The Craft of Economics, by Ed Leamer. Seems to be expected January 6.

Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010, by Charles Murray. Expected January 31.

I mentioned the Murray book during the “virtual meetup” that I held on the future of higher education. Apparently, Murray is going to argue that there is a sharp class divide emerging. My concern is that we think of higher education only in terms of what serves one side of that class divide.

In the course of our discussion, one participant pointed out that students do not necessarily know what they should be learning. Another participant pointed out that the information asymmetry is two-sided–the professor may not know what the student should be taught. Afterward, I thought that maybe Hayek’s phrase “discovery process” applies to higher education as well as market competition. Expect students and mentors to make many errors, but look for innovations that can reduce errors.

As to the video conferencing via Google, I did not come away an evangelist. Yes, it works. Someone with more video-conferencing experience than me said that he thought it was decidedly better than, say, Skype. But the latency bothered me. That split-second (or more) between when someone else says something and when you hear it creates problems of flow, in my opinion. I would like to see what it is like if everyone has plenty of bandwidth. Video conferencing is like voice recognition software, in that the difference between “97 percent as good” and “as good as” is very important. In the case of video conferencing, if you could get to “as good as,” then you could use it to live in a low-cost rural area and work in Manhattan. Or you could use it to teach a seminar. I don’t think it’s there yet. But other people may be less bothered by the latency issue.