How do blogs differ from the economics profession?

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.


Comments for this post are closed