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To little light and narrow room have I been  consigned, to stamp out ignorance. After 7 weeks of blood, bile and ink, it appears another cohort has been saved from barbarism, prepped and ready to be delivered into the capitalist maw.

In the meantime the junior economics job market has lurched into action. It begins with the `great sorting’. Departments with large numbers of students on the market meet to sort their `product’ by quality. There is no sorting hat to do the work. Instead, advisers, who must balance the parental impulse to promote their progeny against professional propriety, execute the task. This demand to constantly judge, weigh and evaluate others is perhaps the most unpleasant duty that those who `seek for truth in the groves of academe’ must perform. It wearies the mind and corrodes the soul.

The second big step of the junior economics job market is the `great herding’. Major institutions must coordinate upon a handful of bright young things bound for greatness. In six years, these new minted pennies will be so much loose change, sic transit gloria mundi.

Who are this years, superstars? Haven’t the faintest. However, one does not need to don tweed and move to the hub of the universe to find out. There is a web site that passes along rumors about the job market in which names are named, cutting remarks made and blood drawn.

A puzzle, to me at least, is why herding does take place (OK, I probably need some way  to distinguish between herding and not herding, a measure of the extent of herding etc. But, this is not the pages of Econometrica). The decision to hire at the untenured assistant professor level is not irrevocable. One can let the person go if things do not work out (see what I mean about the corrosion of the soul). Thus a department should be willing to take on more risk in hiring at the junior level (I’m assuming of course that the department is willing to bite the bullet when the time comes). In particular  a department at rank x looking to make it into rank x-10, should be willing to take on more risk then the department currently at rank x-10. Thus, why so much agreement on who they interview?

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