Arnold Kling  

The Best Place to Learn Economics

"Win-Win," as Filtered Through... How Would the World Change If ...

According to Tyler Cowen, it's right here. He says (it's an interview with Bloomberg's Tom Keene) that right now blogs are the best place to learn economics.

Probably not if your goal is to pass the exam.

But it's an interesting thought. He is implying that it's more worthwhile to drop in on a conversation among economists than to work through a textbook.

I think of an analogy with Yoga. For a lot of people, Yoga is a class in stretching. But people who are really into it see it as a spiritual endeavor or a path to higher consciousness. (I should hasten to add that I have no first-hand experience with Yoga.)

Tyler is a real Yogi when it comes to economics. People who are looking for a guru can sit at his feet (i.e., read his blog or his new book) and gain wisdom. But I wonder what the reaction to economics blogs would be for a student who is the equivalent of someone who goes to Yoga class just to learn a few stretching exercises.

For those of you who have been following the back-and-forth about social cohesion, Tyler explains more of his thinking in the interview. He says that if people within an organization (such as a firm or a government agency) are motivated solely by money, they will act in dysfunctional ways. I strongly agree. You need to have team pride and ethical norms going for you, or else the costs of managing the organization will approach infinity.

The interview really zips along. I'm presuming that Tyler got all the questions in advance, composed his answers, and then read them.

UPDATE: I deleted all links in this post. Either I'm stupid, or Bloomberg has a very blog-hostile way of posting these files. Until one of those conditions changes, no links for them.

LATER: A reader emailed me a link, which I thought was the same link I had before, and it seemed to work. But now it doesn't. I don't know what is going on, but I'm back to not linking.

Another update: Tyler says in the comments that he did not have the questions in advance. If you can find the interview (look for the August interview with Keene and Cowen on Bloomberg radio), then listen for the crispness of his responses, given the variety of questions. I am awed.

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The author at Club for Growth in a related article titled The Best Place to Learn Economics writes:
    Tyler Cowen is right. Without a doubt.... [Tracked on August 8, 2007 8:16 AM]
COMMENTS (13 to date)
Unit writes:

The very last link is the wrong link unless Tyler Cowen also goes under the name of Mary Ann Bartels...

Matthew c writes:

I just tore the mainstream media a new one yesterday for the way it puts audio content on the internet. . .

Home learner writes:

I read this and many other econ blogs. Can I drop by GMU, pass a few tests, and receive an honorary degree? I could never attend a college because those are socialist institutions where people learn very little for the time and money spent.

HispanicPundit writes:

I know I have learned A LOT because of economic blogs. My views have changed dramatically on economic related issues over the years.

Jim Outen writes:
Arnold Kling writes:

Jim, that must be an old podcast, because the post is dated in March and seems to be about a different topic.

Tyler Cowen writes:

No questions were given in advance, thanks for the link...

Well, I've just come out of college here in the UK where I studied economics (I'm going on to university in September). We do two sets of exams, a year apart. In the first set, I got three As. Then we did coursework, for which I also got an A. Then we did the second set of exams, but we haven't gotten our grades back yet, I'm hoping for more As. In all my time at college, I never even owned a copy of the text book we were supposed to be using. If I wanted to know about this curve or that curve I would just look it up on the web. But I think the most important thing that went towards my success was blogs. These taught me the intellectual tools needed to approach economic problems, something that college did not, and demonstrated original ideas and brilliant thinking with which I could enrich my answers or use as inspiration for my own ideas. I owe a lot to bloggers like you :)

Anand writes:

Here's Tyler's interview.

Arnold Kling writes:

I received an email from someone at Bloomberg suggesting that I make a copy of the interview and put it on my site. I forwarded the email to Tyler.

It's sort of comic. They can't seriously want their proprietary content copied to someone else's site, but they can't come up with a reliable link for it, either!

Arnold, I'm one of your fans. I like one of your essays posted in TCS Daily, something like "a theory of government". Those kinds of essays are not found in Public Finance and other Econ. subjects. So yes, I agree that among the best, if not the best, place to learn economics (or political science or other disciplines), are the blogs. Kudos!

El Presidente writes:

I think it's a very important supplement (better than flaxseed oil) to the standard course work. Seeing the breadth of opinion and several ways to slice an issue adds texture to the theory and number-crunching. I'm critical in what I write here, but I won't deny you the praise you deserve for hosting a forum where people can share their thoughts and really hash it out. A job well done and at least one education better for it.

Keep up the good work.

Michael Parente writes:

How bad would it really be if *everyone* in the organization was motivated by money? Under that assumption, at least everyone would be 'on the same page,' would have the same individual aim, and would know the operational aims of everyone else. Where's the dysfunction? Wouldn't we expect even more dysfunctional behavior to arise from conflicting motivations at work?

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