But neither I nor most economists are going to make the effort of puzzling through difficult writings unless we’re given some sort of proof of concept — a motivating example, a simple and effective summary, something to indicate that the effort will be worthwhile. Sorry, but I won’t commit to sitting through your two-hour movie if you can’t show me an interesting three-minute trailer.
Krugman concludes with the admonition that “nobody has to read what you write.” I wish this were more generally understood. I’ve read articles in Political Analysis about things I don’t care about using methods I’ll never master that were nevertheless riveting, and I’ve slogged through articles on topics I care passionately about in allegedly substantive journals that I never understood. There’s one article, which my co-author on a long-term project and I have read a half-dozen times, that completely escapes our ability to summarize. Adopting a useful frame and engaging with readers is always good.
I get the sense that some folks believe that engaging with readers means dumbing down their argument. Far from it! Engaging with readers means presenting a complex argument smartly. That’s much more challenging than making a complex argument obscure. Anyone can be recondite; only geniuses can be understood.
This is one reason why I’m convinced that abstracts are not just useful but essential. I’m constantly befuddled by the fact that some journals don’t use abstracts (and I constantly wish that journals would use the nice, expanded-abstract format that AJPS used about ten years ago).