"By Writing Densely, I'll Impress Everybody"

Martin Wolf “is as grand and important as an economic journalist can ever become,” one pundit recently observed. In that light, consider this passage from Wolf’s new book:

“With the eurozone in internal and external balance and creditor eurozone seeking internal balance via ever-­larger external imbalances in the form of current-­account surpluses, debtor eurozone could only attain internal balance with ever-­larger external imbalances in the form of current-account deficits.”

If you understood this sentence on your first try, I’ll buy you a drink.

Here’s another typical sentence:

“If domestic output is to be sufficient to generate full utilization of capacity, aggregate demand must exceed domestic output by the size of the current-­account deficit, at full employment.”

Wolf may be brilliant, but he’s a lousy writer. As Felix Salmon puts it, “Given a choice between precision and ease of understanding, Wolf will always choose precision, talking about countries’ ‘net external liability position’ (instead of ‘national debt’) on one page, and their ‘real unit labor costs’ (instead of ‘wages’) on the next.”

My colleague Paul Stregevsky is less forgiving. Wolf, he’d argue, thinks that by writing densely, he’ll impress everyone.

Think again, sir. By writing densely, you come across as dense.

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