Thursday, November 27, 2008

More Humility

As I mentioned in my previous post, PBS recently had a gushing article about economics bloggers. I say it is bunk. First, let me say that many economists do run great blogs and I find that I mostly read economics bloggers. So I do like them. However, much of the best blogging about the financial crisis has been done by non-economists. Heck, sometimes it’s even done by journalists (shudder). In fact, I would posit that blogging is just a better way of covering the news than the traditional newspaper article. So check out the WSJ’s Real Time Economics Blog, the Big Picture, Calculated Risk, or Felix Salmon. These are all great blogs with fantastic coverage of recent financial events, and none are written by economists (CR is anonymous, but so far as we know is not an economist).

One benefit of blogs is that we get rid of the pretense that an article is fair, neutral and unbiased. With a newspaper article there is always an obsession to get both sides of the story, as if one side is right and another wrong. One of my professors is fond of saying that we live in a multivariate world and simple he said/she said stories can't capture the complexity in the world.

Bloggers can speak their mind and say that socialism is the greatest thing in the world or that the Department of Education should cease to exist. We care about the ideas. If someone claims that the financial crisis was caused by the creation of universal banking, we can quickly check that out and report back.

This rapid fact-checking and debate also means that op-ed conversations that used to evolve over the space of several weeks now happen almost instantly. It is also easier to flesh out more complex ideas. Calculated Risk has written lengthy blog posts explaining how CDOs and other fancy products work and it’s something that would never be published in a newspaper. Thus, I say the medium makes it easier for the relevant experts to step forward and explain what’s going on in real time and in a complex and thoughtful manner that is not possible in other mediums. Perhaps the economics profession has benefitted from all of this, but economics bloggers certainly shouldn't get all the credit.

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