• Basic economics resources: Free/cheap and good (blegish)

    Largely to recommend to others, I’m looking for free or cheap, but good, resources on economics, ones people might use for self-education. I’ve listed some about which I’m aware below, though I haven’t looked in detail at all of them, so the extent to which they—or that to which they link—are “good” is not fully known to me. I’m specifically not looking for health economics, and my interest is a bit tilted toward micro vs. macro, but not strongly. Nevertheless, if you’re aware of good stuff in the econ realm of any flavor, or have used any of the following, let me know what you think.

    Though they can be high-cost if bought new, feel free to mention textbooks you like. Sometimes one can find them used or older editions for prices that someone intending to self-educate might pay. For what it’s worth, the texts I’ve read most closely are by Cowen and Tabarrok. I was impressed by their micro book and also enjoyed their macro one, some of my thoughts on which are here. Also, I’ve read and contributed to Health Economics, by Santerre and Neun. With that bias in mind, I recommend it.

    Comments are open for the topic of this post only (time limited).


    • Development Drums
      Planet Money

    • Don’t forget the Cartoon Guide to Economics! (Actually, all of those are pretty awesome. My favorite is the guide to Microbiology.)

    • History of economic thought:
      Economic Theories.org (http://www.economictheories.org/)
      Heilbroner, The Worldly Philosophers
      Heilbroner, ed. Readings from The Worldly Philosophers
      Keynes, Essays in Persuasion (for analysis of a depression)
      For analysis of economic structure as opposed to equilibrium analysis:
      Miernyk, The Elements of Input-Output Analysis
      And for the regional economics of US which is important for origins of US political economic forces (partial equilibrium):
      Regional Research Institute Web Book of Regional Science (http://rri.wvu.edu/resources/web-book-rs/)
      USDA Economic Research Service (http://www.ers.usda.gov/)
      USDOC Bureau of Economic Analysis, including Survey of Current Business (http://www.bea.gov/scb/index.htm)
      USDOL Bureau of Labor Statistics Office of Publications and Special Studies (http://www.bls.gov/opub/#magazines)
      US Energy Information Administration (http://www.eia.gov/)

    • Milton Friedman’s Free to Choose in book and on-line video.

      John Stossel’s books and many videos.

    • One more thing. I don’t know why anybody with any interest in the practice of macroeconomics at it’s most fundamental would ignore the “The Great Debate” occurring now over the proper model for Modern Macro and its implications for policy. My gateway to it is Paul Krugman’s blog (NOT his columns), which is “Conscience of a Liberal.” He’s hard on his adversaries in comparing and contrasting. But he names names and you’re free to go your own way,

    • I know you just said that you were more interested in micro than macro, but Matt Yglesias at Moneybox. He has a lot of very trenchant comments on macro. His does also touch on a lot of micro stuff (e.g. loosening licensing laws, loosening zoning laws, both to increase supply and drive prices down).


      Wonkblog also.


      The Urban Institute has a blog on tax policy (Taxvox) and plenty of its own publications on that subject. So, more macro.

      Everything I know about non-health econ, I learned from those two blogs and from listening to the Urban Institute’s podcasts or briefings.

    • I haven’t read enough to make better-worser comparisons, but I can tell you what I’ve read (engineering/computer-science/mathematics background, married to organizational-behavior/sociologist background):

      Dave Kreps, “A Course in Microeconomic Theory”.
      I recall the mathematical treatment of some of the micro foundations, kinda important if you want to know the difference between faith-based and math-based. Otherwise can be tough slogging.

      Robert Frank, The Winner-Take-All Society
      Robert Frank, Luxury Fever
      Both of these work with the observation that care about relative wealth, not just absolute wealth, and also with the observation that we suffer from the Lake Wobegon Effect, which causes us to overinvest in economic tournaments (and underinvest in health insurance, especially when we are young).

      William Poundstone, The Prisoner’s Dilemma
      Very helpful to think about how people behave in the absence of rules when they are only seeking self-advantage. Not a bad model for the behavior of profit-seeking corporations.

      Robert Cialdini, Influence
      This is how you get conned into making economically unfortunate decisions.

      List of Cognitive Biases: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_cognitive_biases
      (Among these, the Lake Wobegon Effect looms large, so do Status Quo Bias and Just World Hypothesis.

      There’s a cognitive bias I didn’t spot (might exist, I just didn’t spot it) having to do with “bad outcomes are okay if we can come up with a way to explain how the people they happen to deserve them anyway” — when we look at laws, rules, regulations, etc, we have to ask if they are designed to make things better, or if they are designed to help us regard the victims of bad outcomes as bad people, hence the bad outcomes don’t really matter and don’t need fixing after all.

      Voltaire, Candide
      Hah hah, silly Pangloss, to think that he lived in the best of all possible worlds when he so clearly did not. Good thing we’d never make that mistake.

    • Tim Harford’s books are quite good. Because they are enjoyable reads, they are more likely to be read than a textbook, so in that sense they will be more successful for self-education. The Economics Nobel website (http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/economic-sciences/laureates/) is also a useful source.

    • Greg Mankiw’s principles textbooks are very good.

      Also, while I’ve not read the book myself, The Economics Book (Big Ideas Simply Explained) looks quite good. I recently purchased The Philosophy book from the same publisher and I’ve found it to cover a lot of material in a succinct and well-presented manner.

    • Caves, American Industry: Structure, Conduct, Performance (from Foundations of Modern Economics Series). Once a b-school staple.

    • I should add the core monographs from the “Foundations” series:
      Dorfman, Prices and Markets (micro)
      Schultze, National Income Analysis (macro)

    • I looked at Rittenburg & Tregarthen for teaching, and did not care for it. A whole chapter on interest rates and not one mention of money or the Federal Reserve anywhere.

    • The entire Wealth Of Nations (Adam Smith) at link.


    • Wow, thanks for introducing me to the Marginal Revolution academy. What a great resource! As far as economics goes, I’ve learned a lot from Noah Smith’s blog (noahpinionblog.blogspot.com) and Brad Delong’s blog (not sure where his main base of operations is right now but I like delong.typepad.com). Simon Wren-Lewis, Mark Thoma (economist view blog) and Konczal are also quite good but Im sure you already know those guys.

    • Have you looked at Khan Academy?
      Free online at your own pace.

    • Krugman’s textbooks are fantastic

    • Anything by Ha-Joon Chang
      The blog Naked Capitalism

    • Economics in One Lesson _ Henry Hazlitt

      PDF is free at:

      Can be purchased in book form or Kindle.

    • I don’t know if EconTalk is the best place for what you want–it feels like, for every time he has a Nobel laureate on, there’s 10 shows with scholars who have rather marginal perspectives.

      I remember Acemoglu, Laibson, and List were developing a new principles textbook, supposed to be very good, although I’m not sure if it’s actually come out yet.

      Unlike most people, though, I think textbooks are pretty awful for understanding modern economics. Understanding ‘basic economics’ is good if you want to do economics and need a foundation, but not really that helpful for the average person, IMO, and maybe even dentrimental. Of the pop books, I actually think Freakonomics might be the best, despite half the studies mostly having been disputed, mostly because it’s just the most readable.

      The best resource might be the Journal of Economic Perspectives, a free journal published by the AEA targeted at general audiences. One of the good things about it is that, each issue, they have a set of articles all on the same topic, like health care (http://www.aeaweb.org/articles.php?doi=10.1257/jep.22.4) or the ‘credibility revolution’ (https://www.aeaweb.org/articles.php?doi=10.1257/jep.24.2). It’s also apparently available on e-readers!

      • FWIW, I learned a lot from EconTalk. That could be because I listened through the archives. A can recall some episodes from earlier years that seemed more tutorial. Maybe the focus has changed since then.

        • I mean, I’m sure there are good things out of it, because I know other economists who listen to it, and obviously he’s had solid people on (including yourself!). But my memorable experience with it was one from last year where him and Peter Boettke essentially describe scholars who don’t agree with their political views as “9-to-5 economists.” Not a moment that made me want to listen to his archives!

    • On Brad Delong’s blog (delong.typepad.com), you can follow a couple of his courses, one going on now, and at least one old one.

      That old one helped dissuade me from a crank belief (that free trade was going to inexorably race world living standards to the bottom) through working a couple of his midterm problems.

      Though my interest is more macro than micro…

    • I have seen this course at every publish library I’ve visited:

      Great Courses, Economics, 3rd Edition

      Timothy Taylor, Professor at the University of Minnesota and Managing Editor of the prominent Journal of Economic Perspectives

    • For understanding the basic landscape–all these books are old and generalist.

      John Kenneth Galbraith, Economcis in Perspective is a really good history of economic thinking. It does a good job of clarifying what questions each new theory was intended to answer.

      Milton Friedman, Free to Choose is probably the best reference for “what’s the question here, anyway?”

      John Kenneth Galbraith, The New Industrial State is one of the only popular books focusing on institutions as actors. Its ideas seem to be less widespread than any of the general left/right economcis arguments.

      A good book on bubbles and crashes would be great, but I don’t have one to recommend.

    • I am an econ history buff and I find myself at this site all the time. It contains great calculators that allow you to explore relative values and prices over time and in sveral major currencies. Love it !


    • David Andolfatto has a online macro book. I used it for an introductory macro class in a MA program.


    • Books:

      -University Economics – Armen Alchian.

      -Governing the Commons – Elinor Ostrom.

      -Red Plenty, Francis Spufford


      -Leonid Kantorovich, Nobel Price Lecture

      -Coase: Nature of the Firm

      -Coase: The Lighthouse in Economics.

      Cheung: The Fable of the Bees – An Economic Investigation.

      Hayek: The Use of Knowledge in Society