I’m not likely to be back blogging anytime soon. But there was a simpler time before I had a respectable number of readers, and I thought it would be a good idea to collect all my favourite posts in one place, for the sake of posterity, my own future reference and the outside chance that you may find it interesting. I really hope that you enjoy reading as much as I did writing.
The burden of public debt
My four (good) posts on this debate, which raged throughout the econoblogosphere back in January, can be found here, here, here and here. If Paul Krugman or Dean Baker ever again make the claim that it’s a matter of identity that domestically-held public debt can’t be a burden to future generations, I will come out of retirement and remind them of the Epic Defeat they were dealt last time round. There aren’t many things I am sure about in this world, but this is one of them.
Adventures in GDP accounting
Other random musings
Being altruistic towards ourselves (on discounting)
Principle, not principal (on the student loan controversy in the UK)
The Christensen/Williamson/Roth exchange
Whilst I initially planned to just cut back on the volume of posts, I have decided to take an indefinite break from blogging. If I may beg your attention for a few short minutes, I would like to explain why.
Back in December, before I began my three-week Christmas holiday, I posted a list of books I intended to read over the period. I thought making a public statement about it would mean I would actually do it. Compared to the rate at which I used to read, it should have been a doddle.
As it turned out, I barely managed to read a third of them. Because I spent most of my time thinking about what to write on my blog. To help provide inspiration, and to avoid saying the same things as other people, I more than doubled the number of subscriptions in my Google Reader. I was spending several hours a day just reading other people’s blogs, and thinking about how I could say something interesting and novel in response. And on one or two occasions, I believe I have succeeded.
However, any limited success I may have experienced has come at a profound cost. I find myself no longer as oriented towards truth and understanding, but more on how to go about agreeing or disagreeing with a particular intellectual community – economics bloggers. In my own interactions with my family and friends, I find it increasingly difficult to talk informally on the subjects I write about on my blog, so embedded my thinking has become within the language, conventions and background assumptions of the economics blogosphere.
In short, I find myself a less well-rounded human being than I was, even compared to just three or four months ago. I barely read novels any more (I haven’t touched my Kindle in ages, and I own dozens of books I have paid for but not yet read). My philosophy paper-in-progress – ‘Who are the speakers of English’ – languishes on my hard drive, unedited for weeks. I don’t have the conversations I used to, transitioning effortlessly between history, philosophy, theology, politics, economics, literature and film – and it’s because I’m reading blogs instead.
Here you might say: “Richard, why not just cut down on the blogging, rather than the more drastic step of cutting it out completely“? Quite simply, because it is so addictive. When my pageviews started going up, and people started linking to me and commenting, I just couldn’t stop worrying about all the things I write that I realize are wrong or grossly oversimplified. I always want to take time I don’t have to write something new, explain things better, show where I think I may be right and where I was definitely wrong. Blogging, I fear, is not a good fit for someone of my skeptical and critical temperament.
In an undeserved stroke of fortune, I have had some fantastic commenters somehow find their way over to my humble blog. Thank you all for abiding by the most unusual comments policy on the web, and for putting up with my gibberish. In particular, I would like to single out Lars Christensen, Steve Roth, ‘Max’, Bob Murphy and especially Nick Rowe for their valuable contributions, sometimes sharp criticisms but always kind words.
I have generally eschewed advocacy on this blog, but I would like to tell you that whilst I am a Bleeding Heart Libertarian, a Market Monetarist and a Possibilian (and if you don’t know what any of those terms mean, I would highly recommend you click on the links), above all I strongly believe in academic civility and Bayesian thinking. Over the course of this project I have had to constantly update (and often radically revise) my beliefs, which is so much easier to do when disagreements have been expressed in a civil and respectful manner. I would urge you to take the same attitude in all your endeavours.
Finally, this is an indefinite and not a permanent hiatus, so please do subscribe in case I ever come back.
Thanks so much for reading,
Unfortunately, in between my fun (but demanding) day job and studying for the CFA, I am finding that I just don’t have the time and mental energy to sustain the level of blogging seen here recently. From now on, barring exigent circumstances I will be publishing two items weekly: one proper post, and another with links and some brief thoughts on them. It’s something I have been considering for a while, but the change was prompted by my hasty adventures this week over reserve requirements, which are somewhat symptomatic of my mental overstretch (I will return to the question in future, but I need to put some more serious thought in first). So I’m going to pull back a bit and focus more intently on what I see as my comparative advantage – conceptual/philisophical issues in economics. I hope this will give me time to interact more fully in the comments section and to phrase what I write more carefully. It has been amazing to pull in some fantastic commenters in the last few weeks; you guys are awesome and I really would love it if you stick around (the ‘follow by email’ and RSS feed buttons are on the top right!). I hope this change means I will be at my best with everything I write in future.
To whet your appetite, some things I have bouncing around my head at the moment include:
- Alternatives to the fiduciary theory of the firm (and towards a more general theory, including non-profit orgs)
- Some stuff on the economic concept of ‘capital’ (of which I am not a fan)
- The case for using market forecasts in public policy (esp. monetary)
- The role GDP accounting may be playing in the debate over the existence of ‘liquidity traps’
I may also re-publish (with light edits) some of the best posts I wrote in the period before most of you started tuning in.
Many thanks for reading,
Wow, three weeks holiday! What on earth am I going to do with myself…
On my reading pile:
(further suggestions appreciated)
Thinking, Fast & Slow – Daniel Kahneman. Started this last week, and already know it will permanently change the way I think.
Engineering the Financial Crisis – Jeffrey Friedman & Wladimir Klaus. Really looking forward to this, as it’s been a while since I’ve read something on this topic where I’ve learned something new and interesting. I think that is going to change.
Launching the Innovation Renaissance – Alex Tabarrok. I have a pretty strong conviction that something needs to be done about the patent system, although I have no idea (yet) what that should be.
Race Against the Machine – Erik Brynolfsson & Andrew McAfee. Tyler Cowen says (tongue-in-cheek) this is the second best e-book this year; which given how highly I rate Ryan Avent’s The Gated City makes me very excited.
How to Be a Rogue Trader – John Gapper. Apparently rogue trading is much more common than one might expect.
Robust Political Economy – Mark Pennington. The issue of public choice is one I have been late to the party on, but I’m trying to make up for lost time.
Growing Public – Peter Lindert. Definitive account of the welfare state and its effects on growth. Been meaning to read this for a long, long time.
A Great Leap Forward – Alexander Field. I’m mentally preparing myself to radically revise my priors.
Lords of Finance – Liaquat Ahmad. Started this ages ago, but work intervened. Looking forward to getting back in.
Prosperity without Growth – Tim Jackson. Was recommended this by a friend, and I will try to leave my skepticism at the cover.
Exorbitant Privilege – Barry Eichengreen. Been meaning to read something by him for ages.
On my watching pile
Breaking Bad, Season 2. Seriously, where has this show been all my life?!
Spiral (Engrenages), Season 1. Mentally preparing myself for an examination of the French justice system, and an ensuing (unwarranted) sense of Anglo-Saxon superiority.
State of Play. I’ve had this on DVD for a long time and never gotten round to it (H/T Alyssa Rosenberg)
Stuck on replay
Ut ur min skalle by Movits!. All you really need to know is, they are a Swedish jazz/swing/rap group – and I swear that language was born to be rapped.