Economics on the net

INDEX TERMS Internet|economic websites, review; Economics|Internet websites, review; "The Economist"|economic websites, review;
DATE 13-Mar-99
Our guide, with a table of the top five, to the best economic websites

Economics on the net

ECONOMISTS disagree about most things; ranking economic websites is no exception. The Economist polled a sample of ten top economists and five humble journalists and came up with widely different answers. Still, there were some clear favourites. We selected the top five according to three criteria: usefulness of information, ease of use and appearance (see ).

Tops is Nouriel Roubini’s website. Anyone who wants to follow the debate about the global financial crisis should visit it regularly. Take Brazil, the latest victim of financial turmoil. The site points you for starters to breaking news, press reports, comment from eminent economists, Brazil’s IMF agreement and academic articles about policy issues such as the choice of exchange-rate regime.

Mr Roubini, a member of Bill Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisers, keeps us abreast of all this free. The site is organised by overlapping topics, but it could be clearer. And it is not flashy (apart from the annoying “new” highlights, which flash). But the information and analysis is outstanding.

The contents of Paul Krugman’s site is almost as good. Mr Krugman, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is also a prolific pundit. His views—for instance, that Japan needs a bout of inflation to kick-start its economy—are always provocative. The site is fairly functional in appearance but easy to navigate.

The bronze medal goes to the National Bureau of Economic Research. America’s top economic-research institute publishes new academic papers on its website every week, long before they are picked up by economic journals. Inevitably, there is a lot of dross, but there are gems too which can be downloaded free. The search facility is excellent, and there are interesting economic databases. The site is simple and clearly laid out.

In joint fourth place are two sites on the new “network” economy, epitomised by the Internet, which is widely hyped and often misunderstood. The first of them is hosted by Nicholas Economides of New York University’s Stern School of Business and includes running coverage and analysis of the Microsoft antitrust trial, as well interesting papers that illuminate the issues behind it. The list of contributors’ e-mail addresses is handy for those who want to pursue a subject further. Annoyingly, though, the site is often busy. It too has a penchant for flashing logos.

When Mr Economides’s site is overloaded, try for variety Hal Varian’s. Mr Varian, of the University of California at Berkeley, is the author of “Information Rules”, a handbook on the network economy, and is a leading microeconomist. His site looks more professional. It also includes photos of his wife Carol’s quilts.

Fifth place goes to The Mining Company’s, which has the motto: “We mine the net so you don’t have to”. This site is aimed at a wider audience than the others and although its content is accessible it can also be lightweight. It is a useful starting point for finding other economic resources on the web, and also hosts discussions on topics such as social-security reform. It has a message board and a chat facility, and the layout and design are of high quality.

Best of the rest

Just outside our top five, there are plenty of other sites to recommend. Brad DeLong of the University of California at Berkeley writes economic book reviews. The OECD ’s useful website includes comprehensive links to the statistics offices in many countries. Also, Resources for Economists on the Internet, run by Bill Goffe of the University of Southern Mississippi, contains over 700 links to other economic sites, as well as its own reviews of the best.

The market for supplying economic news fast and accurately to financial investors is very crowded. Everyone from Bloomberg to AOL jostles for attention. The Dismal Scientist, a webzine dedicated to economic news, is fun. But its analysis is pedestrian and sometimes (on the significance of America’s trade deficit, for example) plain wrong. For a more considered view, there is the Financial Times and the Wall Street Journal. Needless to say, The Economist’s site is useful, easy to use and good to look at, but we were too modest to include it in the top five. Many investment banks now offer free research. Two examples are Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley Dean Whitter.

Every discipline has to have its joke site. And economics is no exception. Pasi Kuoppamaki of the Bank of Finland has compiled a catalogue of jokes about the dismal science and its practitioners. One example: an economist is someone who doesn’t know what he’s talking about—and makes you feel it’s your fault.