Econoblogging As Gossip

Michael Giberson

Bastiat, were he alive today, would be econoblogging.

Much econoblogging deploys the rhetorical form of gossip: observation and comment. Only instead of the target being someone’s ex-spouse’s new partner, or a celebrity headed to jail, it is GDP or government subsidies or tax policy. We’re a fun bunch don’t you know.

Grant McCracken said, “good blogs inhale data before they exhale comment.” But Grant writes from the intersection of economics and anthropology, and observation is data if you’re an anthropologist, right? Observe and comment. OMG so EZ!!!

Econoblogging succeeds as a form, as, for example, compared to philosophy- or anthropology-blogging, partly in the same way that gossip succeeds as a form. The basic theoretical principles are familiar and readily deployed. Logically the structure is: (a) If X, then Y, (b) X, and (c) Therefore, Y.

Except the fundamentals and logical forms are commonplace so the gossiper can skip (a) and (c), jumping straight from observation to the post-(c) evaluative commentary: Isn’t that awful!

By the way, if you don’t share fundamentals with your gossiper, you aren’t likely actually part of the community of interest anyway and the gossiper won’t tell you the story. At least not the good stuff. Econoblogging is a little different here, since the selectivity is on the receiver’s end of the communication rather than the sender’s end, but it works out much the same: if you don’t share fundamentals with your econoblogger, you aren’t likely to stick around. No one said you had to like it.

Related: Seth Roberts and Tyler Cowen exchange thoughts on the antecedents to blogging. Seth suggests that blogs are “non-fiction with emotion.” Is this not also an accurate description of gossip?

[Actually, since he wrote in French, Bastiat would be writing econo-bloc-notes.]