Where the Monetary Debate Is Happening

Once upon a time, if you wanted to know what was happening in a particular field such as economics, you read academic journals like the American Economic Review. If you had a particular interest in, say, monetary policy you would read the Journal of Money, Credit and Banking and other specialized journals. And you needed to read things like the Federal Reserve Bulletin if you wanted to know what the Fed was up to and have access to the latest data.

Today, that’s all changed. If you want to really know what’s going on in terms of monetary theory and policy you have to be reading the blogs, some obscure even to economists specializing in monetary policy.

This really came through to me this week when I noted that Jim Bullard, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, responded almost immediately with a detailed commentary on a post by University of Oregon economist Tim Duy. I was impressed.

It made me realize that a relatively small number of blogger economists are really where the action is in terms of understanding where we are in terms of how monetary theory is impacting on monetary policy. Issues that might have taken years to resolve in the academic journals in the past are now dissected in days. But you have to know where to look. For this reason, I am posting a list of must-read bloggers that anyone interested in the cutting edge debate on monetary policy must be aware of.

» Paul Krugman: http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com

I list Paul first because he is probably the best known economist in the United States today by virtue of his Nobel Prize and twice-a-week column in the New York Times. The really important thing, however, and a bit of a secret, is that he is really a much better blogger than he is a columnist. His blog is essential reading because it tends to be the central place through which many monetary policy debates take place.

Paul, of course, has his own point of view and actively engages in debate. But he is far less dogmatic than his reputation suggests. Like all economists, he has been humbled by the experience of the last two years. At this point, he is just looking for anyone who has an idea worth serious consideration.

» Brad DeLong: http://delong.typepad.com/sdj

Brad is sort of Paul’s evil twin. As much as Paul doesn’t suffer fools gladly, Brad suffers them even less. But whether one agrees with Brad or not, he like Paul is a central clearing house for much of the cutting edge debate on macroeconomic policy, including both monetary and fiscal policy.

» Mark Thoma: http://economistsview.typepad.com/economistsview/

Mark is a professor of economics at the University of Oregon and without a doubt the most prolific economic blogger. I honestly don’t know how he has time for much else. Mark tries to link to just about everything. Anyone who claims to be an economist who doesn’t subscribe to his RSS feed may not deserve to be called an economist.

I’m not entirely sure how Mark positions himself among the various schools and sub-schools of economic thought these day. But that is to his credit. He tries to be an honest broker, calling attention to the work of any economist with something useful to contribute to the economic policy debates of the day by mostly letting them speak for themselves.

» Scott Sumner: http://www.themoneyillusion.com/

By his own admission, Scott is a somewhat obscure economist at a college I’d never heard of until I discovered his blog. But over the last year or so he has contributed significantly to the debate on monetary policy. Like Thoma, I don’t really know how to characterize him on the economic spectrum. But Scott has become essential reading.

» Tim Duy: http://economistsview.typepad.com/timduy

Tim is a colleague of Thoma’s at the University of Oregon who is more of a specialist in monetary policy. He posts much less often than Mark, but is always essential reading when he does.

» David Beckworth: http://macromarketmusings.blogspot.com

Like Sumner, Beckworth is from a somewhat obscure school who has found his calling as a blogger. I think he defines himself as a New Monetarist. I don’t really know what that means, but in recent weeks he has been writing prolifically and interestingly about the whole question of what is the long-term impact of a low fixed fed funds rate that has been at the center of monetary debate since the issue was raised by Minneapolis Fed president Narayana Kocherlakota in an August 17 speech.

» Stephen Williamson: http://newmonetarism.blogspot.com

A professor of economics at Washington University in St. Louis, he appears to be another New Monetarist.

» David Altig: http://macroblog.typepad.com/macroblog

What’s interesting about David is that he works for the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. He doesn’t post often, but his posts are always worth reading.

» Nick Rowe: http://worthwhile.typepad.com/worthwhile_canadian_initi

This is a group blog by some Canadian economists, but Rowe seems to be the main commentator on monetary issues. He teaches at Carleton University in Ottawa. I don’t know how to characterize his perspective and I’m not sure if he knows how either. But he is well worth reading.

I apologize for any mischaracterizations of those I have attempted to label. To be honest, I have no idea what the difference is between a New Monetarist and an old monetarist or a New Keynesian and an old Keynesian. Not being an economic theorist, I have had no reason to know, but those who characterize themselves and others with such terms seem to think they are important.

My purpose today is simply to call to the attention of this blog’s readers the fact that there is important stuff going on beneath the surface of the academic journals and even financial media sources such as The Economist and the Wall Street Journal. In the comments, please feel free to call my attention to any sources I may have missed.

About Bruce Bartlett 76 Articles

Affiliation: Forbes

Bruce Bartlett is a columnist for Forbes.com, the online side of Forbes, the nation’s premier financial magazine.

He served for many years in prominent governmental positions including executive director of the Joint Economic Committee of Congress, Deputy Assistant Secretary for economic policy at the U.S. Treasury Department during the George H.W. Bush Administration, and as a senior policy analyst in the White House for Ronald Reagan.

Bruce is the author of seven books, including the New York Times best-selling Impostor: How George W. Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy, and thousands of articles in national publications including the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post, New Republic, Fortune and many others. He appears frequently on CNN, CNBC, C-SPAN and Fox News, and has been a guest on both the Daily Show with Jon Stewart and the Colbert Report.

Visit: Capital Gains and Games

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


*