The Top Ten Marginal Revolution Posts of 2018

As measured by page views the most popular MR post this year was my post on how there is one law for the police and another for the rest of us, Get Out of Jail Free Cards.

Second was Tyler Cowen’s 12 Rules for Life. Number seven on Tyler’s list, “Learn how to learn from those who offend you,” caught my eye today but there’s much wisdom throughout.

The third most popular post was by neither Tyler, myself, nor a guest blogger but rather by a MR commentator, One smart guy’s frank take on working in some of the major tech companies.

One of my favorite posts was fourth, Lessons from “The Profit”. The new season of The Profit has started and continues to be of interest. All IO economists should watch.

Number five was another one of my favorites Why Sexism and Racism Never Diminish–Even When Everyone Becomes Less Sexist and Racist.

Tyler’s excellent analysis of the North Korean deal shows why he is an important thinker in foreign policy, able to see beyond the headlines, The North Korean summit and deal.

A second MR commentator had another top post, Will truckers be automated? (from the comments).

Tyler doesn’t like to write the kind of post that came in at number 8 but these posts are always popular which is one reason Tyler doesn’t like to write them. The five most influential public intellectuals?

Number 9 was a useful post, Why are antiques now so cheap?

Coming in at number 10 was my video and Tyler’s post on Paul Romer’s Nobel Prize, Why Paul Romer Won the Nobel Prize in Economics.

Other notable posts from Tyler included:

Other notable posts from me included:

Overall, I’d say it was a notable year for MR commentators! Congratulations! What were your favorite, or least favorite, MR posts of 2018?

Comments

'why he is an important thinker in foreign policy'

Oh yes, one of the most brilliant minds of his generation, whose grasp of foreign policy is truly self-recommending.

Odd how none of the Brexit posts seems to have made the cut.

Top conversations with Tyler: Christ Blattman, Michele Gelfand, Matt Levine, Paul Romer.

The conversation with Paul Romer was a bit boring but when he talked about English orthography, it lead me to read about how our reading comprehension seems to be limited by our capability of identifying the individual sounds that compose a spoken word. Those damned genes.

Top topics: development economics, automation (that post about automated trucking), right to repair.

Things that left me wondering "what were they thinking?". Tyler and Jordan Peterson. Good thing the news cycle frequency is high and he's gone now. For Alex, the over-optimistic coverage of established big companies and richly funded startups. They have PR departments to talk them up, the rest of the world can be a little bit critical.

I'm surprised that Alex does so well in the Top 10. I think Alex would admit that he is, by far, the less famous of the two MR bloggers.

Previously, I thought of MR as a blog started by two friends, one of whom (Tyler) became famous and graciously kept the other one around. Now, I think of MR as a place where Alex does unsexy but highly SEO-optimized hard work, and his toiling in relative obscurity subsidizes Tyler's weird posts about chess tournaments at gas stations that serve tacos (not to mention his international travels).

'where Alex does unsexy but highly SEO-optimized hard work'

Well, something like that is reasonably easy to imagine, though no need for it to be Prof. Tabarrok's burden alone.

'not to mention his international travels'

Not even close - people like Prof. Cowen learned decades ago how to have other people finance their travels as much as possible, both in the sense of being an academic at GMU and in being associated with a public policy institute. Though the Amazon links must be bring some money worth the effort, it is likely that even in a decade, such revenue does not match what was spent setting up MRU at its start.

Technically, these choices will all be weighted toward the past. Posts in the distant past always have more page views than comparatively recent posts, purely as an artifact of time.

I wonder what the top posts would be as rated by pageviews-per-day-since-posting.

Right, but the half-life of MR posts and comments is very short (to invoke some research that Tyler cited a couple of days ago, in longevity biographies > music >> MR posts).

I'd guess that one week is plenty of time to essentially close the books on most posts and calculate the number of views. A month at most.

So the improved calculation would simply be: after say one week, which posts had the most views or most comments? That means that the very most recent posts would not be included in the ranking, but the vast majority would be.

My observation is that Cowen has been moving more freely and often into other lanes, while Tabarrok has mostly remained in a single lane. That's meant as a compliment: I find the contrast to be instructional. Both of you are greatly appreciated for your time, your effort, and your good humor.

A thoughtful look at a world amidst the pangs of change.

Yeah, "pangs of change" is not a thing, and it never will be.

1) Then how can it be "yeah"?! "Yeah" means "yes" (Source: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/yeah).
2) "Pang" (origin unknown) means "brief piercing spasm of pain". Example: "the pangs of childbirth". Source: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pang
Childbirth is usually used as a clever metaphor for change, renewal, transformation.
"Marx's own attitude to the tradition of political thought was one of conscious rebellion. Crucial among [certain key statements containing his political philosophy] are the following: ‘Labor created man’. ‘Violence is the midwife of every old society pregnant with a new one’, hence: 'violence is the midwife of history'" -- Hannah Arendt, famous "German-born Jewish American political theorist". Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Between_Past_and_Future

“Tyler’s excellent analysis of the North Korean deal shows why he is an important thinker in foreign policy, able to see beyond the headlines, “

As they say, YMMV.

I think it's refreshing that Tyler is breaking into analyzing international relations. The world of people who comment on international relations is very insular, people with particular backgrounds who frankly look down on others and are often very caught up in highly technical things from their own field, like diplomatic protocol or the symbolic or historical importance of various treaties. Yet the people who actually PRACTICE international politics at a high level, the heads of state and government, they very rarely come from an IR theorist or diplomat background. They are all amateurs and they will think like an economist, businessman, engineer, community organizer, or whatever else rather than like a professor of international relations or a journalist covering international security. Tyler probably has better insight into how world leaders think than IR specialists do.

Let's give this the mini-Fisking it deserves, regarding Tyler.

>people who comment on international relations is very insular... people with particular backgrounds who frankly look down on others

You mean Democrats. So, check.

>and are often very caught up in highly technical things from their own field

Another check for Tyler.

>They are all amateurs and they will think like an economist

Check and mate.

Thanks for your service.

Because everyone needs a good laugh, and the idea of anyone associated with the GMU econ dept or the Mercatus Center being a Democrat is hilarious.

It isn't as if those in charge of hiring decisions in either context have any interest in allowing any Democrat even the tiniest access to funding or employment.

If you like "The Profit," you might also like "Bar Rescue." Same type of issues and people. And the interventions that make a difference are obvious and necessary. But people can't figure it out without help.

That Korea post was interesting to review, because it shows how predictions can be half right, half wrong, and counted in retrospect as a win.

It was right that Kim could keep his nukes and his power while "opening" in some ways.

It was very wrong that this would be in some way counter to Chinese and interests, or a bulkwork against them.

It should have obvious then that Kim would want to be a Mini-me to China, enjoying both economic progress and authoritarian control.

That's the way it still looks today.

Tyler is a wide reader, a great maven, and a superb contrarian .. but not my go-to for prediction

We should applaud and support contrarians, but not expect them to predict especially well. It is in their nature to "defect" when odds settle to a "favorite." And of course, sometimes the favorite wins.

“The race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong; but that is the way to bet.” - Hugh Keough

That trucking automation post reminds me of a fascinating exchange I had in the Bloomberg comments with someone about cargo ship automation. I wish I could find it - Disqus needs to bring back your ability to search your comments.

I am fairly sure that Disqus has nothing to do with the comments section, if only because it would not provide such extensive information mining possibilities.

The march to Zion continues apace. Great work, team.

AlexT: "Overall, I’d say it was a notable year for MR commentators! Congratulations!" - yet this was the year TC turned off the comments for a while?!

What do you & Tyler think are the most underrated posts?

That a good, Tyler-esque question.

Alex has clued us in to what Tyler probably considers the overrated posts to be: "Tyler doesn’t like to write the kind of post that came in at number 8 but these posts are always popular which is one reason Tyler doesn’t like to write them. The five most influential public intellectuals?"

I'm presuming it's literally the rankings aspect of those posts that Tyler dislikes (similar to how USNews' attempts to rank the "Best Colleges in America" is an inherently impossible and foolish undertaking)? At first I was wondering if Alex/Tyler were referring to Tyler's daily "assorted links" posts, which are among my favorites to read. Or more accurately even though they are hit or miss they are a reason to regularly check out MR.

Let it all out, hun.

And the Troll reminds everyone he's not particularly bright or observant.

My favorite posts are almost always book related, but I've also enjoyed the podcasts and Bloomberg excerpts. This also seems to have been the year of the tweet stream (tweet storm?) link, but they're often interesting in their own way, too. Thank you both.

Wot, no Tyrone?

Tyler doesn’t like to write the kind of post that came in at number 8 but these posts are always popular which is one reason Tyler doesn’t like to write them. The five most influential public intellectuals?

I have a hard time figuring out if this is matter-of-fact or a tongue-in-cheekish dig or a tongue-in-cheekish pat on the back.

It's Straussian. What, you don't think Prof. Tabarrok capable of it?

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