November 2015

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In my experience, you can get someone to look at your painting before they will look at your poem. They will look at your poem before they will look at your short story/essay. They will look at your essay before they look at your book.

I suspect many more people have read my essays than have read my book.

Yet, I still want to write books. Why? In the social sciences, there's just not enough pages to say what needs to be said in an essay. The topic is too complex.

Yeah, big questions are great. For example, I tackled the question of whether WWII still would have occurred if German taxpayers had been given the freedom to directly allocate their taxes...

In terms of breadth vs's the epitome of breadth. It's a list of the "best" passages on libertarian economics...

Except...I'm sure there are better passages...and a better method of categorization. If you get a chance, I'd sure love to see your list of the "best" passages that describe the most important libertarian economic concepts.

I kinda do the same thing with music. I force myself to choose my favorite song from my favorite artist. It's really not easy but it's the best format for a sampler CD that you can share with friends.

I am also a fan of big think books. However, for young aspiring academics, the hard truth is that, at least in economics, "books do not count" for tenure and promotion. It is articles, preferably in more prestigious journals, that do.

Bottom line is that one should get tenure, wherever. Then one can pursue the major book project(s). I am annoyed that "books do not count," but note that at the higher level they still do. I am talkiing being remembered over a longer period of time and also getting Nobel Prizes. When Elinor Ostrom got her prize there were a bunch of nauseating bozos on ejmr who denounced it, whining that she had not published in any of the "top four" journals. Of course, they gave it for her _Governing the Commons_, which has been cited more often the entire opi of many econ Nobel Prize winners.

In political science, books do count, a lot--toward tenure. Contact me if you're interested in thinking outside the econ box and (most of) its foolish constraints.

One of the reasons that thinkers such as, say, Adam Smith, Carl Menger, Ludwig von Mises, Friedrich A. Hayek stand out and are "lasting" in their relevance is precisely their "wider-view" of things.

That is another way of saying that they were "interdisciplinary" in their knowledge, outlook, and analysis. "Enlightenment" thinkers.

Partly this is the case because of an earlier era's conception of a "well-rounded" education that included reading and understanding the "great books" and the grand historical narratives that placed "the world" in a larger context.

And which, then, served as the context for one's own thinking in one's own field or discipline.

I can only say this. My "generation" of "Austrians" (the 1960s and 1970s) took it for granted that one was expected to master "all" the literature of both "Austrian" and "mainstream" economics.

Plus . . . to be knowledgeable about history (intellectual, political, social, economic), informed about philosophy, political philosophy and political science, and an amount of sociology (how could you be an "Austrian" if you had not read Max Weber, Georg Simmel, Raymond Aron, Talcott Parsons, Alfred Schutz, etc.?)

Each of us (Don Lavoie, Jack High, Mario Rizzo, Jerry O'Driscoll, Sudha Shenoy, Joe Salerno, Roger Garrison, . . .) had to make our "marginal" decisions as to the allocation of our, respective, scarce time in these various knowledge directions.

But each of us -- without central command or direction -- took upon ourselves to try to emulate the earlier scholars who had inspired us and were our role models for becoming "thinkers."

I wonder if the current generation of those interested and/or pursuing "Austrian" economics are motivated in the same way. And acting upon it to the same degree.

It is a demanding intellectual road to follow, but the reward as a thinker is in both the journey and the destination.

Richard Ebeling

I am a "let a thousand flowers bloom" kind of guy. I like books and short articles.

Actually, what I don't like is really long (say, 30+ page) articles. I always seem to have one of two reactions to these:

1. You could have shared this finding more effectively in half or a third as many pages, or

2. This is really interesting and I wish it was elaborated in a book rather than squeezed into an article.

The exception, of course, is a survey or literature review article. Those always seem to be the only really long articles that feel like the right size to me.

I feel like RESTAT is one of the best journals out there for "right-sizing" articles, and QJE and Journal of Labor Economics are some of the worst at having these long unwieldy articles.

Granted, Journal of Labor Economics is one the ones I should be aspiring to given my field.

I don't think Pete was really on about books or their length except as a sub-theme. The point is that we should "dare to be different," and we should "think big." I agree.

As Pete was saying, I think, big-think is hard; it is easy to veer into nonsense or poly-syllabic vacuity. So dare and think, but also think about strategies to keep it real. Maybe I'm reading in, but I think that's the main issue in Pete's post.

IMHO, it helps to translate your big think into something empirical or otherwise relatively finite, close, technical, precise. Okay, so you think the economy is shaped like a 12-dimensional hyper-rhombus? Maybe, but what does that have to do with the spread of the law merchant or consequences of the 19th-century Irish cottier system for the labor market in northern England? Maybe that's what Pete was hinting at when he notes that the monster tomes are usually written relatively late in one's career.

Of course, another virtue of waiting, particularly if one manages to keep on studying and learning widely rather than just narrowing down into some tiny specialty, is that one knows more over time and is better able to write a serious book when one has acquired a bit more knowledge and all that. I did not publish my first book until 14 years after I started teaching at JMU.

Following on Professor Ebeling's point, I was delighted that in both "Socialism" and "Human Action" von Mises used a few Greek words, printed in the Greek alphabet and untranslated. Those were the days.


Of course, the Greek words were not translated.

What civilized, educated person does not know ancient Greek?

I would always have my Homer with me, if only there was an iPhone app for it!

Richard Ebeling

I am with Pete, Richard and Roger.

Not bigness for its sake, but somethings require booklength treatment. Especially if one is daring to be different.

AT UCLA, we were required to master all major schools, and then sort out the truth. The truth could not be reduced to a simple model. Except, as Alchian always reminded us, demand curves slope downwards.

What, Jerry? You are "with" me?

BTW, it has now been pretty clearly established that while they are exceptionally rare, there are (or have been) goods that have at least portions of their demand curves that slope upwards, Chinese rice in poor rural areas awhile ago being perhaps the most cldearly established such case.

My second sentence should have read, "You are NOT 'with' me?" Sorry, :-).

Dr. Ku Wai Li just wrote the below:

600 Page monster full of oodles of equations and applied "economism". Much prefer books to the journal culture; feel it is too restrictive, especially for "commercializing" theory. Friedman had it about right, but where is economics' Michio Kaku?

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