A Fond Farewell to EconLog
I began blogging for EconLog in 2005. I hadn’t even published my first book, but Liberty Fund took a chance on me and made me a regular blogger. After seventeen years and thousands of blog posts, I’m supremely grateful to Liberty Fund, my fellow bloggers, and of course you, dear EconLog readers.
Starting on March 1, however, I have accepted a position running an all-new blog, Bet On It, hosted by the Salem Center for Policy at the University of Texas. I will be the chief blogger as well as the editor. As you may know, I’ve spent about four months of Covid as a visiting scholar at the University of Texas. It’s been a great home away from home, thanks to Executive Director Carlos Carvalho. And since the Salem Center is energetically expanding, this was a natural move. Part of the deal is that I’ll continue to spend several weeks in Austin every year – and work with Salem to recruit other visiting scholars, hold public events, and much more.
The upshot is that this will be my last week as an EconLog blogger. I sincerely hope you all keep following EconLog, but I’m also hoping that you’ll add Bet on It to your regular reading. The thousands of posts I’ve written for EconLog since 2005 will of course remain in the Archives. And Liberty Fund and I plan to continue working together on other projects. But February 28, I’ll post my last piece for EconLog. Starting March 1, expect all of my new blog posts to appear on Bet On It.
The format for Bet On It is still evolving. Since I run the website, I will have full power to respond to your suggestions and requests. If the blog is perfect on day 1, please let me know. Otherwise, though, please let us know how to craft the look and functionality to your liking. Dwarkesh Patel, a great and enthusiastic programmer, is helping me out – and there’s little he can’t do. (Check out our podcast interview). The designer is @sengsavane, the artist who is also did the book cover for Labor Econ Versus the World.
When I joined EconLog in 2005, it really was a different era. Though the War on Terror was ongoing, the world looked brighter to me.
Intellectually, while the economics profession continued to be mired in dull-yet-technical dead ends, there was still a strong consensus against the biases I criticize in The Myth of the Rational Voter: anti-market bias, anti-foreign bias, make-work bias, and pessimistic bias. Although the Survey of Americans and Economists on the Economy has never been redone, I have little doubt that less rational people are gradually taking over the profession. Even correcting for my own pessimistic bias, more younger economists than ever really do seem like they never learned the economic way of thinking. A shocking share of top research is mere causal inference with no economic reasoning to guide it. And most new Ph.D.s are casually woke at heart. They’re oblivious to economics’ multi-century war on Social Desirability Bias and demagoguery. Earlier generations of left-leaning economists spent a lot of energy curtailing the left’s excesses. By and large, the latest generation of left-leaning economist is now part of the left’s excesses.
Politically, while the rationalist and libertarian ideals that I cherish were never close to dominant, the landscape still looked markedly better in 2005. With the collapse of the Soviet bloc still recent, socialism remained beyond the pale where it belongs. And at least in the U.S., free-market economics seemed to have a place at the table. George W. Bush even called for quite radical deregulation of immigration, albeit with little persistence. Putin did not yet seem like the dictator of Russia. China still looked like it was liberalizing. Globally, it was not yet obvious that after the collapse of the Soviet bloc, political progress was practically over. I never thought the War on Terror would end successfully or even smoothly, but the rise of the ISIS and the return of the Taliban startled me. And while I was not shocked by the Covid pandemic – far worse plagues have happened before – I remain horrified by the reaction. In 2005, I would have predicted a shutdown of two weeks before life roughly returned to normal. So far, I’m off by a factor of fifty.
Despite economic and political decay, we have enjoyed continuing economic and technological progress. But continuing economic and technological progress was just what I expected when EconLog started. I’m grateful for what we got. My optimism was on-target. Yet even there, I can’t help but muse that if telework technologies had developed more slowly, the Covid moral panic would have ended long ago.
The good news: By the power of selective non-conformism, you can live a good life even when your society and subculture are in decline. Since 2005, I’ve focused ever more strongly on doing the kind of work that means the world to me. I’ve written big books of big ideas. I’ve spoken to audiences all over the world. I’ve even published a successful graphic novel, with more to come. And I’ve blogged the topics that matter to me, while steering clear of ephemera. It was the path of selective non-conformism that brought me to spend so much Covid time in Texas, which in turn inspired my new project with UT’s Salem Center. As I keep saying, self-help is like a vaccine. It works if tried.
Liberty Fund has treated me extremely well over the years. Extremely well. I’d especially like to thank my long-term co-blogger David Henderson, who joined in 2008, and Director Amy Willis. What fine people! It’s been my privilege to work with them, and with the whole EconLog team.
Soon after I started blogging, Tyler Cowen joked, “You’re not really a blogger.” His point: Unlike most of the competition, I wasn’t reacting to the latest news or whatever’s hot. My goal as a blogger has always been to write think-pieces that stand the test of time. I hope I’ve done that during my seventeen years at EconLog. At my new blog, starting March 1, I plan to stay the course. Bet on it!