomes necessary to quantify these movements in some way, to weigh them against each other according to some rubric relevant to the situation. In other words, it becomes like any old optimization problem. "Rah rah!" say the economists...that's what decisions are supposed to look like, right?

Finally, so long as we're on this topic, note that the above homework example, in its simple absurdity, communicates a truth very efficiently. Economists and mathematicians understand this; that's why they're okay with their simple models and their stories about blue-eyed islanders. To respond by insisting on "realism" (as many instinctively and indiscriminately do) is to forego an easy opportunity to connect with some truth, some distilled feature of reality. When literal truth is expensive or confusing or otherwise poor at communicating truth, abandon it. But why discard a literal lie that successfully communicates truth, simply on the basis that it doesn't speak the truth?

Monday, February 14, 2011


Something everybody is aware of

That's the clue to the first long entry in tomorrow's New York Times crossword puzzle (Tuesday 2/15/2011, by Paula Gamache). We're looking for a 15-letter phrase.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Pleading the Fifth

Here's former defense attorney James Duane on why you should never talk to the police -- pretty worthwhile.

The basic claim is that no good can ever come of acquiescing to being questioned by the police, whether you're innocent or guilty. At best, what you say is neutral, and at worst it can be used to build a case against you; in fact it legally cannot be used to help you in court. The average of zero and a negative is a negative, so don't do it! Even the innocent are sometimes caught by the net; what you say can be misconstrued or misremembered, unless you don't say anything at all.

That, at least, is the claim. But we really need to take a step back. Perhaps silence means nothing in the eyes of the judge, but it means a whole lot in the eyes of the police.

Duane wants everyone to realize that pleading the fifth is not the same as admitting you have something to hide. But of course, in this world -- taking as given that innocent people generally do cooperate with the police -- pleading the fifth sends a clear signal that you are probably not innocent, that you probably do have something to hide. Maybe that's not such a big deal if you actually are innocent, but certainly if you are guilty, you might not want to give the police that information. Police have finite resources and reasoning abilities; they cannot fully examine every possibility. But I bet they scrutinize you more closely if you plead the fifth. Sometimes silence speaks louder than words.

Ironically, in the current equilibrium, people who haven't seen this video and aren't cooperative should be suspected guilty, while people who have seen the video should only be suspected guilty if they are cooperative.


A meta-comment: Zooming in is easy, but zooming out is much less natural. It is always tempting to imagine that your current vantage point is fully zoomed out, that you aren't missing anything relevant. In the courtroom -- and so in the defense attorney's mind -- silence is not admitted as evidence against anyone. Moreover, those cooperative guilty people who, in so doing, manage to avoid the attention of the police...they never even make it into the courtroom. They are simply not in the defense attorney's data set. From our zoomed out perspective, it's easy to see how Duane formed his opinion that silence is *always* optimal.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Haikunomic 02: Slackness at the boundary

In haiku, constraints
must be barely satisfied
but never binding.


Just like forced rhymes are a mark of amateurism in other sorts of lyrics, your haiku must barely satisfy its constraints without giving the feeling that the constraints are actually affecting it. It must feel natural, not forced into suboptimal phrasing by binding syllable counts. There are strings tied to each of your hands, pulled *just* taut to the left and right; if you want to move left or right, they will restrict you. But if you're already standing where you want to be, your optimization program is unaffected. The strings may as well be slack.

Of course, in economics this sort of situation arises all the time. For example, market transactions are really and truly constrained by how much stuff people are willing to buy and sell at a given price. A well-functioning market finds a price at which those constraints are exactly satisfied when everyone is simply doing exactly what they want to do.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Star Star Star Star Star

By request, I now dispense Economonomics' official stance on Freakonomics, and nomics more generally.

Freakonomics has been somewhat of a polarizing issue, I suppose. Of course, it was quite a popular book, almost as popular as this blog will one day be. On the other hand, there were strong negative reactions like this Noam Scheiber article that got a lot of attention a few years ago:

To be honest, I'm not going to bother reading that again, but if I recall, the basic argument is that Freakonomics influenced a lot of economists to start focusing on cutesy studies instead of the real, important issues of the world.

I will get to that (indeed, if that's what you want, skip down to #4. In fact, I advise it!). First though, as a more general point of philosophy, I will militantly defend my right to care about what I want to care about, think about what I want to think about, study what I want to study...and of course that goes for everyone else as well, including Steve Levitt. I do not like it when people are attacked for pursuing what's interesting to them.

1. Should we be motivated by what's useful? Richard Feynman wasn't -- "Physics is like sex," he said, "sure, it may give some practical results, but that's not why we do it" -- and that's physics. And if you think that you happen to be particularly motivated by what's useful -- perhaps you work a job that clearly "makes a difference" -- it's worth asking yourself what fraction of that is really just you being motivated by factors that are themselves driven by usefulness. Money, what other people think about you...the usefulness of your job influences these and other factors, and to the extent that you are motivated by them instead of the underlying usefulness itself, you don't also get to credit your concern for usefulness.

2. [Omitted: Even if you were deeply motivated by usefulness itself, it still wouldn't follow that I should be motivated by usefulness. What, really, is so special about your preferences? blah blah nuanced moral relativism blah blah blah...several paragraphs belong here, but this is already too long. In any case, the logical structure is such that you would have to reject them all to end up disagreeing with me, so I'm happy to throw this one away. Count it as rejected if you like.]

3. Anyway, I'm not a big fan of holier-than-thou preferences. But even if I was really into usefulness, I don't think I can always recognize it when I see it, or even that it's necessarily good for the progress of a discipline to focus on usefulness. Mathematicians don't necessarily see where things are headed when they prove things that in retrospect turn out to be quite useful. And to the extent that we're totally okay with mathematicians going about their business -- good luck arguing that they haven't actually been pretty useful in hindsight, nor is it clear we could have guided their work in a way that would have ultimately produced more useful results -- it would be odd to judge, say, "economist" human beings by a totally different standard as to how they should be allowed to spend their time. Why demand overt usefulness of economists? Does good necessarily come of this? It isn't clear to me. In any case, economists are useful in expectation, and I don't try too hard to justify my or others' work with forecasts.

4. Therefore I study what I want, without much concern for how overtly useful it is...and I don't expect others to do otherwise. But even if I did think economists ought to be directly and obviously useful, I still wouldn't have a problem with Freakonomics. Did it divert some economists from one path to another less useful one, as Scheiber charges? Hmm. First of all, Freakonomics-type work is obviously not worthless. (Far from it, in my opinion, but let's just go with "not worthless" for today). At the same time, studying important features of the macroeconomy is inherently important, right? Hmm. Either my econo-sense is tingling or there's something wrong with the Thai food I ate earlier.
Sidebar: If you're wondering, Freakonomics didn't have much of an effect on me personally. I'm not much of an empirical guy anyway, and Steve Landsburg's The Armchair Economist had already hooked me on economics several years earlier, in high school. And while we're on the subject, in that book, Landsburg makes something like the following point: "You want to be a doctor, to help people, to make a difference in this world? Because you view doctors as inherently more useful than chefs? Well have you considered that maybe the world already has enough doctors? What? Of course there's such a thing as too many doctors! What if everyone was already a doctor...then wouldn't people prefer a chef?"
My point is, there is a special level of Econohell for those who confuse levels and margins. That's where you go if you decide to ignore Landsburg's warning and treat "economists who study big important things" like doctors, and "economists who study Freakonomics things" like chefs. In reality, these subjects probably all experience decreasing returns and it is not at all clear that more Freakonomics research at the expense of other topics is a bad thing at the margin.

5. But even if Freakonomics did divert too many economists to Freakonomics-type topics,
I still wouldn't have a problem with Freakonomics. Because it also got a lot more people interested in economics. That means both that more people are attracted into the economics profession and that more noneconomists are more econ-aware. And I have to say, if you are an economist, and if usefulness is what you care about, then take a step back and consider the possibility that a marginal increase in economists' econ-awareness may pale in comparison to an increase in popular econ-awareness right now. Economists are always learning lots of new things...but that is not particularly useful to humanity if the rest of humanity isn't listening. Given the list of things economists have known for over a hundred years, but which nobody else seems to take seriously (comparative advantage, anyone?)...our usefulness is so clearly constrained by our ability to transfer the information we have obtained to all those billions of people who could use it. For economics, that really matters, because the business of implementing sound economic policy often hinges critically on the populace giving their permission to do so. Politics! Therefore I doubt that Freakonomics, and for that matter all the blankonomics books riding the tidal wave in its wake, actually did harm to economics.

The verdict: I would never personally judge Freakonomics by its usefulness. But if I did, I would give it five stars. Have I made my case? You tell me.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Haikunomic 01: Capacity Utilization

Haiku: all about
Use Use Use Use Use!

Edited to add:
Few people who criticize "utilize" versus "use" realize how deep the trouble goes. In fact, utilize:use::utilization:use! To turn "utilize" into a noun you must double its length, while the already short "use" just requires a change of pronunciation. Needless to say, this puts utilization right up there with pre-prepared.

Coming soon: Haikunomics!

I don't necessarily endorse or reject the angle of this essay by Stephen Ziliak. That said, I can't not make economics haiku a regular feature of this blog.

By the way, for those of you who think haikunomics is in some way going against the original mission statement of this site...well on the one hand I can sort of understand you thinking I'm really serious about this business of a strictly economics-themed economics blog. But on the other hand I did name it Economonomics, and by the way have you seen the new slogan?

Q-tip: Wehr

Monday, February 7, 2011

When is competition for relative status a good thing?

The argument can be made that people burn a good portion of their resources in zero-sum competition for relative status. For example, that we buy bigger houses partly because it's unpleasant to have a smaller house than our peers, not just because of the "intrinsic" value of a large house to us. There is a socially wasteful, zero-sum component to this, since if I move up in the rankings, it necessarily pushes someone else down. So far so good.

Or, here's another one: We seek more education than we "intrinsically" value, so that we will look better in the eyes of peers (including but not limited to potential future spouses). Maybe it's wasteful to spend so much of our lives learning instead of, say, producing or consuming? Maybe we spend more time in school than is socially optimal?

But here it is not so clear. Because being edumacated also confers positive externalities. Maybe when the country as a whole is better educated, we are jointly better off (e.g. better political outcomes result, more diseases are cured, etc). As individuals, we may have an incentive to free-ride off the general education level of everyone which case our own private concern for relative educational status could actually counteract this and do some good.

If you are thinking, hey, there's no externality to worry about when I cure a disease, monetize it and capture all the rents...please. That never comes close to happening, so we should be happy that people who invent great things are paid largely in prestige, to make up some or all of the difference.

Actually, it seems to me that many of the things which confer the most prestige are also the most socially valuable and most under-rewarded by the market itself. If you want to argue that competing for relative status is wasteful, that's a caveat to keep in mind. Because if, as a society, we tend to glorify traits that are good for society, then we gain relative status by gaining traits that are good for society and there's no problem. When does that fail and why? (what's really going on in the house example?) We will return to this question in the near future.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Agreeing to disagree

If anyone has ever wanted to formally understand Aumann's agreement theorem and the stuff it's built on, I recommend reading sections 0-3 of Aumann's Interactive epistemology I: Knowledge (10 pages) and then Aumann's 3-page Agreeing to Disagree. There may be a better way, but I just did that and it worked for me...and I appreciated the pointer so I'm passing it on.

I checked google scholar to see if the latter paper might have the most citations per page of any econ paper, but it was edged out by at least Nash (for also being brief but important) and White (for just getting so many darn citations).

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Camel camel camel

Amazon price history? I give you camelcamelcamel.

I'm sure there are many such sites, but nothing quite captures the rise-and-fall of prices like the voluptuous humps of three camels in a line. You can search for anything on this site, just like on Amazon itself, and it will display a graph of the price trends in the last year or so (including the third party new and used markets, if you like).

Besides it just being interesting, I have used this site as an aid in my actual shopping -- the price history gives a pretty good sense of an item's future price distribution, so I know whether it's worth waiting a bit. Some things repeatedly drop below a particular threshold for a short period of time; if you ask nicely, the friendly camels will even tip you off when that happens. Generally speaking, camels are pretty tippy rides, but sand makes for a soft landing.

Optimal star collection

Amazon reviews don't just reflect product characteristics. They reflect whether the product is worth the price. Is it a good buy? That's what the stars reflect.

Which is interesting, because prices change all the time, but stars stick around, and have positive influence on all future sales. So star collection should influence your pricing strategy, right?

What does optimal star collection look like? If you were going to collect 1000 reviews over the lifetime of your product, then what order would you want the ratings to arrive in? Well, assuming a higher average rating means more sales, you want the best ones first! That way, at every point in time your average rating is as high as it could possibly be. So, taken alone, optimal star collection dictates that you start with a low price and gradually increase it over the lifetime of your product.

Of course, there's another good reason for sellers to vary their prices over time, namely price discrimination. And there are two basic things going on there. First, you may want to fluctuate your prices randomly to separate out the people who are willing to hunt for deals. Second, if you're courting a bunch of impatient early-adopting iEverything fanatics, you want to start your iPhone at $600 and decrease the price over time. But note that this latter effect is in direct opposition to optimal star collection. Tension.

Anyway, Amazon is complicated and I'm still only at the very beginning of thinking about it, but these are at least some of the basic forces to keep in mind. Of course, there are also written reviews accompanying the ratings to give them context, but while many of these reviews will bring up the issue of price ("this was a great buy!"), inspection reveals that few of them actually bother to say what the price was at that time of the review. So actually, if anything, reviews written when price is low would serve only to further bolster future buyers' impression of the price ("$35 must be a good price for a Rubik's cube since everyone says this is a great buy"). So on the face of it, that seems to support optimal star collection, although admittedly there is a lot more going on there. Perhaps for another day.


A bold claim over at Wehr:
The worst word in the English language is “prepare”.
Actually this is completely true, at least according to the measure endorsed here at Economonomics. I'm sorry to say that "prepare" and its spawn are egregiously uneconomonomical.

The root of "prepare" is the latin word "paro," which itself already means "prepare." So we took that and added an extra pre- know, just in case it wasn't already clear. So "prepared" kinda sorta really means "pre-prepared." Silly.

Wait what's that you say? "Pre-prepared" is a word too? What? There's an entire aisle of your grocery store devoted to frozen "pre-prepared" meals?!? Would that really mean pre-pre-prepared?

Of course, if "uneconomonomical" was actually a word in the English language, "pre-prepared" would only be the second most uneconomonomical English word. In that case it wouldn't even be close, since "uneconomonomical" is both definitionally and literally uneconomonomical.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Snow day

It's a day for the record books here in chicago. If you're buried too, here's wishing you a happy snow day!

I don't even know where these guys came from, they just appeared in my freezer this morning. Hey, free lunch!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

On the proper accentation of economonomonomicist

It's been a while, but I do recall having some real trouble with the pronunciation of ecoNOMics versus eCONomist in the beginning. So I thought you guys might appreciate some help with the new batch of words. To that end, people who study economoNOmics are called econoMOnomists, and people who don't study economoNOmics are called noneconoMOnomists.