The conversation some of you want to have

The most frequently upvoted request was this, noting that I will add in numbers so you may follow my replies:

1. Looking back on your history of blogging, what were you most right about? And what were you most wrong about? Are there any posts you regret?

2. If you were to go back in time and choose a profession other than economics, what field would you choose, and why?

3. What important questions are the least answerable empirically, and how should these questions be approached?

4. What questions would benefit most from better empirical evidence?

5. A number of years ago, I recall you saying something like “Bloggers get the commenters that they deserve.” Do you regret saying this? (Sorry–ha ha).

Thinking back on the history of MR, here are my answers:

1. I believe I was right (and proven right) about the Great Stagnation, a controversial proposition at the time.  I also believe I have been right about many aspects of the Covid crisis, as Alex has been as well.  See also my earlier writings.

I still like last year’s blog post on State Capacity Libertarianism.

Perhaps two things I was right about, but still not recognized as correct are: 1) post-2012 or so (but not earlier), unemployment was fundamentally a re-matching problem, and would not have been helped much by nominal decisions by the Fed, and 2) we could have done much better than Obamacare and no I don’t mean single payer.

Two of my more obvious errors were dismissing the notion of a major financial crisis in the early days, as I didn’t see that a bursting real estate bubble would wreck the shadow banking system, rather I expected (at worst) something like the recession of the early 1990s.

I also was wrong to think that Greece and Italy would leave the eurozone after the crisis of 2011.  I thought deposits would be more mobile across borders than they turned out to be, thus crushing domestic banking systems and requiring a breaking with par.

I was originally wrong in calling bitcoin a bubble, though I improved and earlier yet MR was one of the first outlets to call attention to bitcoin; see also this earlier 2007 post, when I wrote: “…monetary economics will end up as a special case of a more general theory of encryption. One day they’ll solve Riemann’s Hypothesis and the price level will just go poof…!”

I am pleased to have played early roles boosting ngdp work, especially in free market circles, and standing firm on the need for some kind of green energy policy, though neither involved any originality on my part.  I see both decisions as vindicated.

That all said, I regret the post where I wrote “Bloggers get the commenters that they deserve.”  Even if it is true.

2. if my current profession were inaccessible to me, I would be either a philosopher or a legal academic, but trying to replicate the essential features of my current life as I know it.  I feel I would be much less effective in either venue, however.

3. “What important questions are the least answerable empirically, and how should these questions be approached?”  Maybe that is too broad a question, but two responses.  First, I am not sure we ever will understand “culture,” as more empirical work perhaps will broaden the concentric circles of our ignorance and create more open questions, by both teaching us more detail and showing how much context-dependence matters.  Second, I am increasingly skeptical that we will ever find “the theory of everything” in physics.  Maybe it is all just a sprawling mess that resists systematization and comprehension by our feeble little brains.  How well do felines grasp Keynesian macroeconomics?

That said, approach these dilemmas by fighting to understand and indeed doubling down.

4. “What questions would benefit most from better empirical evidence?”  Well, many of them, but be ready to deal with this notion of broadening and expanding the concentric circles of our knowledge — and ignorance — at the same time.  In many, many areas that is at least as likely as convergence on a definite set of answers.

Do commenters get the bloggers they deserve?  I don’t think so.



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