Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Andrew Gelman on the Econ Blogosphere

Andrew Gelman provides a rather nice summary of the leading Econ bloggers, profiling each as a potential model for Steve Levitt to follow. Two of the better profiles, but all worth reading:
Paul Krugman: Used to be an equal-opportunity offender, wrote an earlier book slamming industrial-policy-style Democrats and took gratuitous swipes at liberal icons such as John Kennneth Galbraith. In recent years has shifted to a partisan line and pretty much only criticizes Democrats for not being partisan or Keynesian enough. But he's kept his credibility by tying his opinions to his acknowledged expertise on macroeconomics. Being a micro-econ, incentive-empahsizing version of Krugman seems like a real possibility for Levitt. Maybe he could start at Slate magazine and work his way up from there. Levitt's location at the University of Chicago could help him to this end--if he's short of op-ed-worthy topics, he could talk with his colleagues in the economics and sociology departments to get ideas. But first he's gotta decide whether he has policy objectives he'd like to push, or if he'd rather just focus on telling interesting stories.

Tyler Cowen: Freakonomics without the statistics. Interesting and fun speculation. Lack of data analysis paradoxically makes him less vulnerable to attack: he's only claiming to be interesting, not to be necessarily correct. Has an ideological stance but mixes things up a bit; you don't always know what's coming next. Cowen's distinguishing feature: he doesn't just have an opinion on everything, he has thoughts on everything. If Levitt wants to go in this direction, he'll have to take blogging a lot more seriously. Posting every day isn't enough; he also needs to be willing to seriously engage with others in open debate.
Both seem about right.

Something in the Bush presidency broke Krugman [and I'm sure he could give you an itemized list]. I was really hoping that the shift to a Democratic Presidency would bring back the Krugman of the mid to late 1990s whose work I loved.

Cowen explicitly says bloggers have to be willing to be wrong: blogging is more like a brown bag talk or something even less planned out. The point is to hash the ideas out early and to make sure that the folks who could tell you you're wrong and why are reading you to tell you you're wrong and why. Cowen does have thoughts on everything. And what he doesn't have thoughts on, Tyrone has thoughts on.

Gelman also covers Gladwell, Mankiw, Landsburg, Harford, E O Wilson, and Heckman.

HT: Chris Masse

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