The past, present, and future of Econ Soapbox
A year in review
One year of blogging in the books. The first Econ Soapbox post, on the Great Toilet Paper Shortage of 2020, went live on December 16th, 2023. Since then I’ve discussed everything from the property market (exhaustively) to zombies (once). Here’s a quick recap of some of the most popular posts of the year, as well as some of my favorites.
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The most popular post by far this year was about the Japanese stock market. Tyler Cowen was kind enough to link the post on his blog Marginal Revolution, which led to over 5,000 pageviews and dozens of new subscribers. That’s over ten times the number of views of a typical Econ Soapbox post, which shows you just how well-read Marginal Revolution is and how a little exposure on a popular blog can have a big impact. This was an honor for me, as Marginal Revolution has been my favorite blog for years.
I was a bit surprised at what other posts were viewed the most and had the most reader engagement. This blog covers a variety of topics but is generally centered around economics. Yet the second most viewed post discussed how ChatGPT did on my final exam, and the third most viewed was my guide to whether or not you should go to graduate school. The most-viewed economics post was about student loan forgiveness, which I view as my best post of the year. Some of my other favorites include my defense of Instagram, why the Dominican Republic might be the world’s growth miracle, and the environmental scam of the century.
Thank you to all the readers who have provided me feedback over the year. Several posts, and some of my favorite to write, have been reader-suggested. It’s always nice to get an email from a reader saying they enjoyed the most recent post or read a comment at the bottom of a site. Also, thank you to those that have pointed out grammatical errors. If you want me to write about something, let me know!
Going forward, there will be one major change to Econ Soapbox. I’ve always wanted to start a blog, and I knew it would be a big commitment to write two posts a week. It was. The problem with two posts a week is that as soon as one gets finished and goes live, I have only four days to write the next one. Going on vacation meant either lugging my laptop with me or writing several posts in advance. There is always something to write and the finished product is rarely as clean as I want it.
I kept to the two-post-a-week commitment because I wanted to practice my writing before I begin a research sabbatical from January-May 2024. No teaching for the semester! The plan is to write a book about natural experiments, as well as an article about teaching economics in prison. It will be difficult to write a book while also writing twice a week for Econ Soapbox, so I'm going to go decrease the output to one post a week. Never fear, Econ Soapbox is here to stay.
I began 2023 with a list of predictions for the year. So, how did I do? Let’s check the tape.
Prediction 1: Inflation will decline, but will still be above 4.0% at an annualized rate.
Prediction verdict: WRONG. Inflation did decline, and thankfully much faster than I had predicted. The CPI in November of 2023 was only 3.1 percent! Still higher than I’d like, but lower than I hoped.
Prediction 2: Housing prices will plateau, and the Case-Shiller National Home Price Index will not increase or decrease by more than 10% (270-330).
Prediction verdict: CORRECT. Housing prices have increased moderately over the last year, but only slightly. As of this writing, the most recent Case-Shiller National Home Price Index is 313, or only about five percent higher than a year ago. This is still much higher than in 2020 when the index was around 220, but thankfully the prices have stabilized.
Prediction 3: Gas prices will be above $3.00 a gallon.
Prediction verdict: CORRECT. According to AAA, the national average price for gasoline is $3.13 a gallon. Writing the prediction last year, prices were $3.18 a gallon. So prices have stayed high, but at least have not increased since January 2023.
Prediction 4: The Russo-Ukrainian War will still be active at the end of 2023.
Prediction verdict: CORRECT. This was a pretty safe bet, and unfortunately, it came to pass. The Russo-Ukrainian war is still going strong. There is one glimmer of hope: Vladimir Putin is reportedly interested in negotiating a ceasefire.
Prediction 5: The Chicago Bears finish the 2023 Season under .500.
Prediction verdict: CORRECT. I thought this was a pretty safe bet, but as per usual most Bears fans had deluded themselves into thinking this would be our year. One naïve loyal Econ Soapbox reader even offered to bet me that the Bears would have a winning season. I can’t bring myself to bet against my favorite team, but that seemed like a safe bet for me. The season isn’t over yet, but at 6-9, the Bears will at best finish one game below .500. Bummer.
Total 2023 prediction record: 4-1. Not too bad.