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June 25, 2007

Economists In The Blogosphere

This is one of my perennial bafflements, but the lack of suggestions on my request for political science blogs reminds me how odd the robust representation of economists in the blogosphere really is. Between Tyler Cowen, Mark Thoma, Brad DeLong, Max Sawicky, Dani Rodrick, Greg Mankiw, Kash Monsori, the folks at Angry Bear, and all the other econobloggers out there, a fairly broad channel has arisen for publicizing and popularizing relevant economic research in the political sphere. Not so with relevant political science research, even as it it would seem, if anything, more relevant. Why have economists taken to the blogosphere in so much greater numbers, and with so much more apparent success, than practitioners of other disciplines that also intersect with contemporary politics?

June 25, 2007 | Permalink


Crooked Timber has one or two poli-sci types I think. Oxblog? Volokh? But they don't bill them selves as political science blogs, strictly speaking.

Posted by: Nicholas Beaudrot | Jun 25, 2007 12:19:03 PM

Seen this?


Posted by: Rick Perlstein | Jun 25, 2007 12:24:05 PM

It seems very simple. There is no such thing as "relevant political science research." There's Foreign Policy, there's Domestic Policy, there's polling, and that's it. Political Science, I'm sorry to say, isn't.

Posted by: IMU | Jun 25, 2007 12:29:12 PM

Economists understand how low the opportunity costs of their time really are.

Posted by: Chris | Jun 25, 2007 12:31:17 PM

Hmmm -- Polysigh seems a little infrequently updated, and not very focused on poli-sci research. I'd like to find something that keeps me abreadst of interesting new studies and journal findings. And anyone who doesn't think poli-sci research can matter should read more Larry Bartel.

Posted by: Ezra | Jun 25, 2007 12:38:55 PM

And you forget Atrios. Shame.

LGM has PolySci types.

Posted by: Mudge | Jun 25, 2007 12:56:55 PM

Maybe it's because poli sci focuses on questions that aren't very interesting to a broadbase of readers in the blogosphere such as does 1994 qualify as a realignment election similar to 1932 or where does George HW Bush rank among Presidents while economics focuses on issues that are highly relevant and controversial such as is free trade really in our best interest, what's the best way to increase prosperity, etc.

Posted by: Ron | Jun 25, 2007 1:08:16 PM

Lawyers Guns & Money and Crooked Timber are two excellent blogs with contributors who are political scientists. But I see what you mean . . . I don't know of any blogs that look at poli sci research per se.

Have you tried Political Theory Daily Review?: http://www.politicaltheory.info
It's on the Bookforum site, and unfortunately it's not quite what you're looking for, either. But it's a great source for links to reviews of scholarly books on history and politics.

My personal theory as to why there are lots of good econ blogs and so few poli sci blogs is that economics has basically colonized the social sciences. It's not just that poli sci and other social sciences have adopted a lot of economic techniques and theories. It's also the case that economists now study all manner of human activity which had never before been seen as economics, proper -- such as drug addiction, family life, and sex (parenthetically -- economists are at their most hilarious, albeit unintentionally, when they talk about sex. I once mentioned Gary Becker's name to a friend of mine, who replied, "Oh -- is he still trying to quantify the orgasm?" Which about nails it).

So, maybe because economists are already doing a lot of work on politics a blog devoted specifically to political science isn't necessary. Though I don't really buy that, either -- other disciplines often have a lot to offer, especially because they have different approaches that can shed light on neoclassical economics' (many) weaknesses.

Maybe it all just comes down to the fact that economists tend to have bigger egos than other social scientists, so they're less shy about letting their voices be heard in a public way.

Posted by: Kathy G. | Jun 25, 2007 1:09:28 PM

Atomization favors Capital. Weakness of poly-sci probably a symptom of Late-Capitalism, alienation extending into a dearth of political outlets:Unions, ethnic organizations, fringe parties, etc, especially on the left. Homo economicus. If I have time, I will think & research it.

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Jun 25, 2007 1:11:21 PM

Economics is for the most part a more rigid, dogmatic field. It's impossible to get published unless you accept the [bullshit] neoclassical Chicago school of market deification. Likewise, all the economists in the media are "just let the market work its magic!" types. So you go on the internet for your hott heterodox analysis.

Also, poli-sci is bullshit anyway. At least economics makes a pretense of being based on facts.

Posted by: Wells. | Jun 25, 2007 1:14:50 PM

I had meant to comment on your earlier post but hadn't gotten around to it. Chris Lawrence, who was a pol sci grad student, tried to get something along these lines launched a couple of years ago, but didn't get enough traction - I suspect that it is hard for a grad student to do this. Political Theory Daily Review provides a kind of update service, but it has much broader coverage than political science. I try to cover bits and pieces on Crooked Timber but in a fairly haphazard fashion - pieces that speak to issues that I find particularly interesting (such as the Dan Nexon and Tom Wright piece on the politics of empire), plus a round-up piece on interesting papers at the APSA meetings. On the broader question of why economists and not political scientists (so much), I suspect that this is in part a network/demonstration effect. We haven't had a famous political scientist who has started blogging and stuck to it yet (a couple of near misses such as John Ikenberry), and as a result, it isn't as well legitimated as econ-blogging is. That said, there are a fair number more political scientists blogging - see the list at http://wiki.henryfarrell.net/wiki/index.php/Political_Science_and_Political_Theory - than there are, say, sociologists.

Posted by: Henry Farrell | Jun 25, 2007 1:18:43 PM

Mudge listed Atrios, I could list many more economics sites from my blogroll. As you might guess, I have a little trouble differentiating poly-sci from econ. The Bartels paper seemed to contain elements of both. What is Public Choice Economics?

If you are interested, I have a few Marxist sites. I strongly disapprove of political organization and activism on bases other than class, like cross-class environmentalism or choice. Works as well as trying to sell high-tax single-payer universal health care to the rich. Not in their interests.

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Jun 25, 2007 1:28:32 PM

Economics is tied into current public policy in much more intimate ways than Poli Sci. Orthodox economists can and do use theoretical constructs about labor compensation to argue against minimum wage increases in the here and now. Similarly discussions of income inequality quickly get tied back to orthodox theory which argues that American CEO pay is simply the result of markets reacting to inputs. Which results in such things as arguing that it all has to do with skill differential. In these policy disputes the Economists tend to be on the front lines of the policy battle, they are self-chosen activists.

And as in many things, orthodox views having been accepted by the MSN as received wisdom ("Private markets always being more efficient than government" only being the most egregious), the place for heterodoxy has defaulted to the Web. Why was most of the anti-war discourse found on the web? Because the DFHs could have an outlet. Same with the Econoblogs.

What is interesting to me is the steady shift to the Left among the Econoblogs. Mark, Brad and some of the ABs were signifcantly more Centrist when their blogs started, now Bush has driven some of them positively Shrill.

Posted by: Bruce Webb | Jun 25, 2007 1:51:30 PM

I'd think samefacts.com (Mark Kleiman et al) should qualify. Also, Jacob T Levy.

Posted by: SamChevre | Jun 25, 2007 1:57:06 PM

Political Theory Daily Review has had a sweet makeover and is now the main page for "book forum":


Posted by: joeo | Jun 25, 2007 1:57:39 PM

I find it really interesting that there's so much discussion of political theory in this thread - when there's so little of it in political science, generally.

As to Henry Farrell's point, I'd say Dan Drezner is a fairly big name in poli sci - and he's become better known through his blog. And in his subfield Marc Lynch is rather prominent.

And as to the original question, the blog that came first to my mind when you posted this was Statistical Modeling, Causal Inference and Social Science.

Posted by: Armand | Jun 25, 2007 2:10:04 PM

I double-majored in political science, and I think my time in that major was pretty evenly divided between game theory, constitutional law, history through a political perspective (that is, stuff like what Ron said), and statistics and polling. The second and fourth are amply covered to at least some degree by lots of blogs, the first happens but usually gets filed under economics, and historical analysis of any kind seems very rare in the blogosphere.

Posted by: Cyrus | Jun 25, 2007 2:34:52 PM

I went looking for the American Political Science Review online, and here's what they say about themselves:

The American Political Science Review (APSR) continues to be the foremost scholarly research journal of political science. It ranks number 1 out of 79 political science journals according to the ISI Journal Citation Report - 2004 Social Science Citation Index.

APSR presents peer-reviewed research articles by political scientists of all subfields. Areas covered include political theory, American politics, public policy, public administration, and international relations.

After clicking on the Table of Contents link it appears that some of the content is actually interesting, but not readable online without creating a login (of which they say: APSA membership IS NOT REQUIRED to create a login. It's FREE and EASY to create an account on APSANET.org.

After some hunting around, I found the create login form. It's pretty clear they are looking for academic readers, not interested wonks, bloggers or non-academic readers.

There is no blog, nor any hint of online interaction. They look stuck in 1990 or so.

Posted by: JimPortlandOR | Jun 25, 2007 2:55:05 PM

You forgot Dean Baker, of your own TAP!

Posted by: beckya57 | Jun 25, 2007 3:41:24 PM

Perhaps the real lesson here is that politics is not really a science? It seems to me we've got a lot of people, from all corners, sides and approaches, examining the political scene. If it doesn't have the imiprimatur of "political science" to give added legitimacy, it still seems hard to say that the subject is somehow lacking for it. Like a number of disciplines that are more liberal art than science, I think political science sounds nice, but doesn't necessarily mean all that much. Or maybe I'm just snarky because at my school we had a Government department, not a Political Science faculty. :)

Posted by: weboy | Jun 25, 2007 3:52:17 PM

Jim: That's because APSA is, for better or for worse, our trade association, and the APSR our scholarly journal of record (modulo a long-drawn-out catfight about whether it's actually deeply biased and entrenching certain methodological prejudices, which I will spare you).

Having said that, APSA does publish two other journals, one of which, PS, is a bit more "intersection of real life and political science".

The other factor is that while economists and sociologists and various other kinds of -ists can use their disciplinary backgrounds to contribute to policy debates, the major public policy contributions political scientists can make are in the area of institutional and process design -- and if you wonder what happens when we try to do that, google "Lani Guinier".

Posted by: kb | Jun 25, 2007 4:07:55 PM

And anyone who doesn't think poli-sci research can matter should read more Larry Bartel.

Can you give me one book by him that you would recommend? I've got an open mind, but I'm not about to read a bunch of books to find out if my prejudice is actually correct. After all, if I am vindicated, then I’ll have succeeded only in wasting a great deal of my time.

I will say that The Prince is one book I would classify as “Political Science” that is eminently useful and sensible. Other than that, most every polysci book I’ve read is garbage. They tend to be either painfully banal (people like to be free and want their kids not to constantly risk death, you don’t say…) or egregiously misguided. I remember reading Fukuyama way back in college when End of History came out and was a big deal in international relations circles (I’m closer to Atrios’ age than yours by the by). Everyone I knew (well, all the STUDENTS I knew) pretty much agreed that the entire work was a demonstration that Fukuyama was a great fool. After an IR class or two I pretty much gave up that area of “science” as being unable to produce useful knowledge. Political history, yes, statistics, yes, foreign policy, yes, but the theory of political science is, in my experience, bunk. Any useful knowledge that is closely related to politics is probably produced by another discipline.
entire work was a demonstration that Fukuyama was a great fool. After an IR class or two I pretty much gave up that area of “science” as being unable to produce useful knowledge. Political history, yes, statistics, yes, foreign policy, yes, but the theory of political science is, in my experience, bunk. Any useful knowledge that is closely related to politics is probably produced by another discipline.

Posted by: IMU | Jun 25, 2007 4:27:45 PM

Eh, my vote says Economy's poised for its turn as King of the Humanities, the model which all other disciplines, consciously or not, start to accept as the base from which to analyze themselves. Just like linguistics was in the '70s/'80s, just like literary criticism was in the immediate postwar era, just like psychology was under High Freudianism, just like history was in late 19th century German academia.

And, like all of these other examples, the causes for this prominence are many, interesting, and largely tangential to the substance of the field itself.

Posted by: Senescent | Jun 25, 2007 4:43:47 PM

oops. sorry some problems with my editing I guess. Can't edit my own post sadly.

Posted by: IMU | Jun 25, 2007 4:50:31 PM

Matthew Soberg Shugart is a big name in electoral studies and keeps a fairly regular blog on which he uses election results from around the world to illuminate poli sci research on electoral rules.


Posted by: rjm | Jun 25, 2007 5:44:21 PM

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