Tag Archives: blogs

The Fourteenth Banker

By James Kwak

I wanted to bring your attention to a new blog that could turn out to be very important. It’s called The Fourteenth Banker (here’s why) and it’s hosted and written by a current banker who wants to see real change in the industry. This is from the About page:

“Despite being with a big bank, I support reform legislation ending TBTF, separation of Commercial and Investment banking, an independent consumer protection agency and other meaningful reforms.    Why?    I have seen first hand the perversions that happen because of some who believe that the an institution exists for them and the stockholders primarily.    Countless others have been hypnotized by this illusion as well.       Free market idealism is conveniently permissive of unbridled self interest.  I believe in the free market.   In fact, this blog is a free market of ideas and is meant to lead to a free market in banking where institutions self police as a matter of competitiveness.    I have hopes of a free market where being in community in a responsible and consistent way is the path to prosperity, a free market where we recognize that if we take care of the community, the community will take care of us.    It takes a sort of faith.    Or does it?     Is not all successful business enterprise based on providing more value than is consumed?

“That is why we are here.   I invite other bankers to engage in discussion about issues and excesses in our industry and possible solutions.”

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Treasury and the Blogs

On Monday the Treasury Department (various officials, including Geithner, in shifts) had an informal meeting with eight prominent finance or economics bloggers. I’ve only read the accounts by Tyler Cowen, Steve Waldman, and Yves Smith; Waldman names all of them and links to other accounts. This is Smith’s sum-up:

“[T]hese guys are very smooth, very smart, and seemed quite sincere, which made it difficult to discern how much they really did believe and how much of what they said they had to say because they need to defend official policy and maintain confidence. Let’s face it, they get prodded and roughed up by big dogs with some frequency. There was nothing we asked that would be new. They’ve covered this ground with other people of more consequence and therefore have answers ready. We are a pretty unimportant audience (yes, they did bother making time for us, but let us not kid ourselves on how far down the food chain bloggers are) and we cannot argue from a position of advantaged information, so it was inevitable that we would not get beyond standard responses.”

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Hey, Where’s My Free Advance Copy of Superfreakonomics?

Just kidding. I don’t have time to read it anyway (nor am I all that interested).

In case you’ve missed it, there has been an enormous controversy (by blogosphere standards) over a chapter in Superfreakonomics (to be released tomorrow, I think) on climate change, carbon reduction, and geo-engineering. Brad DeLong has the most coverage (I believe this was his first post; read backwards from there), including links to some people who are supportive of the book. The summary is that a number of people have accused Levitt and Dubner of saying silly things about climate change (bad), accepting an “expert’s” opinion without doing due diligence (more bad), and possibly distorting the opinion of another expert (very bad), with the assumed goal of being contrarian and controversial. Levitt and Dubner disagree. Paul Krugman has some interesting thoughts on the dynamics involved.

This did, however, make me think a little about the difference between blogs and books. [Note: After finishing this post -- which is over 1,300 words -- I realized it is not as interesting as I thought it would be. So feel free to go do something else fun.]

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Piling On

As every major economics blog has already reported, Brad Setser is walking away from his blog to work for the National Economic Council. Setser’s blog was one of the best at actually providing original information and analysis (data, even) you couldn’t get anyplace else; the only other competitor in that category that springs to mind is Econbrowser. It was the first place I looked when I had a question about the trade deficit, the Chinese-American economic relationship, or foreign currency reserves. We’ll all be worse off as bloggers, hopefully better off as citizens of the United States.

By James Kwak

How to Win Friends and Influence People

An old friend of mine asked me for some advice about how to increase readership for his blog. I was going to write him a long email, but I thought if I put it here other people can chime in as well.

The conventional wisdom about how to make your blog successful is “write great content.” Of course, that’s very self-serving for established bloggers to say, since it implies that they write great content. I think Felix Salmon is more accurate: write a lot of content.

Should you write more, with lower quality, or less, with higher quality? Fortunately, the blogosphere has been around for long enough that we have a simple empirical answer to this question: given the choice, go for quantity over quality. You might not like it — I certainly don’t — but I defy you to name a really good blogger who doesn’t blog frequently. . . .

Mostly, blogging is a lottery on the individual-blog-entry level — and if you want to win the lottery, your best chance of doing so is to maximize the number of lottery tickets you buy.

(Of course, we at The Baseline Scenario don’t follow this rule, but if I had more time I would.) I recommend Felix’s whole post, most of which I agree with. But I’ll add a few thoughts of my own.

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The Importance of Mark Thoma

David Warsh has an article about economics blogging that is focused on Mark Thoma. Mark isn’t the most controversial blogger on the Internet, but he is one of the most invaluable, because he provides long excerpts of lots of economics material, from all different perspectives. (He also has his own points of view, but he is willing to entertain people who don’t agree with him. He is also gracious and welcoming to new bloggers (like we were not so long ago). If you have a general interest in economics and don’t subscribe to him, check him out.

By James Kwak

President Obama’s Implied Future For Derivatives

If you’ve worked on economic policy formulation – or in any large bureaucracy – you know how to get your boss to make the decision you want.  The key is to frame the options in such a way that he or she feels that your preferred course of action is the only plausible direction.  Alternatives need to be undermined or discredited.

Smart bosses know this, of course, and they seek out sources of information or analysis that are not managed by their subordinates.  The problem is that, traditionally, most such sources are not sufficiently well informed, at a detailed level, to be really helpful in the decision-making process.  The format of most mainstream media – 800 words for the general reader, 4 minute stories, etc – does not allow engagement at the technical level; and, to be honest, technocrats are very good at manipulating the information flow to even the best journalist (who is usually a generalist).  And while there are always outside technical domain experts, research papers appear with a lag and op eds usually have a broad brush (again, a format constraint).

Seen in this context, President Obama – on the face of it - has the role of blogs exactly backwards.  But perhaps he is instead telling us something more profound. Continue reading