More European Voices

The supply of economics commentary is growing.

Europe’s Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) has launched a new website called Vox, that seeks to become the focal point for discussion and analysis of policy-relevant economics. The enterprise joins a two-year-old American venture, The Economists’ Voice, The Economists’ Voice, and Project Syndicate, Project Syndicate, a still older non-profit association that delivers op-ed pieces by economists and others to more than 300 member newspapers around the world.

“We believe that there is room for one such site in Europe. CEPR and its partners will use our combined intellectual market power to trigger self-sustaining network externalities [that is, turn it into a hit],” says Richard Portes, CEPR president. “The hope is that everyone reads Vox since so many high-caliber economists post there, and people want to post there since so many influential and high-caliber people visit the site.”

The founding contributors, who have agreed to contribute regularly, are: Philippe Aghion, Alberto Alesina, Richard Baldwin, Giuseppe Bertola, Tim Besley, Olivier Blanchard, Tito Boeri, Willem Buiter, Michael Burda, Stephen Cecchetti, Daniel Cohen, Juan Dolado, Esther Duflo, Barry Eichengreen, Francesco Giavazzi, Jeffrey Frankel, Rachel Griffith, Philip Lane, Philippe Martin, Richard Portes, Anne Sibert, Guido Tabellini, Shang-Jin Wei, and Charles Wyplosz.

Richard Baldwin, of the Graduate Institute of International Studies in Geneva, will serve as editor of Vox. The Economists’ Voice is edited by Joseph Stiglitz of Columbia University with the assistance from  Bradford DeLong and Aaron Edlin, both of the University of California at Berkeley.

Vox will feature items that are diverse both in terms of length and depth of analysis, Portes says, but a key element will be “columns” by researchers on policy-relevant topics. These will be 500-1500 word “research-based policy analysis and commentary,” pitched at a level above that of a newspaper column but very much more accessible than a journal article. The audience is trained economists (not necessarily PhD but some formal training) in the public and private sectors, academia as well as the specialized media. The editors encourage submissions from all professional economists.

Vox is part of a consortium with LaVoce (Italy), Telos (France) and a Spanish site launching later this month, with German and Dutch partners joining soon. The best contributions will be translated into all the languages and posted on the various sites, with each site deciding what to translate for its audience.  The goal is to reach much deeper into the policy-making community with commentary analysis than can a newspaper column, says Portes.

Such reputation-building enterprises edited by professional economists are unlikely to replace the op-ed pages of conventional for-profit media, but they can be expected to exercise considerable influence on them. Anyone who doubts their potential should brush up their Italian and tune in to LaVoce, the forum that sparked envy among economists all over the world.  Granted, economics is a something of national passion in Italy. Still, as the success of the blogs demonstrates, a knack for pithy commentary can go very far, very fast, on the Web.