Thursday, August 30, 2012

Radio interview on WKOK

I was interviewed on Tuesday.  There was a lot of discussion of the economy, my new website (, and other topics.

Link here - I come on around 29 minutes and am on for the rest of the hour.

Monday, August 27, 2012

On radio Tuesday morning ...

FYI – I’ll be on the radio Tuesday morning. 

I'll be on from about 9:00 AM - 10:00 AM Eastern time.  You can listen live here:

Sunday, August 26, 2012

My new project - reviewing economic impact studies

I started a new website - Economic Impact Review.  I'll write more on my motivation for starting this site later, but much can be found in the site.

One note - with so many reviews being put out daily, we're starting with a focus on Marcellus shale.  Reviews of other economic impact studies (next up - parks and national parks).

Stay tuned for more!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Is the study of economics only for the right?

Some on the left apparently think so, according to this article in The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Some of the claims here, though, I find completely ridiculous. I've used some of the leading textbooks by Mankiw (more on the right) and Baumol and Blinder (more on the left).  Both though, teach almost exactly the same material.

In principles of microeconomics and macroeconomics courses, we cover many controversial topics, but what we do in our courses is positive analysis - the analysis of "what is", "what happens", etc.  We learn that rent control leads to less available housing, that firms that pollute will produce too much of a product unless the government intervenes, and markets cause any "wage gap" for men and women who are doing equal work to disappear if firms maximize profits.  Notice how none of these issues above involve the word "should".

From learning what happens, that's when a student (and this professor) can implement their value system and do normative analysis - examining what "should" or "ought to" occur.  I think the fact that we find that the unemployment rate rises among affected groups with an increase in the minimum wage and that firms are also hurt (and a decrease in total surplus) means that we should decrease the minimum wage.  Others in the class, however, could have a different normative view.  These views are are important, but not included in the students' tests.

These views aren't taught in a principles of economics - at least not by anybody doing a credible job.  While I encourage my students to think about how they would use what we find in our positive analysis to guide their normative beliefs, that normative issues aren't tested on the exam. I feel reassured that even though I'm more on the right on economic issues, I've recruited many students to major in economics who are more left-wing.  Economics is not for just one political party - it's for anybody who wants to understand how the economy works.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Reading List for Political Economic Thought

I get the honor of teaching "Political Economic Thought" again this spring.  I taught it also in spring 2011 (discussion  here).  It was an amazingly fun class to teach, as I got to work with some of our best students, to understand and dissect political and economic points of view from both the left and the right.  Several of the books are holdovers from the last time, but there are five new additions.

As of now, here's the tentative reading list:

Friedman, Milton.  “Capitalism and Freedom, Fortieth Anniversary Version.”  The University of Chicago Press.  2002.

Marx, Karl and Friedrich Engles.  “The Communist Manifesto.”  Signet Classic.  1998.

Sowell, Thomas.  “The Quest for Cosmic Justice.”  Simon & Schuster.  1999.

Sowell, Thomas.  “The Housing Boom and Bust.”  Simon & Schuster.  2009. 

* Stiglitz, Joseph E.  “The Price of Inequality.”  W.W. Norton.  2012

Powell, Jim.  “FDR’s Folly: How Roosevelt and His New Deal Prolonged the Great Depression.”  Three Rivers Press.  2003. 

* Krugman, Paul. “End this Depression Now.”  W.W. Norton & Company Inc.  2012. 

* Londsburg, Steven.  “The Armchair Economist.”  Free Press.  2012.
* Cowen, Tyler.  “The Great Stagnation.”.  2011.

Thaler, Richard H. and Cass R. Sunstein. “Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness. Revised and Expanded Edition.”  Penguin Books.  2009.

* Conard, Edward.  “Unintended Consequences: Why Everything you’ve been told about the Economy is Wrong.”  Penguin Books Ltd.  2012

The books with an asterisk (*) next to them are new additions. I cut out 3 books, and am reducing the coverage in Sowell's "The Housing Boom and Bust" to about 1/3 of the book, and Thaler and Sunstein's book to about 1/2 of the book.  

The new books are outstanding, in my opinion.  I definitely think Krugman's is better than the one we had in last time - and he's not nearly as vile or mean-spirited as you see in his blog or NY Times columns.  Cowen's short book is fascinating and has been a big source of discussion over the past 18 months in the econ-blogosphere.  Londsburg's book shows many great ways to think about problems in an unconventional way - and points out many errors columnists made but could have avoided using economic reasoning.

Conard's, however is the addition I'm most excited about.  I actually learned something I was teaching wrong in my principles classes.  He has a discussion of median incomes across demographic groups that is worth far more than the price for the whole book.

As with last time - we have several writers from the left and right, and a couple that are more politically centered.  It should be a great course.