- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 28, 2003

Last year at this time, I noted the growing phenomenon of “blogs” on the Internet. Blog is short for Web log, a site or page established by one or more individuals to comment on the issues of the day or whatever else they choose to write about.

There are thousands of blogs, but a few have risen to the top of the heap as must-reading for me every day.

Those blogs I discussed last year by Andrew Sullivan, Mickey Kaus and Matt Drudge are still eminently readable, as are those on the Web sites of National Review, the New Republic and Reason magazine. But over the course of the year, I have found a number of others that also are highly informative.

As someone who writes mainly about economics, I naturally gravitate toward those with an economic bent. One of the more interesting is written by Brad DeLong, a liberal economist at the University of California at Berkeley (j-bradford-delong.net). Although I disagree with almost all his political commentary — he served in the Clinton Treasury Department and hates George W. Bush with a passion — he often makes interesting observations about obscure economic points.

Mr. DeLong has become something of a “Left Coast” version of Paul Krugman, the famously Bush-bashing Princeton economist and New York Times columnist. As such, his comments about the economy tend to be echoed on other Web sites and in the major media.

Therefore, if one is interested in knowing what the liberal line is going to be on some current economic topic, Brad’s Web site is a good place to look.

Another liberal blogger I read regularly is Max Sawicky, an economist with the union-backed Economic Policy Institute (maxspeak.org). Max and I went to Rutgers together, which allows us to maintain a civil discourse despite being poles apart politically. I find Max interesting because he is unafraid to represent a far left, almost Marxist, viewpoint that is unfashionable even in the Howard Dean wing of the Democratic Party. But he is a good enough economist to be moved by the data, which is rare among ideologues.

Going over to the right side of the political spectrum, I enjoy a Web site maintained by my friend Don Luskin (poorandstupid.com). He is the self-appointed watchdog of Paul Krugman. Every time Mr. Krugman publishes a column or appears on television, I can depend on Don to dissect it within hours, point out errors of fact, note critical details left out, and Mr. Krugman’s undisclosed biases.

For example, Mr. Luskin noted that when Mr. Krugman attacked the administration’s policy toward Enron, he never disclosed he had been a consultant to the scandal-plagued company, about which he even wrote a puff piece in Fortune Magazine.

Another economic blogger is Steve Antler, a professor at Roosevelt University in Chicago and the owner of a furniture manufacturing business (econopundit.com). He combines real world experience with technical economics.

One thing Mr. Antler does that I find particularly interesting is that he subjects common economic claims about things like the relationship between economic growth and employment to rigorous econometric analysis. I turned him on to the Fair Model, a publicly available econometric model maintained by Yale economist Ray Fair (fairmodel.econ.yale.edu) and Steve has made good use of it.

Two economists at George Mason University in Virginia, Tyler Cowen and Alex Tabarrok, established a joint blog last year, in which both comment almost every day (marginalrevolution.com). They don’t limit themselves to topical subjects or even to economics, and often discuss cultural matters, history, technology and lots of other things I probably wouldn’t otherwise have any reason to read about.

A more specialized economics blog is maintained by Stephen Bainbridge, a law professor at UCLA (professorbainbridge.com). He often illuminates fine points of corporate law that I find very helpful in a day when various corporate scandals seem to fill the paper daily. He also has a great love of fine wine, which he discusses frequently and knowledgably.

Two other law professors also publish blogs that often deal with current economic topics. One is by Glenn Reynolds of the University of Tennessee (instapundit.com) and the other is by Eugene Volokh, also of UCLA (volokh.com). Mr. Reynolds is widely admired for his amazing productivity — he seems to post interesting commentary on all manner of things 24/7. Mr. Volokh is not as prolific, but compensates by having many guest bloggers who add to his site’s output.

As one can see from this list, many of the blogs I now read daily are produced by academics. This is interesting because last year’s list consisted mainly of those done by journalists. Now that almost every professor at a major university has a personal Web page, I expect to see more of them enter the world of blogging.

Bruce Bartlett is senior fellow with the National Center for Policy Analysis and a nationally syndicated columnist.


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