What kind of blog post produces the most comments?

by on August 3, 2015 at 1:51 am in Education, History, Philosophy, Sports, Web/Tech, Weblogs | Permalink

Imagine if I wrote a post that just served up a list like this:

The people who deserve to be raised in status:

Norman Borlaug, Jon Huntsman, female Catholics from Croatia, Scottie Pippen, Yoko Ono, Gordon Tullock, Uber drivers, and Arnold Schoenberg,

And

The people who deserve to be lowered in status:

Donald Trump, Harper Lee, inhabitants of the province Presidente Hayes, in Paraguay, doctors, Jacques Derrida, Indira Gandhi, and Art Garfunkel

You might get a kick out of it the first time, but quickly you would grow tired of the lack of substance and indeed the sheer prejudice of the exercise.

Yet, ultimately, the topic so appeals to you all.  So much of debate, including political and economic debate, is about which groups and individuals deserve higher or lower status.  It’s pretty easy — too easy in fact — to dissect most Paul Krugman blog posts along these lines.  It’s also why a lot of blog posts about foreign countries don’t generate visceral reactions, unless of course it is the Greeks and the Germans, or some other set of stand-ins for disputes closer to home (or maybe that is your home).  Chinese goings on are especially tough to parse into comparable American disputes over the status of one group vs. another.

I hypothesize that an MR blog post attracts more comments when it a) has implications for who should be raised and lowered in status, and b) has some framework in place which allows you to make analytical points, but points which ultimately translate into a conclusion about a).

Posts about immigration, the minimum wage, Greece and Germany, the worthiness of entrepreneurs vs. workers, and the rankings of different schools of thought or economists all seem to fit this bill.

Sometimes I am tempted to simply serve up the list and skip the analytics.

Addendum: Arnold Kling comments.

1 RM August 3, 2015 at 2:05 am

I plead guilty wrt the minimum wage.

2 Dan Weber August 3, 2015 at 10:34 am

I’m probably guilty a bunch.

But in my defense, when I see a post about Moldova, I really don’t have much to add to it, or even much to learn from it, because I have so little prior-knowledge on which to hang anything new I learn.

OTOH, I really think the EITC is the right way to fight poverty, so when I get the chance to discuss it and have other people bring up arguments against it, I can exercise my argument.

Still when I scroll down the front page, and I see “Do panda respond to incentives” –> “4 comments,” I feel like I’m contributing to a problem.

3 derek August 3, 2015 at 10:52 am

Whose status is involved wrt minimum wage?

4 E. Harding August 3, 2015 at 11:38 am

Higher-than-average-skilled employed low-wage workers.

5 dkn August 3, 2015 at 2:06 am

Slow on the uptake, I’m thinking: “What the hell does Tyler have against central Paraguay?”

6 Dan Hill August 3, 2015 at 6:14 am

I must be especially slow, because I still don’t get it…or the reference to Catholic women in Croatia. Perhaps I’m thinking to literally?

7 david August 3, 2015 at 2:08 am

You’re not wrong, I think. But contrarianism begets an audience primarily interested in whether an opinion is contrary – that is, status ranking – so it’s also not unexpected. The logical outcome of “pay attention to me, I have shocking and novel ideas” are duelling shocking/novel ideas from opposite ends of the spectrum.

You even have a some choice over trolls – if you muse on the role of pretty women in restaurants, be prepared to have a commentariat positively obsessed about the social position of pretty women. If you prefer more abstruse response, consider tossing out obscure Marxist observations instead.

Addendum: a contrary take on status games.

8 Finn August 3, 2015 at 2:09 am

Clear next step is to note down how well you think this applies to all posts you make in the future, prior to publishing them, and see how well it bears out. Maybe come up with some sort of quantifiable metric for comment-bait-iness. There’s a paper in this, surely.

9 _NL August 3, 2015 at 10:00 am

Starting with this post, presumably, since the only status question it raises (other than simply saying the names of other debate flashpoints) is the status of commenters. If this post gets lower than average comments, then it fits the theory. If it gets high comments, but the comments are mostly tangents about the injustice of Donald Trump yelling in Paraguay about the minimum wage paid to Catholic female Croatians, then that is still consistent with the theory.

10 Brian L. Frye August 3, 2015 at 2:09 am

This is why I read MR..

11 Brian Donohue August 3, 2015 at 8:48 am

Yeah. Well-played, Tyler.

12 Winton August 3, 2015 at 2:15 am

I guess you are right, Tyler, but it would be nice to see your hypothesis subjected to some quantitative testing. BTW, that is not meant to be a comment on whether you deserve higher or lower status!

13 Marc Beaupre August 3, 2015 at 2:17 am

In the market of ideas the value of ideas is measured. In this market, the status of a person is the value of their ideas. Status lowering and raising can be see as the result of a discussion on the value of ideas.

This is a market in which you yourself are a product. Will this blog post raise or lower your status and the value of your ideas?

p.s. digging in to the bait though, Borlaug is my personal hero.

14 anom August 3, 2015 at 1:45 pm

The value of ideas can be determined by the status of the person too e.g. Paul Krugman

15 Chip August 3, 2015 at 2:17 am

As an early AGW believer who turned skeptic after years of reading I find it very difficult not to respond to old and discredited claims on FB.

Few people deserve lower status than those who have enriched themselves on this subject, or the public’s ignorance on this subject.

16 Dzhaughn August 3, 2015 at 2:33 am

Damn straight. This ranks up there with your saying a few weeks ago that the best social science research results nevertheless have a 1/3 probability of being wrong.

So I take it that you will not be running for president.

17 er August 3, 2015 at 2:38 am

why are you optimizing for comment volume?

18 bellisaurius August 3, 2015 at 6:41 am

It’s hard to have a blog and not be aware of your audience. What he’s missing is that there are plenty of posts that in real life elicit guffaws, hmmmms, and ‘now I get its’ that you don’t get to see as a blogger (at best, you get a +1).

19 Lord August 3, 2015 at 8:42 am

Comment volume is a surrogate for page views. So should we presume Tyler’s focus is on raising and lowering people’s status? Sounds like it.

20 anom August 3, 2015 at 1:52 pm

There is an incentive for him to do it.

I look at an Assorted Links post and see 5 mundane links but 1 status raising/lowering troll link and can’t help but conclude that it is there to elicit page views.

21 Adrian Ratnapala August 3, 2015 at 11:16 pm

Page views can be measured more directly. But in some ways comment volume is more interesting. Unless we are talking about robo-spam, then comments indicate you have a community willing to use your ideas a nucleation points for their discussioons. That’s a happy indication for a status seeking animal to observe.

22 Barkley Rosser August 3, 2015 at 2:39 am

Pretty clearly the people needing to have their status raised are Very Serious, while those whose status needs to go down are Not Very Serious…

23 Cliff August 3, 2015 at 8:54 am

The first label is a blatant attempt to lower the status of the people it is attached to. The latter is a tongue-in-cheek play on the first.

24 V August 3, 2015 at 3:13 am

Agree with the theme of Tyler’s post (and its implications). However, its tough to make it into something actionable since most economists (and people in general) operate on those principles.

Isn’t this post also a way of rephrasing Sailer’s whole belief system that current American society is ruled by “Who? Whom?” thinking rather than any sort of logic in areas like housing, education, crime, immigration, etc.

25 Seem August 3, 2015 at 3:17 am

Except it is all about raising your own status without being too crass about it. Does anyone care much about the relative status of others when this has zero implications for yourself? People will seek to elevate those they associate with or, via the act of praising itself, seek to associate with the elevated.

26 anon August 3, 2015 at 1:59 pm

You raise your own status by lowering others’ status. It’s like the bullies in school who put down other kids in order to be accepted in the “cool club”.

27 Kevin Erdmann August 3, 2015 at 3:17 am

I wonder if a lot of the perma-bear, bubble-monger chatter is indirectly about lowering the status of finance.

And, broadening the idea even to the stock market itself, I think we tend to think of stock market analysis in terms of status. One way this plays out is that most discussion about tactical investing is built around whether stocks are overvalued or undervalued. But, except for a few unusual times where stocks deviated from a typical range of valuation, almost all of the shocks to equity values come from unforeseen changes in earnings and expected earnings, not from variations in valuations at t=0. This includes 2008-2009.

28 BC August 3, 2015 at 5:32 am

I think the status of finance is really a proxy for the status of the wealthy, which in turn is a proxy for taxation and big government vs. markets. Even the common refrain, “Hey, I don’t mind when someone becomes wealthy from doing something productive, but those finance guys just shift money around,” is a proxy for government vs. markets: “If markets are so great, how can they reward someone for just shifting money around; we need government to fix things like this.”

29 Pshrnk August 3, 2015 at 9:30 am

It is only because of government that you can have “things like this.”

30 Jamie_NYC August 3, 2015 at 11:37 am

Yes, Pishronk, government created people, who in turn created markets. We get it.

31 derek August 3, 2015 at 10:46 am

Finance manages to lower it’s status without my help. It is worthwhile to remind people how much it cost to bail the blithering idiots out last time around.

I don’t comment on welfare recipients, but make an exception here.

32 Kevin Erdmann August 3, 2015 at 4:50 pm

irony, thy name is Derek.

33 Brian Donohue August 3, 2015 at 4:55 pm

Remind me again. What was the cost of TARP? (Ignore the automakers, let’s keep it to finance.)

– A concerned taxpayer

34 Cooper August 4, 2015 at 2:31 am

Around $450 billion was spent on troubled assets. We sold those assets for about what we bought them for and collected some dividends/interest.

The program basically broke even in dollar terms but it exposed taxpayers to a lot of potential risk.

35 RPLong August 3, 2015 at 11:10 am

I had to chuckle at this comment because in the first paragraph you seem to be talking directly about Taleb, and then in the second paragraph you describe Taleb’s own take on investing to a T. 🙂

36 Kevin Erdmann August 3, 2015 at 4:49 pm

Ha! I didn’t think about it, but you’re totally right.

37 Unclemartypants August 3, 2015 at 3:49 am

I have an idea. If you are looking to increase comment volume, why not have a monthly post listing those MR commenters deserving raised/lowered status. I imagine this would often be your most commented post of the week and would have a dramatic impact on the comment volume (though, not sure about the quality) of all other posts on the site. I don’t know if this would be an improvement to the site, but I’d love to see it experimented.

Also, I believe Ray Lopez deserves a raised status.

38 E. Harding August 3, 2015 at 11:46 am

LOL. And why?

39 stuart August 3, 2015 at 4:02 am

I’d like to see a bunch of posts doing exactly this. I don’t think I’d grow tired of it as quickly as Tyler thinks.

(this probably means I am a below average MR reader and deserve to have my status lowered)

40 Plusone August 4, 2015 at 3:02 pm

+1

41 Chris Jones August 3, 2015 at 4:03 am

If you’re right, does that mean bloggers deserve to be lowered in status?

42 Bob August 7, 2015 at 4:44 am

They are already as low as they can go. But yes, bloggers are almost completely worthless, particularly these two.

43 Hoover August 3, 2015 at 4:09 am

The good thing about this sort of post is that most commenters will think that other commenters are guilty of this but they are personally blameless.

Therefore this post deserves to be raised in status.

44 Adrian Ratnapala August 3, 2015 at 11:22 pm

Not so much here, because this is a blog where status-as-hidden motive theories have long been respectable, people here are used to thinkig of the whole human race as susceptible.

Rather people here comfort themselves with the subtleties “I also play status games, but in a style that leads to good outcomes because…”

45 Doug August 3, 2015 at 4:21 am

Seems like you’re raising the status of the commentts section too much. Active commenters probably make up 1% of your readership and probably less than 10% of page views read any comments whatsoever. As much as I hate to admit it, the comments are just a sideshow, you probably shouldn’t significantly alter your posting based on them at all.

46 Pensans August 3, 2015 at 4:41 am

Of course, most of Trump’s status comes because he annoys oikophobes like you.

47 Anon. August 3, 2015 at 4:55 am

This post feels Scott Alexander-ish.

48 Unknowns August 3, 2015 at 5:00 am

In fact, it explains perfectly the comment volume on his blog.

49 Unknowns August 3, 2015 at 4:56 am

Tyler definitely deserves higher status on account of this post.

50 LE August 3, 2015 at 4:56 am

Way to go, Tyler. Go the Huntsman, and sock it to once-upon-a-time-frizzy-haired loser-man Art G!

It’s just a shame you spoiled the post with all that boring stuff at the end (not that I could be bothered reading it).

51 Jan August 3, 2015 at 5:04 am

To prove the point: Yes, lower doctors in status–and pay!

52 V August 5, 2015 at 9:16 am

Everyone thinks that until they (or their loved ones) actually get sick with a complex illness which happens to most of us. Then you will find your views “evolving”

53 BC August 3, 2015 at 5:04 am

I don’t think people are so interested in raising and lowering statuses of others per se (except for maybe when ethnic, racial, or religious groups are involved). The posts drawing the most comments are ones where the people or groups in question are really proxies for some other debate. Tyler alludes to this when he points out that foreign topics generate visceral reactions primarily when the groups serve as stand-ins for domestic disputes. I disagree, however, that the domestic disputes are about status of one group over another, again ethnicity,race,religion, excepted.

Paul Krugman posts are about expanding government and his other policy preferences (redundant, I know). To the extent he seems to be trying to raise/lower someone’s status, he is doing so as a proxy for “My policy preferences are the right ones.” The implicit argument, for example, is these Republicans are big, fat idiots; therefore, my views which are in conflict with theirs must be the correct ones.

As for Tyler’s list: immigration involves ethnicity; the minimum wage is about the minimum wage, not about status; Greece and Germany are about the welfare state vs. fiscal discipline; entrepreneurs vs. workers is about tax policy and equality of results vs. equality of rights; rankings of economists and schools of thought are about big government vs. markets. Additional comment about the minimum wage: some might argue that it’s about the status of employers vs. low-wage workers. I think the direction runs the other way: people try to raise/lower the status of employers as a proxy for debating the minimum wage which, in turn, is about big government vs. markets which, in turn, might really be about equality of results vs. equality of rights.

In fact, many debates seem ultimately to be proxies for equality of results vs. equality of rights. Since this is basically an axiomatic issue, there is very little that one can say about it directly. Thus, people search for proxy-debates that subtly, or not so subtly, appear to imply that results are more important than rights or vice-versa.

54 Hazel Meade August 3, 2015 at 9:34 am

Yes. The thing is if a person is of high status, then he is often regarded as an authority and people will cite him as an authority to strength their arguments over some domestic policy debate. So a lot of effort is spent on raising the status of the people on one’s side in order to strengthen their positions as authorities.

Arguably, Paul Krugman’s Nobel Prize, or at least the timing of it, is a primary example of exactly this phenomenon.
Obama’s Nobel Prize is probably an even better example.

The Nobels went through a round of “lets give Nobel Prizes to people whose opinions we like to raise their status” a few years back.

55 Bob August 7, 2015 at 4:46 am

Were you in the committee room when Krugman was chosen? If not, shut the fuck up.

56 The Devil's Dictionary August 3, 2015 at 5:13 am

STEM vs. humanities, eurosceptics vs. eurooptimists, pro-Israel vs. pro-Hamas opinions… never ending discussions which never solve anything, nevertheless extremely attractive for some sort of people.

57 Steve Sailer August 3, 2015 at 5:19 am

One way to get more high quality comments is to have better commenting software. Ron Unz has put a lot of effort into coding his Unz.com site to both look like a plain vanilla comment section but also have all sorts of subtle amenities. Since he’s put in all these improvements, I’ve gotten as many as 640 approved comments in one 24-hour stretch, which is a lot for a moderated site without the instant gratification of your comments appearing instantly.

58 Art Deco August 3, 2015 at 8:30 am

One way to get more high quality comments

The votaries you have who fancy themselves ‘high quality’ are also the most repellant.

59 MMK August 3, 2015 at 11:34 am

Steve, I read your blog and it’s pretty sharp, but the vast majority of commentors on your blog are just as stupid as the vast majority of commentors that leave comments anywhere else.

No the irony of my comment is not lost on me.

60 Art Deco August 3, 2015 at 1:31 pm

Yes, but stupid in signature ways. You have the obsession with the Jews, the obsession with (and loathing of) the blacks, the pretension, the ones who fancy that psychometricians have produced the key to understanding all social phenomena, etc.

61 Thiago Ribeiro August 4, 2015 at 10:25 am

“Since he’s put in all these improvements,..”
Could you mention a few examples?

62 Unclemartypants August 3, 2015 at 5:24 am

What’s the deal with female Catholics from Croatia?

63 Affe August 3, 2015 at 10:08 am

Tyler channelling Ray L ? He left out the “teen” though.

64 Martin August 3, 2015 at 5:31 am

Sorry, but this blog is permanently short on the analytics. Most of the time, you just link to other guys, limiting your comments to saying how great they are. Notably, you rarely discuss your adversaries’ opnions, lately even refuse to name them – rather, you link to an (uncommented) blog post by somebody else. Simply serving up the list might be exaggerated. Rather, you are simply serving up links and regurgitate what others say. If this blog lacks anything most of the time, it’s analytics.

Seriously, just look at your latest bunch of posts: there are links, and there are assertions. That’s it, most of the times. This is not (only) about Krugman, you caught yourself in the act, just along other political lines.

65 Millian August 3, 2015 at 5:45 am

This comment is self-recommending. Now let me get around to reading it.

66 Martin August 3, 2015 at 5:50 am

It’s the wisdom of Martin. Glad to see you agree, especially if you abstain from citing any reason to do so (though a link to Scott Sumner laying out his reasons would be an acceptable substitute).

67 RoyL August 3, 2015 at 5:37 am

You hate us, you really hate us

68 RoyL August 3, 2015 at 5:38 am

Or maybe:

How does Tyler lower the status of those who post comments in relation to himself.

69 Millian August 3, 2015 at 5:44 am

Trying to lower Paul Krugman’s status, are we?

“That boy’s only driving fast cars to try and look good in front of girls. I’m the real deal, me, I love hot rods.”

70 rayward August 3, 2015 at 6:33 am

The revolt against the ruling class. That’s the title of Robert Reich’s recent blog post in which he tries to explain the rising popularity of Mr. Trump in each political party. Of course, it all depends on the meaning of ruling class. For some, it’s bankers and billionaires. For others, it’s government. Everybody feels put upon. Heck, even the bankers and billionaires! Equality has arrived. Cowen’s post also reminds me of the recent discussion (lead by Paul Romer) in the blogs of the “adversarial method” that has found its way into economics and the presentation of theory. My view is that everything said or written has a slant because everyone has a point of view. We aren’t tabula rasas. My observation is that those who proclaim their innocence are likely the most prone to slant because they are unaware of their own slant. Of course, slant is not the same as deceit, the latter being a conscious act: someone who proclaims innocence while fully aware of his slant is guilty of deceit. I was taught that there is no alternative to clarity in communication, at a time when a copy of Strunk and White would be found on the desk of every academic and his or her students. But I was also taught to listen and read critically in order to get behind what the speaker or writer said or wrote (critical in the sense of close or analytical). Paradoxically, It does seem that as clarity has diminished and sightings of Strunk and White have become rare, critical listening and reading skills have likewise suffered, suffered when they are needed the most. Who’s to blame? Romer’s target responded that everybody does it. I’m not sure what’s worse: that Romer’s target actually believes that everybody does it (thus justifying the target’s own deceit) or that, indeed, everybody does it (in which case everything said or written doesn’t just have a slant but is a lie).

71 charlie August 3, 2015 at 10:19 am

I’d vote for a commentator revolution. Take over the blog. Send Alex to the Siberia he so richly deserves. Put out most wanted signs for Tyrone. And defenstrate Tyler out of the tallest building in Arlington, which luckily isn’t that tall thanks to height limits. Outsource all future blog posts to Ray Lopez. Yep, that would work well.

In the alternative, ask a bunch of beautiful women to come and post pictures.

72 Ricardo August 3, 2015 at 6:48 am

“So much of debate, including political and economic debate, is about which groups and individuals deserve higher or lower status. It’s pretty easy — too easy in fact — to dissect most Paul Krugman blog posts along these lines.”

Krugman’s posts are mostly about empirical economics (and the rest are mostly about his musical tastes). One of Krugman’s main themes is that popular discussion on economic policy is skewed because certain people — Paul Ryan comes to mind — are able to command undeserved respect from the press corps and avoid careful scrutiny of their claims. To continue with the Ryan example from a couple of years ago, you may disagree with Krugman on Ryan’s relative standing or with Krugman’s views on fiscal and budgetary policy but there is nothing inherently wrong with “lowering the status” of Rep. Ryan while, at the same, putting forth arguments about why he is wrong. Cowen may be used to a world (namely, academia) where one’s status is largely a product of the quality of one’s ideas but, in the political realm, the influence of one’s ideas is determined by one’s status and quality doesn’t count for much.

73 KPres August 3, 2015 at 9:32 am

Shorter Ricardo…

Krugman +1
Ryan -1

74 E. Harding August 3, 2015 at 11:49 am

When has Ryan ever had respect from the press corps?

75 Bob August 7, 2015 at 4:49 am

If Cowen’s status is determined by the quality of his academic ideas, that status is really low.

76 WRD August 3, 2015 at 7:41 am

It’s not immediately obvious to my why “having tons of comments” is the end goal.

77 joe August 3, 2015 at 7:48 am

If I were you I’d turn off comments altogether, ignore Google analytics, and just write about what you find interesting.

78 Hmmmmmmmm August 3, 2015 at 7:50 am

“Sometimes I am tempted to simply serve up the list and skip the analytics.”
Noooooooo! I read MR FOR the analytics.

79 Bob August 7, 2015 at 4:51 am

Tyler doesn’t do analytics. He can’t, he’s not smart enough. And someone would need to teach him arithmetic first.

80 Joshua Miller August 3, 2015 at 7:52 am

I think this post slightly confuses two issues: 1. people care about status and defend their status judgments, 2. people’s defenses of status judgments are prone to motivated reasoning.

I’d guess that a lot of folks here very much enjoy the experience of changing their status judgments, and so are willing to forgo some motivated reasoning (or motivated skepticism) on many matters just to have their minds changed. I would certainly get tired of the lists after a while, but new inclusions or surprising choices would be welcome, even (perhaps especially?) if they didn’t include reasons and so set readers looking for the reasons themselves.

(This claim is of course an example of what you predicted: some analytic points in defense of raising the status of the MR comment section.)

Recall: http://ppe.sagepub.com/content/4/3/374.abstract

81 Dale August 3, 2015 at 8:07 am

Despite the fact that some commenters appear to think the issue is debatable, I think your premise is absolutely correct. However, I think it is also true of much of economics – except worse. The group to be lowered in status is the government (as well as anybody pursuing not-for-profit goals) and the group to raised in status is always those ultra-wise economists that know that the market knows best. The analytics usually is just a fancy way to defend these status changes, with the added bonus that only a select few can actually understand the math enough – proving that they are part of the group to be elevated in status.

This thread should link to the earlier threads about what sociologists have to say about economists. While I find reading sociology about as pleasant as visiting a dentist (even one without a bow and arrow), they appear to at least understand that economists are like any other group, playing the same status and power games, just shrouded in a language inaccessible to most people.

82 Robert (evidence based) August 3, 2015 at 8:26 am

I would argue that we are like other primates in that a lot of our behavior revolves around who is going to be dominant and who is going to be submissive. I saw this in regard to training monkeys to carry out tasks for people. Those training the monkeys said the monkeys would only cooperate if they perceived the human as dominant. Unfortunately this contradicts much of classical liberal economics in that a properly functioning free market needs participants who are equals. Otherwise one side has a huge advantage and often the marketplace breaks down and/or it becomes very uncompetitive.

For example we have passed much legislation handicapping unions and strikes. And yet we have not done the same for executives. This, despite clear evidence that the average CEO is clearly overpaid – they cost way more than their marginal product. Why do we allow that? Because they are dominant and so called ‘free market people’ believe in the rule of those who are dominant. It’s why the left hates guns – because guns and violence symbolizes dominance and it’s something the left hates. [BTW: strikes are not really so bad, any time two dominant groups negotiate you have a good chance of a standoff for a while. It happened with Apple and the music companies. It happened with the US and Iran. It happens when companies negotiate the sale of assets to other companies. The reason why strikes are frowned upon so much is because the people doing the striking ‘don’t know their place’ and dominant people are appalled.]

This means that I have to agree to EULAs all the time despite the fact that they are so long that if I took the time to read and think about all of them either my transaction would expire or the other person would run out of patience. I have tried to amend them and have been looked at askance in doing so. Why is this? Because the car rental company is dominant and I am supposed to accept my submissive role. And to reasonably function in this society I cannot avoid them.

Most of the struggles we read about in the press are between two dominant groups. You very rarely read about a struggle between a dominant person or group and a submissive one. So you read about the GOP bashing Hillary – both dominant. You read about health care fights between two groups both of whom have power and resources. Do you hear about when a town screws over an individual citizen when they are not powerful? I saw with my own eyes a local town meeting vote for something followed by the municipal leaders ignoring it in public during the same town meeting. The local newspaper was there and said nothing. Again it was a question of dominance.

IMHO, we should look at human relations much more from a neuroscience point of view. This would often mean that markets operate the way they do – meaning dysfunctionally – because most human relations are power plays. And so of course we would expect people to get excited when we discuss who should be raised or lowered in status. It becomes a question of who is the dominant and who is the submissive. And that is the name of the game in human societies.

83 FredR August 3, 2015 at 8:31 am

I don’t see how such a post would be less substantive than most of the posts on this site, or why debates about status should have lower status. The status system teaches us what to do and how to be; it’s about as important as it gets.

84 Los Ranchos August 3, 2015 at 8:41 am

I think most of the discussion in the comments is created by the “just so” stories that compose many of the posts. IE “X happens because of Y and Z, but I’m not so sure that A and B aren’t important as well, but most people overestimate C and D”. This type of unsupported yet ambivalent assertion-making will obviously inflame all sides.

85 Al August 3, 2015 at 12:05 pm

Inflammation. Yes.

86 Njnnja August 3, 2015 at 8:48 am

This comment reaffirms my group identity based on mood affiliation while simultaneously irritating, possibly insulting or angering those who disagree, since they are clearly Bad People (TM) and should feel bad about themselves. Rhetorical question that someone will inevitably reply to?

87 Todd August 3, 2015 at 9:05 am

Huntsman is odd. Assumedly you liked him in the jobs he actually did, which is fine. Competence is to be commended. But I think that he is viewed as competent. But the first job of someone who wishes to effect great change through the political process (unless you can get and hold a President’s ear) is to convince 65+ million Americans to vote for you. At that job, Huntsman was very bad. Presumably, his ultimate legacy might be to pull the top of the Republican party to the left. He is still young man, so maybe he can pull something like that off over the long term.

Lee’s inclusion betrays a uniquely American way of looking at artists. I am reminded of the following quote from Erich von Stroheim:”If you live in France, for instance, and you have written one good book, or painted one good picture, or directed one outstanding film fifty years ago and nothing else since, you are still recognized and honored accordingly. People take their hats off to you and call you ‘maître.’ They do not forget. In Hollywood—in Hollywood, you’re as good as your last picture.”

88 Art Deco August 3, 2015 at 10:10 am

Jon Huntsman is 55, which is not young. There are two or three things left for him to do in politics: persuade some Republican president to appoint him to a job he actually wants, buy a Senate seat and mark time a la Jay Rockefeller, or attempt another turn as Governor of Utah if the constitution thereof permits.

89 Thiago Ribeiro August 4, 2015 at 1:25 pm

55 is not that old for a Republican hopeful. Reagan was 55 in the midst of LBJ’s Administration. Bush Sr. got the top job of the land (director of the CIA) when he was older than 55 (and by that point, he was more than 10 years from the nomination). Bush II, a toddler as post-WW II Republican presidents go, was around Huntsman’s age in 2000.

90 Art Deco August 3, 2015 at 10:12 am

Huntsman is odd.

You’d think attempting to win an elected office by tossing off gratuitous insults at the base might not be an ace tactic, but John Kasich is giving it another go, perhaps because the GOP leadership, like Pauline Kael, live in a rather special world.

91 Edgar August 3, 2015 at 11:45 am

Not clear whether he is referring to Jon Hunstman JR or SR. Both candidates for greater appreciation imho.

92 Art Deco August 3, 2015 at 1:27 pm

When he says “He is still young man, so maybe he can pull something like that off over the long term.”, I don’t think he’s referring to Jon Huntsman, Sr., whose degree at the Wharton School of Business has a date of 1959 on it, unless he’s trying to be cute like Lillian Carter with her juniors.

93 Mark Brown August 3, 2015 at 9:14 am

“Now he told a parable to those who were invited, when he noticed how they chose the places of honor, saying to them… (Luke 14:7)”

“And they came to Capernaum. And when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest… (Mark 9:33-34)”

“But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them…(Matt 20:25)”

But that is a recognition of sin and the call to the cross. The typical response is “this is a hard teaching, who can take it?”

94 Brian Donohue August 3, 2015 at 9:21 am

Good stuff.

95 wwebd August 3, 2015 at 9:33 am

My guess is that each generation of newly converted Christians, as opposed to those who were raised in the faith, contains many who find that teaching easy, because they have realized their own lack of places of honor in things that count, and their own lack of authority in things that count. They have realized, perhaps moments before their conversion, that the recognition of sin and the call to the cross is easier than continuing as they are.

96 Chuck Carlstrom August 3, 2015 at 9:43 am

Tyler this depends on your objective as a blogger. If you simply want to maximize your comments, then as you say that is relatively easy. I would hope a blogger is willing to sacrifice comments in order to get the audience to think. Ultimately I hope a blogger’s job is most rewarding when a comment causes you to stop and reexamine their own beliefs. A great blog encourages both the audience and the blogger to think and learn. Pavlovian comments that get someone to spew forth their long-cherished beliefs are not interesting.

97 Elian August 3, 2015 at 9:51 am

I wish to raise the relative status of artisanal, free-range economics. It’s biodegradable!

98 RPLong August 3, 2015 at 9:59 am

Well, that was a revelatory post, TC!

99 Al August 3, 2015 at 10:22 am

IMHO, in a Krugman blog post, we clearly see Krugman himself (or whoever writes that blog) putting various people (economists, politicians, et al) into high or low status categories. His blog readers usually just comment that they agree with whatever he said. Often they try to be just as obnoxious as Krugman himself. It’s a “I worship the brilliant and noble hero” relationship between the reader and the blog.

By comparison, again, IMHO, Tyler and Alex are less abrasive and less frequently categorize people into status groups in a heavy handed, absolute way. Rather, it’s the MR _readers_ who originate almost all of the heavy handed status categorizations and the abrasive criticism. It’s often a “I’m the hero and Tyler’s blog post and every other comment is just wrong” relationship between the reader and the blog.

100 RPLong August 3, 2015 at 10:53 am

“I hypothesize that an MR blog post attracts more comments when it a) has implications for who should be raised and lowered in status, and b) has some framework in place which allows you to make analytical points, but points which ultimately translate into a conclusion about a).”

Ouroboros.

101 Al August 3, 2015 at 12:02 pm

Maybe it’s not the conclusion that matters.

Maybe the readers are simply motivated by the opportunity, which this blog offers frequently, to become the brilliant-hero.

I say that because very often it seems that the most energetic comments are from people disagreeing with someone else rather than following whatever framework was laid out in the post.

102 RPLong August 3, 2015 at 1:58 pm

Great point.

103 Cowboydroid August 3, 2015 at 11:35 am

Positing that the Krugtron doesn’t author his own blog… this is a fascinating new angle I never considered…. Imagine the implications!

104 Al August 3, 2015 at 11:56 am

I have no concrete evidence. A while back, I saw a comment in MR some place that Krugman’s blog is often written by Robin Wells. Not sure if it’s true.

105 Joe C. August 3, 2015 at 11:33 am

Preach on devaluing Garfunkel! Paul Simon 4 life!

106 Stillman Brown August 3, 2015 at 11:45 am

Yoko Ono < Chastity Hitler

107 Edgar August 3, 2015 at 11:52 am

And yet the posts with the least comments are frequently the most interesting and educational. The detachment perspective at MR is one of its several great strengths.

108 Ben August 3, 2015 at 12:19 pm

Tyler has just summarized 97% of economics.

Except there’s calculus which proves it, or at least some reference from Mises. Its just like science really.

109 cp August 3, 2015 at 2:53 pm

Is all of this navel gazing about social signals an attempt to raise the status of autistics?

110 The Original D August 3, 2015 at 3:49 pm

For men, just look at how hot their girlfriends and wives are. Status is a market.

111 MattW August 3, 2015 at 5:04 pm

Tyler himself said that one element that would help in getting out of the great stagnation is to raise the status of scientists. I think raising and lowering status in other realms helps improve society as well, and is arguably the best way to get good ideas in front of more people, especially in front of the right people.

112 Peter Akuleyev August 4, 2015 at 3:50 am

As far as I can tell the main purpose of this blog is to raise Tyler’s status, and the main purpose of most of the commentariat is to lower Tyler’s status.

113 Ryan Reynolds August 4, 2015 at 10:34 pm

Note that topics may also transform over time to become status oriented. Abstract issues which have no clear tribal allegiance in the beginning could become politicised, and take on a strictly tribal dimension. Measuring the change in the volume and nature of the comments as the issue becomes more or less status oriented may be one way of testing the theory.

Of course, this is still a status oriented post none the less: that we the clever readers of MR who clearly perceive status oriented click bait elsewhere for what it is, should be raised in status. That may also help explain the volume of comments here.

114 Peter Gerdes August 5, 2015 at 5:01 am

But then I couldn’t imply my status needed to be raised by posting overly long and boring analytical points.

115 Paul August 5, 2015 at 11:32 am

Just skewed your results with a bogus comment!

116 Rachmananon August 5, 2015 at 9:26 pm

If you raised the status of Arnold Schoenberg, would I have to start listening to his music again? Please, sir, have you at long last no sense of decency? No seriously – when I was a music student Arnold posthumously had way too MUCH status – he was believed to have shown the true path to the future, 12-tone music was still the norm, and it was tonal composers who were dissed. It’s hard for me to think of Schoenberg as having too LITTLE status. True, his aesthetic revolution is dead – a god that failed – but it deserved to die, and his beliefs in the historical direction of music are laughable. It comes down, then, to whether his music speaks to you, and if so, well , er, enjoy. But I find it unlikely that you can really follow it – research has shown that even 12-tone composers can’t actually decode it as they listen – they do no better than chance at predicting what the 12th tone will be after having heard 11, even though there can be only one. The system works on paper but can’t be decoded by the human ear, even that of an expert.

117 razib August 8, 2015 at 11:43 am

“What kind of blog post produces the most comments?”

this kind.

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