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Delog’s coffee and other economics blogs June 3, 2006

Posted by Sharath Rao in blogging, economics, education, people.
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After the bragging I did here, for a while now I have been meaning to make a long post. No, I really was – its not like how a friend you havent called for months calls you and you without sparing a moment, confidenctly say, “Oh ! I was just about to call you”. I dont know why I said what I did so far, because this is going to be one of the shorter posts.

Check this one out. Brad Delog is a Berkeley economist who was a top ranking official during a part of Clinton years. He has started this series Morning Coffee videocast as he calls it, probably paraphrasing FD Roosevelt’s radio fireside chats during his presidency years. In his first videocast here , he mentions the reason he wants to go about this – “in the attempt to raise the level of economic debate, to inform and entertain, to teach you something that you ought to know, to help to recreate the missing public sphere of rational discourse about our collective destinies ( pauses ..drinks coffee…), and also to drink coffee !! ”

I like the idea. I am getting access to free economic, public policy education/awareness from one of America’s top economists. I know its probably not as prestigious as being enrolled in a Berkeley economics program but thats the whole point. We need to create centers of excellence of knowledge and creativity like the research universities but their purpose is not practise to exclusivity. We need branding – but we must promote a brand not by creating a artificial scarcity shortage ( which, by the way, is exactly what is happening in case of IITs and IIMs in India ) but by promoting excellence and providing a vibrant research atmosphere.

Lets make knowledge as universally accessible as we possibly can. The MIT Opencourseware and the MIT Videos are two excellent examples of this. These, however are instances where the individual faculty members have to spend time making this feasible. In the former case, existing course materials etc. are made available to the general public for free. Why does Delog want to do it ? Why would he spend time maintaining the blog, recording these chats when there is no apparently monetary benefit – many of these blogs have no ads – and even if there are, with a limited audience consisting of academicians and policy wonks perhaps, these ads are unlikely to generate any significant revenue to justify the use of their time. And its not just Delog, but other blogs I frequent – Greg Mankiw at Harvard ( one of the best economics blogs ! ), Nobelist Gary Becker at Chicago among others who are also faculty members at elite universities maintain a blog – why do they do this ?

This post from Prof. Mankiw partially answers this question.

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