May 29, 2017

Needed: the Top Ten of substandard economics blogs

Comment on Editor on ‘The 10 most viewed RWER Blog posts in 2016’


Every good thing/institution is eventually messed up or abused. This is the social version of the Second Law of Thermodynamics which says that the total entropy of an isolated system can only increase over time. This holds for the internet in general and for economics blogs in particular.

Since economics is a science, the basic idea of the econoblogosphere is to contribute to the dissemination and growth of knowledge. Accordingly, the econoblogosphere becomes dysfunctional if it increases opinion (= doxa) instead of knowledge (= episteme).#1 The econoblogosphere reaches the entropic maximum when it consists entirely of obsolete/ falsified models/theories, political propaganda, and disinformation.

The whole issue is not new: “In economics we should strive to proceed, wherever we can, exactly according to the standards of the other, more advanced, sciences, where it is not possible, once an issue has been decided, to continue to write about it as if nothing had happened.” (Morgenstern)

In order to foster the necessary paradigm shift and to prevent the institutional degeneration of the econoblogosphere some attention management is necessary. It consists in a positive list of blogs that foster the growth of scientific knowledge and a negative list of blogs that inhibit science.

While we have any number of journalistic Top Ten lists that rely on the naive metric of clicks or prestige or popularity or optical/communicative attractiveness a Top Ten list of qualitatively deficient and manipulative blogs is lacking. Occasionally, one hears the complaint that posts have been blocked or removed.

It is unknown to what extent scientific standards are violated in the econoblogosphere.#2 The scientific community is based on the principle of self-governance, so the obvious question to ask is whether the economic societies could establish something like a systematic ex post peer review including an Evidence Center for the collection and verification of complaints about agenda pushing/censorship/suppression/manipulation/ fraud.

What economists would like to have is not only an objective list of innovative blogs but also the Top Ten of disinformation, political propaganda, and violation of scientific standards.

Egmont Kakarot-Handtke

#1 See also ‘Economics between cargo cult, farce, and fraud
Economics and truth
Economics: The pluralism of false theories is over
Economists: Incompetent? Stupid? Corrupt?
Feynman Integrity, fake science and the econoblogosphere
#2 My actual list of the Manipulative Dozen is based on a raw estimation of suppressed/ removed posts over a longer time span and reads: 1 Real-World Economics Review blog, 2 Economist’s View, 3 Lars P. Syll blog, 4 EconoSpeak, 5 Uneasy Money, 6 Billy blog, 7 Information Transfer Economics, 8 Grasping Reality with Both Hands, 9 Roger Farmer’s Economic Window, 10 evonomics, 11 Institute for New Economic Thinking, 12 Worthwhile Canadian Initiative