Saturday, August 05, 2006

Diary of a Mediocre Day

It was a sunny gorgeous day here in Berkeley, CA but now it is early August and I'm realizing that I'm way behind my ambitious summer research schedule.

As I was walking back from Starbucks, I realized that I hadn't ordered any microeconomics textbooks for my September Fletcher class. I felt guilty about cheating Pyndick and friends of well deserved royalty money. So, I sat down and ordered some books. I'm a big fan of this book.

My wife and I face the challenge that our nanny has unexpectedly quit. We have spent too much time debating what we are looking for as a new hire so permit me to post a job ad here. If you would like to earn a high wage for entertaining the child of two humble economists and can put up with all of his endless chatter, please send me an e-mail! You must like trains, Darth Vader and war. His birthday is early October and our local school district won't let him start kindergarten even though he is as tall as a 2nd grader.

Returning to economics, I am happy to announce that the February 2007 issue of the Journal of Regional Science will be great. I guest edited it and the 8 papers on environmental and spatial issues will soon all be classics. I know that all of you already subscribe to this journal but still make sure you read this issue!

On the broad topic of books, I now understand that my Green Cities book will be published in expensive hardcover in late August 2006 while the cheap paperback will appear in late October 2006. I had been under the impression that both would come out simultaenously. Brookings offers authors a 40% discount for purchasing their own books but these sales do not count for royalties.

I can also truthfully claim that Dora and I almost have a draft of our social capital book done. You can go to her MIT Economics webpage to see all 6 papers but this book is more ambitious than simply stapling them together. We have tried to write a truly interdisciplinary book that sociologists, economists and historians can all appreciate and hopefully learn from.

Finally, I was sent a mildly interesting book titled "How to spend $50 billion to make the world a better place" edited by Bjorn Lomborg. The book features 9 chapters by authors with each chapter also presenting an "opponent's view". This is certainly a great question. At the end of the book, the expert panel (that included a couple of nobel laureates and other famous economists) ranked the 9. I had two problems with this book. I wish that the dialogue spoken by the expert panel had been published to hear their debate and discussion. This links to my second concern. The papers are too short. They contain little substance and no analysis.

But, Lomborg deserves credit for attempting to start a serious discussion on how we prioritize the world's problems. It would have interested me if he had taken the "expert's" rankings of the 9 problems and presented this listing to different interest groups ranging from Bono to the United Nations to poor people in Africa and see if they agree with the experts and to ask them for why they disagree (if they did in fact disagree).