how you can learn about economics

Once upon a time, I took an entry-level economics course at Georgia Tech. It was part of the required curriculum for engineers, so it’s not like I took the class because I had this burning desire to learn about supply, demand, and why I don’t have any money.

Anyway, even though I had a full semester’s worth of micro-economic details thrown my direction, I absorbed very little theoretical knowledge about economics and economic systems. This remained mostly true up until this summer when the election and the sub-prime mortgage crisis collided, resulting in a glut of informative articles and pieces on economics all over the Web.

For a few months, my appetite for economic knowledge was insatiable, and I read everything in sight. I learned a ton about how the world’s economic systems are intertwined in a nasty symphony of paper-thin international promises, speculative deals, and general mismanagement due to greed and sheer ignorance.

Ever since I started selling WordPress themes for a living, I’ve been learning more and more about intelligent system design and, more generally, efficient systems. Economics, politics, and everything in between are essentially just huge systems that have slightly different rules and players, and one rule is true for all systems:

Left unmanaged, inefficiencies and errors will eventually erode a system from within.

Once I came to understand the nuances of system inefficiencies (through building my own), I began seeing them everywhere, in all kinds of different systems. They’re so prevalent, in fact, that I would almost advise you not to look for them, simply because you’re likely to conclude that our country (and most of the world, for that matter) is hopelessly fucked.

On the other hand, you may also go the optimistic route and realize that there are tons of things we should be doing better both as individuals and collectively to protect our economic futures. If everyone were properly educated, then the entire world would’ve cried foul in the late 90s when this sub-prime mortgage thing first got its legs.

Alas, nobody knows a god damn thing, and now here we are—poor, dumb, angry, upside down on mortgages, and hoping that Obama’s presidency is actually going to change our economic outlook for the better.

Sadly, Obama is not an economist, so I’m not exactly bullish on him addressing the bullshit that really deserves the attention of an economically-responsible government. Anyway, it doesn’t really matter what he does or doesn’t know about economics, but it absolutely matters what you know.

Of course, you’re not going back to school to learn this crap, and even if you’ve considered doing so, I’d advise against it. After all, they’re not going to teach you what you really want to know, and frankly, you’d be better off learning anything on your own (self-taught stuff just sticks better, ya know?).

Anyway, I don’t want this to come off like the negative rant that it is, so I’ll try to put a good face on things before you go back to surfing for pr0n and checking out cleavage pics on Facebook.

The bottom line here is that the path to economic reform is education, and fortunately, the Web has emerged as the ultimate place to explore just about every topic under the sun. Actually, some topics are better served than others, and fortunately, economics is really starting to get some excellent coverage.

Without question, the most authoritative, diverse, and interesting place to learn about economics and keep up with financial news is Tip’d, a social media site that is kinda like Digg, except with 99% fewer trolls.

The premise of the site is brutally simple and astonishingly effective—economically savvy users submit links to articles they think are informative and trustworthy, and then the Tip’d community votes on the merit of these articles. If an article cuts the mustard, then it shows up on the Tip’d homepage where it can be viewed by thousands of users who are hungry for good, solid economic information.

Ultimately, Tip’d is really freakin’ simple, but more important, it’s really freakin’ effective. If you spend a couple weeks reading articles you find on the site, I guarantee you’ll come away with not only a better understanding of economics in general, but you’ll also gain a better understanding of your position in the economic scheme of things. This kind of knowledge is extremely empowering, and it’s what savvy people use to make more informed decisions about things like elections, purchases, and what to have for dinner tonight.