2013: Year In Review

Since posts have been scant recently (I have things coming up, promise!) I thought I’d do a standard “most popular posts” post. I’ll look at the 5 most popular posts of 2013 on this blog, as well as the 5 posts I most enjoyed writing and the 5 other blogs I’ve enjoyed reading this year. The first list is ranked from highest page-views to lowest, but the others aren’t in any particular order.

Most Popular Posts on This Blog

18 Signs Economists Haven’t the Foggiest (12,857) An off-the-cuff polemic response to Chris Auld’s similar list, this attracted a lot of attention (and ire). I stand by all 18 points in one way or another, although I’ll grant that some (such as 10) are far less common than others (such as 1).

The Dangers of Thinking Like an Economist (10,333) Due largely to a link from Hacker News, this blog post was widely read (apparently by climate change deniers). I actually feel like I didn’t flesh out the analysis as fully as I could have, but the basic points about the ‘economic way of thinking’, and the subjects I highlighted are, in my opinion, important examples of how limiting an economics education can be when discussing social problems.

Yes, Libertarians Really Are Lazy Marxists (6,851). I’m not the first to refer to libertarians as lazy marxists, but I’ve never seen somebody actually write about it in depth. Apparently this struck a chord with a lot of marxists and so was linked to from various commie websites. This surprised me, as I’m not great at political philosophy, but clearly that’s not a necessary condition for being able to criticise libertarianism.*

Sorry, Economists: The Crisis is a Huge Problem for Your Discipline (4,676). Giles-Saint Paul’s exercise in special pleading, attempting to relieve economists from the burden of actually being able to describe the real economy, was one of the silliest things I’ve ever seen written by an economist, which is quite a feat, and it deserved fisking.

Mankiw to the Rescue (of the 1%) (3,545). Another fisking (and another one of the silliest things ever written by an economist), this post concerned Mankiw’s universally derided defence of the top 1% of earners, with its questionable grasp of the facts, 15 year old political philosophy and inconsistent use of economic theory. While it probably wasn’t necessary for me or anyone else to point out the stupidity in Mankiw’s paper explicitly, it was still a lot of a fun to do so.

NB: my FAQ actually got 4,799 views in 2013, but since it was written in 2012 I didn’t count it (and it has the unfair advantage of being linked to in my About section). I’ve also been posting on the website Pieria this year, and though I don’t have access to the views for those posts, a handful of my posts there were on their ‘top 20′ list.

Posts on This Blog I Enjoyed Writing

Economists Say The Funniest Things. ‘Economic Imperialism’ never fails to delight and amuse, and although this post required quite a lot of research, it was probably one of the most rewarding posts I’ve done. Admittedly I was a bit unfair to Irving Fisher in the first draft, but it’s still silly to suggest that workers become socialists largely because of changes in the money supply.

Reconsidering the Labour Theory of Value. The straw man of the LTV that many are willing to refer to as  “discredited” may well be untenable. But the actual theory endorsed by Marx, along with its implications about capitalist crises, is far better for understanding the business cycle than any mainstream economic theory I’ve come across. This post was a thumbnail sketch of said theory.

Whig Theories of the History of Thought. As much as everybody hates Paul Krugman posts, as a blogger you unavoidably find yourself having to do one every so often. Here I tried to counter popular myths about naive Keynesianism and how its practitioners were unaware of the possibility of stagflation (as well as the Lucas Critique). Sadly, this caricature of events is often endorsed by both left and right economists.

In Praise of Econometrics. Since a lot of ‘economists’ are mostly asking specific, relatively boring empirical questions, I thought it would be worth clarifying that most of my criticisms are not directed at this kind of work, which is in my opinion of quite a different nature to the pure theoretical aspects of economics. It is true that problematic theoretical concepts (like production functions) are sometimes used in these empirical estimations, but I think  that is a problem of application rather than something more fundamental.

Against Friedman: Why Assumptions Matter. Although it’s not news to anybody except the most dyed-in-the wool economist that the assumptions of a theory must be carefully scrutinised, it was good to compile a comprehensive argument for exactly why this is the case.

My Favourite Blogs of 2013

Matt Bruenig. While there aren’t necessarily any stand-out posts (although this recent smackdown of Ezra Klein is amusing), I never fail to delight in Bruenig’s effortless dismissals of libertarian theories of…well, everything. He also does some good policy analysis (including a basic income calculator), and blogs in a similar vein over at Demos.

Chris Dillow (Stumbling and Mumbling). There should probably be a rule against including Chris Dillow on lists like this – everyone can just agree that he’s a Really Good Blogger. His unique mixture of marxist, behavioural and mainstream economic reasoning makes him both endlessly interesting and frustratingly hard to disagree with, even when he is casually tearing your pet beliefs to pieces. Oh, and his sidebar ‘top blogging’ is always worth a look.

Noah Smith (Noahpinion). Despite the fact that Noah’s dismissive attitude toward heterodox economics irritates me, there’s no denying that he is an excellent and consistent blogger. Naturally, I enjoy his posts on macroeconomics, but he also writes interesting things about Japan, has good overviews of economics debates and makes a lot of interesting political/miscellaneous posts.

‘Lord Keynes’ (Social Democracy for the 21st Century: a Post-Keynesian Perspective). This blog has always been a great source of, among other things, post-Keynesian theories and criticisms of Austrian Business Cycle Theory. However, this year LK pushed the boat out with relentless attacks on both marginalist theories of pricing and Mises’ a priori philosophy. An excellent resource for heterodox economists.

David Glasner (Uneasy Money). I expect most people would agree with me that Glasner is one of the best economic bloggers around. Just a glance at the top right hand corner of his blog undoubtedly reveals a handful of must-read posts. He also wrote one of my favourite blog posts of 2013, That Oh So Elusive Natural Rate of Interest, and did an interesting series on the presumably underrated Ralph Hawtrey’s book ‘Good and Bad Trade‘.

Honorable mentions: Corey Robin, whose blogging and book are both excellent, if a little jargon-filled; Robert Vienneau, who posts consistently interesting stuff on economic theory; Left Outside, who is a great follow and whose series on Karl Polanyi and Beijing is a must-read (even if he does support NGDP targeting); Fuck Yeah, Piero Sraffa! who posts a lot of interesting material, although the blog does some to be a bit on and off.

Happy New Year!

I’m happy to say that I’ve had a few blog posts this year that were viewed as much as the top posts on much more popular blogs like naked capitalism, and also that I made the list of top 200 most influential economics blogs. I had 227,037 views in 2013, which was a massive improvement over 2012. I’m not entirely sure how all of this compares to other blogs overall, but in any case I’m glad to have had a continuous rise in readers/commenters relative to where I was before. Here’s hoping 2014 is just as successful.

What did you enjoy reading this year?

*I know, cheap shot. Sorry.

  1. #1 by Blue Aurora on January 2, 2014 - 1:22 pm

    I’m glad to see your top choices for 2013, Unlearningecon. I also hope that despite your real life commitments, you shall be able to find time to write as many good posts as you have done so in the past…how about a minimum target of once a month? :-P

    • #2 by Unlearningecon on January 4, 2014 - 1:28 pm

      Once a month sounds like a decent target, I’ll see what I can do.

      • #3 by Blue Aurora on January 5, 2014 - 5:08 am

        I see. Well, we all do what we can. I will understand if you have other real world issues to deal with that will prevent you from writing blog-posts or responding to e-mail correspondence and what not. That stated…I look forward to what you have that is brewing!

  2. #4 by Mike Huben on January 3, 2014 - 6:18 am

    Damn you, you just made me spend my entire evening (at least 6 hours) following links, predominantly Matt Bruenig.

    Keep up the excellent work, please!

    • #5 by Unlearningecon on January 4, 2014 - 1:28 pm

      Yes, I can imagine that Bruenig is like manna from heaven for your critiques! And thanks.

  3. #6 by Postkey on January 4, 2014 - 12:19 pm


    A little off topic, but?

    I was quoting your comment? to a follower of Rothbard.
    ” Downturns were actually more severe in the past – 50% of the 19th century in the U.S. was spent in recession. There were 8 depressions under a gold standard and have been none (arguably one) under fiat.”

    I wonder if you have a source for the figures you quote?


    • #7 by Unlearningecon on January 4, 2014 - 1:26 pm

      That’s a bit oversimplified. My figures were just from Wikipedia – if you look, there is at least a year of recession for every year out of recession. However, the ’8′ number seems like a bit of an exaggeration; I can count only 4 that are called “depressions”. I guess that depends on your definition of depression, though, as there were some pretty severe and long contractions that are classified as recessions there.

      Incidentally, Lord Keynes, whom I mention in the post, has a lot of posts on US 19th century economic history.

  4. #8 by postkey on January 4, 2014 - 11:48 pm

    Thanks for that. :-).

  5. #9 by Boatwright on January 13, 2014 - 3:09 pm

    A suggestion for the new year:

    A discussion of Steve Keen’s dogged, to the point, and too ignored analysis of the relationship between private debt and demand, including his recent essays on the “Secular Stagnation” hypotheses of Summers, Krugman, et al.


    I’m increasingly won over by his modeling and its mathematical foundations and am coming to believe that Keen and the endogenous money school are on the way to becoming a new paradigm.

    Keen from the above linked essay:

    “I await the IS-LM or New Key­ne­sian DSGE model that Krug­man will pre­sum­ably pro­duce to pro­vide an expla­na­tion for the per­sis­tence of the cri­sis in terms that, how­ever tor­tured, emanate from con­ven­tional eco­nomic logic in which banks and money are ignored (though pri­vate debt is finally con­sid­ered), and in which every­thing hap­pens in equi­lib­rium. But how­ever clever it might be, it will not be con­sis­tent with the data.”

    • #10 by Unlearningecon on January 16, 2014 - 1:36 pm

      I am actually planning to do something (eventually) on secular stagnation and how it relates to Marxist theories of crises.

      • #11 by Boatwright on January 16, 2014 - 3:23 pm

        I am looking forward to your insights.. The Marxists have laid an excellent foundation: their still powerful insights into the business cycle and the inexorable drive to monopoly, overproduction, immiseration, stagnation, and crises. I believe Keen and his mentors may be providing an insight, a keystone that explains the role of money and debt in the overall process — money not as the neo-classical chit in an abstracted system of barter, but that a capitalist economy is a MONEY economy and that money is fundamentally endogenous.

        At the end game, with markets flooded, with wages driven down, with stagnation and ruin at the gates, the financial system has no choice but to juice the economy with ever increasing debt. Without it there would be no demand.

        The secular stagnation hypothesis “asserts, in effect, that the crisis itself was a second-order event: the main event was a tendency to inad­e­quate pri­vate sec­tor demand which may have existed for decades, and has only been masked by a sequence of bub­bles. The pol­icy impli­ca­tion of this hypoth­e­sis is that gen­er­at­ing ade­quate demand to ensure full employ­ment in the future may require a per­ma­nent stim­u­lus from the gov­ern­ment – mean­ing both the Con­gress and the Fed – and per­haps the reg­u­lar cre­ation of asset mar­ket bubbles.” (Keen from the previously referenced post)


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