Economics Blogs in a Time of Crisis: Policy, Development, Globalization, and Transformation

Posted on March 22, 2009 by

Almost desperate for blogs that cover dimensions of the economic crisis in relatively brief posts that are accessible to non-economists, I was forced to take a journey lasting a few days into the economics blogscape. Longstanding interests of mine have been political economy, globalization, and world-systems analysis, and my early reason for entering anthropology was to marry some of the background I acquired in a development-oriented International Relations program, with more “ground-level” and intimate knowledge of real human beings in real places.

I am glad I did this blog tour, I found some particularly rich resources that I want to share here. (One of the curious facts I noted is the recurring mention of George Mason University as the site for a number of the blogs below.) There is a particular order to what follows below, mostly, and hopefully I can make that clear. I “favourited” (the new Internet word for favouring) a number of the items below as ones that I personally want to visit frequently. The (A) notation means that the blog is explicitly authored by one or more academics (whether students or faculty).

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Among anthropology blogs, we know of Neuroanthropology, which seems to have its economics counterpart at Neuroeconomics. Neuroeconomics is an expression of George Mason University’s Center for the Study of Neuroeconomics. Neuroeconomics describes itself as “an interdisciplinary research program with the goal of building a biological model of decision making in economic environments,” looking at ways the emboded brain enables, “the mind (or groups of minds) to make economic decisions.” Neuroeconomists seek to combine “techniques from cognitive neuroscience and experimental economics,” so that they “can now watch neural activity in real time, observe how this activity depends on the economic environment, and test hypotheses about how the emergent mind makes economic decisions.” They claim that neuroeconomics “allows us to better understand both the wide range of heterogeneity in human behavior, and the role of institutions as ordered extensions of our minds.”

In case you are wondering, yes, there is also a Neuropolitics site/blog/archive of essays, and a Neurosociology blog.

Also, just as there is this Open Anthropology blog, there is an Open Economics blog, which is not suggest that they are twins, though there are some similarities beyond the titles: “[The Open Economics] blog is administered by a group of students at the University of Notre Dame who meet weekly to examine and debate the world of economic phenomena we face, everywhere and everyday. Here, we will post our weekly readings along with any other economic artifacts we may come across. Anyone is welcome to join the discussion from across any boundary or discipline. A more diverse understanding of economics is our goal, and open debate is (in our opinion) the best way.” Open Economics is going to be one of my favourite economics blogs given its open style and the diversity of issues it covers (looking at recent posts we see items on barter, changes to the discipline of economics, financial debates in popular culture, the debate between David Harvey — who works in an anthropology department — and Brad DeLong, capitalism “after” the crisis, and contemporary slavery in the U.S.). I am marking this with a red star (gold has been devalued) as a blog I will read regularly. (A)

(Yes, there is also an Open Politics site, which coincidentally is run by other Canadians, but no Open Sociology.)

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The Daily Capitalist has been publishing since 2007, now frequently, and is led by Jeff Harding. Most of the items are U.S.-focused, deconstructing recent policy measures, bailout schemes, and stimulus packages. The blog comments on economics, politics, and finance from a free market perspective, according to its mission statement. The stated aim is to try to present ideas the reader would not find in contemporary media.  Among the blogger’s leading influences are the founder of the Classical School of economics, Adam Smith, and the Austrian school of economics, including its leading thinkers Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich von Hayek. Jeff Harding traces his political philosophy back to Edmund Burke, John Locke, and Thomas Jefferson, to name a few. The blogger also has an interest in investments and finance, and specifically investment risk and the role of the business cycle. Otherwise, the blog does rejects endorsing any one political party or ideology. The blog’s goal is to challenge contemporary thinking, mainly from those who promote Keynesian economics (almost everyone) and rely on statist solutions to problems.

Financial Armageddon is about as bold as an economics blog can get, right up to the very design of the blog itself. The blog is the project of Michael J. Panzner, and there is nothing ambiguous about the title and the perspective of this blog. Great reading, packed with posts, frequently updated.

FiNTAG, describing itself as “daily news, gossip, predictions, and opinions” about hedge funds, can be remarkably hilarious, which is not to diminish either the substance of the posts or the expertise of the blogger, a London-based hedge fund manager. Here is a tiny sample of his excellent sarcastic wit: “When I was a banker, I was wet behind the ears. As time went on, I suddenly realised banks operated in a different way to any other business. I got corrupted which is why I set up a hedge fund. Today I feel cleansed and sanctimonious.” It is well worth checking this regularly. The blogger posts several short pieces each day.

Naked Capitalism is a group blog that has received nearly 8 million views in the last two years. Many of the recent posts focus on the ironies, contradictions, and shortcomings of recent bailout measures in the U.S., in language that is widely accessible and engaging.

The Post-Autistic Economics Network is not a blog, but a fascinating archive of essays critical of mainstream economics (reminding me of Open Economics above)., specifically both neoclassicism and neoliberalism. As the site authors explain, Post-Autistic Economics involves a situation where, “one theory, that illuminates a few facets of its domain rather well, wants to suppress other theories that would illuminate some of the many facets that it leaves in the dark. This theory is neoclassical economics. Because it has been so successful at sidelining other approaches, it also is called “mainstream economics”. (A)

The Progressive Economics Forum is a group blog of mostly Canadian authors drawn from various sectors: academia, trade unions, and the civil service. It publishes frequently, either one post per day, or several posts per day. Many of the posts deal with both national and international monetary policy, economic development, and their intersections with or impact on social policy and social relations more generally. The writing is widely accessible, and the topics are often of urgent importance. I will be checking this one regularly, hence another star. (A)

Radical Perspectives on the Crisis is a blog that features daily news summaries pertaining to the current financial and economic crisis. It is very new and has not posted much thus far.

Rogue Economist Rants (“conventional approaches, unconventional conclusions”) is also a Canadian blog, with a wide international scope. The blogger, who prefers anonymity, says he has been a banker and financial consultant in many countries. A number of the recent posts have to do with the uncertainty and unpredictability of the outcomes of the current crisis, coupled with short but very detailed and thought provoking analyses of current investment trends, production, labour, monetary policy, globalization, and the future of the nation-state. This is definitely worth consulting further — another red star, though Rogue Economist might not like the unintended political connotations.

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China Economics Blog is is written by an academic economist to document the rapidly changing Chinese economy and its local and global implications. It clearly states that it “aims to be politically neutral.” In general, it describes itself as “a place to find news, observations, statistics, information on undergraduate (BSc and BA economics) postgraduate (MSc economics) and academic analysis of important issues for China’s economy including economic growth, inequality, stockmarket, shares, exchange rates, the environment, foreign direct investment, WTO and much more.” (A)

Dani Rodrik’s weblog (“Unconventional thoughts on economic development and globalization”) reinforces the “unconventionality” theme we found above, even if within recognizable parameters. Dani Rodrik is the Rafiq Hariri Professor of International Political Economy at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. He was born and grew up in Istanbul, Turkey. Most of the recent posts focus on global finance, capitalist transformation, and the state of political decision making. Another one that is worth checking very regularly. (A)

Norman Girvan: Caribbean Political Economy , is both a site (in the sense of archived articles and papers) and a blog, depending on which of the tabs you click. Norman Girvan is Professorial Research Fellow at the UWI Graduate Institute of International Relations at the University of the West Indies in St. Augustine, Trinidad and Tobago. There is an abundance of materials on this site dealing with culture and development, globalization and the financial crisis, Caribbean integration, trade arrangements, multilateral financial institutions, as well as special sections devoted to Haiti, Cuba, and Gaza. See more details in the comments below (here, and here). This is an excellent and very rich resource, whose content matches many of the interests of this blog. (A)

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The Becker-Posner Blog is authored by Dr. Gary Becker (a professor in the Departments of Economics and Sociology, and of the Graduate School of Business, at the University of Chicago) and Richard A. Posner who is both a judge and a senior lecturer in the University of Chicago School of Law. It is a widely quoted blog, and as seen below, is also shadowed by its very own, dedicated, counter-blog. They have been blogging since 2004, and many of the recent posts have to do with China, financial regulation, and taxation. (A)

The Anti-Becker-Posner Blog is “a blog devoted to correcting the mistakes, omissions, and downright nonsense on the Becker-Posner-Blog.” The two contributors have chosen anonymity, as the Crit Cowboy and Leisure Theory. Becker and Posner must be delighted to have this running form of anonymous peer review, but I have not, in my limited time perusing the one above, seen much in the way of addressing the criticisms. (A?)

BONOBO LAND must be included, if anything for having such an imaginative and memorable name. While focused mostly on Europe, the blog is concerned with global economic coverage and has a sidebar that aids readers to learn more of the economics news of each of the continents, and select emerging powers. As a resource that seems to be produced mostly with economists in mind, there can be a dizzying array of charts and graphs that really demand explanation and translation for those of us outside of that discipline. On the other hand, the actual text is written in widely accessible language, frequently argumentative in style. It is unclear who or what is behind the blog.

Carpe Diem is a blog by Dr. Mark J. Perry, who is a professor of economics and finance in the School of Management at the Flint campus of the University of Michigan. Perry holds two graduate degrees in economics (M.A. and Ph.D.) from George Mason University near Washington, D.C. In addition, he holds an MBA degree in finance from the Curtis L. Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota. Since 1997, Professor Perry has been a member of the Board of Scholars for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a nonpartisan research and public policy institute in Michigan. Many of the recent posts are in the spirit of “how economics affect you,” with materials on home ownership, food, and driving. (A)

The Conscience of a Liberal is Paul Krugman’s blog at the New York Times. I think that says it all really.

Economics Roundtable is not a blog as such, but a very useful aggregator of news and blog posts. What is especially useful about this resource, besides the fact that it might save you the time of setting up your own feeds to aggregate, is its wide international coverage.

Free Exchange is The Economist’s blog. It covers, often international in scope, everything from monetary policy, the banking industry, home ownership, insurance, taxation, financial markets, and posts on the economics blogosphere itself. It posts very frequently, virtually never missing a day, and is worth checking regularly.

Grasping Reality with Both Hands is Brad DeLong’s blog. J. Bradford DeLong is a professor of economics at the University of California at Berkeley, chair of its political economy major, a research associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research, a visiting scholar at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, and was in the Clinton administration as deputy assistant secretary of the U.S. Treasury. The site has multiple sides to it: the main blog, a teaching blog, and another blog titled Brad DeLong’s Egregious Moderation. Overall, it is a resource that demands a lot of careful attention, having been written for both specialists and laymen alike, depending on the post, on immensely packed pages. DeLong posts very frequently. I need to examine this for a longer period of time to see how useful it might really be for me. (A)

Greg Mankiw’s Blog is oriented toward students of economics. Mankiw, like Rodrik above, is also at Harvard University, where he is a professor of economics and teaches introductory economics among other courses. Mankiw posts daily, sometimes more than once per day, and the posts tend to be short and of general interest for those with a desire to learn more about economics generally, and with specific reference to the current issues of the day. (A)

New Economist is by an anonymous Londoner who says that he has “worked over the years for several governments, an investment bank and a think tank.” The blogger does not post very frequently, maybe a handful of articles per year, but what is there is very interesting in terms of the credit crunch, the possibility of a new Depression, and increasing financial instability.

RGE Global EconoMonitor is the blog of Dr. Nouriel Roubini, a professor of economics and international business at the Stern School of Business at New York University. Prof. Roubini was formerly an advisor to the U.S. Treasury Department; a senior advisor to the Under Secretary for International Affairs; Director of the Office of Policy Development and Review (U.S. Treasury); and, a Senior Economist for International Affairs, at the White House Council of Economic Advisers, all under the Clinton administration. His blog focuses heavily on global economic outlooks, global financial institutions, and is very widely quoted for his initial predictions of the current crisis, called “Dr. Doom” in a New York Times Magazine piece about him, and he is also one of the finalists in TIME’s 100 most influential people listing. See also the videos of Roubini’s many interviews. (A)

Steve Keen’s Debtwatch, focuses on the growth of debt, and the “debt bubble,” in the US and Australia. The papers presented via this blog are quite accessible to most readers (some do require an economics background). Keen’s attacks on neoclassical economics are especially engaging. Steve Keen is an economist at the University of Sydney. (A)

Worthwhile Canadian Initiative is a blog that is authored by Dr. Stephen Gordon, a professor of economics at l’Université Laval in Quebec City, Canada. The blog is in English. This blog is particularly useful for myself, and for other Canadian colleagues, who either find business news reporting to be more like sportscasting commentary or like predictive mumbo-jumbo offered at a tarot card reading. The posts are short, to the point, and produced on a regular basis. (A)

Do you have any favourite economics blogs to recommend?

Please feel free to post links in the Comments section below (note that multiple links may automatically mark your message as spam, and may not appear until it can be retrieved from the spam queue).