Why Do Economists Blog?

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, andRaghu 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.

This piece is cross-posted from Econbrowser with permission.