Very good Ezra Klein profile

You can read it here, by Benjamin Wallace, excerpt:

One evening last January, I sat with Klein at the MSNBC studio near American University in Washington, D.C., as he was getting ready to guest-host The Last Word With Lawrence O’Donnell. It was clearly part of an ongoing audition for his own show. But even though Klein has a pleasant TV persona, you could see the tension between his desire to be good at hosting and the sense that it wasn’t the most comfortable fit. When a producer suggested that Klein ask Barney Frank about supposed anti-gay remarks made by Chuck Hagel, the nominee for secretary of Defense, Klein deflected: “I just don’t think that attack on Hagel is very interesting.” Later, he anguished over his opening line about Obama’s choice of Hagel. “I kind of want to write, ‘It was the worst day for neoconservatives since the day Vice-President Cheney shot a dude in the face,’ ” he said to me. “Which is a funny way to open the show. But I feel like, Do I need to poke Dick Cheney? This is the thing about TV that I do find hard: It rewards a sharpness that I wouldn’t use in my writing.”

This is the piece on Ezra which captures him pretty well and I found it interesting the whole way through.

I recall, by the way, the last time I mentioned Ezra on this blog there were — as any time I mention a well-known blogger, columnist, commentator, or Wonkblog creator — rude comments.  The same happens for say Thomas Friedman or David Brooks or a variety of others and I am reminded of Jonathan Swift’s remark that “Censure is the tax a man pays to the public for being eminent.”  Try doing their jobs for a week or two.

More generally, I wish to make a few points.

First, a lot of us out there who write, or who do economics, or who blog, know each other.  We get on together, or not, based on a lot of factors but not mainly whether we agree on a bunch of political questions.  Personally, I find taste in food, music, and movies to be better predictors of a sense of mutuality than politics.  Those are ideologies too!  (Should we not discuss Krugman’s taste in music a bit more and his views on fiscal policy a bit less?  It’s OK enough stuff, but why can’t he listen to Bach more?  Why can’t he promote this?  Does he not yearn for a fugue or a complex raga in lieu of Arcade Fire, at the appropriate margin that is?  Or some early Brian Eno?  On science fiction I have kinship with him, though not exactly the same tastes.)

Second, when it comes to the category “working hard continually to improve what he does,” in the very top tier of people I have met — ever — is Ezra.  Also Paul Krugman.  Also Alex.  These people deserve special appreciation, no matter what else you might disagree with them on.  And furthermore these people should never be underestimated.

No, I cannot explain to you how Ezra’s new venture might make money (or not), but in its broadest terms think of it as a platform for measuring value and then adjusting.  Successful ventures almost always evolve into something other than their exact origins.  That doesn’t mean it will succeed financially but it is an important piece of perspective.  Furthermore financial success is only one kind of success and it is not always the one most worth pursuing.

Third, if we are going to play the ideology game, why not do it on a global scale?  What’s so special about the national level for politics?  Virtually all Americans share so many preconceptions about the world it is a mix of embarrassing and disconcerting.  If you, as an American, are getting too bent out of shape about the other Americans you disagree with, I say you need to spend more time in Russia, Haiti, and India, for a start.

End of sermon people, thanks for listening.


On 3) it's not that there's a disagreement nor the distance of the disagreement, it's that those ideological opponents (?) can affect my well-being in ways that someone who favors, for instance, Congress over BJP,

Adding more tasks to government makes for more public choice problems, which makes ideological disagreements no longer academic and coarsens society.

The "problem" with Klein is that he's not a journalist--he's an advocate. His work is partisan and values-laden. Re this or that political Liberal policy he often shifts back and forth between advocacy and "very concerned person", always with mega doses of selection bias to guide the way.

In other words, he's merely another partisan hack in the cacophony, getting paid to nourish political Liberal preferences. Journalists should be truth-seekers; Klein is most certainly **not** a truth-seeker.

Almost all newspapers hire some journalists to be opinion columnists, which disqualifies them as truth-seekers in your sense, but perhaps they all advance the seeking of truth in ways you disagree with.

Good comment. In general, there are two approaches:

1. Treat the opposition with respect, assume good will, and try to hash things out in a civil and congenial fashion.

2. Assume the worst intentions of the opposition, adopt similar tactics, engage in a 'tug-of-war' which requires one to stake out ground way over here in order to counterbalance the crazies on the other side.

I hate #2, because it leads to obnoxiousness and becomes self-fulfilling. The extremists end up justifying each other.

Hmmmm. I certainly have no problem with opinion writers; so long as they advertise as such. Does Klein present himself as an opinion writer?
Wonk usually implies expert. However "expert opinion" in this sense certainly isn't akin to the expert opinion of your oncologist, or your tax lawyer, is it? Klein's expert opinion is shrouded in advocacy-first rhetoric. Let's call him a "Garden Path" journalist. How's that?

As long as he is reasoning rather than simply "advocating", I guess he does a fine journalist job.

Can you do better than argument by assertion, AJB?

CD pls see: Care, Obama, as explicated by Mr. Klein in his column for the past 4+ years.
The best overall case study in journalist advocacy since the US invasion of Iraq.

He has a point if view. But he supports it with the truth. No death panel talk. No yellow cake. He may be wrong, but he's not lying.

"Furthermore financial success is only one kind of success and it is not always the one most worth pursuing." That's true, unless you are a business, which is why the Post passed on Klein's idea.

As for your call for civility and respecting Klein, remember, he made his bones as a rude boy. He might be a mature insider today, but memories linger.

Your blog in 2005 was much like this entry today. Klein's was much different.

In 2005, Tyler was still a tenured professor of economics; Ezra was between 20 and 21 which means he might have been one of Tyler's undergrad students had he been enrolled at George Mason and was otherwise busy trying to avoid the dorm hall monitors and campus police during beer pong sessions.

I think the reason for the rude comments with bringing up people like Krugman is because they simply do not say people who disagree with them are wrong they imply we are cold hearted and dumb. If people like Krugman were as nice in their writings to opponents as you or Bryan Caplan or Russ Roberts I don't think there would be as many rude comments. But they aren't they are the complete opposite much of the time.

This. You cant sneer and belittle the people who disagree with you and then act shocked when those people do the same back.

they simply do not say people who disagree with them are wrong they imply we are cold hearted and dumb

And you are pulling discourse down in the same way?

When did I say anything rude about these individuals? Simply pointing out bad behavior is not the same as behaving poorly. I was coming up with my theory for why some people say rude things about these people sometimes on MR

Fair enough. Let me recast.

"If people rudely attack X because he's mean and rude, they are causing the same damage to this comment section as they think X does."

I do avoid reading Krugman because of his "people who disagree with me are mendacious idiots" attitude. It requires more effort than I am willing to spend to filter out all that stuff to get to the argument. I don't want the same thing to happen here.

MR is a great place because of both the posts and the comment sections that challenge, refine, and defend the posts. Brad de Long's comment policy is horrible. Trying to do some converse of it here might be "fair" or some junk like that, but it would do so at the cost of destroying MR.

Oh I agree with you about your statement you just made, I really hope the MR community won't attack these people in the way they attack us because I hope we are above that. I actually don't mind Klein he mostly seems enjoyable and while I don't agree with him he does push me in a way to think about my ideas and why I think they are correct.

Game theory suggests that tit for tat is the optimum strategy. Once X became mean and rude than Y should respond similarly. The correct response to Krugman et al is to treat him the same way he treats others. Deterrence does work.

The few times I dared criticizing the US in the MR comment section, I was heavily insulted.
I generally like the MR community, but the traditional anti-french prejudice of american conservatives is a bit tiring.

regularjoeski, maybe you could start your own blog and then detonate it to "get even" with Krugman?

@Regularjoeski "deterrence does work" - that's why America's death penalty, horrific prisons, and lengthy prison sentences has made America have the least amount of crime and lowest number of incarcerated people in the developed world!

When I first started reading Krugman (as a columnist), I found his tone off-putting. I mentioned this to my strategy professor, who basically said (paraphrasing), "He's a jerk, but he's right." Since then, I've seen some flaws, oversights, and stretching ... but he was right at a time when the other side was the Bush administration and the WSJ op-ed page.

When you're considering tone, pair like with like. Krugman wasn't/isn't positioning his column as the other side of MR. He went after the powers-that-be. I think his column has suffered a bit post-recession, because the blogging landscape is different now than then. But I'm grateful for his earlier work (academic and otherwise). And I'm a faithful (if not always obedient) reader of MR.

Krugman is often interesting and sometimes right.
Trouble is that his political beliefs require him to be often wrong, and since the late 90s that has been more important to him.

Krugman performed a valuable national service during the Bush years of having a columnist that smart, that obsessive, and that hostile denouncing every single thing the President did twice a week.

Unfortunately, nobody has fulfilled that role during the Obama years.

The things actively sabotaging economic recovery were Republicans in Congress and Obama's own Very Serious People instincts, which is why Krugman focused his attention on denouncing them. You want he should denounce something that isn't the problem, just for balance?

This. Frankly, I find Tyler's sanctimonious drivel here to be utter nonsense. Guys like Klein and Krugman spend a lot of time telling the world that people like me are evil. I don't think I owe them any courtesy at all.

But you are pure evil Z. Haven't you seen the movie, Z? No, the movie, Z? No, the movie, Z, have you seen the movie Z? You are pure evil.

I like this part: "Also Alex". It's like Alex, who hardly ever writes compared to TC, is a retarded (uh, oh, I mean 'challenged') child who 'tries hard' and thus should be praised. Damning by faint praise almost.

Off my soapbox now, it feels good to be rude. {FART}

Glad it feels good. Now could you post your sophomoric retard and fart comments on some other blog?

That's right. Combine with the comment below this by Squarey Rooted, the point that these people are _powerful_ but deny that they are powerful (I'm just a _journalist_, a _reporter_, or even better, a professor). Krugman and Klein and so on can and do actually _hurt_ me through their, uh, influence in Washington. The best I can do back is call them dicks in blog comments—small consolation! Now here's Tyler coming along to reproach me for it. I get that these people are his friends: It's nice to have powerful friends! It's nice to brag about them on your blog! One big happy social graph made up of tyrants (Krugman, Klein) and their shills (Wilkinson, Brooks). Celebrity elbows to rub and a new class of buxom interns coming in from midwestern schools every semester. Must be nice.

But they're not my friends, and I don't give a crap what music they listen to.

Then Z, why would you waste your time either reading or posting - it can't be that you would expect to persuade or inform us...

I suggest you find a blog to troll that appreciates your POV...

Great post Tyler - bit surprised that you did not include Megan McCardle in this - I thought one of the most offensive threads I ever saw on MR was when you mentioned and recommended her new book - I thought the comments contained both mean and outright evil insults that not one of the cowards who made them would ever do so in person.

"I suggest you find a blog to troll that appreciates your POV…"

This seems completely unfair. There are far worse posters here.

"The same happens for say Thomas Friedman or David Brooks or a variety of others and I am reminded of Jonathan Swift’s remark that “Censure is the tax a man pays to the public for being eminent.” Try doing their jobs for a week or two."

I would like to make a few responses to this:

1) In the case of Friedman and Brooks, both benefit/suffer (depending on how you want to frame it) from being very isolated from accountability. See the origins of "the Friedman unit," for example, or the many minor errors Brooks has made but the Times has either not corrected or insufficiently corrected. Even their fellow Times columnists are prohibited from criticizing them by name, meaning only careful readers will ever see a direct rebuttal to their work in their own publication.

2) There are many, many people who perform similar or equivalent jobs to Friedman and Brooks, but many of them do not make the same kind of mistakes, or write with the same kind of self-righteous condescension, that Brooks and Friedman are both known for.

3) Being a professional opinion columnists requires quite a thick skin. This includes being the recipient of uncivil criticism on the internet.

4) Brooks and Friedman occupy positions not just of prestige but of genuine influence, a softer way of saying power. They are genuinely powerful people whose work has helped shape the agenda of politicians, corporations, and other media organizations. Therefore it is only democratic to subjected them to criticism, sometimes withering criticism, when deserved. John Adams' campaign referred to Thomas Jefferson as a "mean-spirited, low-lived fellow, the son of a half-breed Indian squaw, sired by a Virginia mulatto father" in print. Democracy has never been fueled by civility or obsequiousness, it has been fueled by vigor, passion, debate, and conflict, sometimes vicious or personal in tone, but always resolved in peaceful means. We dispute in print and pixels, and resolve in ballots.

Very well said. Just because Klein, Friedman, and Brooks have a podium to shout their views doesn't mean their views deserve respect.

They deserve respect because of their informative well written posts that are popular across a wide spectrum of readership. Hence their overall popularity.

Not sure how any of what you wrote supports that David Brooks does not deserve scorn. He is obviously not hard working; his pieces are not factual and often misleading. He is a pompous hack masquerading as a “humble”, serious commentator. The world would be a better place without reputable people such as you giving him deference.

I continue to be disappointed in this.

This was to be directed at the post by Tyler. I am almost as bad at this comment system as Brooks is at writing a column.

So, I can't figure out how to write this comment without soundsing suck-uppy, which isn't the intent, so, screw it i'm just going ahead.

That said: the post touches on the comment section at MR and it should be said that the comment section here, which seems to be largely uncurated, is simply one of the most decent and kind on the web. That's important because by and large comment sections, even of very interesting writers -- think Kevin Drum -- are almost all airheads and aggressive, mindless douchebags. Now, I've heard two explanations for the uniqueness of this site. The first, which I like, is that Professors Cowen and Tabarrok mostly try to maintain a collegial and professional demeanor themselves -- I think that that's a significant factor. The second, apparently put forth by Professor Cowen to others, is that the subject matter is often technical and repels low-quality commenters -- to which I say, BS: for one thing, many other "technical" blogs have douchebag commenters, and for another, the topics covered here actually range over considerable breadth of course.

Professor Cowen thinks a lot aboput the internet and technology and how it might affect society, and this one glaring problem sits under his nose. I would really enjoy seeing a "long-form" (kill me now for using that term) set of thoughts by Professor Cowen, on why exactly he seems to have captured such a different comment field and what the tricks are for replicating it. I think it might be as useful and as interesting as anything else he's written.

I think its just that MR isnt popular enough just yet. When we start seeing the number of comments regularly go over a hundred per post, thats about the time the quality starts going in the crapper.

'which seems to be largely uncurated'

Well, except for when it is.

We don't see "this comment was removed by an administrator." They're just gone.

@ p_a:

Perhaps you need a German translation of the word 'largely'?

Interesting point, Sanjay. One difference to other sites that I use, on MR you cannot 'like' or 'unlike' other people's posts, so you need to read carefully what they have said, you can't just rely on how many likes and unlikes each post gets.

Just curious, which do you say are the other blogs that are as or more technical than MR but get worse douchebag commenters? I can't think of any. Also breadth need not be incompatible with being technical.

Douchebag commenters seem a feature of ideological blogs catering to the lowest common denominator. Which MR isn't. Another plus is that MR hasn't chosen to piggyback on the NYT hosted blogs etc. Once you do, a lot of idiots just stumble upon a blog & fell forced to spew their crap.

ArsTechnica gets more douchebaggery than one would expect giving the subjects covered.

ArsTechnica has some really good technical writing, but the site has a strong Left wing bias and a mild Libertarian bias. As such, the comment section has developed a kind of hive mind, where it's congenial as long as no one challenges the Left wing orthodoxy. This is often sad, because I often learn more from the comments than the article. But it's a one sided point of view with anyone from the Right shouted and voted down.

And need I mention Slashdot. Slashdot was believe it or not back in the dawn of the internet a pretty interesting site, with a lot of interesting posters. Now, it's renowned for the low quality of its posters.

Yea, thats about my estimation of it too. Try challenging any of their cherished orthodoxies and you will see the civility and reasonableness disappear in a hurry.

I view slashdot's function now a days as a crap magnet: It gives all the douchebag's a place to comment so they dont come here.

It's deeply wishful thinking to say that MR comments are at all exemplary--perhaps because you aren't a fan of the typical targets of the regular two-hour hates. I had a bunch of quotes, but it's simply shooting fish in the barrel--pick any one of three comments on this post itself and you'll see everything from conspiracy-mongering to excuses about how it's okay to hate Ezra because he's the Enemy to sheer unfiltered insult. You'd see similar things for a DeLong thread.

And, needless to say, any Krugman thread will be an unmitigated disaster, at least once going so far as to pray for his death.

I don't think there are many good political blogs with healthy comments sections. Crooked Timber, maybe, but not really. TNC, but that comes at the cost of heavy-handed moderation. Maybe that's necessary for a safe, civil online discussion space.

No joke, the best political blogs/board comments that I read regularly are on the Political section of the Wrestling Classics Message Board. Plenty of disagreement, but largely civil. I suspect the key is that it is a smallish group of posters who aside from their political disagreements have already come together over another common interest and so aren't looking to destroy each other. Active moderation if things get too out of hand, and an enforced "no profanity/no personal insults" rule helps too.

The folks at Crooked Timber ban everyone who disagrees with their agenda. It's an echo chamber.

Well, I hate to defend CT, because I find their posts increasingly tiresome and their comments, indeed, sanitized to the point of monotony. And there was my key phrase "but not really" to indicate that they're not actually that good.

But "agenda" and "echo chamber" go too far, which implies too much... well, an agenda. It's just an aversion to conflict and a set of cultural norms that proscribe any kind of approach besides one that's very predictable and very normalized.

This comment board does have a bit of a racism/misogyny problem. You typically only see it when Tyler approaches those topics, though.

That it does. Part of it just goes with the territory of having a right leaning audience, but the fact that there are several regular commentators who often re-frame things in the jargon and worldview of the scummy pick up artist subculture is just weird.

I love JSB too, but I can understand why someone wouldn't want to take the trouble to be the 20 million and first person in the past 250 years to say how good he is. Also babies are really cute, fresh-squeezed orange juice tastes really good, and it's bad to be mean.

Caplan and McArdle also come in for their share of abuse here and elsewhere too. So do you. It comes with the territory.

I try not to engage in these antics myself, but I would echo comments above about 'truth seeking' versus advocacy.

To my mind, Russ Roberts sets the standard here. Y'all should emulate his humble approach.

This conversation, for example, is probably the best thing I've heard this year (Haidt is very good too):

Krugman is the opposite of this. Incredibly arrogant and annoying. if he is “working hard continually to improve what he does”, as you suggest, he should start with this.

But I reckon you can't please everybody. Crazy inherited wealth 1%er / chess aficionado / international playboy Ray Lopez can't stand Russ, right?

I couldn't agree more with you Brian D about Russ the guy is always in control even when someone such as a guest on his podcast disagrees with him. I think what allows him to handle himself the way he does is because he acknowledges the fact that we all have personal bias including himself and he actively works to avoid pushing that bias onto the people he interacts with.

Yes, Russ is great in regards to this. In fact, he ought to have Ezra Klein on his podcast sometime.

@BD - thanks for the call out and respect. In real life I'm more humble than online but that won't get you read online. Being humble in print only works for TC and maybe David Brooks who I never read. Notice not even Krugman differentiates himself by being humble: humble is boring. As for Russ Roberts, he used to be so annoying in delivery, hemming and hawing and interrupting his guest, that I actually took time out to criticize him in an email and much to my surprise and chagrin he replied. Then I noticed his delivery, a year later (I had stopped listening to him) was indeed better. Maybe he took a cue from GMU's debate team (at one point back in the days they won prizes) and learned how to be a decent public speaker (like me actually, I am a Toastmaster). I still don't listen to him since reading is much better at conveying information quickly than watching TV or listening to radio. At one point when I jogged I used to listen to him on my iPod.

Dude, way to take my teasing in stride. Your over the top persona is appreciated by some here, at least.

Related note- I saw Andrew' here yesterday for the first time in months!

Yes, I would say I enjoy our over the top persona, also. Sometimes you just have to lob a few rhetorical bombs as a poster to jump start a conversation. ;)

Excellent responses above. I would add:

I think we all know (or have strongly suspected) that you like Ezra personally. But to sermonize about it? Really? I live in Massachusetts and so I invariably socialize (as I did last night - yeah Seahawks!) with people with whom I share the same food/music/books/movies/sports interests but couldn't disagree with more politically. We all get it. But we also get that for that reason you treat Klein with kid gloves. We aren't required to.

Tyler treats everybody with kid gloves. That's why he's so boring.

It is not rational to jeopardize one's place at the trough.

I agree and thought the vitriol directed at Klein last time was excessive. Even if you disagree with his views, he's pioneered a style of thoughtful, data-driven policy analysis that puts the rest of the news media (which mostly consists of "Republicans believe this, Democrats believe that; so my source tells me" type articles) to shame.

Dan - sadly, the "data-driven" part is quite often a veneeer.

Maybe, but it separates him from the large majority of writers who are data averse. Just try mentioning data on any number of sites and wait for a pummeling from those who believe that "economic thinking" does not require it.


The data-driven thing would strike me as less a veneer if he would occasionally conclude that the data suggests the Demo proposal is wrongheaded. Laughable to take the view, as Krugman does, that he is data-driven, and, golly, the data always and invariably supports his policy preferences.

Shot in the dark: you like and respect Jonah Goldberg?

I suspect that opinion is strongly related to whether or not you agree with his conclusions. At a minimum he's opened the door for conservative wonking along the same lines. And in any case, is it really worse than the fake cab driver-driven analysis of Thomas Friedman?

I admit to that prejudice Dan. But nonetheless it always seems to me his posts are worked backwards from the conclusion. Would love to be proven wrong by him on a significant policy proposal.

I hear you, and I don't always agree with his conclusions either, but to me he's such a breath of fresh air compared to most journalists who are so allergic to numbers it just makes me shake my head.

Perhaps the data thing will just inevitably lean left. At the risk of oversimplifying, modern liberal analysis tends to be more quantitative and consequentialist, while conservative and libertarian analysis is more philosophical, descriptive, and deontological. That wasn't always the case (cf. the Marxist era) but it seems to hold right now.


I don't think that's entirely fair—certainly, many of the issue areas emphasized by certain sects within the political right do not lend themselves to quantitative analysis, even in the way their liberal counterparts might be able to deploy numbers (see, e.g., the pro-life movement's moral emphasis v. the pro-choice movement's healthcare framework).

But within the most data-intensive policy fields (economics, healthcare, etc.), I strongly disagree with the proposition that "conservative and libertarian analysis is more philosophical, descriptive, and deontological." It relies certain philosophical priors to contextualize the data, but so does liberal analysis; it just also happens that liberal analysis can be more easily "proven" by simple formulae, and the ideological priors are often made less explicit.


I actually think that historically, that *has* always been the case, at least so far back as numbers were widely used to push policy. Supposedly the contemporary use of the term 'statist' has some relationship to statistics as well.

Also, treating statistics as gospel, using statistics to guide policy - these are inherently collectivist concepts. For the libertarian, such statistical information is much less relevant (even if not utterly irrelevant).

Alexei and Bill,

Both good points, perhaps I overstated the case a bit. To use healthcare as an example, when I think of a conservative argument for a much less regulated healthcare or insurance market (let's take John Cochrane's writings as examples), I think of somebody describing in words how this that or the other problem would be solved by the market, with a heavy emphasis on "problem X would be solved, because if problem X persisted, it would open the door for an entrepreneur to start a business that does Y to fix it; it's only being held back now because of Regulation Z"-type analysis. Maybe that's game-theoretic, but I would still call it descriptive.

On the other hand I think of a more liberal analysis of healthcare, and I generally think of "the uninsured population is this many, and if we create viable risk pools they would statistically require such-and-such an average health expenditure per enrollee, and private sector overhead costs are X% of expenses while Medicare's are Y% so that's much better, and we would have to subsidize low-income premiums by this much to make it work, etc. etc."-type analysis. That's the original basis for quantitative vs. descriptive comment.

"The data-driven thing would strike me as less a veneer if he would occasionally conclude that the data suggests the Demo proposal is wrongheaded. Laughable to take the view, as Krugman does, that he is data-driven, and, golly, the data always and invariably supports his policy preferences." - Widmerpool

"Would love to be proven wrong by him on a significant policy proposal." -Widmerpool

It's always interesting how on one hand, one's opponents seem to be unable to ever concede a position even if it seems obviously wrong, and on the other hand, one is never required to concede a position, since one is always right.

I'm learning a lot today.

1) Liberals are ideologically driven but conservatives are thoughtful and objective.

2) People who use statistics to prescribe policy are communists, or socialists, or live in kibbutzim.

3) Libertarians - like the writers on this blog - don't care about statistics. But they're not ideologically driven like collectivist mindless liberals.

I should have stayed in bed.

And no we have all learned that reading comprehension is not your strong suit.

I'm sorry if the people who tell you what you want to hear occasionally get insulted. Head over to Coates' blog, I guarantee you won't have that problem.

He's better than most, that's for sure; however, when Ezra wrote an article about something I knew about, he framed it in a politically-liberal-compatible, but totally incorrect way that would be misleading to anyone who read it.

THIS is the magic trick.

Also, I feel like I do a lot of these guys jobs that they are doing wrong AND they couldn't do my job for 30 minutes.

"data-driven policy analysis" along the lines of "lies, damned lies, and data-driven policy analysis".

Scratching my head on this one. Of all the commentators in the multiverse we have to respect someone who is - primarily - a spokesman for a transparently self-destructive ideology and - secondly - someone who attempted to push an already activist media into an even more propagandistic role.

Sorry, Klein deserves every drop of scorn. And to lecture otherwise to your readers - like they were children - is to forget that the readers usually provide more information and interest than the posts that attract them.

"Lol he's an idiot."

As much as I regard p_a as a troll, at least his comments can be responded to. How to respond to base insults? "Nuh uh!"?

There are at least a half-dozen names Tyler needs merely mention and the comment section is filled with insults, and you could paste those exact insults on another post that mentions someone else and you couldn't tell the difference.

'As much as I regard p_a as a troll, at least his comments can be responded to'

And even refuted - such as when I wrongly said that national parks charged admission for all visitors, based on a quite outdated conversation with a park ranger.

Sigh. Groundhog day on this comment board.

How about this: Once Klein's venture with Vox is up and running, see what they put out. If the methods are flawed, the context simply liberal talking points or the conclusions bullshit, you comment on that? Just attacking the person for past transgressions isn't helpful.

"there were [...] rude comments"

Well, that's a blatant troll for clicks, isn't it? Fine, it worked with me.

Great Jonathan Swift quote -- added to my running list of quotes to keep in mind before I start typing.

I am afraid MR is starting to see rational respondent fatigue. Comments both factually wrong and inhumane stand ... because who really has the energy.

It makes for an increasingly skewed "community."

Is there a Gresham's law for comment sections?

From above: "mofo - When we start seeing the number of comments regularly go over a hundred per post, thats about the time the quality starts going in the crapper."

There probably is a threshold, beyond which a blog becomes popular enough to attract a number of trolls as to which point it become unreadable. Then the blog/site usually implements some kind of moderation and often then becomes an echo chamber biased towards whomever the moderation administrator favors.

This can be subject specific, as people get email alerts when a post on a given topic is put up. I used to comment fairly regularly on the Democracy in America blog at the Economist, and there were certain topics that would multiply the comment numbers and decrease the quality. The precise topics have faded from memory.

I just let my Economist subscription lapse yet again. Primarily because the once a week magazine was eating up too much of my available reading time.

However, a secondary factor was the feeling that the quality of the articles has declined. Particularly, the American written articles. I felt the sections authored from London maintained a very high quality, with a lot of good points backed up with quoted facts or statistics. However, the sections that were written by the American offices (NYC and SF) seem to have become opinion pieces, where far to often they make groundless assertions.

What fun is it to comment if you can't call Krugman an asshole?

As for Ezra Klein, his wonkblog is excellent. Since so many here think he is biased, what blog on the right can compete with wonkblog? I'd like to know because I will read that one as well.

As for incivility in general: I think Jonathon Haidt has it right. We often find reasons to prove that what we feel in our gut is correct. Our rationality serves our emotions rather than otherwise.

At heart, that's why there are so many uncivil, knee jerk, comments. So mention Krugman and out come the Krugman haters. It's hard to admit to oneself that what we have come to believe can be wrong and therefore we attack, without any real thought, those who bring different ideas and experiences to the table.

I don't think there is any one blog that provides a conservative counterweigh to Wonkblog, but you can slap together a few to provide a decent proxy: MR, Reihan Salam's "The Agenda" over on NRO, and EconLog would be a start.

I think that when the ideological / new media history of the early 21st Century is written, the category of "Friends of Reihan Salam" will prove very informative.

1. If there is no counterpart then they should know their duty is to be even less biased.

2. Washington is a liberal project. Why would there be a direct conservative equivalent? I'm serious. The conservative version are any number of finance reporters. Or just Megan McArdle by herself.

I like Megan. I've read her on and off for years.

She preferred Obama to McCain.

As far as comment #1 is concerned: I do not think they are particularly biased unless you live in the right wing cocoon.

How's the air in there anyway?

>the category “working hard continually to improve what he does,” in the very top tier of people I have met... Paul Krugman

That cannot possibly be true, unless you explicitly define "what he does" as "shamelessly lying and smearing in an attempt to promote the Democrat party with every breath that he takes."

He is pretty good at that, and he is well-paid to do it, so I would be willing to concede your argument. But you seem to think "what he does" is act as some kind of thoughtful economist. Which is just insane.

'If you, as an American, are getting too bent out of shape about the other Americans you disagree with, I say you need to spend more time in Russia, Haiti, and India, for a start.'

Why? You can just move out of the U.S., and it certainly does not have to be a place that doesn't suffer in comparison to the U.S.

Then, you can have all the disadvantages of a country with essentially universal health care, strong employee protections, strict environmental laws, a functional HSR network, 6 weeks vacation a year, and all the other hells which social democracy foists on its victims.

Sounds great, unless you're a consumer, innovator or business creator.

Ezra is selling something. I'm not buying. So he doesn't steal money from grandmothers, treats his dogs well and likes music? When he tells me that he is selling something. I'm not buying.

Sorry, its business, not personal.

I have a bit of trouble reading the sermon portion of this post as other than "please be more sophisticated in your thinking about these people than they are in anything they write". The nature of these personalities is to write from a position, so it seems entirely above board to engage them as if they hold those positions. Krugman in particular is infuriating this way. Why should he ever get the benefit of the doubt from anyone? Have you read the way he writes?

Surely Wonkblog is biased, but it does often makes arguments that chafe liberal sentiments (for example, Keystone XL's climate impact, the value of oil & gas exports, the significance of entitlement spending for long-term deficits, etc.). At the Post, Klein routinely provided prominent Republicans with a platform to push their messages: Tom Coburn, Paul Ryan, Doug Holtz-Eakin, just to name a few. Heck, Klein gave Paul Ryan several full-length interviews to push his budget. And all of those interviews were very fair (perhaps too fair) to the interviewee, often lobbing softball questions and not really challenging them on anything.

By way of comparison, can someone give me an example of any of the EconLog guys coming up with a policy recommendation that didn't fit their biases? I can't think of one, but I'm happy to be proven wrong.

I am sorry, but someone who actively sought to turn other journalists into a propaganda machine for a political candidate, and did so behind the scenes and not openly, will get no respect from me until he publicly acknowledges the mistake and fully discloses its extent. Take, for example, the anecdote about Hagel- based on Klein's history, isn't it far more likely that Klein refused to ask about Hagel's remarks because Hagel was Obama's nominee for defense, and not because he truly found it uninteresting?

I suppose that people at a moderate-right organization like The American Conservative have similar back-channel communications.

It strikes me that the journolist thing was typical of partisan complaint in that it was a fairly small and unsurprising factoid used to scaffold a whole framework of injustice.

Would I be surprised if Douthat and McArdle communicated in ways opaque to me? Not at all.

John, but it firmly establishes Klein as a political apparatchik on par with Rush Limbaugh or Paul Begala, and Journolist went far beyond private communications you want to suppose for Douthat and McArdle. One good clue for how ethically inappropriate it was is how quickly Klein took it down and buried it once someone started revealing the inner workings of the group- a group of people who largely weren't opinion writers, but actual self-proclaimed journalists writing supposed "news" articles.

I never saw an example that rose above trash talk, and as I say I would find trash talk on a back-channel unsurprising.

I mean we are talking journalists, not Sisters of Loreto.

The idea that "a private Google Groups forum for discussing politics and the news media with 400 "left-leaning" journalists, academics and others" organized by Ezra Klein, is an unimportant back-channel strains credibility.

Here is are a few highlights to refresh your memory:

"On June 25, 2010, The Daily Caller published private e-mails from David Weigel denigrating conservatives, whom he covered for The Washington Post. That same day, Weigel resigned from the Post, and Klein announced in his Post blog that he would shortly terminate the JournoList group."

"On July 20, 2010, The Daily Caller (DC) published the dialog of the JournoList concerning Jeremiah Wright. The contributors discussed killing the Wright story, as it was reflecting negatively on Barack Obama."

"Spencer Ackerman of The Washington Independent, stated "If the right forces us all to either defend Wright or tear him down, no matter what we choose, we lose the game they've put upon us. Instead, take one of them — Fred Barnes, Karl Rove, who cares – and call them racists"."

"The article also quoted Ryan Donmoyer, a reporter for Bloomberg News, comparing members of the Tea Party movement to Nazis. Strong wrote, "In the view of many who’ve posted to the list-serv, conservatives aren’t simply wrong, they are evil"."

What about Groundswell, the conservative Journolist?

Come on JWatts, you are quoting "a private Google Groups forum" like that is equivalent to "a secret police." It is just an invitational forum. There are there are many of them .... including something like 200+ Tea Party Google Groups.

It goes beyond politics to the foundation of journalism. Even if it wasn't as nefarious as it made possible it belies a breathtaking tone deafness. Think faking data to a scientist.

And all I ever say to him or pk for that matter is quit it. We are the ones who don't shout to dismiss.

If anyone is faking data that should be an easy thing to counter. The response can be brief, dispassionate, and link to the appropriate study.

That is not the way most Jornolist complaints run though ... "those guys were talking smack in private, and that alone disproves their public data, no matter how good their data is."

John, do you really believe that discussing strategy in terms of killing a story in the media is "just shit talking" and not perhaps planning how to insert bias in "unbiased" new media?

this is better than the time you got your titties twisted about kiddos walking out of Sir Mankiw's ec10, at least

We're not questioning Ezra Klein's competence here. His competence speaks for itself.

We are impugning his integrity, and that can be said simply by the word "Journolist". He managed a group that colluded to push a specific point of view while attempting to portray themselves as independent and unbiased.

At best that is merely dishonest. At worst, it is fraud.

So let's not talk about how much he loves his doggies and his mommy here. Let's talk about what he is, and that is a person without integrity.

Do you have any experience with journalism in the western world?

Or indeed with American classic cinema?

I am not saying his behavior is at odds with his peers. I am saying it is dishonorable. It is true that journalists and politicians tend to be dishonest, and we are all aware of this.

This does not excuse them.

Ezra Klein may be intelligent, witty, no slimier than the rest of his colleagues, and kind to dogs and strangers, but it does not change the fact that he is fundamentally dishonest.

He himself knows he's dishonest, which is why he closed and hid Journolist when it came to light.

If what you are saying is true, and you really believe it, shouldn't you be saying that we should eschew comments by all journalists?

(In contrast, I would give them all some locker room talk, and look at their public game instead.)

Yes Yes YES! You got it. I don't believe anything a journalist writes unless I have some knowledge of the event or situation through another channel.

Here was an opportunity for a young journalist with a new platform to do something different, and what did he do? He did it worse.

The journalists of old, usually guys with a habit that needed monetary support and couldn't hold down any other jobs, writing for a newspaper printed on yellow paper at least didn't try to sell me some hooey about their sanctified position as the fourth estate. They were muckrakers and proud of it. These folks that peddle trust and honesty while being no different are simply contemptible.

At least the journalists of old went after those in power to make a name for themselves. This crop of fools seem to figure that kissing the feet of the powerful is the way to garner respect. Bah.

I realize that you (Tyler) know these people personally, and are reluctant to criticize them. I too, have friends whose political views are ridiculous (IMHO), and I avoid disputes with them. First, I know there would be no possibility of changing minds and second, I know that a dispute would lead to ill feelings.

Nevertheless, I do not know Mr. Klein personally. I read his pieces based on your links (and some others) before concluding that he had little interesting to say that wasn't said by some other left winger. So I stopped reading him and do not plan to restart until I decide to see if anything has changed.

Do you have any right wing friends whose political views you consider ridiculous?

Didn't think so.

should have been a reply to Rich Berger

Nice post, Tyler. Also, I hope you can post more classical music recommendations.

I don't see how knowing more about any of these people's tastes in music, food, etc. are relevant to better understanding economic phenomena, or optimal policy, or anything of the sort. Should we care because they're famous?

Not necessarily, but it lightens up the mood of a blog, and if someone has a good taste in music, then music recommendations can be helpful. I don't know many people that listen to classical music regularly, for example.

I listened to Metallica's S&M album recently, which I consider to be a form of classical music.

This was my takeaway too. I'm wondering if he cares what Renee Fleming's opinion is regarding the long-term effects of enacting a minimum wage, for example. Or what the chef at his favorite hole-in-the-wall Szechuan place thinks about quantitative easing.

Ezra Klein is the man who reccomended to the WP. Dave Weigel as a conservative columnist. It was on this basis he was hired and after he made clear his hatred and contempt for the right on Klein's secret political coordination mailing list he was fired by the WP and hired by the then Post subunit Slate.

The dominant dailies are filled with "conservative voices" despised or marginalized by much of the Republican party, Kathleen Parker for example, but Weifel is probably the worst example ever. And Klein had to know exactly what he was too.

This is a singularly partisan piece of manipulation. Krugman and Friedman are in a totally different class. And I have defended Matt Yglesias, a man who has publically proclaimed that he would lie in a column for partisan advantage. Because Klein is a hyper ambitious would be Lord Beaverbrook with immense skills and a talent for ingratiating himself to his elders, it makes him far more pernicious than the usual columnist. Because he is not a columnist so much as a partisan journalistic entrepreneur.

Do people declare we should lay off Roger Ailes? Who knows at least as much about policy as Klein.

Most of what Roy says here is false.

1) I was not hired as a "conservative columnist." The Post hired me 16 months after I'd told readers of a former employer, Reason, that I voted for Barack Obama. I did not write a column; I wrote a reported blog.

2) The "contemptuous" stuff I wrote on Journolist appeared before I joined the Post. Most people who sputter about Journolist are rather lazy, and cling to belief rather than checking their facts, but the dates of the e-mails back me up. That said, I've always apologized for the contemptuous stuff.

3) There was no "secret political coordination," although I suppose one could call any discussion that's "off the record" a "secret." The most exciting Journolist "conspiracies," like the discussions about whether to accuse conservatives of racism, never resulted in published pieces. Again, if any of the "JournOlist!!!!" obsessives spent time trying to understand the story, they would know this. But they're not terribly bright.

Most of what Roy says is false? What about the very first claim - that Ezra Klein recommended you for the Post job? Was that false? You were hired to write a "reported blog" (what is the difference between that and a column?) then. Wikipedia has this to say about it:

He then took a job writing the "Right Now" column on The Washington Post website focusing on aspects of the conservative movement. Weigel told Politico that "If readers get a deeper understanding of these people, their strategy, and their ideas, then I'm doing my job".[5]

So they think it was a column. And they think it was a conservative column. Or at least focused on conservatives by someone who, presumably, they thought could speak to and understand conservatives. So I don't see anything wrong in that first claim at all.

Why does it matter when the contemputous stuff (and by putting it in quotes are you denying it was contemptuous?) was before the Post gave you a job? You told the Post and your readers you wanted to explain conservatives and their ideas. Even though you have told your friends, secretly, in a private mailing list, you loathed conservatives. You don't think that you should have shared your real feelings with your employers and readers? What here are you claiming Roy said that is untrue? He did not date your contempt. The dates are irrelevant from what I can see. You felt the contempt. And you felt it was important because you resigned once people found out what you really thought.

So yes, they employed someone who was contemptuous of conservatives to write a column covering conservatives. Exactly what Roy said.

There clearly was secret political co-ordination. You can read it in the articles about Wright. Which the mainstream media flatly refused to cover, following the Journolist lead. You're going to quibble about the meaning of secret? Oh my.

But it is nice to see that you do not understand the mistake you made and the ethical violations it involves. It makes that apology look worthless. You're still contemptuous.

"2) The “contemptuous” stuff I wrote on Journolist appeared before I joined the Post. Most people who sputter about Journolist are rather lazy, and cling to belief rather than checking their facts, but the dates of the e-mails back me up. That said, I’ve always apologized for the contemptuous stuff. "

First you put contemptuous in quotes, implying that the stuff wasn't really contemptuous and then you end with "I’ve always apologized for the contemptuous stuff.".

This leave me with the firm impression that you weren't actually apologetic at all. Instead, you were just sorry you were caught.

Geez, what a little weasel.

Yeah, just lost a lot of respect for Weigel with this.

Of all the people who took up blogging relatively few were actually able to turn it into a career. EK is one of them. I followed his progress from Pandagon to Tapped to WP and now to his new venture. Some of it is right place, right time. Of course. But that's no different from any other career path.

Yes, he has changed. He's gotten, dare I say it, more conservative! I will be disappointed if he tries to become the new David Brooks. One of those is more than enough.

"Third, if we are going to play the ideology game, why not do it on a global scale? What’s so special about the national level for politics? Virtually all Americans share so many preconceptions about the world it is a mix of embarrassing and disconcerting. If you, as an American, are getting too bent out of shape about the other Americans you disagree with, I say you need to spend more time in Russia, Haiti, and India, for a start."

Reminds me of an exchange I had in Accra, Ghana nearly 20 years ago. I was killing time in a hotel bar before heading to the airport in Accra. A middle aged woman and her daughter spotted me from a far and excitedly walked up to me. "You are an American! Oh, it is good to see you!." She explained how she and her daughter had left their home in Detroit to visit West Africa for a two weeks. She said:

"I was so excited for the trip because I thought we were coming home, you know? But after being here for two weeks I can't wait to get back to Detroit. These people are dirty and they are always asking you for things constantly. This place is backwards! I'll tell you what, I'm gonna kiss the ground when we get back to Detroit. Heck, I may even kiss Pat Buchannan if I see ever see him. God Bless America!"

A few weeks in a different place helped here feel much, much closer to her fellow Americans. Even to the point where she gained a feeling of kinship with somebody whose politics she strongly disagreed with (P Buchannan).

Note: By the way, I very much enjoyed West Aftrica and Ghana in particular. I left with a very good impression of the locals. But that's not the point of my comment.

Did he warn of aca problems beforehand? Or did he do mostly the opposite? Its easy to call the Superbowl on Monday. One might ask which parts if these men makes them great and if that is diminished by the rest. Brooks I don't know. The other guy wrote a good tech story but I don't remember him telling me much about china liberalization. Who are we comparing them to?

Krugman's taste in music (1970s arena rock) and fiction (Asimov's Foundation) are strikingly low brow. I expect he'd be at about the 10th percentile among Nobel Laureates in terms of cultural high-browness.

This hardly means he's wrong about his macroeconomics, just that he's a little dull as an overall thinker.

It's a stretch to call Asimov's Foundation series low brow.

At the end of the day, you're a good man, Tyler.

I think Tyler is a fair minded blogger who is willing to consider varied points of view.


"We bloggers are better than you, and it's more important for us to maintain relationships based on that superiority than it is to emphasize real differences over what we are blogging about in the first place. These differences only get in the way of our self-promotional log rolling anyway. This community of self-reinforcing blogging elites is to be protected at all costs, including intellectual coherency. Maintaining the pulpit is far more important than maintaining the integrity of the content"

I can't criticize a man for loyalty to his friends.

When a producer suggested that Klein ask Barney Frank about supposed anti-gay remarks made by Chuck Hagel, the nominee for secretary of Defense, Klein deflected: “I just don’t think that attack on Hagel is very interesting.”

I do not agree with Paul Krugman these days. Well Paul the Pundit, I do not agree with. Paul the Serious Academic, yes I do. But that is the thing about Krugman, I don't much care for him but he is a serious person with serious opinions who has to be taken seriously. He has a serious record to stand on.

But Ezra Klein? No. His career remains utterly inexplicable. He has done nothing but share his opinions with us for years.

Take that quote above. This review is appalling precisely because it does not treat Klein seriously. Why does Klein not think Hagel's homophobia is an issue? The obvious answer is that Klein is still a partisan hack. I do not say it is the correct answer, but a competent reviewer would have considered that and asked Klein just why Hagel's homophobia is not an issue while, of course, any Republican doing the like would be front page news for weeks. It looks a lot like Journolist all over again.

So there is a strong suspicion that Klein is snowing us, that he is being manipulative and deceptive. But because he is powerful, for some reason that escapes me completely, and on the Left no one calls him out for it. In that one quote, we have two people behaving unprofessionally. It is not wrong to treat them accordingly.

As for point 2) that grouping really speaks to whom one actually think they know and have met. Ezra is roughly in a tier below Travis Woo.

In passing, I do think people should be nicer to each other. But let us all remember the standards of civility that Ezra Klein has laid down. Let us keep in mind what he considers acceptable in the way of public discourse.

His friend Spencer Ackerman said:

I do not endorse a Popular Front, nor do I think you need to. It's not necessary to jump to Wright-qua-Wright's defense. What is necessary is to raise the cost on the right of going after the left. In other words, find a rightwinger's [sic] and smash it through a plate-glass window. Take a snapshot of the bleeding mess and send it out in a Christmas card to let the right know that it needs to live in a state of constant fear. Obviously I mean this rhetorically.
And I think this threads the needle. If the right forces us all to either defend Wright or tear him down, no matter what we choose, we lose the game they've put upon us. Instead, take one of them--Fred Barnes, Karl Rove, who cares--and call them racists. Ask: why do they have such a deep-seated problem with a black politician who unites the country? What lurks behind those problems? This makes *them* sputter with rage, which in turn leads to overreaction and self-destruction.

Now if Krugman was here, no doubt I would be lucky if I got away with being called a d*ck. That is OK. He earnt the right to say that sort of thing. And, well, he is a bit, kind of, like that. Asperbergers is a word that occurs to me. I wouldn't take it personally.

But Klein has not earnt that right. And somehow I doubt that Blacks suffered all those years just so that Klein and his friends could crassly exploit their suffering to avoid a real debate. I have yet to see anyone be that nasty to him.

If he apologises, I would be happy to move on.

Tyler really set himself up for hell when he introduced us to Robin Hanson.

Anyone who thinks they have no bias is fooling themselves.

There are, however, many people who are aware of their biases, and this allows them to be more careful in determining whether it is their personal positions or some inherent value in an argument which has persuaded them.

The fact that someone is advocating for something should not itself speak against the validity of their statement. It should, however, give us some information about the ways in which we should be attentive when digesting their arguments.

Much of Tyler's post is unremarkable, but to assert that David Brooks' job in in any way "difficult" strikes me as laughable. If Dr. Cowen can arrange it, I happily volunteer to take up the gauntlet and try my hand at twice-weekly NYT editorial writing with support staff at high pay for a while.

Writing two columns of reasonable quality a week is in fact quite difficult, if not impossible. Leaving aside the issue of sheer energy, most people would run out of fresh ideas in about a month, and most people--including most Internet commenters and a lot of bloggers--cannot write with the structural coherence and within the strict length requirements necessary for a New York Times oped. In other words, Tyler is right. You have no idea what you're talking about.

As I said, I will happily take up the challenge. You may be right, but it's an empirical question.

I know he is *known*, but does Ezra Klein strike anybody as eminent. The word that come to mind immediately is "Toady". I can't be alone in this.

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