Friday, January 23, 2015

Learning from academic blogs

I have serious doubts that writing in blogs has net benefits for authors. I do it because I can communicate simple ideas and test conjectures in a way I cannot do in other formats (such as academic articles or newspapers pieces, or in class with my students), but also because of narcissism, self-esteem and feeling well with myself, I have to admit. But it has costs in terms of distraction and risks in terms of expressing opinions I may regret in the future. There is a trade-off between these two costs: trying to minimize distractions I write fast, but writing fast increases the risk of sooner rather than later regretting what I wrote. Never mind. However, some academic blogs are really good and one can learn a lot from them. I don't mean here and now only the most famous blogs, such as the one by Paul Krugman (which I follow and recommend). Just following four less known of them lately I came across a number of references that have been really illuminating, about a variety of topics that range from economic history, to violence and ethnicity, the role of institutions in economic development, and many others. These four blogs are "Pseudo-Erasmus," "The Growth Economics Blog", the blog by Chris Blattman, and "A Fine Theorem". I recommend all of them and just wish that their authors need them for self-esteem reasons and don't do any cost benefit analysis at the individual level of what they are doing. This does not mean that all they say or all the papers and books they recommend are necessarily right, but I think they all focus on frontier top research on relevant topics for politics and economics today. Sometimes they challenge my beliefs, but that is healthy precisely to minimize the risk I mentioned of regretting later what one writes in his own blog.

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