A Year in the Life of a Supply-Side Liberal

Update: Below is my 1st anniversary post. You might also be interested in  my 2d anniversary post, “Three Revolutions.”

Today it has been exactly one year since my first post, “What is a Supply-Side Liberal?” on May 28, 2012. It has been a surprising year–surprising because my hopes when I decided to start blogging have been realized.

For many years, I wanted to do something in the public domain, but couldn’t figure out how to do it. So, after talking to Noah Smith and Justin Wolfers about what it was like to be a blogger, I took on blogging as a serious career move.

For someone with my talkative personality, there is a frustration at having things to say and trying to be heard through the traditional means of in-person conversations, seminars and formal working papers or journal articles alone. (Anyone seeking roots of that talkative personality in my childhood can look to the competition for attention and airtime with six siblings.) It is a great relief to know that my readers will be able to find what I have to say online within hours after I have written it down and make it public.

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.

Though I call the transition “starting to blog,” in fact, Facebook mirroring of my blog posts, Twittercolumns on Quartz, and a few radio (1, 2), TV and Huffpost Live (1, 2), round out the picture so far. For a blogger who also wants to also keep publishing in the academic journals, I think of Milton Friedman as the model of an academic as a public intellectual. I am amazed at how persuasive Milton is in the videos I curated in “Milton Friedman: Celebrating His 100th Birthday with Videos of Milton.”

As an academic “blogger,” each medium reinforces the others. Publishing in economic journals provides an anchor of rigor and depth, and the credibility to talk to policy makers in terms they respect, Twitter invites questions and dialogue in a way anyone can join in on, Facebook gives a sense of personal connection and displays links in a beautiful way, Radio and TV satisfy a primal human curiosity about how someone looks and sounds, writing on Quartz gives me the excellent feedback of my editors Mitra Kalita and Lauren Brown to make difficult ideas more accessible than they would otherwise be, and my blog itself gives me the independence and space to say whatever I think needs to be said, unfiltered by anyone else.

This post marks the end of the “third cycle” for my blog. The first whirlwind month constituted the “first cycle.” Here is what I was thinking at the end of that first month:

The rest of the summer of 2012, my “second cycle,” was also a time of intense blogging. My thoughts at the end of that summer are recounted in

Since then, it has been hard to find time to sit back and take stock until now. The third cycle, from September 1 to now has been very different than those first months:

  • Mitra Kalita liked my post “Why My Retirement Savings Accounts are 100% in the Stock Market,” and recruited me for the Atlantic Corporation’s new international business website Quartz. She initially suggested a pace of once every other week, but I wanted to set a goal of one column a week. In the event, I have written 23 columns in the 246 days since my first Quartz column appeared on September 24, 2012, or about one every week and a half. I rank my first 22 Quartz columns (and my other top blog posts) by popularity here.    
  • Beyond my Quartz columns, my day job teaching macroeconomics and doing economic research made it hard to find time to write major posts unless I could kills two birds with one stone, by, say writing something that would help with my teaching, such as “The Deep Magic of Money and the Deeper Magic of the SupplySide.” But events sometimes inspired me to steal time to write a major post, such as when I tried to see if I could twist the words of my distant cousin Mitt Romney’s acceptance speech enough to get a supply-side liberal interpretation in “The Magic of Etch-a-Sketch: A Supply-Side Liberal Fantasy.” The most personal post I wrote was about the death of my mother.
  • For my regular readers, I have tried hard (with some lapses) to have at least one new post every day on my blog. Some are links to other posts and articles I like. Some are my favorite excerpts from books I have been reading. As I was drawn into lively Twitter discussions (with 2900 followers this morning), an increasing number were links to storified Twitter interactions on substantive issues. And I found a significant fraction of my writing effort devoted to my goal of publishing a worthy religion or philosophy post each Sunday. I view writing my Sunday religion or philosophy post as an important discipline to try to keep a broader perspective.
  • For me, more of the joy of blogging than I expected has come from choosing the illustrations at the top of my posts. I love trying to make my blog beautiful as well as substantive. I talk about this in “Illustration Note to ‘Leading States in the Fiscal Two-Step” and “In Praise of Tumblr.” The most recent illustration choice I am proud of is the image of a Piet Mondrian painting at the top of “A Minimalist Implementation of Electronic Money.” My daughter Diana had a lot to do with the look and feel of my blog, making that aspect much better than it would have been otherwise. She writes about the beginnings of supplysideliberal.com here.  
  • I have felt some nostalgia for those early months of true obsession with my blog and particularly for the hours I allowed myself then to write a post on the spot on idea I was inspired by. But I am glad that the blog-excitement-induced insomnia I reported in “Thoughts on Monetary and Fiscal Policy in the Wake of the Great Recession: supplysideliberal.com’s First Month” has abated to about a third or a quarter the intensity it had then. At this point my meta-self would rather get more sleep than write another blog post. But part of me doesn’t agree. 

In terms of substance on my blog and in Quartz, I am still following the agenda set out in my first post What is a Supply-Side Liberal? Because of the aftermath of the great recession, a huge fraction of my writing this past year has been devoted to backing up my claim there that

…there is no shortage of powerful tools to revive both the U.S. economy and the world economy.  This is true despite (A) short-term interest rates already being close to zero in the U.S. and many other countries and (B) most countries not being able to afford to add much to their national debt

At the time, I had in mind Federal Lines of Credit and quantitative easing (addressed in my second and third posts) as tools for stimulating the economy at the zero lower bound. It was news to me when it dawned on me that it was possible to eliminate the zero lower bound through electronic money and that the most effective form of quantitative easing,  buying corporate stocks and bonds, could be undertaken best by a sovereign wealth fund separate from the Fed or other central bank, and how such a sovereign wealth fund could aid financial stability as well. The other big revelatory moment was was reading John Cochrane’s review of Anat Admati and Martin Hellwig’s book The Banker’s New Clothes (summarized in my post here), which deconstructs the arguments bank lobbyists make against high bank equity (“capital”) requirements as a means of ensuring financial stability. For macroeconomic and financial stability, the two policies I believe would make the most difference are the combination of eliminating the zero lower bound through electronic money and high bank equity requirements, in the range of 30 to 50%, achieved gradually by prohibiting banks from paying dividends or buying back stock until they achieve that level.

Less of my writing than I would like has been devoted to exploring “the enduring dilemmas of economic policy,” among which “the most important is the conflict between efficiency and equity." This summer, I hope to write more about tax policy, and other issues that touch on the distribution of income and wealth. On issues of income distribution and tax policy, the most important posts I have written are

Let me say a few more words about my approach to blog writing. As I say in Thoughts on Monetary and Fiscal Policy in the Wake of the Great Recession: supplysideliberal.com’s First Month, my blog posts are intended to stand the test of time–and are all meant to fit together into a coherent whole. As I say in What is a Partisan Nonpartisan Blog? and in my mini-bio, I am passionate about issues, but I am neither a Republican nor a Democrat. My primary strategy for making the world a better place is not to influence politics in the short run, but to make my case on the merits for each issue to the cohort of young economists who will collectively have such a big influence on policy in decades to come, and to the economists who now staff government agencies (including the Federal Reserve System).

Some other notes on my approach can be found in 

Here is a final word to the wise. In A Guided Tour Through Meta-posts at the End of the Second Cycle, many of the "meta-posts” I mentioned were collections of links to posts on specific topics. Now, those collections of links to posts on specific topics have been replaced by the links to sub-blogs at my sidebar. And I recommend the other links on my sidebar as well. I hope you will check them out, if you haven’t already.  

Some Statistics: Part of the responsibility I feel toward my readers comes from seeing the numbers. The 249,571 pageviews recorded by Google Analytics since June 3, 2012 (which are a lower bound because they don’t count people reading columns on Quartz or people using Google Reader) come from 81,850 unique visitors, with the following distribution by the number of visits a visitor has made (there are some anomalies on divisibility, but that is the way the Google Analytics data is): 

Visits/Person      # of Visits From Category   Implied # Readers in Category

1:                                     81,913                          81,913

2:                                     16,430                           8,215

3:                                       8,393                           2,798

4:                                      5,590                           1,398

5:                                       4,167                             833

6:                                       3,296                             549

7:                                       2,774                             396

8:                                       2,365                             296

9-14:                                 9,814                             892 (dividing by 11)

15-25:                               9,656                             508 (dividing by 19)

26-50:                             10,279                             294 (dividing by 35)

51-100:                             7,909                             113 (dividing by 70)

101-200:                           5,066                               36 (dividing by 140)

201+:                                 4,503                               18 (dividing by 250)

I have hundreds of very loyal readers, for whom I am very grateful. That is a full auditorium’s worth in cyberspace.