Why I Blog

Today marks four years since my first post, “What is a Supply-Side Liberal?” I have had a tradition of anniversary posts:

  1. A Year in the Life of a Supply-Side Liberal
  2. Three Revolutions
  3. Beacons

The past year has been an intensely busy year for me in research, teaching and in looking for ways to get more leeway in relation to my time budget constraint. There are many activities I would in principle be glad to cut back on, but they turn out–in part by an important bit of economic logic–to be a subset of the activities especially crucial for getting paid. What I want to do more of is blogging–something I do for free. (I have been paid a meaningful amount as a Quartz columnist, but it is a very small fraction of what I earn from my regular salary.) So why do I put such a high priority on blogging? I gave an answer after a little over one year of blogging in “Why I Write.” Let me answer it now in terms of the reasons that keep me going, with no end in sight, after four years of blogging. 

The main reason I blog is the hope of making a difference in the world. I have always expected that having any influence on economic policy would be very difficult. So I have been pleased at how well rewarded my efforts to forward negative interest rate policy as a monetary policy option have been. I realize that the stars may have specially aligned for negative interest rate policy. Other policy and individual choice areas may be harder to make a difference in. But I have faith that as long as one’s timeline is on the order of decades or generations, there is always great hope that the world can be diverted onto a significantly better path.   

The second reason I blog is to express myself. This is closely related to what I wrote in “A Year in the Life of a Supply-Side Liberal”:

In the public arena, not having a blog, Twitter account, Facebook page or similar platform felt to me a little like being one of those ghosts in the movies who try to talk to their still-living friends and family, but find that their words are inaudible. Now I can talk back when I disagree with what I read in the Wall Street Journal at the breakfast table. Or I can add my two cents to an idea that I agree with.

There is a nuance now. Some days I have something I am dying to say. Other days, I think “I need to stay in the game by blogging regularly so that when I do have something I am dying to say, there will be readers there to hear it.” That is, I try to be dependable for my readers so that they will be there when I have an idea I really want to get out there. (According to the rules I have made up for myself, being dependable for my readers includes (a) having something new every day, even if it is just a link, (b) having a Sunday post on either religion or a key text like John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty (c) at least two other posts with some meat to them each week and (d) having the blog be visually appealing with several pictures every week to break up the words. Living up to that has not always been easy.)

The third reason I blog is the pleasure of all the relationships I have made online. Blog posts, their associated Facebook posts, and all the tweets I do have helped me get to know many people I otherwise wouldn’t, and to interact with people I already knew more than I otherwise would. It is great to feel connected to people. And those online connections often spill over into the rest of my life, whether in the academic sphere, the sphere of journalism, or the personal sphere. I had a chance on Monday to write about some of those online relationships in “Friends and Sparring Partners: The Skyline from My Corner of the Blogosphere.”

Someday I hope I can reap all of these rewards from blogging and have blogging figure into my merit raises as well. I get indications that blogging is a definite plus for recruiting of graduate students and recruiting of new professors, since for the growing fraction of economists who read blogs, it is attractive to go to a department that hosts a familiar blogger. There is great hope that someday economics departments will realize the value of blogging for recruiting and for the reputation of a department more generally for a simple reason. How positive economists are about blogs and blogging is strongly correlated with age. Generational replacement alone will make the attitude of the average working economist of the future much more positive toward blogs in the future than it is now. And already, the positive attitudes of many of the young toward blogs is what makes blogging so valuable for recruiting. 

Sometimes blogging has been hard work. I have enmeshed myself in a motivational web that makes it easy to do that hard work despite the sacrifice that sometimes represents. 

But blogging is also a lot of fun, and definitely rewarding on many levels. I even feel blogging has made me smarter than I otherwise would have been, because of all of the extra thinking it has led me to do. If you have had a fraction as much fun reading my blog as I have had writing it, I have been successful.