Wednesday, April 20, 2016

A random physicist takes on economics

Blueberry. Kevin Payravi, Wikimedia Commons
Sorry for the fall off in blogging of late. It's probably going to continue for a bit. Why? As I mentioned on Twitter last night, I've decided to write a short book about some of the subjects I cover on my blog. The intended audience will be people without technical backgrounds.

My goal is about 20,000 to 30,000 words, which is about one to two month's worth of posts at my current rate. The goal is publication in September. In a sense, I want to try and write something on the scale of Tyler Cowen's The Great Stagnation aimed at a similar audience, even using a similar publishing method: as a Kindle e-book with an eye to being released as a Kindle Single.

The working title is A random physicist takes on economics.

The current draft material is already about 6,000 words, including some outline segments. If that current material is any guide, the book's tone is going to be very critical of economics as a discipline. Those critiques are centered around random agents describing things just as well, the nonsense and complete lack of discipline that goes under the general heading of "expectations", calling out Hayek's version of the price mechanism as nonsensical, and the complete detachment from reality that is the mathematics used in economics. There will even be some policy implications. It's something I've avoided doing too much -- tending to advocate a kind of nihilism. However, I see a place for some of the broad conclusions you can take from irrational agents (don't correlate; explore state space) that could become extremely relevant in the coming years in US politics at least.

I'm not going to discuss the performance of information equilibrium models (or at least I don't plan to [2]), partially because that is too technical and partially because they haven't gone through a real peer review process. Instead it's mostly going to focus on the insights coming from random agents, relying on Gary Becker's 1962 paper "Irrational Behavior and Economic Theory". You could call this a prequel to the blog, or possibly an introductory volume to a series where the second volume is an expanded version of the paper.

In a sense, this is an attempt at an end run around the mainstream political and economic establishment -- a blueberry manifesto [1] people can show on their cell phones.

I don't plan on taking this all that seriously :)



[1] The blueberry picture above -- an edit from one taken by Kevin Payravi and uploaded on Wikimedia commons -- is currently a stand-in for what is eventually going to be part of the book cover. It's a reference to The Velvet Underground's first album, the blue color that I've used on this blog, as well as the pints of blueberries that will feature in the examples (and did here).

[2] The BEA is hopefully going to deliver a nice 3rd birthday present for this blog next week.


  1. I didn't see footnote [1] at first... I take it that the edit you did was to make it MUCH bluer?

    1. BTW, are you a fan of blueberries?

    2. Actually it is a bit of an inside joke as I don't like them. But I think raspberries would have lacked any subtlety.

    3. Ha!... I see. Well, let's see you could use blueberry juice diffusing in a glass of water for an entropic force and you could color all your dots in your gas analogies blue (like little blueberries). They can also roll downhill a lower energy state... hmm, yes, it can be a good theme. (When my uncle used to ask me "How many flies do you want in your pancakes?" he was talking about blueberries... you're free to use that, if you can somehow)