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.