Thursday, April 10, 2008

I *heart* Economics

Until a couple of years ago, I hadn’t had a course in economics since high school, and I don’t remember that being especially exciting. I had to have a certain number of cultural studies courses for my degree here, and I was sick of art history and history, so I gave this German Economics for Foreigners course a try. I was surprised to find that I really enjoyed it. Part of it might have been the instructor, who was delightfully sarcastic, but the subject was also quite interesting in and of itself. I ended up being one of the few people who wrote an exam in economics when it came time for our exams for admission to upper-division studies.

The experience didn’t exactly turn me into an economics junky, but I do enjoy reading the Filthy Commerce entries on Lisa Schmeiser’s blog, “The Rage Diaries.” Who knew marketing could be so interesting?

More recently, I got turned on to Marginal Revolution. I haven’t read very far back in the archives, but I definitely have to recommend an economics site (or any site) that links to an article on the demise of the semi-colon.

For Christmas, I got John The Undercover Economist, but he is never going to read it, so I’ve been reading it at bedtime. It is fascinating! I admit, I sometimes have to read back over what I’ve just read in order to be able to understand it, but that has to do with the topic and not with Tim Harford’s writing, which is very accessible and entertaining.

Have you ever learned about something, and then suddenly you come across it again, totally randomly? After reading about the Camelback houses in New Orleans in The Undercover Economist, and how they allegedly came about due to a weird tax law, I proofread a paper by an anthropologist in Louisiana who had a more plausible theory, that when free-standing, 2-story kitchens were built on to shotgun houses, the end result was the Camelback. What a strange coincidence, eh?

I recently got around to watching all 20 minutes of The Story of Stuff, and it was worth it. Ok, I found the first five minutes a bit, mmm, shrill, but if you have ever wondered about where all that great stuff for sale came from and where it’s going, this is the video for you.

Some day I will get around to watching all of the video “Money as Debt”, but not today.

And to wrap up my encomium of all things economics-related, I just read the Slate article “The Last Days of Cheap Chinese: why American consumers are about to start paying more for clothes, electronics, toys, and just about everything else” By Alexandra Harney. Wal-Mart won’t be cheap for much longer.

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