Fix excavates economic textbooks’ under-represented words

Political economist Blair Fix sicks a word-counting bot on a corpus of 43 undergraduate economics textbooks and compares the results to the Google books corpus. He’s reports which words are over and underrepresented in the textbooks in his essay Deconstructing Econospeak.

Fix observes:

What’s most interesting about econospeak is not what it includes, but what it excludes. Economics textbooks underuse a large portion of the English language. Let’s have a look at this underuse.

We’ll start with the ‘under-represented’ quadrant. These are words that are used frequently in economics textbooks, but still less than in average English. Figure 9 shows the most under-represented words. Here, a larger font indicates more underuse.

After compiling a couple of E.E. Cummings-esque sentences from the core “non-economist” language, Fix observes: “Economists pay attention to competition between groups, but not to the bureaucratic dynamics within groups.”

If you enjoy Fix’s deconstruction of economists’ language or, more generally, musing about word games, check out Wittgenstein’s take on how words enact and obscure our claims to truth and objectivity.