I really don’t care much about sports. But as it turns out, my school–George Mason University–just made it to the final four on the NCAA. That brings more attention to my rather medium-sized university than the two Nobel laureates in its economics faculty. One good thing is that GMU graduates get to benefit from such positive externalities regardless of their academic or sports origin.
As time goes by and I meet differnet sorts of scholars, I get to value what I learned in GMU more and more–so yes, I am happy too. My former teachers are excited and wrote this little sidebar on why GMU succeeds in academia as well:
At GMU we practice Entrepeneurial Economics and we still think there are unexploited profits and oddball geniuses to be found. You can’t get much stranger or more brilliant than Robin Hanson, one of the architects of the Defense Department’s short-lived “terror futures market.” Betting markets are now used to forecast elections and they are starting to gain a foothold in the corporate world. Hanson wants to go further and have policies decided by contests in betting markets. (He calls it “futarchy.”) He also has contracted to have his head frozen upon his “death,” and has good arguments for why this makes sense at market probabilities and prices.
Larry Iannaccone’s field of expertise is religion. Larry asks, Is a free market in religion good for religion? Kevin McCabe and his co-authors have the first published paper about running brain scans on people while they make economic decisions. Neuroeconomics, as it is called, is now a major trend in the profession. How many economists are as comfortable talking about Michel Foucault, James Joyce, or Cuban artist Tomas Sanchez as they are about Milton Friedman? Tyler Cowen is, and in a series of books—the latest being Good and Plenty: The Creative Successes of American Arts Funding—Cowen has challenged economists to think about art and culture—and aesthetes to think about economics. Other economists at GMU are pushing the boundaries of development economics, studying the politics of rational irrationality, and redesigning electricity markets.
The outsider status of both the GMU economics department and the basketball team contributes to their styles of play. We like to have fun, which is one reason that GMU is well-known outside of academia. Marginal Revolution, Tyler Cowen and Alex Tabarrok’s daily blog, is a widely read source of economic insights. Other faculty blogs include Café Hayek, The Austrian Economists, and EconLog. In old school media, Walter Williams is a nationally syndicated columnist and well-known radio personality and Russ Roberts is the author of an economic romance novel (really!).