Why Do Economists Blog (Policy Edition) (II)?

Six years ago, I asked this question, and noted that it was primarily economists who had served a stint in government. Still, it was a pretty rarified group; now it’s less so.


Now, why one would care about the distinction between those who had served in government/policy positions versus those that hadn’t is that the former have institutional knowledge that pretty much only comes from service.
That being said, the downside might be that they are more partisan in nature; I’ll leave readers to judge.


First, who was around in November 2007?



What about now. Well, this question is a little harder to answer, as the lines between blogging and institutional outlets like columns have diminished (consider for instance the IMF, NY Fed blogs and compare against say FedViews).
So, here I’ll tabulate stand-alone or semi-autonomous blogs (so I omit CBO blog, CEA blog, etc); and because I can’t cover the entire world, I focus on US government service:



For the sake of conciseness, I’ve omitted bloggers who served in the multilateral institutions like the IMF, including Simon Johnson (former chief economist, IMF), contributor to Baseline Scenario, and
Raghu Rajan (former chief economist, IMF, now head of Reserve Bank of India).


A few random observations:


There is some amount of “churn”, with some bloggers entering and some leaving (Roubini is behind a paywall, Setser is in the government, Lim came and went within the space of five years).
Still there is remarkable continuity. For a similar story, see Felix Salmon’s post about the finance blogosphere. (By the way, Salmon’s depiction of the econoblogosphere is still a classic, yet to be matched).
The entry of substantial numbers of bloggers, some associated with mainstream media (e.g., Economix) suggests to me a greater legitimacy ascribed to bloggers (a similar phenomenon shows up for academic blogs).


One interesting point is that the bloggers with policy experience seem to have a better grasp on what data are out there, and what they mean — or don’t mean.
In other words, you have to know what you don’t know, before you can comment intelligently.

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13 thoughts on “Why Do Economists Blog (Policy Edition) (II)?

  1. jonathan

    I miss Brad Setser’s Follow the Money blog. Really interesting data and analysis of world money flows, investment in US funds, etc.

  2. Anonymous

    Bloggers with policy experience also tend to be less engaged (or lose interest) in doing serious research (DeLong and Krugman, for example, don’t publish much in top econ journals anymore)–and, so, have more time to blog.

  3. James

    Upon first reading I thought it said:
    Paul Krugman (former economist)
    Which I thought was pretty funny.

  4. 2slugbaits

    Anonymous Krugman did his policy work very early in his career and well before he did his “serious research.” In fact, he was still a grad student at MIT when he got his first taste of real world policy work. Too young to even have a beard.

  5. Alexander Hamilton

    @Anonymous.
    Since 2008, Paul Krugman has a JME, an AER, and a QJE, in addition to a handful of second-tier academic publications. Plus an Econ Policy paper in 2007. The QJE is a seminal paper, and his Brookings paper in 2008 could have been published in a top field.
    How many top 5 publications do you have in the past 5 years?
    Stephen Williamson also rags on Krugman for “not doing research”. And since Paul Krugman began writing a NYT column everyone in government reads, he’s also managed to published more and better research than Stephen Williamson.

  6. Ricardo

    Menzie wrote:
    “…the downside might be that they are more partisan in nature; I’ll leave readers to judge.”
    Why leave it to readers to judge. It is blatantly obvious.

  7. sherparick

    He also wrote a text book, which probably earns him a lot of Mankiw hate. I get the Krugman hate, I really do. He is smart, he writes well, and he is usually right (and acknowledges when he is wrong). Meanwhile John Taylor, Casey Mulligan, and Steve Williamson, even when they disagree with other, are never wrong, although of course “they are scientists” while Krugman deals with “Keynesian superstitions.”

  8. Robert Hurely

    Ricardo:
    I guess you are completely unbiased! Be nice if you just stated your argument and let the chips fall where they may

  9. Rick Stryker

    Menzie,
    I’d add John Taylor to your list of bloggers. Besides being an economist at the Council of Economic Advisors under Ford and Carter, Taylor was a member of the Council under Bush 1 and Under Secretary of the Treasury For International Affairs under Bush 2.

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