July 12, 2002

How Should I Go About Teaching Graduate Macro?

Econ 236a, Spring 2003: Macroeconomists: Interesting Topics: Research Strategies: Findings:

This course is supposed to prepare graduate students to take the field exam in macroeconomics, and to prepare them to write dissertations in macroeconomics, by providing a survey of the current active research frontier. I am not sure how to do this: I've never taught this course before. So I'm thinking about using my students as guinea pigs. I'm thinking about organizing this course not around topics but around people--macroeconomists--their research strategies, their findings, their way of choosing topics that others find interesting...

So let me pick sixteen macroeconomists more or less at random (with apologies to those not picked): What papers or book chapters (most by them, some by predecessors that they are extending or reacting against, some by others who extend their results), a week's worth of readings for each, would teach graduate students most about these macroeconomists, and best prepare them to write dissertations in macroeconomics?

  • Robert Lucas:
  • Robert Barro:
  • Ed Prescott:
  • Thomas Sargent:
  • Robert Hall:
  • Olivier Blanchard:
  • John Taylor:
  • Greg Mankiw:
  • Robert Shiller:
  • George Akerlof:
  • Chris Carroll:
  • Andrei Shleifer:
  • Robert Gordon:
  • Dan Sichel:
  • John Maynard Keynes:

Posted by DeLong at July 12, 2002 12:07 PM | TrackBack


A small digression: your comment about the research frontier, and a name on your list, reminds of a slightly disturbing conversation I had several months ago.

I was talking to Robert Shiller (he was one of the owners of the company I was then working for), and he mentioned that his next book was going to be about a "digital commonwealth". He explained that he was thinking about how to organize society when robotics and computerization advanced to the point where they made humans obsolete -- for example, when the rental rate for robots and AI fell below the subsistence wage. Surprisingly, he had never heard of the ideas of the Singularity, nanotech, and transhumanism, or of people like Hans Moravec, Eric Drexler, or Vernor Vinge.

While I find them convincing, I come from the same subculture as they do, and honesty demands I have to consider the possibility that the Singularity is just a hacker idee fixe -- "the Rapture for nerds", in Ken MacLeod's phrase. Seeing Bob Shiller, a smart guy from a completely different socio-educational (is that a word?) culture, independently invent the same idea made it much more plausible for me. The end of the human epoch got visibly closer after that conversation.

Posted by: Neel Krishnaswami on July 12, 2002 01:15 PM

I'm surprised that you're so big on rational expectations folks, and so little on international macro. No Mundell or Dornbusch?

I think for Keynes you might consider putting Skidelsky's biography on the list (the 2nd volume, primarily)

I think you might want to include DeLong on growth, the information economy, and such.

Posted by: Arnold Kling on July 12, 2002 04:10 PM

There is a separate international macro course sequence--but I don't want to duplicate that.

Posted by: Brad DeLong on July 12, 2002 09:23 PM

What such an approach does is put the economists in a history of economic thought context. I'm sure there's plenty of interplay among many of those listed.

Posted by: Sean Hackbarth on July 14, 2002 10:21 PM
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