Wednesday, October 11, 2017


I've reversed my earlier decision to move this blog to Medium and will instead keep it here at Blogger. No school like the old school, &c.

OK, so where was I? Oh yeah, I said I was going back to school to finish up my Econ degree and that I would start blogging about it again. Well, here we are almost half way through the semester and I haven't blogged a bit. Time to fix that.

The semester so far has been a bit of a mixed bag.

I'm really enjoying my Economic Statistics class. The professor, who has been teaching this course at UT for over 20 years, is an excellent teacher. The course is carefully designed and includes a good mix of lectures, reading, homework assignments, quizzes, in-class exercises, and exams. And the subject matter is challenging without being overwhelming. We just got our first midterm exam scores, and I'm happy (and relieved) to report that I scored 101.7%. That exam only counts for 15% of the overall grade in the class so I certainly can't coast, but I'm feeling good about it.

My Macro Theory class is proving to be a different story. The professor is a newly-minted Ph.D. and while he has mastered the material, he hasn't yet mastered the art of teaching. Lectures consist of his presenting prepared slides, occasionally going off on some arcane mathematical proof, and not much else. There isn't much time for discussion, which is a shame given how interesting and consequential the material is. There are no graded homework assignments, no papers, no quizzes, and no textbook. I feel like I haven't learned much so far, which makes the midterm coming up next week rather daunting.

Yesterday the professor posted a sample midterm, giving the first concrete idea of what next week's exam will look like. If I were to take the sample exam without any further preparation, I estimate my grade would be in the 20's. So, lots of studying to do before next Tuesday.

To prepare, I'll study the lecture slides and accompanying notes, re-read the corresponding sections in a widely-used intermediate macro textbook, and make sure my answers to the provided practice problems somewhat match the given solutions. I'll do what it takes to perform well on the test, but I'm left with the feeling I could have gotten just as much from reading a textbook as I will from taking this course.

Overall, I'm satisfied with my decision to go back to school. But I'm reminded that the value of the experience is largely dependent on the quality of the professors, which can be uneven.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

The Next New Thing in Economics

I come from the technology world, which regularly reinvents itself. 30 years ago, the personal computer dominated the industry. 20 years ago, it was the internet. Ten years ago, the iPhone was announced, which would ultimately become the world's first trillion-dollar product. Today the tech world has moved on—to machine learning, virtual reality, and drones.

I wonder if the same is true in economics. Does the world economy change so dramatically as to change the focus of the field of economics, or is it all just different incarnations of Adam Smith's pin factory? Or could it be that our understanding of forces that have existed forever is what's changing? 

Ten years ago behavioral economics was coming into vogue. But this was clearly a case where it was our understanding of economic behavior that was changing, not the behavior (or the force driving it) itself.

Topics in economics that seem newly relevant today include negative interest rates and universal basic income (or negative income tax). Maybe, like artificial intelligence, these are simply modern applications of ideas that have been around for decades.

Perhaps the biggest change in economics will be a shift from scarcity to abundance. After all, economics is the study of how scarce resources are allocated. What happens when there's more than enough of everything to satisfy demand (at P=0)?

So, what's the next new thing in economics?

Friday, June 2, 2017

Readmitted (and It Feels So Good)

(Apologies to Peaches & Herb.)

Well, I've been granted readmission to UT, so that's good. My registration period opens in a couple of days.

To complete the degree requirements (and thereby formally add an economics major to my degree), I have to take five more econ classes: 329 (statistics), 320L (macro theory), 341K (econometrics), and two upper division econ electives. I plan to do that over three semesters, which will have me finishing up in December 2018.

I also have to satisfy a bunch of new requirements that have been added since I was last in school, including a visual and performing arts class, an ethics and leadership class, and several multicultural classes. But according to my advisor and from what I've read, I should be able to successfully petition the department to apply courses I've already taken to satisfy those requirements. Worst case, I might need to take one class, which could actually be fun.

So, once again unto the breach. I'm excited. I think being in school will help me structure my time and my thinking a bit more, which I really want right now. If I get the classes I want in the Fall, I'll be on campus TTH 9:30-5:00, which is a reasonable if not ideal schedule.

What else? Once I actually get registered—fingers crossed that I'll get the classes I need—I'll need a parking permit (for which registration opens in July). And… actually I think that's it. Huh. Great.

Next step: registration next Wednesday, June 7 at 8a. Tally ho!

Monday, May 29, 2017

It's Happening Again

Seven years ago I put my economics studies on hold to start a company, which I wound up getting funded, growing, and ultimately selling.

This morning I submitted my application for readmission to UT to finish adding an Econ degree to my CS degree. If all goes as planned, I'll resume my studies in the Fall 2017 semester. Lots has happened since then, but luckily both my UT EID and this blog still exist and I plan to put them both to good use.

Hook 'em horns!