How to Interpret Economic Blogs

An investor who is both intelligent and wise seeks the best information.  Many turn to the leading Internet sources.  One of my missions is to help investors in finding and interpreting information, so this is often a theme at "A Dash."

Here is the big problem:  There is no good forum for debate.

It is very difficult to engage another blogger in intelligent debate.  CNBC's twenty-second segments, pitting known partisans against each other, are little better.  There are some high-profile economic discussions, but even these seem quickly to disintegrate into politics.

If you are interested in your investments — and put politics aside — where do you look?

The Kauffman Foundation Economic Bloggers Forum

I spent a day last week at a conference for economic bloggers.  While the Kauffman Foundation generously supported the event, this was a big investment of time for the participants.  What was so interesting?  Was it worth it?  More importantly, is there a reason for investors to be interested in this conclave?

I obviously believe that the answer is "yes" or I would not be writing, but the reason may surprise you.  I have attended many conventions of like-minded people.  That serves a function, but it is not always enlightenment.  It is refreshing to attend a meeting where there is so much spirited debate!

The participants were certainly not representative of the general public.  Libertarians, Democrats, and Republicans were three equal parties.  The self-identification in member polling shows a significant conservative bias.  That is fine.  Getting strong representation for all viewpoints is the key.  Proportional representation is not needed.

The Fault Lines

Here are some key differences among the Economic Bloggers.  I am calling them "fault lines" to emphasize the nature of each issue.

  • Smart people who write about economics v. professional economists
  • MSM writers v. bloggers
  • Those looking for an explanation to the economic collapse v. those who have made up their minds
  • People who see value in blogs when MSM "drills down" v. those who see information and analysis as "bubbling up."
  • Austrian economists v. Keynsians
  • Populist "tea party" types v. traditionalists
  • Importance of blogging — "professional" bloggers (pride in page views) v. those who write when able
  • Bloggers with actual experience — responsibility for making policy decisions v. those who have opinions without ever having accountability
  • The visionary entrepreneurial types v. the dire pessimists.

The Absentees

Because of my training, I always look for what is missing.  The conference would have benefited from the inclusion of several other groups — another future topic.  As an example, many topics stalled when it came to analysis of the political process.  As far as I could tell, I was the only political scientist/public policy type in attendance.  Several panels would have benefited from this viewpoint — especially the final panel on the deficit.  There was a lot of name-calling about "politicians."

A Glimpse Ahead

Regular readers know that I have certain conclusions about these divisions.  I call them conclusions rather than biases, since I am trying to find the best information and analysis  — the same as my readers.  I favor analytical strength, experience, pragmatism, and evidence.  You should do the same.

I understand that few will actually watch the webcast, despite the value.  I expect to write about and highlight the listed themes in some future articles, in the context of my regular agenda.  Meanwhile, most readers would benefit from watching the video of the conference.  The formal presentations were excellent and the questions and responses were pretty lively.

You may also like


  • Mike C March 25, 2010  

    Those looking for an explanation to the economic collapse v. those who have made up their minds
    Jeff, unless I missed it, I don’t recall you specifically addressing this in a blog post, and I am always interested in different views.
    I think one view of the economic collapse is that it was the result of the bursting of a 20-25 year private credit/debt bubble, and the current plan appears to be to substitute public/government debt for the contraction in private debt which at some point (maybe way, way down the road) will also burst.
    What is the other plausible view here?
    People who see value in blogs when MSM “drills down” v. those who see information and analysis as “bubbling up.”
    I’m not following this point. What does this mean?

  • Jeff Miller April 12, 2010  

    Mike C — Sorry to be so slow in responding to these questions. I was waiting for the Kauffman link to be available.
    You mention “one plausible view” and wonder what the other might be. Basically, there is not one other view, but many. There are many serious people exploring the question. I am reading and reviewing the books. Eventually, I’ll have write a few pieces.
    At the moment, I merely suggest that most of what the non-economist econ bloggers cite as THE CAUSE is what you and I might call a necessary but not sufficient condition.
    For starters, not everyone would agree with your assumption of a multi-decade credit bubble. I got the idea from the keynote speech, which you can see here:
    I hope you will enjoy David Warsh’s presentation as much as I did. I think you will.