Students Forget About Keynes In The Summer

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Students Forget About Keynes In The Summer

  • beach reading

It seems today’s theme is “we’re winning!”

In Ludwig von Mises is Winning, Tho Bishop includes a Google Trends graph comparing the Mises Institute to other organizations. The Mises Institute has been at or near the top for a few years now, according to the Google Trends data, which bases its measure on search interest from people looking up various terms using Google’s search engine.

The Mises Institute was recently ranked the 9th most influential in a list of 50 US think tanks.

Tho Bishop’s blog post shows Mises on top in Brazil when looking at Google Trends data comparing Mises to other famous economists. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the rest of the world, but we’ll see how it may not be as bad as it looks at first.

A quick comparison of John Maynard Keynes and Ludwig von Mises show Keynes on top by a large margin. Of course, I didn’t expect to see dramatically surging interest in Austrian economists at the expense of Keynes, but I did stumble upon something interesting. 

Google Trends Keynes Mises

John Maynard Keynes, as a search term, has seasonal fluctuations in interest. Hovering over the low spots reveals that there are large dips in the summer and smaller dips in the winter, with spikes in interest every spring and fall. This aligns with academic schedules: a fall semester, a short winter break, a spring semester, and a longer summer break.

A main driver in search interest for Keynes is the fact that he is widely represented in textbooks and mainstream economics programs. Students head to Google to write their papers on Keynes or Keynesian economics assigned by their Keynesian professors. They might do the same when studying for a test in the same class. They lose interest in Keynes (if they had any in the first place) as soon as the semester is over.

Austrian economists, on the other hand, don’t have as much of a seasonal dip whenever school is out.

Google Trends Mises
Google Trends Hayek
Google Trends Rothbard

When all four of them are compared to each other, we see Keynes wins out by a significant margin (again, no surprises here).

Google Trends Keynes Hayek Mises Rothbard

It’s well-known that Keynesianism has a hold on academia, so it makes sense that Keynes would be a more popular search term. But wouldn’t large drops in search interest indicate that many aren’t really interested in Keynes and his economics, but just want to make a good grade in their classes?

I pulled the data from Google and ran some statistical tests to see just how large the drop in interest in Keynes is when school is out, especially compared to Mises and Hayek, who might also have some seasonal changes in search interest. I used June, July, and December as months when students are generally out of school.

I downloaded the data for each economist individually so that the data for the Austrian economists wouldn’t be unfairly “flattened” underneath the data for Keynes, due to Google’s indexing method.

Keynes drops 4.78 points on average when school is out, and this is statistically significant.

Mises and Hayek drop 1.90 and 0.53 points (respectively) on average when school is out, but their drops are not statistically different from zero.

 

Effect of school being out on search interest

95% Confidence Interval

John Maynard Keynes

-4.78

-5.90, -3.66

Ludwig von Mises

-1.90

-4.07, 0.28 (includes zero)

F.A. Hayek

-0.53

-1.96, 0.90 (includes zero)

 

To put it simply, students don’t care about Keynes when school is out. To the extent that Mises and Hayek get a school “bump”, students stay interested even when school is out.

So, maybe a more appropriate comparison between the economists would only look at the troughs. By doing so, we would ignore the spikes in search interest for Keynes just because school is in session and students have Keynesian projects, papers, and tests. Here is the Google Trends data just for the last few weeks of summer break, when the last thing students are thinking about is school:

Summer Vacation Google Trends Keynes Hayek Mises Rothbard

The gap between Keynes and the Austrians narrows considerablyby about 50% between Keynes and Hayek, using their long-run averages. Also, the converging trend becomes more noticeable with the data “smoothed out”. A single event could cause their paths to cross. Maybe a presidential candidate could name-drop Mises or Hayek in a high-profile debate. Maybe another financial crisis or talk of recession could send masses of people to Mises.org to read Rothbard’s America’s Great Depression. Maybe increasing talk of socialism will direct people to Mises’s Socialism, and they’ll see the worn-out and disastrous idea for what it is.

Interest in these four economists could turn upside down in a slower way. Maybe a dramatic shift in the US education system will cause mainstream economics programs to either reevaluate or lose students. Maybe more and more people will realize that Keynesian economists did not see the housing bubble and impending financial crisis in the years leading up to 2007-2008, and that their policy recommendations in response to the crisis were flat-out wrong and lead to ever more crises and recessions.

I think Tho is right to be optimistic about the work of the Mises Institute and the larger ideological dynamics today. Interest in Keynesianism, at least, seems to be weakly propped up by a teetering education system. What good is an idea if people lose interest as soon as they can without failing a course?

When students learn Austrian economics, they see its superiority as a science and as an explanation for what's going on in the world around them. They go to Mises.org to read articles and blog posts. They sign up for Mises University and Rothbard Graduate Seminar to learn more. They take courses online through the Mises Academy. They read Mises, Hayek, and Rothbard… even at the beach.

December 15, 2015

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Google Trends Keynes Mises
Google Trends Mises
Google Trends Hayek
Google Trends Rothbard
Google Trends Keynes Hayek Mises Rothbard
Summer Vacation Google Trends Keynes Hayek Mises Rothbard