The retirement of Mark Thoma, whose Economist’s View has been praised on his retirement with having transformed the econoblogosphere back in the mid- noughties by linking regularly, daily in his heyday, to other blogs, including this one. Thanks to him when the big crash happened, there was a wide open debate across levels and schools of thought in economics about what was going down.
But for some time now, Mark has been reducing his activity on his blog, with it stopping being the reliable every day link to other blogs some time ago. I fear that this combined with his retirement may be a signal of the decline, if not the outright death yet, of the econoblogosphere, at least as an important intellectual and policy force.
The obvious new competitor has been Twitter, which I confess I still resist. It is ubiquitous, but also seriously shallow for serious issues. I recognize its usefulness for covering immediate events such as disasters or revolutoins or strikes, etc. But it is vacuous for any serious discussions. But its appeal and attraction have simply grown, with the rise of use by Trump, with his 68 million followers and doing over 100 per day has substantially led to this shift. We here are in a declining market.
At a personal level it seemed to me the peak may have been even before Mark Thoma showed up. I was involved with the predecessor to this blog, Maxspeak. Back then I regularly would get up to 70 comments on posts I massed, and in my view, without draggging through details, the most influential in real terms posts I have ever put up in the econoblogsphere date to that time. We had some major issues we were important on against established views in both parties, with Social Security an especially important one, something that carried over when Econospeak started with its closely affiliate Angry Bear blog.
Anyway, as regular readers probably notice, the only times we get the kinds of comment numbers I used to get regularly on Maxspeak are when somebody like our semi-regular visitor, Egmont, shows up. But even he recently seems to appear less frequently. Our audience seems to be shrinking, and as near as I can tell is largely of an older age: ok boomer!
Which brings me to the matter of Mark Thoma’s retirement. So, there is no question that I have huge respect him and the role he has played. I fear that this is not a matter of him now devoting more time to his blog in retirement, but a sign that he will be withdrawing more generally from public activity for whatever reason, various speculations floating around on that, which I shall not comment on in any detail. But if he is having problems due to health or whatever, I definitely wish him the best.
In any case, I fear he is disappearing from the econoblogosphere. This raises the question of who is his successor, however reduced. I propose that it is Menzie Chinn ar Econbrowser, now mostly silently backed up by his senior co-blogger, Jim Hamilton. That blog now seems to host some of the more intelligent debates between people of different views.
Its most serious rival may well be Marginal Revolution, run by the polymathic Tyler Cowen, who posts on matters beyond economics. He and Menzie clearly have different ideologies, with Menzie, who briefly served on the CEA staff of George W.. Bush, more of an establishment center left type, with his co-blogger somewhat more to the right, although long eschewing any ideological or political stance except occasionally very vaguely.
OTo H, Tyler identifies himself as a libertarian, but is so often complicating his views that many of his commenters regularly complain about his supposed statist deviations. But there also people of different ideologies and methodologies appear and acstually debate to some degree.
It is kind of a close call. MR gets more attention, and Tyler covers a wider array of topics, while getting more and more into interviewing major public intellectuals. But while some of them have disappeared, he has perhaps more trollish extremists spouting racist and xenophobic and wild conspiracy views. Unlike Menzie (or Jim) he rarely enters into the discussions he sets off, with an occasional exception.
OTOH, Menzie’s posts are narrower, often reflecting his specialty of time-series analysis of international economic relations, which holds off some of the worst trollish crazies. But the regular commentators who defend t=Trump and his policies, which Menzie is often criticizing. Menzie is more likely to comment on the ongoing debates, although usually on fairly technical matters regarding econometric methodology or data. But he (and Jim) tolerate broader debates, and the quality of those debates cross the current divide may be more serious than what goes on at MR, with its large number of loony bin conspiracy theorists.
These seem to me now to be the most serious successors to Economists View in the wake of Mark Thoma’s rerirement. Neither provides the broad linking he did, but they are both open to broad debate across party and ideological lines, which goes on in each of them. I wish both all the best.
Barkley, I think what’s most needed is a general curator, similar to Mark Thoma (who deserves every accolade he has received). This person would not have to post anything but would link in real time to the commentary and resources in and around economics popping up on the internet, mainly blogs, major working paper series, etc. And of course there should also be a place for comments. That’s nearly a full time job (how did Mark do it?) and ideally it should be compensated. Maybe a foundation could underwrite this…..
I would call it an Aggregator.
If I take 10 links (which I have previously) and combine them into one post on our open thread or in general, you would have similar as I have done in the past with healthcare. It is my commentary which eats my time to doing it. As I read it, absorb it, critique it, break it down, and regurgitate it into simple English for people to understand; Time, time has passed. It would have to be just links. It has to be done soon or the people will disappear. It will never be like what Mark did.
Economists are a somewhat closed group, highly educated, a guild of sorts, and not too open to others. That is not meant to be a mean remark. I love reading your commentaries.
We are trying to figure something out to fill the vacuum left by Mark.
We need a new Mark, which could be hard to find.
Twitter can be very useful IF you follow the correct people – major league journalists, economists, etc., they can lead you to lots of good info.
AB could be a good source but I know the bloggers here are stretched thin.
Anyway, best of holidays to everyone!!!
Thinking about what AB (we) could do.
run, you may know that i run a couple “aggregator” blogs in addition to what i write, and it is a full time job, usually 80 hours a week and sometimes every waking hour, such as during the weeks immediately after Trump’s inauguration, when executive orders were being issued every couple hours…i originally started with a focus on economics & policy (at that time Mark’s blog was my first stop every morning) but i’ve trended towards a heavier focus on energy & the environment in recent years, to support the newsletters that i send out weekly…
the time consumed in maintaining those blogs often precludes my making comments elsewhere, and just about shuts down my getting involved in any lengthy exchange…so i can’t see tyler cowen or menzie taking on such a roll…nor are there many capable of handling such a task who’ve taken a vow of poverty either, so as Peter says, whoever you get to do that probably will need to be compensated…
(just my thoughts – i’m not volunteering)
I agree with the analysis
I vote for Prof Chinn. Yes, he does engage with his commenters. He also engaged with me when I would send him an email with something that might interest him. I even asked Delong to get him a job at Berkeley so he can escape the hell hole that is WI.
A hell hole in WI? “Mayor proposes city motto: ’77 Square Miles Surrounded by Reality'”
“Thirty-five years after former Gov. Lee Sherman Dreyfus declared “Madison is 30 square miles surrounded by reality,”
Mayor Paul Soglin is proposing a more geographically correct version of the jibe to be — as Webster’s dictionary defines it — the formal expression of the city’s goals or ideals.
Soglin, who was mayor when then-candidate Dreyfus offered the poke in 1978, at the time quickly advised a governor’s aide that Dreyfus had it wrong, not because the premise was inaccurate but because the city had grown to 65 square miles.”
On Tuesday, Soglin will offer a resolution to the City Council establishing Madison’s motto as “77 Square Miles Surrounded by Reality,” with a provision to change the size as the city continues to grow.
The proposed motto fits a city that adopted the plastic pink flamingo as its official bird in 2009 and uses a 77 Square Miles Ordinance to exile laws no longer enforceable, the resolution says.
In finality Soglin added:
“It’s a statement about who we are,
The decision will probably take a series of meetings, seemingly half joking and half serious said.
‘This is Madison.”
Prof. Chinn is in the midst of a mecca of active liberalism from where we lived and sorely miss. We took over Gov. Dreyfuss’s daughter home after he left WI. If white America votes, WI as well as MI and PA will return to what they were previously.
I note that Mark only rarely commented on his own blog, although he did so occasionally. The comment streams there were regularly very long, usually going well over 100 per post. He has regulars, some of whom are active here and on Econospeak, such as pgl. I suspect that your recent regular commenter “Anonymous” is actually Mark’s longtime most frequent commenter, whom I shall not name here out of respect, but who is obviously somewhat at loosed ends without his blog.
I note that while Tyler Cowen (not “Cohen,” he is of Irish not Jewish ancesttry) links every day to a small number of sites, often not involving economics, he rarely comments on his posts, although once in awhile usually to clarify something.
OTOH, while Menzie engages in regularly commenting, he does not do this “aggregating” function at all, although he does fairly frequently have guest posters, especially his major professor, Jeffrey Frankel.
fixed the name.
Economist’s View should not be allowed to shut down, because the feeds to posts at over two dozen sites, including Angry Bear, that Mark has set up on the sidebar there would be lost to your community….with that in mind, the answer as to who should replace Mark Thoma seems evident to me; the woman named Anne, who’s been the blog’s major commenter for several years, has just about been doing that already in the comments section…all Mark need do would be make her the blog’s administrator; she’s capable of handling the rest…while i rather suspect she’d do that for free, for reasons mentioned previously, some kind of stipend for her service should be arranged…and someone would also have to pick up whatever fee typepad charges for keeping the blog open…
Anne is fastidious
“hell hole that is WI” I insulted the entire state. If I had known how large Madison is I could have subtracted the 77 sq miles. Love the Madison jokes. The Texas Agie jokes are famous.
We had our Lena and Oli jokes too. Merry Christmas.
So, I was an adviser to Paul Soglin during his first round as Madison’s mayor back in the 1970s. I remain his friend even now even as he stopped being mayour for his third round earlier this year.
However, I also knew quite well Susie Dreyfus, daughter of Lee Dreyfus. Is that who’s house you bought? She was quite a good violinist.
As it is, Lee was definitely out of the progressive wing of the Republican Party, which was still around and influential back then. They no longer exist, at least not as progressive as Lee was.
It was a nice house nestled in amongst the other educational, government, and business professionals. We thrived there. We fit right in with the young families with young children on Farmington Way.
I did not know her or her husband and it was more a business transaction. They appeared to be nice people and I think he was out of work. I met Soglin once a long time ago. He did justice for Madison and we were happy with Madison even with the high property taxes. The trips by the schools to Spring Green for Shakespearian plays, Blue Mounds, Mirror Lake, etc. were educational and an experience. I liked how the taxes were spent. We camped all of Wisconsin and been to Madeline Island several times.
We were big supporters of Launder, Barker, Redan, and Wisconsin Soccer. Both boys went on to play college soccer, one at Lake Forest and the other at OWU. My daughter went out to Niagara, dropped out, became a flight attendant, and got her degree in Nursing. She now teaches and has her Masters (my first one who attained it).
It was fun . . .
With regard to Thoma, Dan and I both believe we should do something to fill the vacuum. We are not sure what; but, we are open. Mark was a Master Aggregator. Thank you for the return comment.
Merry Christmas Barkley!
Yes she is fastidious, and I admire most of her stances and most all of her linked resources.
However, I fear her biggest downfall would be renaming EV as “China! Today!” and almost all of the discussion threads would be about the various miracles occurring in China on a daily basis, mostly backed up by the CCP’s propaganda outlet.
Merry Christmas EM:
I am sitting here looking out at the Dobson Ranch golf course. It is raining, a light rain. This is the 2nd time in three years my daughter and us have rented this detached condo. She used to live here and both she and her husband came down from Denver, We will be feeding 15 tonight Italian – American style. Wife and daughter are good cooks.
Fastidious is not necessarily a kind word I use but it is polite. I know not well this person while I have read the blog words. I know China and Asia too. I have see the pollution and destruction in China environmentally. I was eating lunch in Shanghai China during its worst air pollution day ever. Millions of Gingko trees planted around Beijing airport is not a miracle. It is a Band-Aid.
We have a new writer amongst us and the three of us have talked. It is a huge decision to fill or even partially fill the void Mark’s retirement has created. It will not be the same and we could never replicate Mark. We shall see.
I had said I would not say who I think the recently frequently commenting “Anonymous” on Econospeak is, but here on Christmas I shall break down and admit that my guess is that it might be anne of Economists View, probably frustratrd by the ddecline of that venue. I observe that our “Anonymous” appears to have views at least somewhat resembling those of anne, but I shall not say there is a definite identity and shall not press the point.
Anyway, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and happly all other holidays, you all!
I thought the same when you mentioned it. She has also been here. She is welcome here and we would love to have her. The comment was short and not a typical lengthy reply by her. I would be guessing.
We disagreed on healthcare. Setting that aside, she has a great depth of information and latitude of it. I would label her as an aggregator of information and can only imagine what her computer must look like with neatly arranged folders.
Speaking of healthcare, watch MN. I have been talking to them up there about Single Payor. The guy pushing it is impressive and very knowledgeable.
Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Hanukah, etc. Watching it rain in AZ and the golfers.
We appreciate your direction.
This Anonymous : “President Trump is frightening to me, deeply frightening, but because of policy after policy that is now being differently administered, because of the many judges he has nominated and who are quickly being confirmed, and so on” is Anne. I can remember when she was pleading with Mark to come out and reprimand a commenter who she felt was attacking her unfairly. She used similar words.
Some random observations:
EconomistView deteriorated steadily during the last two years as Mark failed to update posts for several weeks, and comment threads became unmanageable, often exceeding 1K posts, but surprisingly the site still has a vibrant community of commenters.
Kind of the last refuge of retired persons still interested in both economics and politics. There is a special term for this category of people: “pikey vests” (playing on the fact that thermoregulation in older people is often broken and they prefer to put on more closing then younger people).
The meaning is similar to “armchair strategists” but with emphasis on the Dunning–Kruger effect — a cognitive bias in which people assess their cognitive abilities as greater than they are. In other words, the complete inability of many people, especially seniors, to recognize their lack of ability (the effect quite visible in Trump ;-).
The term implies a verifiable tendency of the increase of the Dunning–Kruger effect with the age as it typically became really pronounced in many retired seniors, who become attracted to discussions about politics.
It looks to me that with time such blogs as Economist’s View naturally become a refuge for pikey vests.
It is not that difficult to recreate a similar aggregator blog (may be on a better platform), but to launch it into the mainstream, you need to have your own strong personal or research interest in browsing Web for interesting links in which few people possess.
But for those two like browse the Web for interesting articles, this often became a compulsive self-destructive obsession that takes too much time and negatively affect their research work and their lives.
You also need a large dose of political correctness not to stray from neoliberal MSM views to much and be ostracized. Which kills the idea. So this is a delicate balancing act in which Thoma succeeded, but most wannabees might not.
Also, his status of a professor here helped with the patina of respectability and gave him a little bit more freedom than for mere mortals.
The problem here is how to attract meaningful commenters community which is difficult. Thoma post were at the beginning informative enough to accomplish this feat and attract many people. For the first several years his selections were interesting enough to browse his blog of a regular basis. Later is became more questionable and many older commenters disappered, but still comment threads were interesting.
Later this community existed mainly due to inertia as quality of the blog deteriorated. Community also changed with very few survivors from earlier years (Paine, anne, ilism, Fred C. Dobbs).
The same process is observable in other blogs such as Naked Capitalism, which also the lost lion share of early commenters.
One unsolvable problems to un-moderated comment threads is that there are commenters who literally are powerful spam generators and who fill the threads with dozens of low quality posts. And you can do nothing about it.
At the same more heavy moderation like at http://crookedtimber.org creates animosity and makes the community an echo chamber of the blog owner views and more conformist then desirable. And as such far less interesting. Censored commenters often leave and never return.
The Economist’s View blog recently became mostly political, not so much economic. The same trend can be observed with Naked Capitalism. That probably reflect that fact the economics in and by itself is mostly pseudo science (especially neoclassical economics with its mathiness and scholastic models which destroy students ability to think) and there is only political economy and econometrics
Another interesting effect is that most of active comments usually post their own links, which in some cases were much more interesting/ important then Thoma’s links. So Thoma;’s links served as a catalyst for posting better links.
There were a couple of “super-reposters” and Anne was/is not much of a commenter as a “super-reposter”. As run75441 correctly observed “Anne is fastidious” and simultaneously is an asset and the liability.
Another person with the same inclinations but without Anne tendency to post some useful statistical info from FED databases was/is Fred C. Dobbs. He actually reposted a useful article from NYT even in the last comment tread ( https://nyti.ms/34pZAbD )
Like is typical in such blogs commenting community was polarized with two or three distinct camps (neoliberals/neocons and anti-neoliberals/neocons plus libertarians who were all over the place)
An interesting thing about this blog is that Thoma posts with the list of links generate much more vibrant discussion that posts with his short review of some articles (often Krugman, whom for some reason he like). So the blog became the aggregator blog very early in its existence.
Lately as Thoma lost interest in its maintainance, he switched exclusively “recommended links” style of posts, which gradually became more and more rare,
It’s a bit sad to see the blogging culture in general is now losing steam, with much of the discussion moving on to Twitter and other social platforms.
You could say so much more by saying less. What the hell is this string of descriptors “compulsive self-destructive obsession” of the subject? Could you pick one of the string to get your point across? I read your words and you appear to be obsessed with being heard or read.
> You could say so much more by saying less.
That’s always a good advice if one has time for editing. Thank you.
> What the hell is this string of descriptors “compulsive self-destructive obsession” of the subject?
You never run an aggregator blog and therefore is unable to understand what I am talking about:
1. Attracts a certain type of people who tend to overextend the scope of aggregation and then burn themselves doing so.
2. Browsing Web for relevant articles in and by itself can become self-reinforcing compulsive activity similar to addiction. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/mind-change/201504/is-surfing-the-internet-addictive
Fine on the first >. The second >? You cut one sentence short which was “What the hell is this string of descriptors “compulsive self-destructive obsession” of the subject? and you forgot the 2nd sentence which asked the question. “Could you pick one of the string to get your point across?”
You quote in the past tense and then in the present tense for the next sentence. #1 is that about the Aggregator or the Blog? #1 is not clear. #2 is what I have done for lesser accumulations.
Not sure why you are quoting Psychology Today when you did not answer what I asked. You better start to edit. I will pick you apart.
Likbez, the psychology today article you cite does not match your characterization of it, ie, ” Browsing Web for relevant articles” in that it is discussing the effects of “aimlessly using the Internet, to no specific end”…one could hardly characterize the work involved in Mark Thoma’s or Yves Smith’s aggregations as “aimless” or “to no specific end”
on the other hand, i didn’t have any problem with your characterization of the aggregator’s behavior as “a compulsive self-destructive obsession”; i certainly see the obsessive-compulsive behavior in my own work, and there is a self-destructiveness to it as well, as i’ll often forgo other activities and even eating decently to get my online work done….
December 26, 2019 9:21 pm
True, but psichological mechanisms involved are identical. and require identiacal psicholofical pre-disposition.
likbez, my impression from a quick read of the psychology today article was that they were talking about people like gamers or youtubers, those whose activity was “aimless”…so i disagree that “the psychological mechanisms involved are identical” to those that drive someone like mark thoma or yves smith…
in re the obsessive-compulsiveness of my work, i understand that you are critical…but i understand that it is who i am; i’ve always been a workaholic…when i worked for a major corporation (years ago), i’d go in on weekends, and would often put in 12 hour days…even as a teenager, working for myself (over 50 years ago), i’d put in successive 18 hour days at what i was working on, often to the abandonment of everything else….the thing is, even back then i understood the Sisyphean nature of my work and i never had a problem with that; it’s those who don’t understand that who get themselves in trouble…
anyhow, this thread is not about me; i am just using myself to suggest the type of person you’d need to take over running Economist’s View…and as i said in my first comment here, i’m not volunteering…