In April 2020, I published a first draft of The Case for Remote Work, which pulled together a lot of the existing academic literature to argue remote work would be much more common in the years ahead, and that this was probably a good thing. I had been working on it for about a year, off and on, but the onset of mass remote work in March due to covid-19 pushed me to finish and begin disseminating it (a final version was published in October).

In the 11 months since that April first draft, there has been an explosion of…

Note: This review originally appeared in two parts as part of my weekly newsletter about research on innovation.

Fully Grown: Why a Stagnant Economy is a Sign of Success by Dietrich Vollrath is a deep dive into economic statistics that implicitly argues there’s not much evidence for a “technological stagnation” over the last several decades. The first part of this review covers Vollrath’s argument about technological stagnation, while the second focuses on whether the slowdown is itself desirable.

The Slowdown

The puzzle Vollrath sets himself to explain is why GDP per capita growth in the US averaged 2.25% for the latter half…

Note: I’ve started a weekly newsletter on recent research on the economics of innovation (you can sign up here). Normally I create a twitter-thread about the my posts, but this week the content seemed uniquely bad for twitter, so I’m posting here instead and linking via twitter.

To an important degree, “innovation” is a process of combining pre-existing ideas and technologies in novel ways. Twenty years ago, the late Martin Weitzman spelled out what this model of innovation means for long-run economic growth ( here and here for summaries). But a number of recent papers have deepened these ideas.

When to make a module?

The…

For the last few years, I’ve tried to loosely rank the books I read from most to least favorite. But, as you’ll see, I’m pretty enthusiastic about most of the books, since I usually just quit reading stuff I don’t like.

I read 50/53 books this year, depending on whether you count the Murderbot novellas as 1 or 4 books. Last year I started grouping books by “conceptual non-fiction” and “narrative fiction and non-fiction,” since Karl Ove Knausgaard’s books present as non-fiction, but narrate the events of his own life, so it felt weird to compare him to other non-fiction…

Number of films released in previous 10 years mentioned on any “Scariest Movies of All Time” list, and Number of top 25 such films

A few weeks ago, I ran across the following argument from Scott Sumner’s blog:

The film industry is in long-term decline, which happens to all art forms after they express their most potent ideas. Painting peaked in the 1500s and 1600s. Pop music in the 1960s and 1970s. So on film I’m a pessimist.

Sumner isn’t the only one who seems to think film has peaked. The BFI Sight and Sound top movies poll gives only 4 out of 100 spots to movies made since 1990(!).

This is a bit puzzling for two reasons. First, technology in general continues to…

This semester I’m teaching a new class on the economics of innovation targeted to interested undergraduates from a wide range of backgrounds (the only prerequisite is Econ 101) and I thought others might find the reading list interesting. The readings are usually anchored to recent research in the economics of innovation, but to make the course accessible to people without degrees in economics I’ve tried to find and create accessible overviews of the research. So I hope this is useful for anyone interested in the topic, regardless of their background.

Caveat: these readings are selected to illustrate a big concept…

My #1 advice to new economists is to get on twitter and plug into the #EconTwitter community. This document is a guide on how to do that. It’s a bit geared towards academics, since that’s what I know best, but #EconTwitter is a lot more than academics and I’ve tried to write so it’s useful to people outside academia too.

What’s #EconTwitter?

Literally? Twitter is a website that lets users broadcast 280 characters of text to other users. These are call tweets, and they can also include photos and stuff. You can “follow” other users so that you automatically see their tweets…

People are writing about how to revitalize flagging rural economics, so it seems a good time to share my thoughts (a bit of background — I recently moved back to Iowa after living in Washington, and lived in London for a few years before that). At the most fundamental level, the dynamic driving rural decline is the benefits of physical agglomeration. People are more productive and innovative when clustered together and this effect favors cities. Higher productivity and more innovation leads to more and better paying jobs in cities. These, in turn, draw people out of rural economies and into…

Minerva is a new university best known for its global campus. Students spend their first year in San Francisco, and then each class moves en masse through Seoul, Hyderabad, Buenos Aires, Berlin, London, and Taipei over the remaining six semesters. During my undergraduate years, studying abroad was an important experience for me, so I’ve been interested in Minerva since I heard about it a few years ago. Earlier this year I read their semi-official book Building the Intentional University: Minerva and the Future of Higher Education (eds. Stephen M. Kosslyn and Ben Nelson). But after reading the book, I’ve come…

Between the new baby, new house, and new job, I didn’t read as much this year as last year. I made it through 45 books. Of those, 8 were plays by Shakespeare. If I ever read all of his works, I’ll make a post about them. But here’s a rough ranking of the remaining 37, with a sentence on each.

Caveat: I liked all of these. I abandon books I don’t like.

Conceptual Non-Fiction

  1. The Second World Wars by Victor Davis Hanson: Wonderfully organized opus on World War II as a contest of national productive and organizational capacity.
  2. The Book…

Matt Clancy

Economist of innovation; matt-clancy.com

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