Sometimes debates flar up on blogs, FB and Twitter and other forms of social media about what influence academics have and how would one measure influence in a scientific discipline. I think these debates often overlook very simple measurements. If you teach a scientific discipline to college kids, how many of those kids become majors. If you teach majors in your discipline, how many decide to go to graduate school. If you teach graduate students, how many decide to be professors. If you teach future professors, how many of them will be able to generate majors, graduate students and future professors in their own careers.
So you want to know who has had influence in the discipline of economics, look at the number of PhD students that Stanley Fischer has supervised and what they have done with their respective careers. Or you could just look at this picture (circa 2009) of the academic flower of Thomas Sargent.
Enough said. If you aren't in the game, you aren't playing -- you are watching. If you want to be a player, you have to figure out a way to get in the game. Don't confuse playing your own game in your backyard, with actually playing the game. And also don't pretend that we don't know how to measure these things -- we do, and its sort of like baseball batting averages, or fielding percentages. Folks like Stan Fischer or Tom Sargent have Hall of Fame numbers, and they respectively changed the way the game is played for good or bad based on their work. That is influence. If you don't have those numbers, you don't have a Hall of Fame career. And no Hall of Fame career, then no influence.
End runs around a scientific discipilne might make you feel less frustrated, and certainly there is a lot in the discipline to be frustrated with, but as I wrote in discussing Buchanan's "Dishwater of the Orthodoxy" the solution isn't to either avoid the kitchen or learn to swim, but the scientific innovators learn how to successfully unclog the drain and wash away the dull, dead, drab, and dirty, and replace with fresh new flows of ideas about methodology, method, and application.
Economics as a dsicipline is an intellectual adventure. Be curious, be relentless, be hungry for knowledge, track truth in your studies, think clearly, writer clearly, and speak clearly.