Wednesday 06 Oct 2021 | 21:04 | SYDNEY
Wednesday 06 Oct 2021 | 21:04 | SYDNEY

Econoblogging and its discontents


Sam Roggeveen


12 January 2012 13:49

Stephen Grenville's examination of the influence of blogging on economic debate is too pessimistic for my taste.

Do economics blogs change minds? No, says Stephen, based on the argument that googling phrases like 'I was wrong' yields few results. But that's not a terribly scientific measure; humans, proud creatures that they are, tend to be reluctant to admit error. Also, what is Stephen comparing blogs against? Is there some other form of persuasion in economics that shows better results?

Anyway, the 'I was wrong' measure takes no account of the way blogs form opinion rather than changing it — my guess is that figures like Tyler Cowen are much more influential among younger economists than those with long-established views. So maybe it is too early to tell whether econoblogs are improving policy. That may come when the younger generation of economists — who consume blogs alongside their standard texts — move up in the world.

Stephen also laments the partisanship and extremism of much blogging. It may be true that the bloggers who shout the loudest get the most hits, but building an audience through extremism and ideological purity is a formula that goes back to 19th century pamphleteering. Blogs didn't invent it, and blogs aren't uniquely malign in promoting ideological rigidity — they just place it on its fullest display.

Photo by Flickr user flattop341.