Friends and Sparring Partners: The Skyline from My Corner of the Blogosphere

Intelligent Economist: Top 100 Economics Blogs of 2016

Keeping up with my personal life, teaching, research, writing my own blog, and reading from the Wall Street Journal and the Economist plus varied articles that I see on Twitter leaves me much less time to read economics blogs than I would like. Still, there are some blogs that I read with some frequency. The Intelligent Economist’s list “Top 100 Economics Blogs of 2016″  gives me to think about the blogs in this list that bulk largest in my consciousness and correspondingly have the most influence on me. My emphasis in this post is on the bloggers themselves rather than their blogs. And as my title suggests, this is a very personal view (some might even say egocentric–see my confession in “The Egocentric Illusion). 

I am mostly borrowing the fairly arbitrary order of the Intelligent Economist, but I have grouped people into “friends” and “sparring partners.” To make it into this post, a blogger had to be both in the Intelligent Economist’s list and someone who bulks large in my consciousness. 


Noah Smith: Bloomberg View Economics

I was Noah’s principal dissertation advisor, but Noah was my advisor in starting my own blog. I am a great admirer of Noah’s vivid style, his wide-ranging command of ideas and his ability to penetrate to the heart of an issue. I analyzed Noah’s style in my post “Brio in Blog Posts” for the sake of my students, whom I asked to write close to 40 blog posts over a semester in my Monetary and Financial Theory class. There is very little daylight between Noah’s views and mine. In addition to his Bloomberg View columns, his own blog Noahpinion, and some popular Quartz columns coauthored with me (see for example #1 math, #4 econ PhD and #13 Minneapolis here), Noah has a hard-hitting series of guest posts on my blog about religion

Narayana Kocherlakota: Bloomberg View Economics

One of the most pleasant surprises this year has been Narayana Kocherlakota’s full-speed-ahead emergence as a major blogger and tweeter, not long after he stepped down as President of the Minneapolis Fed. Narayana is a strong proponent of negative interest rates, though I am not aware of his having the negative interest rates for paper currency that are the linchpin of my proposal for eliminating the zero lower bound.  

Ben Bernanke’s Blog

Other than reading his blog, Ben is too busy for me to have any meaningful interaction with him electronically, but I have known him a long time from NBER conferences, I had lunch with him twice at the Fed itself in the past few years (he made a habit of eating lunch in the Fed’s regular cafeteria), saw him when he came to speak at the University of Michigan, and expect to see him at a Brookings conference next month. You can see my disagreement with him about negative interest rate policy in “Ezra Klein Interviews Ben Bernanke about Miles Kimball’s Proposal to Eliminate the Zero Lower Bound.” I have declared Ben Bernanke a hero on many occasions for his actions mitigating the harm from the Financial Crisis of 2008 and making the Great Recession less severe than it might have been. However much better monetary policy might have been than what Ben achieved, I have some appreciation for how hard it is to figure out in real time what needs to be done in a crisis and how hard it is to persuade others in real time to support the actions that are needed. Ben did admirably in a tough situation. 

Tyler Cowen: Marginal Revolution

Tyler Cowen and I were graduate school classmates at Harvard. He wrote about our time in graduate school here. I appreciate Tyler’s thoughtful attention to the supply side of the economy in his blog, and I love the metaphor of a “Marginal Revolution,” which I play off of in my 2d anniversary post “Three Revolutions.” I have greatly admired Tyler’s longer pieces (some published in other venues), such as “The Inequality that Matters.” My favorite of Tyler’s recent posts is “What are the core differences between Republicans and Democrats?”

Alex Tabarrok: Marginal Revolution

I greatly appreciate Alex Tabarrok’s levelheaded commentary on a wide range of issues. And I like his emphasis on the importance of ideas for economic growth, very well expressed in his TED talk “How Ideas Trump Crises.”

Mark Thoma: Economist’s View

Right before I started blogging, I remember Bob Hall telling me that Mark Thoma’s blog “Economist’s View” was his one-stop shop for blogs to read. In addition to writing his own posts, Mark Thoma is the premier aggregator of economics blog posts in the world. This is a wonderful public good. 

Brad DeLong: Equitablog

Brad DeLong was a year or two ahead of me in graduate school at Harvard, and our research interests align closely enough that we have kept track of each other over the years. When Brad came to give a seminar at the University of Michigan a few years ago, I was struck by a powerful case of blog envy. That was one of the big things that made me realize that I needed to start a blog of my own. Brad and I are in agreement about most things–something I know because when he disagrees with me, he is quick to note what an exception that is. Brad digs deep in his analysis. For example I admire his post “Mr. Piketty and the “Neoclassicists”: A Suggested Interpretation.” But Brad is also willing to be an attack dog when he sees someone saying something he considers not only wrong, but dangerously wrong. Brad is someone I especially wish I could get to comment in depth on a wider range of the proposals I have made. 

Scott Sumner: The Money Illusion

When I was just about to start blogging, Noah Smith told me that Nominal GDP Level Targeting was very big in the blogosphere, and that I should write about it. I finally did in “Optimal Monetary Policy: Could the Next Big Idea Come from the Blogosphere?” Scott Sumner has changed a lot of minds with his advocacy of Nominal GDP Level Targeting. I have met many young and not-so-young economists, in and out of central banks, who have spoken enthusiastically of Nominal GDP Level targeting. That wouldn’t have happened without Scott. My emphasis is different from Scott’s (emphasizing negative interest rate policy), but we are in fundamental agreement on the substance, as you can see in “Miles Kimball and Scott Sumner: Monetary Policy, the Zero Lower Bound and Madison, Wisconsin.” In negative interest rate policy, Scott was an early proponent of a negative interest rate on reserves–a policy he ably defends in “The Media’s Blind Spot: Negative Interest on Reserves.” When he touches on topics outside of monetary policy, Scott is concerned about supply-side reform along the same lines I am. 

JP Koning: Moneyness

JP Koning is a deep thinker about monetary policy and about the nature of money. He has been a full-scale supporter of my proposal to eliminate the zero lower bound since early on. Other than my coauthor Ruchir Agarwal for “Breaking Through the Zero Lower Bound,” I would trust JP to accurately represent my views on negative interest rate policy more than anyone else in the world. Anyone who wants to understand money or monetary poiicy should read Moneyness. I also especially enjoy JP’s Twitter presence

David Beckworth: Macro and Other Market Musings

David Beckworth is one of the few other full-scale supporters of my proposals for negative interest rate policy in the blogosphere–as well as of Scott Sumner’s proposals. A nice example of this is “David Beckworth: “Miles and Scott’s Excellent Adventure” David Beckworth recently interviewed me at length in his Podcast series. I love his written introduction to that podcast. He writes:

Miles is a well-known advocate of breaching the zero lower bound via the adoption of negative interest rates. Moreover, he has shown how to do it without getting rid of physical cash. Miles sat down with me to discuss his ideas on this topic as well as how the macroeconomics profession has changed over the past few decades. I had a great time discussing these issues with Miles. You will enjoy the conversation too.

I would like to make several points on this controversial topic. First, if you believe in allowing markets to clear via the adjustment of prices, then you should in principle be supportive of negative interest rates. For an interest rate is just an intertemporal price–a price that clears resources across time–and sometimes a severe enough demand shock may require nominal rates to go negative for markets to clear. This is a point I have written about myself. 

Second, central banks that have lowered interest rates to zero and in some cases below zero are not necessarily “artificially” depressing interest rates. It could be that a central bank is simply following the market-clearing level of interest rates–or the natural interest rate–down to lower levels as the economy weakens. This, in my view, is what most central banks have been doing in recent years. Too many observes miss this point.

David and I had an interesting discussion a while back that I made into the post “David Beckworth and Miles Kimball: The Padding on Top of the Zero Lower Bound.” This discussion has become somewhat dated as central banks look for less and less padding on top of the zero lower bound–many going to a negative amount of padding!

Simon Wren-Lewis: Mainly Macro

I have only interacted with Simon Wren-Lewis, but I have greatly admired many of his posts. He is much more Keynesian than I am (I am a Neomonetarist who looks to monetary policy for economic stabilization), but his posts are full of incisive insights. I would be very glad for more substantial interaction between our blogs. 

Roger Farmer’s Economic Window

I have mainly connected with Roger Farmer over our mutual advocacy of sovereign wealth funds as a tool of macroeconomic policy. On that, see “Roger Farmer and Miles Kimball on the Value of Sovereign Wealth Funds for Economic Stabilization.” Roger’s views are interesting because they are so unique. You definitely won’t get the “same old thing” reading his blog. Roger and I interact quite a bit on Twitter.  

Nick Rowe: Worthwhile Canadian Initiative

Though still writing in words with few equations, Nick’s posts lean toward the technical. In that vein, I like his post on monetary dominance, “Fewer Fiscal Multipliers and more Clarity from the Bank of Canada.” I use an argument from Nick’s post “Money is Always and Everywhere a Hot Potato” in “International Finance: A Primer.” Also, Nick gives his own relatively formal treatment of what I cover in “The Medium-Run Natural Interest Rate and the Short-Run Natural Interest Rate” and “On the Great Recession” in his post “Upward-sloping IS curves after Miles Kimball.”

Matthew Martin: Separating Hyperplanes

Matthew Martin was one of the earliest and best commenters on my blog. His blog is very innovative. I am delighted to see it gaining more recognition. 

Bryan Caplan: Econlog

I really enjoyed meeting Bryan Caplan in person when I gave a seminar at George Mason University a little over a year ago. He is someone I could happily spend hours talking to. He is an extremely creative thinker, unafraid to go places that other people might disagree with if logic takes him there. He is a great fount of things you would be unlikely to think of on your own, but should be thinking about–with prompting from Bryan your only plausible path to considering them. 

Sparring Partners

Paul Krugman: Conscience of a Liberal

Paul Krugman is someone who floats in the air like a demigod, mostly untouchable by a mere mortal like me. As far as I know, he has never once responded to my repeated accusation that he treats the zero lower bound as if it were a law of nature, rather than the policy choice that it is. He has occasionally linked to one of my posts or columns when it suited his purposes. Paul Krugman ignored my discussion of breaking through the zero lower bound and of the power of national lines of credit in “How Italy and the UK Can Stimulate Their Economies Without Further Damaging Their Credit Ratings” and referenced the post (in “Another Attack of the 90% Zombie”) only to criticize my reliance on Carmen Reinhart and Ken Rogoff’s claims about the effects of debt on growth. On his chosen field of combat, Paul Krugman bested me, and I atoned for my mistake with “An Economist’s Mea Culpa: I Relied on Reinhart and Rogoff,” “After Crunching Reinhart and Rogoff’s Data, We Found No Evidence High Debt Slows Growth” and “Examining the Entrails: Is There Any Evidence for an Effect of Debt on Growth in the Reinhart and Rogoff Data?” More evidence that Paul Krugman knows of my work on eliminating the zero lower bound, but is unwilling to talk directly about it can be found in his post “Switzerland and the Inflation Hawks.” On other topics, Paul Krugman linked to my column with Noah Smith on Minnesota Macro and picked up on a serious error by a Wall Street Journal columnist from one of my posts and picked up on my criticism of John Taylor in “Contra John Taylor.” Leaving aside my frustrations over the parameters of Paul Krugman’s interactions with me, I find that he has a very interesting blog. I am almost always entertained, I quite often agree with him, and I find him a model of rhetorical skill even when I think he is wrong. 

John Cochrane: The Grumpy Economist

Unlike Paul Krugman, John Cochrane is happy to interact with me. Indeed, I have had some extended email discussions with John that he has agreed we can publish as soon as I have a spot of time to organize them into blog posts as I have volunteered to do. Sometimes John and I are on the same side of a question, as you can see from “Anat Admati, Martin Hellwig and John Cochrane on Bank Capital Requirements.” Other times we disagree, as you can see from our debate about whether things other than paper currency are likely to create an effective lower bound on interest rates. On that, see:

I have Twitter friends who think that John Cochrane has become a right-wing hack. But what I notice is that John Cochrane is regularly drawn by the internal logic of economic arguments to points of view and policy positions that have nothing to with the standard right-wing line. John Cochrane is not predictable in what he writes, unlike many other bloggers and columnists; and he is very very smart. So he is well worth reading. 

In saying what I said in the last paragraph, I realize I have a double standard: I hold center-right, center-left and left-wing bloggers and columnists to the standard of getting everything correct, while my standard for right-wing and heterodox left-wing bloggers and columnists is an easier one to meet: I look for interesting, useful ideas, even if the wheat is mixed in with off-the-mark chaff. This is less of a bilateral double standard viewing politics from an international perspective, where in rich countries generally, the US center-left is the international political center. (Personally, I am probably closer to the political center in the US than I am to the international political center.) 

Update on Female Bloggers: Anna Earl asks a great question on Twitter about female bloggers. None of them were on the list I was working from, but the female bloggers I interact with most are Frances Coppola, Izabella Kaminska and Claudia Sahm. I recommend all of them highly. Twitter is a great way to keep track of their online activities. Here is my tweet with links to their Twitter feedsFrances Coppola worries that banks will be hurt by negative interest rates, with deleterious effects on the economy. You can tap into that debate from our tweets to each other, with links. Izabella Kaminska is an advocate of electronic money. We share many common interests. Claudia Sahm is a very impressive former student and coauthor of mine who is one of the Fed’s top experts on consumption. Let me also recommend Bonnie Kavoussi, who wrote for the Huffington Post before coming to the University of Michigan as a student in our Masters of Applied Economics program. She has begun a career writing and editing economics books. I am hoping that Bonnie will help me write some books someday. Bonnie has a great Twitter feedHere is a link to Bonnie’s blog.