2013-01-03

The Blogosphere Has An Existential Crisis

Tyler Cowen briefly comments on Andrew Sullivan's decision to offer his blog for a subscription. While he naturally focuses on the economic side of the picture, which is what a lot of people are focusing on, the real question is: How will the blogosphere react?

So while a few people are musing over the financial viability of the blogging model (and let's cut to the chase: there is no financial viability for blogging; we are and always will be a free service), Scott Sumner takes some time to reflect on the fact that blogging has made him progressively crankier and less interesting. Frankly, he's right. There was a time when he was one of the most civil and compelling bloggers out there, but at a certain point he sort of morphed into an NGDP-bot and, rather than engaging disagreements, he just started re-phrasing every objection and/or alternative viewpoint in terms of NGDP.

I mean, there is a limit to the viability of that sort of thing. It's basically the Paul Krugmas shtick, only Sumner has replaced the phrase "people who disagree with me are dishonest morons" with "people who disagree with me didn't use the phrase "NGDP," and has replaced the phrase "Y = C + I + G + NX" with "NGDP = N + G + D + P".

Add that to the fact that The Crimson Reach generously linked to my movie review of Django Unchained, and had this very good point to make about movies in general:
I note that, from all appearances, and Tarantino flourishes aside, Django Unchained is basically what they call a Western. Now, some of my favorite movies are Westerns. Westerns are usually violent and have creepy or downright disturbing political undertones, but people don’t obsess over them while watching them. Once Upon A Time In The West might be my second-favorite movie of all time. I love it and I enjoy it on a visceral level. But do I have a stance on it? No. If I thought about it, would there be some politics underlying the central drama of it? Of course! I’m quite certain there are in fact. And I like to read such theories, sometimes, after the fact. But I’m very glad I didn’t do so until well after watching, immersing myself in, and enjoying the movie on its own.
Oops. He's right, and I have a bit of egg on my face. See, movies (like blogs) are a fun way to pass the time. When we lose sight of that and get caught up in what we believe to be the "broader implications" - which we ourselves have invented by the simple virtue of the fact that we suddenly decided to call them "broader implications" - we end up sucking the fun out of things. We also end up writing a lot of nothing about a lot of nothing.

As it turns out, the "broader implications" of a movie like Django Unchained are exactly as interesting and important as prescribing an NGDP level-targeting monetary policy regime in response to every economic data point.

What I mean is, there is a reason blogging is a free service. The reason is that you can't possibly charge money for this garbage. You don't need me to tell you that controversy arises when a filmmaker decides to use one of the most taboo words in the American lexicon. And maybe you need Scott Sumner to tell you that NGDP level-targeting is really where it's at, but you only need him to tell you that once or twice. Okay, maybe a dozen times. But after that, you're good. And, for heaven's sake, don't pay for it!