Category Archives: Reading

What I’m Reading

Left Behind (Edwards)Sebastian Edwards’ Left Behind: Latin America and the False Promise of Populism. This, from what I understand (I’ve only just started reading it), is a pro-market economic analysis of the economic situation in today’s Latin American economies. The title alludes to a major theme, which is that the Washington Consensus of the late 1980s and early 90s was good advice, it simply wasn’t implemented well. The populist response to the perceived failure of neoliberal reforms, argues Edwards, has continued to stifle growth. Since I have to finish the book I won’t comment much on what I think about this, but it’s worth considering that populism and pro-market reform aren’t necessarily opposed to each other (Ecuador has grown quite a bit this past decade, including under R. Correa). Further, the poor implementation of neoliberal policies was a direct failure of the Washington Consensus, which didn’t take institutions into consideration. The populist response, in some countries, actually directly addressed the institutional question (sometimes unsuccessful, such as is the case with Venezuela, and other times the results aren’t obviously negative [Ecuador]).

My plan to read one book per week and fifty pages per day fell apart last month, when I went about two weeks without reading much. I was re-reading F.A. Hayek’s Individualism and Economic Order, but apart from this I didn’t get much done. My hope is that I can catch up during the summer, although I have some of the more difficult reading planned for then.

What I’ve Been Reading

February 2013 Reading

Compared to January, my reading schedule during February was weak (then again, I didn’t enjoy a winter break last month). I only read three books, which were: Bryan Caplan, The Myth of the Rational Voter; Hal Weitzman, Latin Lessons; and David Friedman, The Machinery of Freedom. The only one I recommend is Friedman’s. The other two were interesting, but not books I think particularly important. Coincidentally, as I finish Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow, Caplan’s thesis in The Myth of the Rational Voter seems somewhat unsophisticated. Where he develops his theory of “rational irrationality,” it may have been more powerful to blame systemically biased voting on “System 1 thinking.”

Apart from those books, I also read a number of academic articles. These were: Christina and David Romer, “The Missing Transmission Mechanism in the Monetary Explanation of the Great Depression;” Ben S. Bernanke, “Nonmonetary Effects of the Financial Crisis in the Propagation of the Great Depression;” Bennett and Friedman, “The Irrelevance of Economic Theory to Understanding Economic Ignorance;” Donohue and Levitt, “The Impact of Legalized Abortion on Crime;” and Hans-Hermann Hoppe, “Socialism: A Property or Knowledge Problem.” The Bernanke, Bennett and Friedman, and Donohue and Levitt articles are well worth reading. I thought the Romer2 paper was sloppy and not particularly insightful, and Hoppe’s article is the worst of all of them.

Hopefully March will be a much more fruitful month for my reading. As mentioned earlier, I’m currently reading Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow. It’s a great book and it’s incredibly interesting. It’s also very well written, as Kahneman is able to explain all the concepts very well, with plenty of examples. It’s also amusing, because the book acts as an experiment, where you’re the experimentee. It’s great when you catch yourself (or he points out to you when you’re) using System 1 and/or System 2 thinking. I definitely recommend it.

What have you guys (and gals) been reading?

2013 Reading: Monthly Milestone

At the end of 2012, I posted some graphs representing the “academic” (minus textbooks — because the only textbook I really read all the way through was my intermediate micro. one, and only for the chapters covered in class1 —, news journals, and similar material) reading I accomplished between June and December of that year. It was probably more than I have read at any other point in time (except maybe during mid-2011, which is when I had to read a stack of material for the Critical Review seminar), but not as much as I know I could (or should) have read. Even though we decided to do this independently, Lex Alexander and I have agreed to try to stay on a program of 50 pages a day (of reading that “counts”) — call it our New Years’ resolution. This might not sound like a lot, but I think it’s a pretty good daily benchmark when reading thicker material.

I’m happy to report that so far I’ve been keeping up. I’ve read 2,297 pages (although 100 of these are spilling over into today), split up by subject as follows,

January 2013 Reading

The 50 pages a day is just the first half of the resolution. The other is to read one book per week, but clearly this is subject to some “cheating.” For instance, since Hülsmann’s biography of Mises has required just about two weeks to finish, I first read Coase’s book which is much shorter and took around three days to complete — voila, two books in two weeks. Similarly, I plan to read some of the shorter monographs I have in my “library” so that I can focus on academic papers during the rest of the week. But, January was a books only month and the five books I read are: Bruce Caldwell, Hayek’s Challenge; David Beckworth’s (editor), Boom and Bust Banking; Ronald H. Coase, The Firm, the Market, and the Law; Yoani Sánchez, Havana Real; and Jörg Guido Hülsmann, Mises: The Last Knight of Liberalism. All five books are “must read” books.

I realize that these posts aren’t that interesting, but they give me an opportunity to keep track of myself and make my goals public (making it all the worse not to meet them). If I don’t repeat these posts in the future it could be because I don’t want to bore you all, but it’s also likely that I didn’t meet my goal — I hope you guys call me on it! Also, I want to thank you all for clicking the links in the book titles that I usually pepper in my posts, and I also want to thank you guys for actually buying things on Amazon.com through those links. I get a very small percentage of that sale, and it all ultimately goes towards my education (i get Amazon gift cards as payment and I use these to buy my books). So far, it only comes out to a few dollars per month if I’m lucky, but even that helps a lot!

Also, I’m interested in what you guys have read. Please, let me know!

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1. The only other two textbooks that I’ve taken as much interest in are Paul Krugman, et. al., International Economics and Chiang and Wainwright’s Fundamental Methods of Mathematical Economics. I have reservations about the latter book, though, because I don’t like its pedagogical style (it’s difficult to read without independent instruction). I really like the Krugman textbook, though.

What I’ve Been Reading: Year End Recap

I’ve never been much of a consistent reader. I usually have short spurts where I burn myself out, and then I go on without reading for a while. When I write “reading,” I don’t mean reading the news or the blogosphere, but usually either academic articles or non-fiction books (I’m not much of a fiction reader; I’m not sure what was the last fiction book I read after high school). So, starting in June, I decided to record my reading to see how much of it I got done, and to motivate me to improve those numbers. I wish I would have gathered statistics for the entire year, but that’ll have to wait for the end of 2013. Even though there’s technically three days left in the year, I doubt I’ll get that much reading done over the weekend, so I’ll publish the “statistics” early.

I actually have done better than I thought I would. I used an Excel spreadsheet to record the number of pages I read, then going back to classify whatever I read based on four categories (economics, political science, journal article, and book [the latter of which includes monographs]). When deciding the amount of pages, I left out numbered pages that nobody reads (indexes, bibliographies, and sometimes notes, if I didn’t really read through them), but I included prefaces (usually numbered with roman numerals) and the like — basically, what I’d read. It’s not perfect (some half pages count as full pages, including pages with figures and tables), but it’s what I have.

I admit that a lot of the reading was “forced:” for class. This includes countless academic articles and a number of the books I read. I’m not sure I’d get this much reading done otherwise, but I guess we’ll have 2013 to test this prediction.

In total, between June and December 2012, I read 5,574 pages, including 17 books and 71 scholarly articles. Of the 17 books, 2 are related to political science and the rest to economics. Of the articles, 36 are related to political science and 35 to economics. 299 pages (which is surprisingly low) correspond to my literature review on identity and nationalism in Cataluña. Of the 5,574 pages I read, 2,474 — or, approximately 44 percent — was for class. If I were to maintain this pace (34 books per year), it would take about 6 years to finish all the books in my personal “library.” In other words, I’ll have to pick up that pace.

Coincidentally, a Facebook friend posted a status on reading, and one woman wrote that she reads an estimated 200–300 books per year (which is “[n]ot nearly as much as [she] used to”). I’m sure many of my readers have similar accomplishments. I just can’t keep up with that pace, so I’ll be happy with 50 (in my defense, non-fiction books tend to be a bit more difficult to read than fiction books — although, ironically, probably not as well written —, and warrant more meticulous reading to remember what you’ve read).

Here is my reading, broken down by category,

2012 Reading

What I’ve Been Reading: Cataluña Edition

[N.B. If you're asking yourself why anybody would care for long lists of what I've been reading, I do it for myself. I list the pieces as I go, and then I go back to refresh my memory; it also helps me organize the ground I cover.]

For a short literature review,

⚀ Kenneth Bollen and Juan Diez Medrano, “Who are the Spaniards? Nationalism and Identification in Spain,” Social Forces 77, 2 (1998), pp. 587–621.

⚁ Joan Nogué and Joan Vicente, “Landscape and National Identity in Catalonia,” Political Geography 23, 2 (2004), pp. 113–132.

⚂ Stanley Payne, “Catalan and Basque Nationalism,” Journal of Contemporary History 6, 1 (1971), pp. 15–33, 35–51. Continue reading “What I’ve Been Reading: Cataluña Edition” »

What I’ve Been Reading: CEO Compensation and the Crisis

⚀ Rüdeger Fahlenbrach and René M. Stulz, “Bank CEO Incentives and the Credit Crisis,” Journal of Financial Economics 99, 1 (2011), pp. 11–26.

⚁ Sudhakar Balachandran, Bruce Kogut, and Hitesh Harnal, “The Probability of Default, Excessive Risk, and Executive Compensation: A Study of Financial Services Firms from 1995 to 2008,” Colombia Business School Research Paper Series (2010), pp. 2–67.

⚂ Kevin J. Murphy, “Pay, Politics and the Financial Crisis,” forthcoming in Alan Blinder, Andrew Lo, and Robert Solow, Economic Lessons from the Financial Crisis (2012).

⚃ James Cash Acrey, William R. McCumber, Thu Hien T. Nguyen, “CEO Incentives and Bank Risk,” Journal of Economics and Business 63, 5 (2011), pp. 456–471.

What I’ve Been Reading: Class Edition III

comparative public policy

(This is a topic of interest to me, since I have dual citizenship: Spain and the U.S.)

⚀ Cristina Escobar, “Extraterritorial Political Rights and Dual Citizenship in Latin America,” Latin America Research Review 42, 3 (2007), pp. 43–75.

⚁ Rainer Bauböck, “The Rights and Duties of External Citizenship,” Citizenship Studies 13, 5 (2009), pp. 475–499.

⚂ Michele Wucker, “The Perpetual Migration Machine and Political Power,” World Policy Journal 21, 3 (2004), pp. 41–49.

miscellaneous

Not really reading, but I’ve made numerous recent acquisitions. In the area of political science, I bought used copies of Robert Nozick’s Anarchy, State, and Utopia and M. Lessnoff’s (ed.) Social Contract Theory. The latter is a collection of readings, which I figure I should do since I never took a class on Western political theory. I also purchased a used copy of Bryan Caplan’s The Myth of the Rational Voter.

Oftentimes to take advantage of low prices I find, I also procured a good stack of economics books: Henry Hazlitt (ed.), The Critics of Keynesian Economics; William Easterly, The White Man’s Burden; Gary Gorton, Slapped by the Invisible Hand (based on the speech given at a Federal Reserve conference, which I read last week) and Misunderstanding Financial Crises; James Barth’s The Rise and Fall of the US Mortgage and Credit Markets; Stiglitz’, Freefall; and Andrew Sorkin’s Too Big to Fail. As you can see, the majority of the books deal with the Great Recession and the related financial crisis.