Monday, 26 March 2012

More bloggers needed?

Eric Crampton makes the point that,
The Economist says America's number one in EconBlogging. Why? They have a blogosphere, where Europe only has blogs. It's the links and the discussion that makes the whole thing worthwhile.
He later notes that,
New Zealand's getting better. Paul Walker and the TVHE team drew me in, and together we dragged in Seamus (occasionally), Bill Kaye-Blake, and now Sam Richardson. Let's hope we can pull a few other folks into the conversation.
One question worth asking is, What percentage of US economists blog as compared to New Zealand economists? I mean does the US have an economics "blogosphere" simply because it has the majority of economists? Even if New Zealand had the same percentage of economists blogging as the US we still wouldn't have an economics blogsphere simply because of the much smaller number of economists here.

In some situations size really does matter.

Eric goes on to say,
How did America make it work? The Economist's R.A.:
How did America's economics blogosphere develop the necessary density? Early buy-in by important economists mattered, but the growth of the community has been more driven, in my opinion, by an aggressive horde of strivers. Economists, journalists, and would-be pundits with less access to traditional outlets (newspapers, conferences, and journals) were attracted by the low barriers to entry of the web. This ready group of writers created sufficient "liquidity" of opinion to drive an effective conversation, the value of which has subsequently pulled in other respected voices.
If buy-in from important economists matters then we are in big trouble as we simply don't have any here. If on the other hand it is the "aggressive horde of strivers" that matters, then we are in trouble again because as noted above our horde is just too small. If Europe can't do it, what chance for NZ?

None of this mean we don't want more economists blogging, more economists can only raise the standard of economic commentary here in New Zealand. The big question is how to get them to take it up. May be having a blog should be a requirement for getting a PhD in econ!!


Eric Crampton said...

We don't have anybody here that compares in absolute terms to the top of the US, but there are plenty among the top tier of American economists who blog and zero among the top tier of NZ economists.

Paul Walker said...

Ok, then the question is Why do we not see buy-in by important NZ economists? What is different about US top tier economists?

David Friedman said...

Why assume that a blogosphere is defined by a realspace nation? Shouldn't NZ economists consider themselves part of the same blogosphere as U.S. economists?

Not the U.S. blogosphere but the economists' blogosphere.

Eric Crampton said...

@David: Agreed, but econ blogs do a couple of different jobs. In job one, I agree completely: arguing econ theory stuff. In job two, discussing likely effects of current policy, there are pretty strong local effects - US bloggers aren't likely to hop in except inasmuch as it relates to US stuff, and lack of critical country mass in blog econ policy discussion impoverishes debate.

So I can find arbitrarily large numbers of US econ bloggers on any US policy topic. Here, it's rather more limited.

@Paul: I think the difference is largely that the top guys here expect to be making policy rather than sniping from the sidelines, and so fly in to Wellington and contribute quietly. Which is great for the small cadre of elite who get to sit at the high table and stroke their beards, but not so hot for anybody else.

Paul Walker said...

Eric. Agreed, policy is a lot more country specific than general econ theory and thus a lack of economists in a small country means a lack of quality debate.

The top people contributing quietly may also be a small country thing. Those in Wellington know who to talk to and thus the top people are removed from the pool of economists who can "snipe from the sidelines". In the US if Washington talks to a small elite there are still lots of equally good economists to yell from the sideline.