Saturday, July 30, 2016

Blogs, nuance and footnotes

Blogs are a great instrument of communication, as long as one is selective. Blog posts by social scientists are not science, but commentary. But it is great to know the opinions by Krugman, Milanovic or Piketty almost in real time. In the past, many people would have paid to have a conversation with John Maynard Keynes, or at least access to his blog. Besides, good blogs have useful links to academic articles and books. Of course, science advances in academic articles, which should be full of footnotes, qualifications and nuance. But suggestions in blogs may help encourage scientific advances. For example, the comments by Milanovic about the work by Acemoglu and Robinson, linking them to the Washington Consensus and Francis Fukuyama, are just commentary, but they amount to a very interesting thread to follow. One could argue that "Why Nations Fail," the very successful book by Acemoglu and Robinson, is not much more rigorous than a very long blog post. There was a recent very good (gated) article in the Financial Times by Giles Wilkes on how he learned to love the economic blogosphere. This particular set of blogs is not limited to economists. Wilkes especially recommends a blog by a computer programmer, Steve Randy Waldman, called Interfluidity. I am happy to see that in the last post, Waldman says this: "Like a lot of people, I think, I’m a bit dazed by the fact that apparently, really, the British public has voted to leave the EU. I’d prefer we lived in a world that was coming together rather than fraying apart." There is a lot more nuance in that post, but since this is my blog and I don't have to obbey any editor, I am free to quote selectively.

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