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For the pointer I thank Aaron Sojourner.
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,
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.
It is called Bank Underground, a clever title. There is one interesting post on insurance for driverless cars, and another on deflation risk.
Can you imagine the Fed doing the same? The bloggy voice and the need for institutional conformity are not always in perfect synch. Still, perhaps central banks are learning that if they do not define their own image, others will do it for them.
Let’s keep our fingers crossed…
What would you like him to cover? Please don’t be rude, serious inquiries only. On Twitter Ben claims he will cover “economics, finances, and sometimes baseball.”
What is on your mind? I am happy to entertain requests for topics and questions for future blog posts…
I wrote a short piece on this for Vox, here is one excerpt:
Who is the most influential public intellectual of the last 20 years?
This designation should go to someone who actually has helped change the world, rather than just changing lots of minds. It also should go to someone who has embodied key trends of the time, noting that for both standards I am focusing on the United States.
Based on those standards, I am inclined to pick Andrew Sullivan, who is most recently in the news for his announcement that he is quitting after fifteen years of blogging.
Any discussion of Sullivan’s influence must begin with gay marriage. Thirty-six states and the District of Columbia already have legalized gay marriage, representing a majority of the American population, with possibly Alabama and others to follow. A broader Supreme Court decision for nationwide legalization may be on the way. More generally, gay rights have taken a major leap forward.
…I thought long and hard before selecting Andrew for the designation of most influential public intellectual. Perhaps Paul Krugman has changed more minds, but his agenda hasn’t much changed the world; we haven’t, for instance, gone back to do a bigger fiscal stimulus. Peter Singer led large numbers of people into vegetarianism and veganism and gave those practices philosophic respectability; he is second on my list. A generation ago, I would have picked Milton Friedman, for intellectual leadership in the direction of capitalist and pro-market reforms. But that is now long ago, and the Right has produced no natural successor.
Self-recommending! And again, please note, you should not confuse the designation “most influential” with “the person who, I, the reader, would most like to see elevated in status.” That would be a fallacy of mood affiliation.
…blogging, for better or worse, is proving resistant to scale. And I think there are two reasons why.
The first is that, at this moment in the media, scale means social traffic. Links from other bloggers — the original currency of the blogosphere, and the one that drove its collaborative, conversational nature — just don’t deliver the numbers that Facebook does. But blogging is a conversation, and conversations don’t go viral. People share things their friends will understand, not things that you need to have read six other posts to understand.
Blogging encourages interjections into conversations, and it thrives off of familiarity. Social media encourages content that can travel all on its own. Alyssa Rosenberg put it well at the Washington Post. “I no longer write with the expectation that you all are going to read every post and pick up on every twist and turn in my thinking. Instead, each piece feels like it has to stand alone, with a thesis, supporting paragraphs and a clear conclusion.”
The other reason is that the bigger the site gets, and the bigger the business gets, the harder it is to retain the original voice.
That is from Ezra Klein, there is more here. (I recall Arnold Kling making a related point not too long ago, does anyone have the link?)
If you haven’t already noticed, we have no plans to chase traffic from social media, at least not by changing our basic interests and formula.
Here is another thread I found online:
“The majority of time that people are spending online is on Facebook,” said Anthony De Rosa, editor in chief of Circa, a mobile news start-up. “You have to find a way to break through or tap into all that narcissism. We are way too into ourselves.”
There is more here, from David Carr, mostly about selfie sticks and Snapchat. The human desire to be social used to be a huge cross-subsidy for music, as young people used musical taste to discover and cement social alliances. Now we don’t need music so much to do that and indeed music plays a smaller role in the lives of many young people today. This has been bad for music, although arguably good for sociability and of course good for Mark Zuckerberg.
The “problem” is that the web gives people what they want. Those who survive as bloggers will be those who do not care too much about what other people want, and who are skilled at reaping cross-subsidies.
Addendum: Kevin Drum offers comment.
A new website, for popular capitalism. It looks nice, otherwise I am not well informed about it.
The famous political science blog Monkey Cage will be joining The Washington Post (congratulations!) and apparently this will be the arrangement:
Actually, we negotiated a one year exemption from the paywall. So for first 12 months, not at all. After that, will continue to be open to anyone with .edu, .mil, and .gov accounts.
A while ago I asked a related question. But my answer blew it on one major possibility. Doesn’t Andrew Sullivan have a reasonably strong claim to that title, especially after the recent Supreme Court decisions on gay marriage? Sullivan was the dominant intellectual influence on this issue, from the late 1980s on, and that is from a time where other major civil liberties figures didn’t give gay marriage much of a second thought, one way or the other, or they wished to run away from the issue. Here is his classic 1989 New Republic essay. Here is a current map of where gay marriage is legal and very likely there is more to come.
Sullivan was also a very early blogger, and an inspiration for many in that regard (myself included), and the blogging innovation seems like it is going to stick. That’s two big wins right there, and how many other people can even come up with one?
Many of you will complain about his “war blogging,” his connection to Obama, and perhaps other matters, but no matter what you think on these issues it still seems to me he holds the lead.
Pre-Sullivan, I would give the honors to Milton Friedman.
Via Michael Rosenwald, here is one list of options, with attached evaluations. I have been using Feedly and it is working fine for me. I expected high transition costs, but within a minute or two, and then a system reboot, everything was up and running without a hitch. I did not feel confused by the shift in visual fields, as I had been expecting. I don’t pretend to know it is best, and I may not stick with Feedly forever, but this has not turned out to be a crisis and there is no reason to resent Google for axing their Reader.
Ari Timonen asks me:
Just as a reader request I would like to suggest a post about the intellectual disagreements or differences of economic opinions of econosphere and academic economics. That is what kind of biases does a person generate by reading econosphere. I’m not talking about basic economics which you can learn from a textbook but the intellectual discourse on some more nuanced subjects. An example would be maybe macroeconomics of current financial mess but anything goes. The more contrast the better.
It is hard to know where to start with this one. Focusing on macroeconomics, here are just a few points of many:
1. The blogosphere is more likely to believe that activist monetary policy can lower the rate of unemployment like turning a faucet or flipping a switch.
2. The blogosphere is more likely to accept a hand-waving approach to labor markets and nominal wage stickiness, whereas the broader profession is more interested in matching models, the microfoundations of unemployment, and whether activist policy will make as much of a difference as Econ 101 models might suggest.
3. The blogosphere is more likely to criticize DSGE models, whereas the profession is more likely to see such models of as providing discipline for any business cycle explanation, Keynesian included.
4. The blogopshere is more interested in morally judging macroeconomic policy and macroeconomic policymakers, and for that matter judging other bloggers and writers.
On all of these questions my views are closer to those of the specialists in the economics profession. That said, I don’t mean to favor the profession outright. On any specific question, the profession likely will look better than the blogosphere, if we dig deeply enough into the accumulated stock of research (and if we dig with the talents of a blogger). Where the profession fails is its excess specialization and also its inability to make speedy, direct, and publicly observable progress on important debates of the day, and on these questions I would give the economics blogosphere relatively high marks. There are very large numbers of quite smart and accomplished economists who a) don’t really read blogs, and b) don’t have much of a clue as to what is going on. That is changing, funeral by funeral.