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23 Nov 2006

Hedge Fund Blogger Celebrities

Tyler Cowen, an economics professor at the George Mason University started a blog three years ago with colleague Alex Tabarrok. The blog, called Marginal Revolution, has had more than 6 million visitors, Cowen has become an economics celebrity. Since he began writing about economics and hedge funds in "understandable language", people are approaching him on the street and, "I'm invited to give a speech or something at least once a week," Cowen said.

The readers find commentary about regulating hedge funds combined with a section featuring odd inventions such as a fan that attaches to chopsticks and cools noodles as they're being eaten? The postings are injecting life into the field often called the dismal science.

He isn't the only economist who has found an audience on the Web. Nobel laureate Gary S. Becker and former Harvard President Lawrence H. Summers are among those who have set up blogs, which are typically part lecture, part journal and part college seminar, with reader participation expected. Becker started a blog two years ago with federal appeals court judge Richard A. Posner.

Gregory Mankiw, a Harvard lecturer and former chairman of President Bush's Council of Economic Advisors, started a blog in the spring to supplement his lectures for the popular course "Social Analysis 10: Principles of Economics." He had been getting queries from students who weren't enrolled in the class and thought the blog was the best way to make information accessible to all. He quickly had 5,000 readers a day.

Econo-fans are responding, Becker figures, because the blogs put important pocketbook issues into understandable language. Whereas former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan had "Greenspeak" — the carefully convoluted jargon whose comprehensibility rivaled that of Klingon — the blogs connect economics to daily life.

"Most people are afraid of economics. It seems so technical," Becker said. "But what is surprising is that if you put economics in a simple enough phrase, people are very much interested in it." Most of the economists say their readers aren't students. Cowen describes his fans as "high IQ, possibly nerdy, looking for kicks or for something different."

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