I decided long ago not to have a “blogroll”, figuring that I would naturally link to the people I read. But it hasn’t really worked out that way. There are lots of amazing authors whose every word I hang on, but whom I rarely have occasion to link. This interweb is an amazing thing. Banks may implode and currencies morph to toilet paper, but intellectually, these are the best of times. There has never been a conversation like this, so many wonderful minds communicating in a forum that is open to everyone, but still relevant, even influentual. Thank goodness for this crazy machine, and for all its cogs and pulleys — writers, commenters, and especially readers.
I want to devote my first post of the year to highlighting and thanking some of the people whose words keep my brain pleasantly marinated. [A note about names — I’m a first-name-basis kind of guy, and will thank accordingly. My use of first names implies neither disrespect of nor any personal familiarity with any of the thankees.]
If I had to nominate one blogger for the role of “hero”, it would be Brad Setser. For years now, Brad has been painstakingly documenting the financial backstory of our times. Bubbles pop, this hedge fund fails, that central bank acts, blah blah blah. Every day another headline, but Brad has focused on the slow grinding of plates beneath, invisible to most but actually the source of the tremors. He approaches the task with a Sisyphean work-ethic, remarkable civility, and openness to new ideas and especially new data. (Brad’s comment section also merits note. It is, I think, the best on the web, thanks largely to the caliber of the headline posts, and Brad’s willingness to engage all comers as colleagues.)
Mark Thoma is a different kind of hero. Economist’s View is the New York Times of the econoblogosphere, the place to find the news of the day treated at length and seriously. Like the Times, there is more reportage than editorial, but the quality of the Mark’s editorial is consistently higher than the Times‘.
Within the ghetto of finance, the first place I turn to for my fix of news is Felix Salmon. I’ve been a Felix fan since he first started scribing as RGE‘s original Economonitor. (They were fools not to have offered thrice whatever it would have taken to retain him there.) I owe Felix a special debt, as he was the first widely read blogger to deem my ravings here linkworthy. It’s been less lonesome ever since. I do have a complaint, though. Back in the day, Felix was the first and only finance blogger who consistently had me spitting up Fruity Pebbles onto my PowerBook. He was hilarious, sometimes hilariously mean, to all comers (including, very gratefully, yours truly). Ever since the snooty Condé Nast franchise got him, he’s been so well behaved. The thoughtfulness, range, and quality of content on Market Movers is better than ever, but I do miss having to replace expensive hardware following a particularly artful post.
Calculated Risk and Tanta have done an amazing job at explaining the housing bubble and the mortgage industry, with clarity, depth, and panache. Yves Smith at Naked Capitalism weaves anthology and editorial, keeping us abreast of the intricacies of the financial world and offering a useful perspective from which to view those goings on. I have occasionally linked Yves to disagree with him, but that’s the exception that overwhelms the rule. Yves is usually right, and always worth listening to. Another person who is usually right and deserves special mention for it is Dean Baker.
If you are interested in finance, and don’t read jck at Alea, you’re unserious. jck reads widely and obscurely and unearths some real gems. His posts are often deceptive in their brevity. jck has mastered that art of packing tart commentary and a pair of X-ray spectacles into a couple of sentences, sometimes just in the highlighting. Another underappreciated master of concision is Scurvon. Scurvon comments with a wide and eclectic range in a style that’s straight, direct, and brief. It’s like intravenous information, and you can’t even feel the needle going in. Of course, the most concise bloggers of all are those who only link, and among finance bloggers, Abnormal Returns does a great job of that, except for a few lapses in judgment and taste (he has linked Interfluidity).
Interfluidity, unfortunately, belongs to the subgenre of finance blogs that might be referred to as the we-are-so-fucked-o-sphere. The demigods of our happy realm would have to be Micheal Panzner and Nouriel Roubini. Michael was kind enough to mail me a copy of his book, Financial Armageddon. Michael’s baseline scenario (he often writes in the simple future tense, rather than any hedging with any conditional) is so dark that most of us doomsayers seem like Pollyannas by comparison. The book is worth reading, and the blog carefully documents a world slowly waking up to how bad a fix it has got itself into. Other excellent members of our dingy neighborhood include Michael Shedlock and Aaron Krowne.
Just about one year ago, I got into a lengthy comment debate with one moldbug, whom I first encountered as a commenter on Brad Setser’s blog. moldbug is a wonderful writer, an unusual intellect, and a sharp cookie on all things monetary. We have divergent views about what money ought to be, but similar views of the problems we face now, and he was delightful to argue with. He now has his own blog, Unqualified Reservations (although much of his best financial writing remains where it began, in Brad’s comments).
In no particular order, other finance blogs that I read pretty much constantly, and to whose authors I am grateful, include The Big Picture, Accrued Interest, Financial Crookery, Credit Slips, Cassandra Does Tokyo, Jeff Matthews Is Not Making This Up, The Mess That Greenspan Made, as well as (with a hat tip to Brad Setser) Macro Man and Michael Pettis.
Of course, finance is just one distateful ghetto in the odd, misshapen galaxy of economics. Liking to think of myself as a
worldy galaxyly person, I read the economists as well. All this link lovin’ is leaving my fingers sore (don’t go there), so I hope the following authors will understand themselves to be worshipped and adored, despite being so perfunctorily listed: James Hamilton and Menzie Chinn, Brad DeLong, Tyler Cowen and Alex Tabarrok, Dani Rodrik, Thomas Polley, William Polley, Robert Vienneau, Robert Waldmann, George Borjas, Paul Krugman, Gabriel Mihalache, Greg Mankiw, Jonathon Dingel, and knzn
Of course, there are a hundred, a thousand, a million people, links, stars I’ve missed. The stars in this galaxy, and in other galaxies near or far, are so numerous as to be grains of sand. The texture of the world is not made of isolated points, however many you might catalog, but by the fact that there is somewhere everywhere, a spark in every crevice. (No, that is not why my fingers are hurting.) To all those I’ve named, and those I’ve unforgivably forgotten, and those I don’t even know but might find with a click, thank you for this amazing conversation. To be a small voice in this cacaphony, in this harmony, is a great privilege.
And thank you, whoever you are, who takes the time to read these words. I am blessed by the company of your eyeballs, as creepy as that sounds. (Don’t worry. I’m not hungry.)
- 06-Jan-2008, 5:31 a.m. EST: Let the unforgivable omissions guilt begin! Added knzn, whom I mysteriously missed in my first perusal of my well-worn feeds.
- 06-Jan-2008, 3:34 p.m. EST: Restored a missing ‘n’ to Michael Panzner’s name.
- 07-Jan-2008, 3:28 p.m. EST: Fixed the name of moldbug’s blog, “Unqualified Reservations”, not “Unqualified Offerings”. Thanks to commenter nadezhda, who recommends the original Unqualified Offerings. And also to commenter Independent Accountant.
- 08-Jan-2008, 2:52 a.m. EST: Removed an excess ‘l’ from the end of Jonathon Dingel’s name. Sorry to all — this was truly a masterpiece of typos.