Friday, February 10, 2012

Lot's of econ blogosphere navel-gazing going on

Swirling in particular around Krugman of course (here, here, here, here). I have an odd relationship with these sorts of discussions. On the one hand I do jump in more often than not because I think the blogosphere is useful forum to cultivate, and that means calling out who I consider to be bad actors and defending guys like Krugman and DeLong that have great contributions but can get somewhat petty - and yet somehow get turned into Godzillas by the more delicate among us.

The fact is, everyone pulls their hair out every once in a while over someone else that just doesn't seem to get it. That's life, and it's not something we should really get worked up over.

What gets me more, and makes me want to just stop reading the exchanges and actually go do things I should be doing (like homework), is the sheer obliviousness of some of it. Krugman and DeLong at least seem self-aware of their abrasiveness - and their argument is that it's worth it to get worked up because of what's at stake. Some of the opposition shocks me in that they don't even seem aware of how nasty and condescending their compatriots can be.

I'll be a little more interested in the navel gazing when someone on the libertarian side starts treating Krugman like something other than the village idiot or smacks down Cafe Hayek every once in a while, and when maybe Krugman wags his finger at DeLong for a particularly catty post.

Otherwise this stuff is mostly silly. I can't think of a single person who has piled on Krugman that doesn't regularly turn a blind eye to other bad behavior. As long as Krugman continues to crank out critical insights, my attitude towards the hand-wringing over Krugman will be occasional interest but mostly a "c'est la vie" stance. This is how it goes.

Not a single person that has lectured me on how I should be harder on Krugman and DeLong strikes me as being more civil than them or more likely than me to scold the guys they like. 99% of the blogosphere finger-wagging is your own bias. I personally rank Krugman as about on the level of Mankiw, Cowen, and Rowe on civility (many notches higher on excitability). The guys he really goes after directly are usually politicians or people who are really battering him (What is he supposed to do? Not respond?). I rank DeLong as about the level of Sumner or Murphy. Much more gloves-off, but not a jerk.

One of the things about DeLong that I think people miss is first that like Krugman he can get excitable, but also that there are a lot of schtick posts he does on a regular basis. Here's a clue: if there are about 500 nominees for "dumbest guy in the world", he probably doesn't actually think they're the dumbest guy in the world. Brad know how superlatives work. I take a schtick title a lot better than a directed, personalized insult that I read on a daily basis directed at Krugman or DeLong. The other very strong quality Brad has (aside from very insightful posts), is that he's one of the only bloggers out there that criticizes, corrects, and re-evaluates himself. I know I'm terrible at that.


  1. I am glad I read this post before I went to bed. I don't know if I could sleep without knowing what you think about what other people think about bloggers you like.

    1. I guess that's why you're reading this blog in the first place.

  2. Much like all of us have been waiting with bated breath to see what a psuedononymous commenter that none of us have ever heard from before thinks of what I thought of what others think about bloggers.

  3. I find it instructive to peruse comments on bloggers' posts to get a sense of the effects of their polemics. I'll freely admit that Paul Krugman's "Conscience of a Liberal" makes me squirm regularly (and that I read it everyday!!). What is worse than the tone of the column itself, however,is the sycophancy of the readers who comment. I have a very hard time imagining that the majority of these readers have more than a cursory familiarity with economic thought, and I find it disturbing a little bit the idolization of Krugman and the attendant demonization of others that the commentators level. The NY Times is a forum with a huge readership, and really unlike any of the other blogs you mention.

    1. I agree, but this goes on everywhere. I don't really know of any blogs where what you say about these commenters isn't true. You get more of them with Krugman's blog, of course - simply because of the venue.

      But this is true of most commenters in most well-read blogs.

      Which is why I say - yes, this is all quite disappointing, but the idea that this is somehow a uniquely Krugman thing is bonkers. Krugman is no less civil than the average libertarian blogger. His commenters are no less idolizing and demonizing than the average libertarian commenter.

  4. he's one of the only bloggers out there that criticizes, corrects, and re-evaluates himself. I know I'm terrible at that.

    you could start by re-evaluting how really stupid Jeffrey Sachs was with his comments

  5. I think you really have to look at the history here--back at 2000 and 2001 and 2002...

    If you have not reread recently, you need to do so--the right-wing noise machine has been grinding out the same fanfare for more than a decade now, in the expectation that memories are short...

    Brad DeLong


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