Why should a good economist blog?

by on October 20, 2007 at 8:12 am in Economics | Permalink

Dani Rodrik asks why, Greg Mankiw gets frustrated at his now-banished comments section,  Free Exchange defends non-famous econ bloggers, and Felix Salmon chimes in.

I don’t think comparative advantage will keep (inclined) top economists away from blogging:

1. Very good economists can better use blogs to attract an amazing audience; even Dani is seeing the light, and yes his new post does mean that for trade policy he can worry less about low-cost outsourcing!  Opportunity cost may be higher but value-created is higher as well for the better economists.

2. A blog can be a loss leader; Greg’s blog promotes his textbook and Dani’s blog helps his new book.  Prominent economists are more likely to have promotable ancillary products.  Don’t the high productivity companies often spend the most on advertising?

3. Temporary blogging will become more popular.  When Ed Glaeser writes for The New York Sun, he is writing for the blogosphere more than he is writing for Sun readers but at the end of the day he doesn’t have to come up with another post for tomorrow. 

4. I predict there will arise a rotating blog, run by a consortium of top economists.  Figures such as Justin Wolfers will blog their research for two or three weeks and then turn the reigns over to a buddy, moving on, and returning perhaps a year later for another brief stint. 

5. If you are wondering about me, I face an especially low marginal cost of blogging and thus I am likely to continue for a long time.  For both consumption and research reasons, I was already reading and absorbing lots of outside material (a key base for my blogging content, though I miss being able to read quite as much as I used to), so turning it into blog posts is relatively cheap.  Dani and others will probably agree that coming up with the content is the problem, not the actual writing of the post.

Here is another good post on the benefits of econ blogging, stressing the concept of self-experimentation.

Slocum October 20, 2007 at 8:44 am

One of outsourcing opportunities it seemed like Mankiw missed is a comments moderator. If professors can assign grad students to grade papers, I’d expect high-profile bloggers could rather easily find a loyal reader/commenter (or a small group) who’d be willing to moderate the comments threads.

DRDR October 20, 2007 at 9:30 am

It’s interesting that VoxEU has gone in the opposite direction of Mankiw and added the ability to comment ( http://www.voxeu.org/index.php?q=node/611 ) I also think VoxEU has a model that’s much like the “temporary blogging” just described — whatever it is, it’s certainly a good way for economists to reach a wider audience.

I agree with Slocum’s comment — Mankiw could come up with a better solution than to disable comments. Another possibility I thought of is to integrate the blog better with Harvard’s Ec 10 course, and justify using Ec 10 staff to police the comments. After all, he’s said he initially started blogging for the sake of that course, and I thought that was a rather good justification. A third possibility is to restrict comments to his students — there must be some software that would facilitate that.

Tom Kelly October 20, 2007 at 9:52 am

While not a reason for any particular economist to blog, blogging economists as a group are improving the world by providing near real time economic perspective on current events and policy proposals.

Now how do we get the world to pay more attention to blogging economists?

Different Jeff October 20, 2007 at 2:45 pm

This is my favorite blog.
I cannot imagine you giving it up.
You are too damn good at holding forth, and you seem to enjoy it.
You have all the traits I dig in a professor:
you dig up fascinating info
explain it well
and just enough personality pokes through (I never would have quessed the Radiohead peckishness could escalate to bringing in
a music professor to verify they’re overated. Huzzah!)

I’m a bright guy who’s too damn lazy and scattershot to amount to anything other than a dilettante.
So my choices in much brighter guides to the fascinating shite in this world is pretty important to me.
And this place brings the goods.
This forum has intriguing ideas presented well daily, and the commenters are damn interesting as well.

Not sure the daily innoculation is warding off the damage being done to me at my MLIS program, but I shudder to think where
I’d be without it.

Sean October 20, 2007 at 3:06 pm

Re: “I predict there will arise a rotating blog, run by a consortium of top economists.”

Done.

http://www.againstmonopoly.org/index.php?limit=0&chunk=0

Steven Myers October 20, 2007 at 4:21 pm

I blog Teaching and Learning Economics with Technology for perhaps yet a different reason. Trying to keep up with the pace of technology change is daunting and how it can be used in teaching economics even more so. While not comprehensive and heavily tilted to my enjoyment and estimate of the value of the Tablet PC in economics instruction, my blog also serves as a way to share with my friends and colleagues. But the most important reason I blog is the blog is for me. I enjoy it!

As with Mankiw, this is my last priority, but unlike Zvi I do not collect coins, nor desire to take up golf. This hobby of mine has significant professional spillovers (having been invited to speak twice partly because of this blog) and that makes it a rewarding hobby indeed.

ere October 20, 2007 at 8:52 pm

The reverse is not true though. Top bloggers are usually not good
economists. GWU boasts of lots of great bloggers, but few great economists.

squik October 20, 2007 at 10:50 pm

The Mankiw brouhaha over comment moderation seems much ado about nothing.

No one is required to moderate their blogs. No one judges the quality of a blogger’s postings by the quality of comments received. Even the rudest of comments on Mankiw’s blogs rarely strayed outside the bounds of typical blogosphere discourse.

Why then would Mankiw be frustrated? I think it was more likely due to people pointing out his conflicts of interest. It came to a head when he posted a White House spin document as economic analysis. He was shamed into posting a counterpoint piece. Now with comments off, he will no longer be shamed into righting the most egregious examples of partisanship on his blog.

TGGP October 21, 2007 at 1:58 am

ere, what are you smoking? GMU has had Nobel Prize winning economists.

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