David R. Henderson  

Krugman on How Blogs Have Changed Economic Debate

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Second, even for more academic research, the journals ceased being a means of communication a long time ago - more than 20 years ago for sure. New research would be unveiled in seminars, circulated as NBER Working Papers, long before anything showed up in a journal. Whole literatures could flourish, mature, and grow decadent before the first article got properly published - this happened to me with target zones back in the late 1980s, where my original 1988 working paper had spawned a large derivative literature by the time it actually got published. The journals have long served as tombstones, certifications for tenure committees, rather than a forum in which ideas get argued.

What the blogs have done, in a way, is open up that process. Twenty years ago it was possible and even normal to get research into circulation and have everyone talking about it without having gone through the refereeing process - but you had to be part of a certain circle, and basically had to have graduated from a prestigious department, to be part of that game. Now you can break in from anywhere; although there's still at any given time a sort of magic circle that's hard to get into, it's less formal and less defined by where you sit or where you went to school.

Since there's some kind of conservation principle here, the fact that it's easier for people with less formal credentials to get heard means that people who have those credentials are less guaranteed of respectful treatment. So yes, we've seen some famous names run into firestorms of criticism -- *justified* criticism - even as some "nobodies" become players. That's a good thing! Famous economists have been saying foolish things forever; now they get called on it. [bold added]

This is from Paul Krugman, "Our Blogs, Ourselves." I agree with all of the above. In fact, Krugman is saying what John Goodman and I have been talking about on the phone in the last few weeks. The blogosphere really has changed things. It will be interesting to see when someone gets tenure based mainly on blogging and not on writing for academic journals.

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COMMENTS (13 to date)
John Goodman writes:

Hate to admit it, but Krugman is actually right about something.

David R. Henderson writes:

@John Goodman,
And he said it really well too.

Patrick R. Sullivan writes:
The econoblogosphere makes it a lot harder for economists to shout down other people by pulling rank — although some of them still try — but that’s a good thing.

As I've said a thousand times before, Krugman hasn't a scintilla of self-awareness.

Glen Smith writes:


That isn't the quote I'd have used to make the point you made. I'd use this one:
"Famous economists have been saying foolish things forever; now they get called on it."

PrometheeFeu writes:

This is all very Hayekian. An emerging order can be seen where people rise in prominence not thanks to a certification process but rather thanks to an informal competition for attention and respect. Very similar to the way Islamic scholarship is done.

John Thacker writes:

Well said.

Tom West writes:

I'll still be surprised when blogging counts for anything like journal publications. The idea that anyone can blog is exactly why it won't count for much in the minds of many.

I think many would prefer a nice metric like journal importance and citation count rather than "does this person have anything worthwhile to say?", or to be more fair, "exactly how to do I choose between these two clever, prolific bloggers?"

SWH writes:

The most relevant aspect is yet to be discussed: the increase in the number of foolish things being said now that more are speaking. Wisdom has always been rare....now it is rarer yet.

mark writes:

Remarkable bolt of clarity from Princeton. Maybe he'll relocate to GMU. Love the Hayekian point above.

David R. Henderson writes:

People were saying just as foolish things in faculty clubs and college hallways. Now there’s a little more discipline. So whereas I agree with you that the amount of foolish written stuff has probably increased, I bet the average foolishness has fallen.

Warren Gibson writes:

Econ Journal Watch (econjwatch.org) occupies the gap. Submissions are refereed but distribution is quick and free. Highly recommended!

Seth writes:

First, nice work from Krugman. I usually stop reading after the first fallacy.

Second, it's a shame credentials are ever a consideration. I can see it being more of an allocation incentive. For example, it may be thriftier to spend one's on the credentialed because that has potentially better payoff.

But, credentialism is a fallacy. Too many folks take the 'experts' word for it (which may be another example of thrift). But, I would at least appreciate these folks considering that they made that decision due to thrift and that their expert may be wrong.

Norman writes:

"It will be interesting to see when someone gets tenure based mainly on blogging and not on writing for academic journals."

If I were a betting man like Bryan, my money would be on Matt Rognlie.

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