I think most readers of this blog are long-time visitors, but no doubt new people sometimes stumble by, so for their sake I thought I should say something about who I am. And even long-time readers may not have kept track of the most recent developments and so may appreciate the update. I've been blogging for eight years now at various places, starting in 2003. At that time I had recently finished a Masters degree in international development at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, and was working at the World Bank. Since then I worked at the Cato Institute, at the World Bank again, and then went to do a PhD at George Mason University. I also worked for a year and a half at InterMedia Survey Institute, mostly doing audience research for Radio Free Europe and Voice of America. When I was laid off from that job in April of this year, I was able to focus on finishing my PhD. I successfully defended on July 20, 2011, and just began to work as an Assistant Professor in Economics and Finance at Fresno Pacific University. It's because I'm a professor now that I feel I should "relaunch" this, or at least signal an intention to raise the tone a bit. The subtitle of the blog, "Arcane Topics in Economics and Philosophy," is worthy enough of a professor, but the content of the blog has rarely lived up to that title. More often it has been little better than a running commentary on contemporary politics, a form of writing of which there is too much already and in which I have little to offer that is better than others. My intention is to make the blog an outlet for scholarly reflections that are-- that word again-- too "arcane" for publication elsewhere. However, I have found that it is very difficult to have the discipline to execute a blog in a fashion to live up to one's plans for it, and I don't have too high hopes for it this time either. It's a third priority at best, after teaching and regular academic scholarship; it's something to fit into the gaps, or better, something to emerge from the gaps; it's a place to jot things down, as it were, and I always do have plenty of thoughts to jot down; but usually I don't remember the thoughts long enough.
Anyway. I have a number of publications already. One of them, "Public Expenditure Tracking Surveys in Education," co-authored with Ritva Reinikka, seems almost like a relic of another life. It is, as far as I know, the canonical introduction to the kind of studies which were my principal job at the World Bank, though I did a number of other things. I worked as a PETS consultant in Malawi, Azerbaijan, and Tajikistan, being primarily responsible for coming up with a research design, writing questionnaires, developing a sampling strategy, analyzing the results, and writing a report. I won't necessarily vouch for the effectiveness of the technique. Of course in a large organization, one is often unable to appraise the value of one's own work, but in this case I was supposed to know more about the methodology's value and contribution than my bosses-- the country economists who tended to sponsor these things-- did, and my ambivalence about this is one reason I went back to grad school. I didn't want to depend for my living on this; I suspected it was a fad. Of course, I also love the pursuit of truth, exercising the mind, studying, explaining, discovering, debating. My father is a law professor, and I think his example left me with an ethos. I wouldn't seriously endorse this view, to be sure-- indeed, writing it down makes it clear how silly it is-- but I tend to feel (not believe!) that if one isn't writing for publication one isn't really doing anything. At best, one is saving up experiences to be analyzed and written down later. That's quite wrong of course, but such deep, irrational prejudices are probably the sources of a lot of human action. Anyway it was for me. That's partly why I took up blogging, and why I've laboriously pursued a profession which consists of writing and talking in public, which, praise God, I now have the chance to begin.
Other publications. I published about 16 or 17 articles at Tech Central Station. I also had a website where I self-published articles. Here is my author page at (what became) TCS Daily. It only has nine of the articles I wrote there, which is not all of them. Hmm... here's "Iraq and the Police Principle," which the author page does not like to but still seems to be on the site. So maybe some other articles are still extant, but not all of them, I think. "Hobbes, Locke, and the Bush Doctrine" is published at TCS Daily here and at Free Republic here. "American Hajj," one of my best, seems to have disappeared. Ah, here's the first article I ever published: "Did Benedict XVI Take a Page Out of MacIntyre's Book?" That article anticipates a paper I later published in a working paper series, "The Economics of Monasticism." That article is in a more academic vein, and since 2007 I have been pursuing scholarly rather than journalistic modes of publication. Thus, "Islam's democracy paradox," an econometric exploration of the freedom and democracy deficits in the Islamic world, was co-authored with Charles Rowley and published in Public Choice magazine. Economic Contractions in the United States, a book about the 2008 financial crisis (and also the Great Depression of the 1930s) was co-authored with Charles Rowley. My first sole-authored book, Principles of a Free Society, was published last December and was so successful that I think sales may have actually reached double digits. The article "What if Justice Demands Open Borders?" which was published at The American was based on that, though the book is far more fundamental and subtle. Ironically, while professional advancement was the last thing I was looking for in writing the book-- I wanted to change the world, and thought that if anything the book's radicalism was likely to make me a pariah, but that that was a price an honest man must be willing to pay in the most just and urgent of all contemporary causes, the opening of borders, the end of world apartheid-- it may have been the main effect of the book, at least so far, for I think in job interviews the mere fact that I had written a book, even if no one has read it, made a favorable impression. For me, it was good to think through the issues and to have the results written down and in hard copy. I've also published a few articles at SSRN, namely, "Religion, Altruism, and Social Capital," "X-Efficiency Evolution: An Old-New Hypothesis about the Sources of Productivity Growth, from an Agent-Based Simulation," and "Enterprises and Institutions in Post-Communist Eurasia."
More important than any of these publications (except maybe Principles) is my still unpublished dissertation, and especially the second paper in it. The title is "The Division of Labor is Limited by the Extent of the Market," but I'll refrain from any further explanation here. The dissertation should come online soon (perhaps it already is, only I don't know where) and I can expand on it then. In the meantime, apologies to any readers for any inappropriate content in the posts already extant on this blog. Probably there is a good deal here that is written in the heat of the moment and indefensible, and I am not above deleting unfortunate past posts if they are brought to my attention, but I will probably never have the time to go back through them and separate the wheat from the chaff, so likelier than not, the good and the bad will stay together. Going forward, though, I'll try to write only content worthy of a scholar, e.g., novel insights, penetrating questions, interesting data.