I am not a labor economist, but I play one on the internet

In case you needed more evidence that a Google search is not a good means for discovering reliable information produced by experts on technical matters, run a search for “minimum wage elasticity.” As of this writing, the #2 result is this blog post, which I wrote as a homework assignment for a microeconomics MOOC. My blog doesn’t get a lot of traffic, but this post is far and away the most popular item on the site, getting viewers from all over the world. I assume that most of them are students in intro economics classes looking for some help on a standard problem in the field — does raising the wage floor increase unemployment?

I admire their interest in the question and my answer to it, but I’m no expert on this issue. This was the only economics course I had ever taken, and the professor in the course did not grade this work. It may well be a decent homework answer. It got a good grade from the peer graders in the MOOC . But given that my peers were other people who don’t know economics, that is little comfort.

The internet democratizes information in important ways. But as anyone who has observed American democracy recently knows, democracy does not always produce optimal results. When it’s important to get the facts right, as in academic research, we’re better off looking to the experts.

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