Become an economic commentator

Become an economic commentator

April 21, 2024, 4:00 AM

April 21, 2024, 4:00 AM

Very often, friends of this column and on social media ask me to suggest ways to deepen their knowledge of economics. I suspect that some want to enter the fascinating world of economic opinion makers who, now, are under the spotlight of slander. They would be the main suspects in the ongoing boycott.

I feel flattered by the questions and requirements on economic development issues, because they allow me to develop my vocation as a teacher and researcher. And it also allows me to share my passion for books.

I have divided these suggestions into two types.

The internet planet. I believe that you can learn more about the social sciences, in general, about economics, in particular, on hundreds of Internet sites and now, also on artificial intelligence. Here I will be brief and refer to recommending the economics courses on Coursera, EDX and Khan Academy. Most are very good and there are many free. Of course, any Artificial Intelligence (ChatGPT, Gemini, or Copilot) with quality questions can also be a good way to dabble, in good and bad ways, in the arts of economic science.

From a very young age I have developed a fanaticism, only tamed by budgetary restrictions, for books in general and in particular, of course for economics books. I still consider that an elegant and effective way to learn any subject is by reading a book. Savoring each page, feeling the smell of ink and paper and sometimes highlighting, with love, the most fantastic ideas. Of course, I love bookstores and libraries that are the home of books. So I will expand a little more on recommending some books to take the first steps in the avenues of economics. The first avenues to follow are, of course, economics manuals, also known as textbooks, where the concepts of economics are condensed and in a very well organized, even pasteurized, way, generally divided into micro and macroeconomics.

There are dozens of manuals and each generation has its favorites. In the 60s and 70s, everyone learned about economics from Paul Samuelson’s book. In the 80s and 90s, the Bible of economists, especially macroeconomists, was the book by Rudi Dornbusch, a great professor at MIT. More contemporary, Gregory Mankiw’s economics book should be the first thing an economics novice should read. The book is very didactic and of course, begins with the basic definitions, and then escalates to more complex topics. It is generally divided into macroeconomic themes, that is, in the reading of large aggregates such as investment, consumption, growth, employment and others. And in microeconomics, where he begins to explain the basic ideas behind the classic supply and demand graph, that is, how companies and people behave. As a textbook, also recently released, there is a very interesting option online and free. This is the book: The Economy. Economics for a changing world published by the CoreEcon team. https://www.core-econ.org/project/la-economia/

There are fewer textbooks written by Latin American economists. Of course, I know Brazilians better because I studied in this country and among them is the great economics book by Mario Enrique Simons, professor at the Getulio Vargas Foundation. Edmar Bacha’s macroeconomics texts are very good. Felipe Larraín, a Chilean economist, also contributed to developing an economics manual with a strong emphasis on the region together with Jeffrey Sachs. I have no doubt that in other countries there are also excellent economics manuals. In Bolivia, the person who wrote a text on macroeconomics was the economist Juan Careaga, I think it is an edition from the 80s. Another national author who has very good texts is Juan Antonio Morales.

In recent years, however, introductory economics books have appeared, written for the general public, in a very creative way and based on the reality of people and companies or hot topics in the situation of national economies or international issues. The authors are economists who have ventured into journalism and scientific dissemination.

Of course, these written books reflect ideological positions. On the one hand, there are books that strongly defend the liberal model of economics. For example, a very good one is: Economía in colors by Xavier Sala and Martín Javier Salama and Martí by the same author, the book: Liberal economy for non-economists and non-liberals is highly recommended. This Columbia University professor is a fashion icon among economists, he wears very flirty jackets. In addition, he has a series of videos on YouTube complementary to the two aforementioned books.

On the opposite line, in ideological terms, are the works of the Korean heterodox economist such as: Remove the ladder. Development strategy in historical perspective or Edible Economy. Mariana Mazzucato’s books are very good to begin to understand the role of the State in the economy, such as The Entrepreneurial State. The books by María da Conceicao Tavares are along this same line.

Journalists have also ventured into the dissemination of economic ideas and issues. As is the case of Tim Hartford, who definitely has a best-seller: The Camouflaged Economist. Many of these books can be found in national bookstores and most, of course, are in virtual bookstores like Amazon. Therefore, if someone wants to take their first steps in economics in a more formal and organized way, there are textbooks. If someone wants to jump into the turbulent waters of the economy, but in a lighter way and on current topics or topics, then there is the second category of books. Of course there are hundreds in the book on economics and there are the classic books by Adam Smith, Keynes, Hayek or Marx. Now if your intention is to become a professional economic opinionator by reading these books, I recommend that you think twice. This activity is high risk and now there is a first battle trench.

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