Something like political economy

- political economy

I’ve been an avid reader/listener of Marginal Revolution, EconTalk, Conversations with Tyler, and Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s works for a few years now.

I took a handful of great classes at Stanford covering related subjects: “History of Capitalism” with Jennifer Burns, “American Economic History” with Gavin Wright, “The Relations Between Philosophical Enquiry and Historical Enquiry” with Rahul Chaudhri, and “Capitalism and its Discontents” with Sean Hanretta and J.P. Daughton.

I read Niall Ferguson, Jonathan Levy, Albert Hirschman and Emma Rothschild books in my free time. I wrote a history thesis exploring the political ramifications of information technologies, as foreseen in the 60’s by Paul Baran. (Really, it was a political economy essay masquerading as a history thesis.)

I’ve wanted to more deliberately learn and explore the intersections of history, economics and philosophy for a while. I wasn’t sure how.

But as it so often happens, I didn’t need much help in the “how” department. Mainly I just needed a little encouragement…that such an endeavor might be both possible and fruitful.

Fortunately, Russ Roberts hit the nail on the head in a series of tweets a few weeks ago. Some excerpts:

“Option B is to read deeply in the ideas of Smith and Hayek–emergent order, the power of specialization, non-mathematical theories of growth–gaining an appreciation for the imperfections of markets and how decentralized trial and error by entrepreneurs using local knowledge yield improvements in standard of living not easily captured in equations. The imperfections of both private and public processes to improve the lot of humanity is discussed. The courses on statistics lean heavily on the insights of Nassim Nicholas Taleb…Option A is a dumbed down version of graduate economics training. Option B is something else, something that is available today in a partial version at best in only a handful of places…Some places have something like this called something like political economy…”

It’s time to order off the menu! Today I start “Option B,” and I’ll be writing and musing here and on Twitter as I go.

I’ll try to summarize, connect the dots, lay out differing points of view, and investigate how what I’m reading informs my view of current affairs. I’m particularly interested in the issue of crony capitalism / corporate socialism.

If you’re interested in Option B, I’d love to hear from you.