Friday, April 23, 2010

Welcome to Noahpinion

This is an intro for people who are new to Noahpinion, to get you up to speed. Welcome, traveler!

Q: What is NoahOpinion?
A: I have no idea what that is, but people often seem to confuse it with the name of this blog. I think it's a Danish pop band or something. My blog's name is a pun on "No opinion". See?

Q: Who writes the blog?
A: My name is Noah Smith, I'm an assistant finance professor at Stony Brook University in New York.

Q: What is the blog about?
A: It's generally about economics, but also includes stuff about finance, politics, culture, political philosophy, philosophy of science, and whatever else I feel like writing about on any given day. Mostly economics, though.

Q: How did you get started blogging?
A: I was a PhD student in economics at the University of Michigan. I had thought I would be a macroeconomist, but despite liking my macroeconomist advisor (the great Miles Kimball) a lot, I just got too annoyed at the way macroeconomics is done. So I sort of "rage-quit" the field, and while I was looking for something else to do, I decided to start a blog and vent some of the things I had been thinking. This started out as me basically criticizing anything I read on the internet that seemed wrong, but eventually turned into me explaining why I had quit macro and why I didn't like macro as a field. Eventually I discovered behavioral finance, liked it a lot more, and got a job doing that, so my blog became less angry, and my topics broadened in scope.

Q: What are you known for in the blogosphere?
A: In the early days, I just went around criticizing everything I disagreed with, so I became known for writing "smackdowns", taking on such eminent figures as George Will and Niall Ferguson. I also wrote about my experience in econ grad school, and what I learned there.

I also got involved in a number of the arguments that periodically roil the econ blogosphere, particularly with regards to macroeconomic issues. I began to take an interest in chronicling these debates.

Later, I started using my knowledge of macro to try to explain macro ideas to outsiders. I also started to criticize macro itself, especially DSGE models and the ideas of the people called "Freshwater macro" people.

I also started trying to write about the experience of the econ PhD - why it's a good career path, how to get into a PhD program, how blogging might affect your career, and what it's like to look for a job as an economist.

In addition, I've written a lot about Japan, where I lived for about 3 years. Usually this is about the Japanese economy, sometimes about other stuff.

I occasionally write a post that people find funny (for reasons I don' always understand), and these have proven to be my most popular posts. There was the time I categorized my comment trolls into a bestiary, or the time I defined the internet slang word "derp" in terms of Bayesian probability theory.

Since I became a finance professor, I've tried to write a little more about finance, and I expect to do more of that in the future.

Finally, I often write about pretty random stuff, like what it's like to be clinically depressed, or why I think our society should have more equality of respect, or what science fiction novels economists might like to read.

Q: Do you write anything else besides the blog?
A: I occasionally write articles for The AtlanticQuartz (often with Miles Kimball), and The Week, and once in a while I have articles in other publications like Foreign Affairs. These articles are often about economics or public policy, but sometimes about different stuff altogether. I also am on Twitter.

Q: Why "No opinion"?
A: Because I am generally pretty skeptical about stuff.

Q: But I don't get why it's a double entendre. What would "Noah pinion" mean? Pinioning Noah? I don't get it.
A: I'll explain when you're older.

Q: What makes you think you know so much about [insert topic here]?
A: If you really think I don't know about [insert topic here], then you're unlikely to think I have a good reason for thinking I know about [insert topic here], so I'm assuming your question is rhetorical.

Q: What is your commenting policy?
A: "Comment at your own risk!"

Q: Why is this post dated April 23, 2010, when it was obviously written long after that?
A: I find that life is more fun when some things are left as mysteries.

Q: Hi, Mr. Smith. My name is XX XXXX, and I work for XXXXX. We're putting together a list of promising young finance bloggers. Would you be interested in contributing to --
A: Stop right there. Now put down whatever you're doing and go jump in the nearest pool. Thank you. Next question?

Q: What other blogs do you recommend?
A: See here.

Q: Who would win in a fight between monkeys in robot suits, and robots in monkey suits, and why?
A: Monkeys. Because monkey rage.


  1. I did not see any links to econophysics and their methods. It would be interesting to read your "opinions" about the work of Didier Sornette and others (see the book by Mark Buchanan ( in this emerging field.

  2. Anonymous10:18 AM

    Will we ever be able to pay back the 16 trillion in US bond debt?
    How will this effect productivity in the US?

  3. Anonymous10:23 AM

    How long can we expect to remain the world's reserve currency?
    Being the only reason we can continue to create dollars out of thin air.

  4. Anonymous10:28 AM

    I couldn't agree more about the downward spiral US hegemony.
    I agree with the Ming dynasty comparison. The Roman comparison includes the looting of a treasury. Does the US still have a treasury?

  5. Anonymous8:21 PM

    I find your usurpation of the term "America" for the United States of America just as filled with hubris as did the Ming Dynasty in seeing their place in the world. There lies part of the problem with one country considering itself the center of planet earth when we are in fact part of the Americas, North and South America.