Category: Weblogs

From the Institute for New Economic Thinking

We would like to introduce our new blog on the website of the Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET) entitled ‘Reading Mas-Colell’, which will initially run in the fall of 2012, alongside our teaching of a course which uses the textbook on microeconomics by Mas-Colell, Whinston and Green. We hope to make a modest contribution to economic thinking by engaging in selective close reading and commentary on a very influential text, which in certain ways has become a ‘Bible’.

Our goal is to help through the blog to change the way in which economics teaching is approached at the Ph.D. level (many agree that it is limited and limiting). We hope to generate a lively conversation on how economics is taught and practiced today.

You can find the blog on the INET website at:

We very much hope that you and your readers will participate in the conversation that we hope to generate.

Best wishes,

Sanjay G. Reddy and Raphaele Chappe

From the excellent Yichuan (Lulu) Wang

You all should be following him, or so it would seem to me.  Here are excerpts from his post What China Could Be Building:

The real risk is not that the housing won’t be used, but that the crash would have secondary effects. Local governments are dependent upon land sales for revenues, meaning a housing crash could have serious implications for government. In Guangdong province, some local governments are actually tearing down mountains to make new land in the ocean, all to sell the land. This, along with the recent reversal of capital flows and possible insolvency of private wealth management firms, represents a serious liquidity risk that can have disastrous consequences.

…So let’s answer Scott’s [Sumner] fundamental question:

So here’s my question for all of you China skeptics that insist they are building way too much housing, infrastructure, heavy industry, etc.  What precisely do you want them to build more of?  And what are the 100s of millions of Chinese living in tiny ramshackle homes to do?  Sit tight for a few more decades while resources pour into nice urban services for the pampered elite?I want them to start building leaf blowers, so we don’t have so many Chinese people in the low productivity position of sweeping streets. I want them to start building farm equipment, so we don’t have so many Chinese farmers tending the fields. I want them to build more laundry machines, to free the rural Chinese from scrubbing clothes on washboards. I want them to build electric stoves, so my Grandpa can put away the coal fired outside oven. I want them to build computers that can deliver cheaper education to the masses.

Instead of just focusing on “building,” I want them to invest in human capital, so productivity can be at a level that we don’t need “make work” jobs. I want them to build more schools and hire better teachers, so classes aren’t as large and you’re not damned if you can’t make it in a top elementary school. I want productivity to be high enough that high end stores don’t need more clerks than actual customers.

I want these things among many others that will only be more obvious in a freer market.

That Scott can get a haircut for $4 or an ice cream cone for 50 cents shows how low productivity and wages are in China. Yet they will not grow any faster with more housing or more state directed investments. Cheap subway rides are nice, but are they not just another sign that transportation infrastructure has been built too quickly? I’m not saying China is hitting a ceiling for growth, or that vast swaths of China are condemned to poverty. But what I am saying is that we need to worry about the systemic fragility that underpins the Chinese system, and be very, very concerned about the unknown magnitude of the downside risk.

His full blog is here, his short bio is here.

Austan Goolsbee is now blogging

He has started with a post on Glenn Hubbard and the budget.  He closes with this:

I agree with Glenn that one of the key debates in the election should be about how America should deal with our long  run budget challenge (that comes from the aging of our population).

And that debate is coming down to one camp saying let’s have cuts to spending and interest around $3 trillion and tax revenue of $1 trillion to hit the deficit cutting target and the other camp saying let’s have cuts of$7 trillion to hit the deficit target plus pay for $3 trillion of tax cuts.

Hubbard closed his op-ed by saying that he just wants people to see the prices on the menu.  Well then, next item: The Romney Budget.  Glenn, you may want to practice your Heimlich maneuver.

How are left-wing and right-wing blogs different?

Via Kevin Lewis, here is Aaron Shaw and Yochai Benkler:

American Behavioral Scientist, April 2012, Pages 459-487

In this article, the authors compare the practices of discursive production among top U.S. political blogs on the left and right during summer 2008. An examination of the top 155 political blogs reveals significant cross-ideological variations along several dimensions. Notably, the authors find evidence of an association between ideological affiliation and the technologies, institutions, and practices of participation. Blogs on the left adopt different, and more participatory, technical platforms, comprise significantly fewer sole-authored sites, include user blogs, maintain more fluid boundaries between secondary and primary content, include longer narrative and discussion posts, and (among the top half of the blogs in the sample) more often use blogs as platforms for mobilization. The findings suggest that the attenuation of the news producer-consumer dichotomy is more pronounced on the left wing of the political blogosphere than on the right. The practices of the left are more consistent with the prediction that the networked public sphere offers new pathways for discursive participation by a wider array of individuals, whereas the practices of the right suggest that a small group of elites may retain more exclusive agenda-setting authority online. The cross-ideological divergence in the findings illustrates that the Internet can be adopted equally to undermine or to replicate the traditional distinction between the production and consumption of political information. The authors conclude that these findings have significant implications for the study of prosumption and for the mechanisms by which the networked public sphere may or may not alter democratic participation relative to the mass mediated public sphere.

Authors vs. journals

From Jeff:

The way it works now is you write a paper then you send it to a journal and they review it and decide whether to publish it.  The basic unit is the paper.  What if we made the author the basic unit?  Instead of inviting submissions, Econometrica invites applications for the position of author.  Some number of authors are accepted and they can write whatever they want and have it published in Econometrica. The term would be temporary, maybe 1 year.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to just write the paper you want to write, not the paper that the referees want you to write?  The quality of papers would unambiguously increase.  After all, your acceptance is a done deal, anything you write will be published, why bother writing anything less than the most interesting idea that is currently on your mind.

Quality control is achieved by rotating in the authors currently writing the most interesting stuff. Once the current slate of authors is chosen, there is no need anymore for referees or editors.   But if you want peer review, you can have that too.  Anyone wishing to prepare a referee report is invited to do so, they can even do it anonymously if they want and even make it open to the public.  The journal might even want to append the reports onto the published paper.

Come to think of it, these journals already exist:  blogs…

From my inbox

I feel like the young economist bloggers of the world need some advice, but I don’t have the stature, experience, or age to give it.

Working for a consulting company I’m fairly detached from the academic world, but we are staffed with PhD economists and we do hire grad students. When I read stuff that, for instance, REDACTED writes, in the tone that he writes it, I know that at my company if he were a potential hire we would a) Google him, and b) this would hurt his chances. This isn’t about political leanings either. My liberal colleagues would look at his writings with the same distaste and worry that my conservative colleagues would.

Is this the same way it is in academia? Should young economist (and other academic) bloggers be more careful than many seem to be? Are they hurting their job market chances? Because that is my impression.

That is another reason for polite discourse, namely that it improves the career prospects and quality of one’s readers and followers.  The best reason, however, is still that it improves one’s own thought processes and that is a point of substance not just style or manners.  I’ve seen that point ignored a lot in the commentary of the last few weeks but not once seriously disputed.

Marginal Revolution’s Most Popular Posts from 2011

1. College has been oversold. It’s hard to explain which posts go viral but this post, based on material from my e-book Launching the Innovation Renaissance, was a monster generating over 500 comments, 3000 likes and 800 tweets. The follow-up on puppeteerring in a wintry economic climate was also popular although not in the top ten.

2. Teacher’s Don’t Like Creative Students. Another monster with fewer page views than #1 but over 3000 likes and nearly 4000 tweets!

3. Philosophy Referee Signals.

4. Be Safe Break the Law, on the 55mph speed limit.

5. Possible progress in medicine, a link-post from Tyler noting a new drug that can kill many viruses.

6. What is quirky about the United States? A question from Tyler that generated many comments.

7. The Mexican Mafia another of mine that went viral with links from Time, Instapundit and Reddit.

8.  World Income Equality a graph showing how poor Americans are richer than rich Indians.

9. Explaining France, a post from Tyler explaining, well you know.

10. Common mistakes of right wing and market economists, a nice meaty post from Tyler, just a little bit more popular than Common mistakes of left-wing economists.

A few other notable posts in the top 25 were my posts on cities, India’s Voluntary City and Cities as Hotels, Tyler’s post on the S&P downgrade, my post on The Fruits of Immigration, which was  mostly just quotations but I worked hard on the final line which many people then linked to, and my post on The Great Male Stagnation.

Several posts from previous years continued to be popular. What Happened to M. Night Shyamalan? from 2010 was again popular this year probably because Slate expanded the idea into a feature called Hollywood’s Career-O-Matic.

The importance of writing a good title is shown by Tyler’s 2007 posts Why did the Soviet Union fall? and How many children should you have? neither of which generated many comments but both of which show up early in Google searches of precisely these questions. My 2008 post What is New Trade Theory? on Krugman’s Nobel may also continue to attract attention for this reason.

2012 here we come!

Sumner on Yglesias

PS.  Congratulations to Matt Yglesias on his new gig.  He’s arguably the best progressive economist in the blogosphere, which isn’t bad given that he’s not an economist.  I said “arguably” because Krugman’s a more talented macroeconomist.  But Yglesias can address a much wider variety of policy issues in a very persuasive fashion.  So he’s certainly in the top 5.  His blog is the best argument for progressive policy that I’ve ever read.  (But not quite persuasive enough to convince me.)

Scott writes more, on the euro.