Mark Thoma retires, closes influential Economist’s View blog

From Noah Smith of Bloomberg, reposted in the SF Chronicle:

The end of econ blogging’s golden age

If someone asked you to name the greatest economics blogger of all time, you might name Paul Krugman, or my Bloomberg Opinion colleague Tyler Cowen. But there’s a third name that deserves to be on that short list: Mark Thoma, an economics professor at the University of Oregon. On Friday, Thoma announced a well-deserved retirement. But the changes his blog made in the economics profession will endure.

Thoma’s blog, Economist’s View, began in 2005. Like many bloggers, Thoma posted off-the-cuff thoughts on policy, data, theory and news. But it was when he began putting up daily lists of links from other blogs that Economist’s View became something truly influential. Many bloggers post periodic lists of links, but Thoma’s was daily and comprehensive; if anyone said anything interesting on any econ blog, there was a good chance that Thoma would broadcast it to the world. No one was too obscure to go on his daily roundup; if he thought you had something interesting to say, he would give you a platform.

… This had an important leveling and invigorating effect on a profession that had grown much too hierarchical and insular. But it also allowed crucial policy matters to be debated in real time. Academic journals often take years to publish research papers, then years more to publish the responses. But in 2008 and 2009 catastrophe was unfolding in a matter of days and weeks. Policy makers looking for timely and novel analysis in those desperate days couldn’t find it from the American Economic Review, but they could find it on Thoma’s blog.

Bloggers were thus able to influence a policy world still in the process of shaking off outdated ideas. … Thoma was both a participant and a crucial mediator in this epic clash of ideas. He himself was among the voices favoring stimulus, though he always took a moderate and measured tone. Crucially, he always took care to broadcast the arguments of the opposing side. I have never seen a fairer arbiter of debate.

… Thoma’s retirement marks the end of an era. With the rise of Twitter and other social media, public economics discussion has moved on. But the changes the blogosphere wrought on the profession – greater openness, a decreased reverence for hierarchy and a willingness to debate important issues in public – will live on.

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