Each year The Economist does a Christmas issue, which is usually my favorite. One article shows some surprising parallels between the Holy Roman Empire circa 1650-1800 and the EU.
Another good article points to a hopeful sign for France. The most popular politician in France is Manuel Valls, who wants to reform the Socialists as Tony Blair reformed Labour.
But their best articles tend to be on non-economic topics. This issue contains two gems; little three page articles that succeed in making Okinawa and Paraguay seem like some of the most fascinating places on Earth.
Another article shows huge gains for libertarianism in America:
Three decades ago home schooling was illegal in 30 states. It was considered a fringe phenomenon, pursued by cranks, and parents who tried it were often persecuted and sometimes jailed. Today it is legal everywhere, and is probably the fastest-growing form of education in America. According to a new book, “Home Schooling in America”, by Joseph Murphy, a professor at Vanderbilt University, in 1975 10,000-15,000 children were taught at home. Today around 2m are—about the same number as attend charter schools.
Matt O’Brien shows that easy money often raises interest rates.
James Pethokoukis discusses an interesting article on the importance of monetary policy, by Romer and Romer.
Commenter Daniel finally found a news article (in the WSJ) that seems to accurately describe the recent tax changes in Washington. He wins my contest.
Gary Becker and Kevin Murphy want to legalize drugs, all drugs.
The Economist is not infallible. The Christmas issue also contains one of the worst sentences ever written:
A further monetary boost may help add zip to the recovery, but risks producing asset bubbles.
Yes, and giving food to starving refugees in Darfur might help, but risks producing obesity.
PS. I just got a call from Clark Johnson, with a report on the AEA meeting. He says someone asked Paul Krugman about monetary stimulus, and Krugman said something to the effect that the idea is popular in the blogosphere but not among academic economists. I suppose Krugman’s observation is partly true, although of course one can find academics who support monetary stimulus. The Romer and Romer paper cited above was an example, Woodford’s recent paper is another. Clark indicated that the Romers were asked in their seminar how it would help, given the recent 4% NGDP growth trend, and they responded in terms of the need for level targeting. He heard second hand that Melzter was pretty disappointing, wondering how monetary stimulus could help given that policy is already so expansionary. Otherwise not much discussion of monetary policy at the meetings. Of course this is all second or third hand, so don’t quote anything I say here.
[Note: the previous paragraph was edited to fix a mistaken impression in the wording.]