Sunday, June 06, 2010

Reading the Classics, Podcasts and Econtalk

I have always liked reading, mainly non fiction. I did go through a phase where I became engrossed in science fiction, I was particularly keen on Robert Heinlein and Phillip Jose Farmer. The only detective stories that really struck a chord with me were the 'Bony' stories by Arthur Upfield. Upfields description of the bush is vivid and real,I can't think of any other writer to capture the feel, smell and colour of the bush. The past few years I have been reading 'Classic' literature, I hate that word 'literature' it's a good word but it brings back memories of school. Anyway these classics are cheap (no royalties or copyright), so I've read Bronte, Gissing, Swift, Eliot, Twain and many others.

But the author who has hooked me is Dickens. When I was younger I couldn't get past the hardcovers and 19th century language. However about 10 years ago I sat down with 'Pickwick Papers' and stuck at it, I am so glad I did. Dickens is funny, poignant, insightful and so many other things. I won't go on, anything I could say about him has already been said so much better than I could.

My main reading is still non fiction. The past few years I have tried to educate myself by reading economics. I started with Adam Smith and have continued reading as many differing 'Economic' points of view as I could. Often after reading a book or essay I will continue to think about the arguments for a long period until I can make sense of what is being put forward. I began this process as an economic illiterate. I didn't have any idea about how people get richer (or poorer) or how the world works, I didn't know that this is what economics is all about. It really is how the world works.

Since that time I have thought about differing economic theories, some of them once had great appeal to me. However they all seemed flawed in that none of them could explain why some things work and some don't. Then I was exposed to the work of F.A. Hayek and the Austrian School. Simply put Hayek says that the world is such a complex place full of information. That information changes moment by moment and that there is no way that a government or organisation can capture that information, much less use the information before the information changes again. I think that's it any way.

I haven't had the time to read much the past 18 months or so. So I have supplemented my reading with a number of podcasts. I listen to quite a few different ones o different subjects, mainly while driving. There are a few economics podcasts around but I feel that the best one is 'Econtalk' by Russ Roberts. Download an episode and give it a go. Roberts has a widely varying range of guests and interests, so read the blurb before downloading the podcast as you may not be interested in the subject of the day. I personally listen to them all, I generally get at least a small insight into something new and how the world works.

For a starter I suggest this episode or this one.

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