At GMU, for the past decade students have been steered to the Snowdon and Vane, Modern Macroeconomics to prepare for their first year courses and PhD core examine. It is a very readable presentation of the material, and it is still highly recommended.
But from Greg Mankiw I learned that my former colleague at NYU, Jordi Gali is working on a survey book of the state of the art in monetary and macro theory. Gali is an outstanding economic thinker and also a genuinely good guy. My office was two doors down from his and we spoke often in the hallways and on the elevator. He treated the Austrian contingent (faculty and students) with an intellectual respect that I must say was not as prevalent in the department as one might have hoped.
During the 1990s one of the big "puzzles" in macroeconomics was the persistence of double-digit unemployment in Europe. Jordi had a graph on his door which plotted the real wages of European workers and their marginal productivity. The real wage was far above the marginal productivity. So he asked, "what puzzle?"
I haven't read the manuscript yet, but I have very good reasons to believe it will be thoughtful and insightful. So I will look it over and I recommend that those students entering graduate school in economics this fall do the same.
New website for the History of Political Economy Group at Duke. Duke has long been the leading school for research and graduate education in the history of political economy. The website gives information on both current activities, and previous graduate students and placement.
For an aspiring economist, the most important decisions you will make are (a) where you will go to graduate school and (b) who your thesis advisor will be. In my capacity as a faculty member at NYU and now GMU, and as a faculty in the summer programs run by Foundation for Economic Education, the Institute for Humane Studies, and The Fund for American Studies, I have been fielding questions about graduate school choice for close to 20 years. In fact, for my entire time at GMU I have been responsible for student recruiting for the Mercatus Center and also for the department of economics in general.
I tell students to go to the best graduate school that they can get into that will pay their full way. And I usually give the students I am recruiting positive information on alternative programs that we tend to compete with for students --- UVA, Maryland, NYU, Clemson, Georgia, Florida State, West Virginia, Claremont, etc. But I stress to students that they must study carefully the programs they are looking at, and to not listen to critical comments about other programs from professors in the programs competing for them. In other words, don't listen to the criticisms of GMU from FSU faculty, or of WVU from GMU faculty. Instead, I tell them to do their homework and study the CVs of faculty they want to study with, the placement record of graduates, and the publications of graduates from the program. In fact, I think the historical record of graduates from the program in terms of placement and publication is perhaps the most important evidence they can find.
GMU graduates disproportionally publish books as compared to other programs. In my cohort (1984-1988), PhD theses were regularly turned into books --- e.g., Roy Cordato, Brian Goff, Trey Fleisher, David Prychitko, Steve Horwitz, and myself all publishded our dissertations as books within a year or two of graduation. I have periodically mentioned these and other books by GMU graduates on this blog. And I am going to again today. J. C. Bradbury, who graduated from GMU in 2000, has a new book out that I have read with great pleasure and great benefit --- The Baseball Economist: The Real Game Exposed. JC's dissertation work was not on baseball, but instead in the field of public choice. But he has developed a market niche for himself in the economic analysis of baseball. I have talked about JC's work on pitchers and designated hitters before on this blog, and the book summarizes the numerous insights that he has explored in various journal articles over the years. But what I want to stress is that even if you are not interested in baseball per se, this work reflects JC's thorough understanding of the economic way of thinking and his ability to apply economics to make sense of everyday behaviors. In short, it demonstrates that JC Bradbury is an excellent economist. In the process, I would hope that prospective students considering GMU for graduate school would look at JC's work and say to themselves --- "geez, that is really great stuff, I'd like to learn how to do that too."
JC's work shows all the strenghts of a GMU education ---- complete dedication to the applicability of the economic way of thinking to all human endeavors, a subtle understanding of statistical analysis, an appreciation of the entrepreneurial aspects in competitive environments, and a thorough intellectual commitment to studying how the rules of the game impact the strategies that the players in the game choose (whether that game be politics, commerce, or baseball).
Congratulations to JC for his work on sabbernomics and for The Baseball Economist. Great stuff. I am so thrilled that one of our graduates could write so well and so insightful about a topic that millions of fans care so passionately about, and I think it is among the best advertisements GMU's PhD program could have for prospective graduate students.
Why does liberal democracy take hold in some countries but not in others? This is one of the most enduring questions of our time. The problems posed by nondemocratic countries and the rogue groups within them are among the most pressing issues in the world today. Historically, the United States has attempted to generate change in these countries by exporting liberal democratic institutions through military occupation and reconstruction. Despite these efforts, the record of U.S.-led reconstructions has been mixed at best.
Why do we observe such different outcomes in military interventions, from Germany and Japan to Afghanistan and Iraq? Do efforts to export democracy help as much as they hurt? Are there alternatives to military occupation and reconstruction?
After War seeks to answer these critical foreign policy questions using the economic way of thinking to analyze the reconstruction process. Bringing an economic mindset to a topic traditionally tackled by historians, policymakers and political scientists, Coyne analyzes the constraints and limitations of exporting sustainable democracy at gunpoint. The book makes the bold case that committing to "principled non-intervention and unilateral free trade" is the best policy toward weak, failed, and conflict-torn states.
Chapter 1 is available here. I will post again when the book is available for pre-order.
The term is almost over, time to get serious about reading. I have been reading some very good books lately. Charles Koch's The Science of Success is a very easy and absolutely wonderful read. Koch is able to combine an argument for individual freedom and self-actualization (derived from Maslow as well as other thinkers) with an argument for system-level freedom (derived from the writings of Mises and Hayek) to build a case for freedom and responsibility within an organization (what he terms market-based management). Koch's organizational philosophy can be described as one that creates a culture of excellence by structuring an environment in which creativity within discipline is encouraged and appropriately rewarded. By doing this, he has built the most successful privately held firm in the world. So I would start there with my summer reading.
The next book would be Nassim Nicholas Taleb's The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable. I love this book, and I have to thank my colleagues Tyler Cowen (who actually gave me a copy) and Russ Roberts for alerting me to Taleb's works in general (I am going to start his work Fooled by Randomnesshere.
I read lots of professional books and papers in economics, political science, and philosophy (mainly social and political philosphy, but also some in epistemology). But my relax time reading is taken up reading sports books. However, as an economist and teacher I always see in them lessons for economic life (sports represent a school of rules and as such can be a fitting subject for constitutional political economy and economics). I am a fan of the works of Dick DeVenzio --- who was a fiesty point guard at Duke in the late 60s and early 70s and later on founded the Point Guard College. Among basketball types he is best known for his book Stuff! Good Players Should Know, but recently I have been reading several of his other works such as Running the Show: Basketball Leadership for Coaches and Players, and There's Only One Way to Win. DeVenzio, who unforutnatley passed away at an early age, was not only a brilliant basketball mind, he was a very bold thinker who challenged the NCAA system and argued that players should be paid, see his Rip-Off U (he writes with the passion of an old-style union organizer so this might turn off some readers on this blog, but the basic argument he makes is worthy of serious debate). You can find DeVenzio's books at Point Guard College.
I have also recently finished Michale Litos's Cinderella: A Season Inside the Rise of Mid-Major College Basketball. Litos just happened to choose the CAA to follow, and his choice just happened to map with GMU's amazing run to the final four in 2006. A great work analyzing how various NCAA rules changes have impacted the game of basketball (for good and bad from the youth/grassroots level to the major NCAA programs and the NBA) is yet to be written. And Litos's book doesn't even really address those issues. But it is a good read (not great) about an amazing accomplishment. Coach L from GMU is awesome and he comes off as awesome in the book. GMU was 2 minutes from returning to the NCAA this year as they had the lead over VCU in the 2007 CAA Championship game, but VCU has some outstanding guards as the entire nation got to see during their NCAA tournament run. I actually had VCU beating Duke in my bracket in March --- but I also had Arizona going far (didn't happen), and Florida losing in an upset early (didn't happen). I did have Ohio State going to the finals (and winning --- didn't happen). For all the analysis, there is a reason they play the game --- oh, and it relates to the Black Swan discussion in Taleb!
BTW, a new definitive edition of The Road to Serfdom is now available as Vol. 2 of The Collected Works of F. A. Hayek edited by Bruce Caldwell and published by the University of Chicago Press. As is always the case Caldwell's introduction is wonderful and the book is timeless. soon). Russ did a podcast with Taleb recently that can be downloaded