Given how much time I spend writing blog posts, it would be good to know if blogging has any impact on the real world.  A recent article in The Economist suggests that the answer is yes:

To wangle £11bn ($14bn) out of the British government, it helps to write a blog post. “Full expensing”, which allows firms immediately to write off their spending on machinery, plant and computer equipment from their taxable profits, was the costliest part of Jeremy Hunt’s autumn statement on November 22nd. A long-standing policy in America, the idea of full expensing first wormed its way into British politics in 2017 via blog posts from Sam Dumitriu and Sam Bowman, both then of the Adam Smith Institute, a small think-tank known for its staunch neoliberalism and deranged internet memes about its Scottish namesake.

A few years back, I started to see lots of blog posts advocating “YIMBY” policies, which means deregulating the construction of new housing.  More recently, many local and state governments have begun “up-zoning”, which means allowing more housing to be built in any given area:

Posting influences oppositions as well as governments. YIMBYism, once a niche idea reserved for a few very-online activists, has taken over the Labour Party. Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, insists he is a builder, not a blocker. It is a bold move. In a constituency-based system, the diffuse benefits of building often come second to the concentrated inconvenience of development. Even if his specific plans are unclear, talking-points lifted straight from the posts of YIMBY activists now litter Sir Keir’s speeches . . . YIMBY versus NIMBY is now a key dividing-line at the next election.

It is difficult to know exactly how much any given blog post, or even blogging in general, impacts the policy world.  Blog posts often discuss ideas that are also widespread in academia.  Even so, blogging can bring ideas to real world policymakers that lack the time or inclination to read dense academic papers.

One example is the idea of using aggressive forward guidance in monetary policy when the economy is stuck at the zero lower bound.  This general idea was discussed in academic papers by people like Paul Krugman, Michael Woodford and Gauti Eggertsson.  But blogging may have made policymakers more aware of the usefulness of this approach.

Although blogging is a relatively recent phenomenon, economists have always been willing to use the media to promote their policy views.  Milton Friedman‘s influence on policy was partly due to his academic work, but the greatest impact may have come from his skill at clearly explaining economic concepts in outlets such as Newsweek magazine.