I, Dr. Edgeworth Boks, Professor Emeritus, take this opportunity to respond to P.S.Babcock's previous post about the job market for academic economists. It grieves me that he uses this column to malign the beloved profession. Graduate students! When will they learn?
If you wish to be an academic economist, I advise you thus:
Imagine yourself a plumber. Someone wants you to fix a toilet. If you are a talentless hack, you diagnose the problem accurately. You note that the hook has fallen off the chain, you slip it through, and lo, you have fixed the faulty toilet in under a minute.
If you are an economist, you do not notice that the hook has fallen from the chain. Why not? Because you are an economist! You are far too smart to be wasting your time looking at toilet chains. If toilets were rational, their hooks wouldn't fall from their chains in the first place! Moreover, if you were to fix the toilet by investigating carefully, by thinking clearly about the toilet, by posing the right question (and openly defying the rational toilets hypothesis), then no one would ever know how smart you were. They would see you thread the hook through the chain. Big deal. Any idiot can do that.
No, my dear economist-plumber, what you must do is this: You must take the toilet apart and put it back together again so that water leaks from every joint and crevice and so that nothing works correctly except for a small platinum egg timer you install on the side of the bowl. Then you must call attention to the workmanship and high quality of the egg timer. Every one will marvel at your intelligence. You have added a previously non-existent feature to the standard toilet that has been used by others in the profession: the platinum egg timer. And it was hard. (Which was the whole point).
Better yet, you could install the toilet upside down. It is extremely difficult to install a toilet upside down. Your colleagues will marvel that you have done something hard. You must be sure to tell them how hard it was and explain why it was hard. They will learn 2 things: You are not lazy and you are very close to being clinically insane. Both of these are virtues. The inverted toilet does not actually work, of course, but you need not mention this. What matters is that it was very hard and that you had to be very smart to do it.
Take my advice, young economists, as you embark on this journey through the job market and on to academia:
Dream big. Reach for the stars. And find a toilet to invert.