Tuesday, September 9, 2008

A program to get your economics in shape fast

Well, I am finally back after a prolonged absence- the initial excitement of blogging died down quickly at the end of July and now hopefully I'll be able to jot something down every couple of days.

Anyway, what led me to this post is a request from an old friend of mine who recently found out that his economics knowledge is a bit rusty, both at a theoretical level and from a current events perspective and asked me to recommend him some "stuff" to read. He is a mid-level manager in his early 30s, with an MBA from a top-20 program in the US, so he does not really feel like getting bogged down in the math of one of the excellent macro textbooks out there. I started scratching my head and after some burning some serious brain cells, I was able to come up with just the right book:

Ekonomi Politikası / Teori ve Türkiye Uygulaması (Political Economy, Theory and Application to Turkey) by Mahfi Egilmez and Ercan Kumcu: The authors are two well-respected policy economists (but with credible academic hats), Kumcu was a long-time vice president in the Central Bank of Turkey and Egilmez the undersecretary of the Treasury. What I really like about the book is that it combines macro theory with applications to the post-liberalization (since the mid-80s) Turkish economy. Of course, it does not claim to be a comprehensive expose of macro theory or recent Turkish economic history. But after going through the book, you’ll definitely have a better understanding of macro as well recent economic developments in Turkey.

For those of you not fluent in Turkish, Macroeconomic Essentials: Understanding Economics in the News by Peter Kennedy is a similar book: The author explains the “really important” ideas in macro and manages to link them successfully to the real world by way of very short news clips. The book itself, is really well-written and to the point, which wouldn’t come as surprise to many students of economics who have relied on Peter Kennedy’s famous econometrics book for making sense of the Econometrics taught in the first-year graduate courses. Anyway, this would make a very nice complement to the Kumcu/Egilmez book.

While I am done with the book recommendations, my friend is also looking for readings to keep him informed on current economic developments. The easy answer would be to tell him to read the Financial Times and The Economist on a regular basis. Indeed, both are my favorite exports from England right after Newcastle Brown Ale, but for the sake of our 20-year friendship, I felt I needed to try harder and went over all the economics blogs I am following. Given his background, I came up with the following:
Econbrowser (http://www.econbrowser.com/): Run by economics professors James D. Hamilton and Menzie Chinn. Has well-written summaries of recent policy-relevant research as well as economic developments. Slightly US-centered, but still very education.
Carpe Diem (http://mjperry.blogspot.com/): Run by economics professor Mark J. Perry. A bit more diverse than the macro-oriented Econbrowser, and really fun-to-read.
Follow the Money (http://blogs.cfr.org/setser/): Economist Brad Setser’s blog. Has good coverage of international macro.
Financial Times Alphaville: (http://ftalphaville.ft.com/blog/): Very good survey of a variety of policy-relevant publications, all the way from various newspapers and journals all the way to academic articles and blogs. Although I follow more than 50 blogs, the guys at FT manage to catch the really important/interesting stuff from other blogs most of the time, and make me wonder quite often whether I am wasting my time bothering with logging on to the google reader.

Last but not the least, my friend should not expect to be economically fit unless he has a firm understanding on just what the f--- is going on in financial markets…Fortunately, there is a plethora of good books on the subrime-liquidity-credit-monoline-banks-funny named GSEs-what’s next meltdown. In fact, I have taken it to task to read seven books on the subject in September; right now I am about to be done with the second. Once I am done with all seven, I will post my review and recommendation on those. In the meantime, I expect my old buddy to get abs and buns of steel…

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