Marginal Revolution University

Tyler Cowen and Alex Tabarrok, professors at George Mason University and bloggers at the popular and highly regarded Marginal Revolution blog, have started an online University aimed at spreading the word of their "personal vision of economics" to the broader audience. A noteworthy accomplishment which I will be following closely (feel free to sign up to the University here). 

"We think education should be better, cheaper, and easier to access. So we decided to take matters into our own hands and create a new online education platform toward those ends. We have decided to do more to communicate our personal vision of economics to you and to the broader world." 

They described a few principles they intend to follow within their online University: 
"1. The product is free (like this blog), and we offer more material in less time.
2. Most of our videos are short, so you can view and listen between tasks, rather than needing to schedule time for them.  The average video is five minutes, twenty-eight seconds long.  When needed, more videos are used to explain complex topics.
3. No talking heads and no long, boring lectures. We have tried to reconceptualize every aspect of the educational experience to be friendly to the on-line world."
Even before it started their effort has received praises around the blogosphere (here, here or here), and was even introduced at the World Bank.

The first course will be on Development Economics:
"Development Economics will cover the sources of economic growth including geography, education, finance, and institutions. We will cover theories like the Solow and O-ring models and we will cover the empirical data on development and trade, foreign aid, industrial policy, and corruption. Development Economics will include not just theory but a wealth of historical and factual information on specific countries and topics, everything from watermelon scale economies and the clove monopoly to water privatization in Buenos Aires and cholera in Haiti. A special section in this round will examine India. There are no prerequisites for this course but neither is it dumbed down. We think there will be material in Development Economics that will be of interest to high school students in the United States and Bangladesh and also to PhDs in economics, even to those who specialize in this field."
Courses start from 1st October. 


  1. In regards to the reasons for economic growth, Have you read Deidre McCloskey's Bourgeois Dignity? It lays out a pretty good case that the single largest factor leading to growth is a change in mentality which says that it is a good thing to gather wealth. That it is an honorable thing to be a businessperson, and that it is a laudable thing to make a profit.

    This must happen first or else growth will be retarded.

    She claims that looking only at the "hardware" such as policies, inventions, industrialization, taxes etc. misses the big picture of a change in "software" which is necessary.

    This would seem to explain how some places where growth used to occur have now fallen into stasis as markets and profits have fallen under attack.

    1. I heard it's a great book, but I haven't read it yet - it's on my 'to read' list :)

      Anyway, I think the mentality argument is a very interesting one, and certainly underestimated in development economics. I wrote an essay about it once, I may reproduce it..but I'll do that after reading McCloskey's book. Thanks for reminding me of it!


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