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These Are the Econ Blogs You Need to Read

Noah Smith is a Bloomberg View columnist. He was an assistant professor of finance at Stony Brook University, and he blogs at Noahpinion.
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In a piece earlier this month, I declared that blogging wasn’t dead, that it would be more about discussions and arguments, and that bloggers would be more specialized. As a follow-up, I thought it would be good to give Bloomberg View readers a quick guide to the best that the economics corner of the blogosphere has to offer. 

Economics has taken to the blog format like no other discipline, and some of the biggest and most important policy arguments of the financial crisis got hashed out on the blogs rather than in the academic journals. So if you’re at all interested in smart economics commentary, here is a baker’s dozen of the blogs you should be reading. I’m limiting the list to independent bloggers who don’t have a regular major media platform (so no Paul Krugman -- but you already know Paul Krugman). 

The Gatekeepers 

Economist’s View, by Mark Thoma: Thoma, a macroeconomist at the University of Oregon, is the backbone of the econ blogosphere. Every day he publishes a list of links that round up interesting blog posts, focusing mainly on independent blogs. He also posts a number of excerpts from interesting pieces he finds, and writes a few long posts of his own. This is your one-stop shop if you’re starting out. 

Marginal Revolution, by Tyler Cowen and Alex Tabarrok: Cowen and Tabarrok, professors at George Mason University, are an institution in the blogosphere and in economics itself. In addition to a daily roundup of interesting articles and papers, they publish lots of quirky, original commentary on current affairs and public policy seen through an economic lens. 

Grasping Reality, by Brad DeLong: Renowned University of California, Berkeley, financial economist and economic historian DeLong is the godfather of econ blogging. He was one of the first bloggers ever, and combines the political-polemic style of Blogosphere 1.0 (think of Daily Kos or Atrios) with a large number of links. His commentary, though opaque to many, might be the most well-thought-out in the economics blogging universe. 

The Macro Geeks

Long and Variable, by Tony Yates: Although it pains me to admit it, ex-Bank of England economist  Yates is even sharper of wit than yours truly. Few are safe from his pen, be it the market monetarist bloggers, heterodox economists or opponents of central banks. Yates’ favorite topic, of course, is monetary policy and macro, and his command of the literature is formidable. 

MacroMania, by David Andolfatto:  Andolfatto, a vice president of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, doesn’t blog often -- he’s too busy for that. But when he does, he goes deep. Andolfatto is one of the few bloggers who will write out models in his blog. His posts usually deal with business-cycle theory, and sometimes with monetary systems and bitcoin. 

Economic Window, by Roger Farmer: University of California, Los Angeles’ Farmer is probably the most high-level macroeconomist with a blog. Farmer is famous for not mincing words, and he often holds forth on why mainstream macroeconomic theory needs to be reformed. He also comments on many important issues of the day, such as the European debt crisis. 

The Gurus 

The Money Illusion, by Scott Sumner: Sumner, a Bentley University professor who will soon be departing for George Mason University's Mercatus Center think tank, is most famous for four letters: NGDP. This refers to nominal gross domestic product, which Sumner is famous for arguing that the central bank should target in order to stabilize the economy. Some credit Sumner’s idea with inspiring the Federal Reserve’s recently concluded program of regular asset purchases. 

The Grumpy Economist, by John Cochrane: Famed University of Chicago financial economist Cochrane is grumpy, but not as grumpy as the title of his blog would imply. He blogs about financial economics and macroeconomics, and also about public policy. His views on theory are eclectic, and he is another blogger known for writing equations in his blog posts (reading Cochrane posts can easily inspire academic paper ideas). On policy, he is a rock-ribbed conservative. 

Greg Mankiw’s Blog, by N. Gregory Mankiw: Mankiw, the Harvard economist and former George W. Bush policy adviser, is author of the nation’s most popular economics textbooks. He blogs less frequently than he used to, and his posts are usually short and glib, but Mankiw is still worth following. 

The Dreamers 

Confessions of a Supply-Side Liberal, by Miles Kimball: My doctoral adviser has recently become one of the most interesting and original occupants of the blogosphere. His favorite topics include monetary policy -- where he champions unconventional ideas such as electronic money, federal lines of credit, and a U.S. sovereign-wealth fund -- and education, where he urges a rethink of our basic values and approaches. As the grandson of a prophet of the Mormon church, he also has a deep interest in religion. 

Why Nations Fail, by Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson: Two of the heaviest-hitting academics in the blogosphere, Acemoglu and Robinson are also bona-fide public intellectuals, having written a popular book on how nations can succeed by crafting the right kind of institutions. On their blog, they offer a refreshingly different take on economics than you’ll find elsewhere -- one where institutions, not just individuals, matter. 

The Collectives 

EconBrowser, by James Hamilton and Menzie Chinn: Professors Hamilton and Chinn never met each other before they decided to start a blog together. But they make a great team. Hamilton is one of the nation’s foremost experts on the economics of oil and energy, while Chinn is a macroeconomist specializing in time-series methods. 

Worthwhile Canadian Initiative, by Frances Woolley, Stephen Gordon, and Nick Rowe: Although the typeface of this blog isn't easy on the eye, the quality of the writing and thinking is top-notch. This trio of Canadian economists writes about, well, economics. By which I mean anything and everything in economics. They do, I’m afraid, conform to the Canadian stereotype of being smart, affable and even-handed. 

…And, The Rest! 

Of course, this is just a small sampling of what the blogosphere has to offer. If you want to read about econometrics, go read Francis Diebold and Dave Giles. If game theory and decision theory are your thing, check out A Fine Theorem and The Leisure of the Theory Class. If you are interested in debates about macroeconomic methodology, Oxford’s Simon Wren-Lewis is your man and the BBC Trust’s Diane Coyle is your woman. If you lean to the left you’ll probably like the group blog Angry Bear, if you’re a libertarian you should go to EconLog, and if you lean to the right you will enjoy John Taylor. Ryan Decker writes about business dynamism and other topics, Dietz Vollrath talks about growth economics, Matthew Martin offers a wide range of smart insights, Antonio Fatas and Ilan Mihov talk about macro, and  J.W. Mason offers trenchant critiques of the economics mainstream. Of course, I’ve left many good bloggers out, and I apologize. You will just have to dive in and explore the world of economics blogs for yourself! It’s a long, fascinating, intellectually challenging journey. Have fun!

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg View's editorial board or Bloomberg LP, its owners and investors.

To contact the author on this story:
Noah Smith at nsmith150@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor on this story:
James Greiff at jgreiff@bloomberg.net