Category: Weblogs

Scott Sumner is taking a break from blogging

He writes:

…I am complete burned out, and have been for months.  I’ve blogged an average of eight hours a day, seven days a week, for over two years.  I’ve only kept going in recent months out of a sense of obligation to keep pushing these issues.  But now that lots of other people are saying the exact same thing, it’s time for me to take a break.  So I’ll stop blogging for a few months, unless there is some huge news story like QE3, in which case I’ll add a couple posts.  Or if someone does a hit job on my marshmallow post, I may need to briefly respond.  Otherwise I’m done for now, and will return sometime this summer.

A few points:

1. Read or reread all of his archives.

2. Do not tempt him with mistake-ridden posts on topics such as “South Korean cinematic representations of nominal GDP targeting in the Great Depression.”

3. He will be back (and I’ll let you know when).  In the meantime we will all miss him.  Hail Scott Sumner!

p.s. Boo Hoo.

For a while, in Blogland, Alex was married to Natasha

He also was buying Haitian art and describing his favorite things Alabama.  How so?  During the transition to WordPress many of my posts were attributed to him.  One of our assistants explains:

The root of the problem was the sheer number of comments you have.  After running the importer a few times, we actually hit a computational limit in PHP on 32-bit systems, which caused the errors we’ve seen.  After manually manipulating the data, however, we’ve sorted everything out and we won’t be running into this problem again.

The RSS feed has been flushed and is displaying in proper order once again.  For some readers, this may take a few more hours to update.  For others, depending on how their reader grabs and stores posts, the wonky posts may just have to cycle out.

Sorry again for the technical problems involved with this.  I’ve never had problems relating to sheer data size, but I’ve never dealt with something with close to 150,000 unique data points be entered multiple times. ..Pushing the upper bounds of programming languages through sheer blogging volume is pretty admirable.

We are continuing to work out the glitches, thanks for your patience!

Bleeding heart libertarians

That is the name of a new and excellent blog.  The writers include Andrew Jason Cohen, Daniel Shapiro, Jacob T. Levy, James Stacey Taylor, Jason Brennan, and Matt Zwolinski.  They are all worth reading.  Jason Brennan is perhaps not so well known in the blogosphere, but he is already one of the most important classical liberal thinkers in the world and you will be hearing more from him soon.  Here is his post on neoclassical liberalism.

Andrew Sullivan is moving to *The Daily Beast*

His explanation is here.  I have long thought TDB built an attractive-looking web site, but I have not followed the company per se, nor have I read the new Newsweek, nor do I have a good sense of what Tina Brown on the web might mean.  Sullivan was the first blogger I ever read and of course he still is very influential within the blogging field.  What do you all think of this move?  And is the market for blog acquisitions heating up again?

What happened to all the hard-core left bloggers?

Some of you want more comment on this Freddie deBoer piece on why the harder left is underrepresented in the blogosphere.  Here is RortyBomb, here is Matt, both good responses.  Here is a one-sentence excerpt from the original:

The truth is that almost anything resembling an actual left wing has been systematically written out of the conversation within the political blogosphere, both intentionally and not, while those writing within it congratulate themselves for having answered all left-wing criticism.

My thoughts turn to the market-oriented and right-wing sides of the blogosphere.  I see a few approaches out there:

1. Hold strongly to a pure free market line, but not much consider the toughest issues, starting with Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, and finishing with the inability of government to precommit to a lot of policies which might work as rules but never can be rules.  There are plenty of easy issues to focus on, starting with farm policy and free trade and on those the market-oriented point of view is a slam dunk.

2. Hold forth on the really tough issues, take what is considered an extreme point of view, and not convince anyone who doesn't already agree with you.  These bloggers also frequently find that their arguments are sufficiently a priori that a) they don't have much to say about new developments in the world, and b) their arguments end up being repeated and do not evolve much.  Even if you think those are good intellectual qualities when truth is on your side, you probably can see that they will not attract the largest or broadest of audiences.  A popular blog needs more of a plot.

3. Give ground on the tough issues, honestly and sincerely.

4. Focus on lowering the relative status of people on the other side of the debate.  This serves some functions similar to #1 and of course there is a large supply of targets.

If a lot of left-wing bloggers are following #3, that is very good (I don't pretend to judge what is a very large canvas) and we can root for that practice to spread, including of course to non-left-wing bloggers.

Freddie deBoer seems to be very smart.  I had never heard of him before, which I suppose means he is not extremely famous as a blogger.  So let's see how he evolves when it comes to his critique that "labor rights are undercut everywhere for the creation of economic growth" in an ongoing debate with some people who know more about it than he does.  He shows much better rhetorical skill than he does an understanding of labor economics.

Who exactly are the exiled left-wing (or right-wing) bloggers who deserve more attention?  From deBoer, there is a mention of Daily Kos and I checked in there again (I hadn't for years) and I wasn't exactly awestruck at the content.  Nor was it obvious to me that it was extremely left-wing.

I will readily grant that points of view can be stronger than they appear in a blogosphere debate and it is worth thinking through the biases here.  Arguably the more serious corners of the blogosphere overencourage moderate, "defensible" positions, with few weak spots for obvious bone-crushing attacks, "gotchas," and charges of apparent moral turpitude from onlooking scolders.  Still, that incentive is mostly a healthy one.  Whether the blogosphere as a whole encourages moderation, I am not sure.  But the better corners of it certainly do and that should be counted as one of its virtues. 

Freakonomics blog to go indie and leave NYT

The scoop is here and for the pointer I thank Chris F. Masse.  Dubner emailed to Forbes:

Yes, we’re taking indie again because, even though the 3.5 years with has been beyond great, a lot has changed in our universe since then – the film, a radio show, more books, etc. – and we’ve got a big appetite for uniting all these things, and a few more things, into one tight-knit little media channel known as And we just couldn’t do that if the blog still lived at Paywall issue wasn’t a major consideration.

Will Paul Krugman end up behind a paywall?

Most Popular Marginal Revolution Posts from 2010

Here are the most popular Marginal Revolution posts from 2010 as measured by landing pages and page views.

1. Book lists were very popular as a category. The highest ranked post in terms of page views was Tyler's Books which have influenced me the most which created a blogosphere avalanche. Links to other people's lists (of influential books) was also very popular. As was Books of the year, 2010 and peculiarly this post on The best-selling book of all time.

2. The number one linked post was What happened to M. Night Shyamalan? a one-liner and one-picturer.  Also very popular in the category of "quickies" were Barbados v. Grenada, the demand for own-goalsDead BirdsFreak-onomics, Nazi-Nudging, and Yuck_markets in Everything.

3. One Game Machine per Child on the failure of a computer voucher program to raise grades (but it did increase gaming).

4. Lost: The Final Episode

5. The Dark Magic of Structured Finance.

6. Gay Sex Statistics.

7. Peter A. Diamond.

8. How the Bill Will Evolve.

9. Economic Misconceptions.

10. Why Did the Soviet Union Fall? (from 2007).

11. The Small Schools Myth.

12. A Theory for Why Latvian Women are Beautiful.

Other substantive posts with high popularity (in the top-50) were my posts Insiders, Outsiders and Unemployment and The Philosophical Cow and Tyler's posts How many children should you have?Is there a case for a vat?Does the Law Professor have cause to complain? and Why is Haiti so Poor?

Two of my posts from previous years were also popular in 2010, from 2008 What is New Trade Theory? on Paul Krugman's Nobel and from 2005 Why Most Published Research Findings are False.

Hope you have enjoyed this years offerings. What have I missed?

Drinks are on the House

…in terms of breadth of interest in economic subjects, literature and ephemera, Marginal Revolution is like nipping into a world-class local bar, where the drinks are always perfectly mixed, the atmosphere is relaxed and civilized, while intelligent conversation and serendipity are available on tap. The comments tend to be of unusually high quality too.

From Alen Mattich's writeup of the best economics blogs in the WSJ. Congrats and thanks to all our commentators.

Department of Unintended Consequences

Here's Stanley Fish:

Commentators who explain smugly that O’Donnell’s position on masturbation (that it is a selfish, solitary act) is contradicted by her Ayn Rand-like attack on collectivism, or who wax self-righteous about Paladino’s comparing Sheldon Silver to Hitler and promising to wield a baseball bat in Albany, or who laugh at Sharron Angle for being in favor of Scientology (she denies it) and against fluoridation and the Department of Education, are doing these candidates a huge favor. They are saying, in effect, these people are stupid, they’re jokes; and the implication (sometimes explicitly stated) is that anyone who takes them the least bit seriously doesn’t get the joke and is stupid, too.

Sometimes I think of the political blogosphere as a huge commons.  An individual blogger can gain in readership or influence by attacking or ridiculing some enemy, but at the cost of making that enemy stronger in the world as a whole.

I also believe that every time the words "stimulus" or "fiscal policy" are blogged it helps the electoral prospects of the Republican Party, no matter what the content of the blog post.

Which requests do I not respond to?

BM has a request:


would you take a hand few requests (maybe 10 or so) from the comments here and tell us (in a word:'NO' or a short sentence why) you will NOT fill them?

I hope this request is excluded from your picks!

I won't handle those I have already written about and have no new insight on, those I will soon write about (I prefer for most of my non-blog writing to be relatively fresh), and those I have nothing to say about at all, usually because of my own lack of knowledge.  On top of that big pile, a small number of requests — small in percentage terms at least — strike me as best addressed by a quizzical, offbeat non-response.

I answer all the rest.