Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Blogging about economics

I had a very negative reaction to Mark Thoma's criticism on the article that claims that those who don't know economics shouldn't blog about them. My reaction was based not so much on the fact that I agreed with the author or that I disagreed with Mark but on the shrillness of the post. (Thankfully, I didn't read what Brad Delong had to say. Compared to Mark, Rajiv Sethi was a relief.)

I also reacted to Mark's defense of Krugman:

Paul Krugman does take one-side positions based upon his reading of the academic literature, some of which he helped to create. But he has qualified things on his blog. He has explained when, for example, monetary and fiscal policy should have large or small effects, he's linked to the appropriate research, and so on. Somebody has to explain these things to the public, and do so in a way that highlights the essential elements while leaving everything else aside, and Paul Krugman is a master at this. Krugman and others, myself included, do pass along their digested views of the academic literature in a simple, readable form. We also point to non-professionals when we think they have something worthwhile to say. What's wrong with that? (To me, this whole essay reads like it was driven by a touch of Krugman-DeLong Derangement Syndrome).

I can't put my finger on it except to note that perhaps I too have been infected with the Krugman-DeLong Derangement Syndrome. I dislike that DeLong claims to have weighed all the evidence and that fiscal policy is the only play left. I also dislike the fact that while Krugman can be biased and does occassionally say so, the strength of his convictions can drown out opposing points of view in his 'digested views of academic literature' (I suppose this goes for other bloggers as well). To me, economics bloggers (especially the more influential ones) are walking a fine line between conveying different academic opinions and being 'policy entrepreneurs' that Krugman so despises in Peddling Prosperity.

One thing that seems to be common for all bloggers (including this) is that in the end, it is not the evidence or the models that will sway opinion. To paraphrase McCloskey, its the rhetoric that matters (and models and evidence are all part of the rhetoric). We are not always arguing from evidence but from the strength of our convictions - or for lack of a better word, our faith.

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