Friday, August 17, 2012

My reading has been sluggish, but I just finished a good one

Founding Choices, an NBER volume on economic policymaking in the 1790s. I especially appreciated the chapters on monetary policy and on state constitutions. I'm going to try to write a review of this for an American history journal.

One of the thoughts that came to mind when reading this was that the simple distinction between the "constitutional stage" and the "political stage" that people presenting the Buchanan argument often make is really misleading in practice. The "constitutional stage" is really just a higher level political stage, and it's influenced by prior political stages. There's still value for distinguishing rule-making or institution-building stages from the normal business of political decision making, and these things do change more slowly than everyday policy making. But they change as well and they are every bit as political. Buchanan - as I've always read him - recognizes this. But a lot of people approach the "rules of the game" discussion as different from the political discussion, when it's really not so distinct.

One research area that this book has got me interested in is the role of money in development, which is all quite different from discussions of the role of money in macroeconomics. Needless to say, monetary neutrality - even long-run neutrality - went out the window in the money chapter, with a lot of very convincing arguments.

I'm continuing to plow through Moby Dick, which has slowed down while reading this. I'm a slow reader anyway, and it seems like every free minute this summer has been spent writing rather than reading, or working on some project on the house.

I'm also starting to turn seriously towards my dissertation reserach. I started reading through the articles in the Economics of Training volumes of the "Critical Writings in Economics" series. Reading Gary Becker right and Walter Oi right now. It's drier than Founding Choices, but still interesting stuff. I've also had the opportunity to catch up on some Critical Review articles I've been meaning to read.

I had a good conversation with Bob Lerman yesterday too about my dissertation. He's not my advisor yet, but I think he may end up being my advisor. I'm going to read up some of Dixit and Pindyk on real options and investment under uncertainty, and look into applying that to human capital investments (specifically S&E education).


  1. Glad to hear that you've had the opportunity to catch up on some books, Daniel Kuehn. Out of curiosity, did you see my question in your last post on Founding Choices?

    I'll reproduce my question here:

    "It isn't a book I would take to the beach, but I bet it must've been an informative read!

    If you don't mind me asking, was Adam Smith's role in influencing the founding fathers' economic thought discussed in the book? According to Dr. Michael Emmett Brady, Adam Smith's An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations had a big impact on their economic thought and subsequently, the economic policy of the early United States.

    Is Dr. Brady correct on this, whether the issue is touched upon in the book or not?"

    Also, regarding Dixit and Pindyck's Investment Under Uncertainty...that's apparently a very good book, according to Dr. Michael Emmett Brady. However, J.M. Keynes had discovered a simpler way of gauging uncertainty/ambiguity via the conventional coefficient of risk and weight.

    1. I think they might have mentioned Smith once. Wasn't a big subject of discussion.

    2. I see. But apart from that, is Dr. Michael Emmett Brady historically correct when he made his statement that the Founding Fathers were influenced by Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations?


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