About This Blog

About two months ago, I quit blogging at EconLog. The main reason was that I was right in the middle of trying a start-up that combined two big trends/fads: online education and mobile computing.

The result, vhandouts.com, is something that I am using in teaching two high school courses, one on statistics and one on economics. My original vision was to build something that other teachers could use, also. I might very well have had a good idea. Just as computer programming these days relies a great deal today on shared code libraries, with “reinventing the wheel” an awful sin (and I have a hard time giving up sinning), what I was trying to do was create a platform for creating shared libraries for highly interactive simple quizzes. From the beginning, I had doubts about my ability to execute the full concept, and ultimately the doubts won out. I am glad I tried it, because (a) I can use it in my classes and (b) I learned about how computer programming has changed in the past dozen years.

I want to get back to blogging for two reasons. One is to record links and book reviews for my own benefit. A second is to rejoin the blog conversation–I found that I missed participating.

I decided to go with my own blog, rather than return to EconLog, because I want to have total control over the blog content. I want to model a very particular style of discourse, as indicated by the tag line “taking the most charitable view of those who disagree.” In June, I wrote

Suppose we look at writing on issues where people tend to hold strong opinions that fit with their ideology. Such writing can

(a) attempt to open the minds of people on the opposite side as the author
(b) attempt to open minds of people on the same side as the author
(c) attempt to close minds of people on the same side as the author

So, think about it. Wouldn’t you classify most op-eds and blog posts as (c)? Isn’t that sort of pathetic?

My goal is to avoid (c). I will try to keep the posts here free of put-downs, snark, cheap shots, straw-man arguments, and taking the least charitable interpretation of what others say. So, if what you most enjoyed about my past blogging efforts were the put-downs, be prepared for disappointment with this incarnation.

22 thoughts on “About This Blog

  1. I was very impressed with your podcast with Russ Roberts (some of my thoughts are on my sparse and unseen blog). I am a teacher of Mathematics and Economics in the UK and what you said articulated wonderfully what had been in my head and what I had been trying to achieve in the classroom, perhaps over the last decade.
    I teach a quite a famous school in London called Dulwich College which I always like to brag about because the boys (only boys) are not only clever but really good independent learners, so I find my work so much more interesting than at the schools which I unfairly caricature as exam factories (they weren’t really that bad).
    I would really like to start a conversation here with you, partly because I’m a exploring online education but mostly because I think education in the UK has been going badly wrong (though I think the current government is undoing some of the damage).

    • Johnathan,

      When education is paid for with money taken by force, it will never reliably be an exhibition of truth. If we want, quality, truthful education the government needs to exit the education business both in funding and in management. I don’t know about the UK but in America, the government entered the education business because the Catholics were gaining too much influence for those in power’s likings. So they used the power of the state to supplant it by creating government schools. Now if you want to go to a Catholic school, you first have to pay for a government school, then also pay for the Catholic school. This means the Catholic schools are a very small minority. It’s not that I’m a fan of Catholicism but I am a fan of freedom in education and you cannot have it under the worlds current education system of force.

  2. I find that personal put downs are less than productive. That said, if an idea is totally against freedom and totally for violence, I DO NOT shy away from pointing out the violence in the other person’s opinion. If I can see evil in another’s opinion, I will sometimes say so in a less than intellectual way, out of pure frustration. We live in a world full of normalized evil and just pointing out that you could have better outcomes if we used policy A over policy B isn’t always good enough. Sometimes you have have to point out that policy B is evil. Taxes are taken at the point of a gun, for example, and are therefore evil. Any political or economic opinion that is in favor of any kind of taxes or spending tax money is a sanction of violence against the masses. I don’t shy away from pointing this out. I should say that accepting money that has already been taken or services paid for by said money is a grey area and it is something we have done on a daily basis. Because it is unavoidable due to government monopolies and something we all do every day, I don’t condemn people for doing it. I do feel we should be mindful of where the money is coming from though and not through Molotov cocktails if it gets cut off. Those who throw them are just as evil as those who collect the taxes. It is this standard that all of my future comments will be rooted in.

  3. Is (a) even possible? You can always attempt it, of course. But can one actually succeed at opening the minds of the other side by solely using a blog or oped format? My experience with opening minds is that it has to be more one-on-one than this sort of writing allows and takes years or decades to open the mind even the tiniest amount. The last things is that you generally need a captive audience because few are interested in you opening their mind.

    If you think it’s possible, perhaps you could write a few blog posts on the techniques for doing so.

  4. Welcome back to the blogosphere, and I am glad you are blogging on your own blog instead of econlog. Their posting rules were somewhat annoying

  5. For completeness, a guess that there is d) attempt to close minds on the opposite side as the author. Perhaps that happens as a side-effect of c) in some cases.

    • I was thinking the same thing, but it’s not typically the intention. I’ve seen coworkers slam newspapers n the table after reading opposing views in an editorial.

  6. What of situations when one has reason to think that an opposing argument is being made in bad faith, i.e., is insincere and manipulative?

  7. HURRAY! Arnold Kling is the blogosphere’s most underappreciated resource. And the charitability-toward-opponents goal shows why. My toolbar has been reorganized so I can go back to Reading Kling every morning.

  8. Good to see you back blogging, Arnold. I suspect it is your comparative advantage, not programming, which is mere clerical work by comparison. I stumbled across an earlier essay of yours, written at the peak of the dot.com boom, where you write about your experiences with your own dot.com. It was interesting to read your early analysis and how you were actually right early on, only to retract those positions later, as you were awash in dot.com hype.

    You were right that micropayments would one day be big, and that’s the solution to spam email too. Make everybody you don’t know deposit 5 cents in your micropayment account before they can contact you, returnable if it isn’t spam, and that kills off spam right there. Funny how technologists are so stupid that they don’t see this simple economic solution to the problem. Micropayments will take off this decade, 25 years after you thought they would. :) You claim that the web was great for AOL: maybe initially, but it would soon prove their undoing, just as you predicted. You were right that banner ads were stupid, which is why to this day they don’t bring in enough money to sustain real online operations. You were exactly right that Yahoo could not scale: Google did and the rest is history, with Yahoo considered a dying company these days. It was funny to read you talking about server-side javascript, which is now back, stronger than ever. It is a good thing your company never bought Mapquest, which was bought by AOL the year after you wrote the article, then proceeded to sink into obscurity, as Google Maps trounced it.

    It was quite funny to read your essay, written at the peak of the dot.com bubble, where essentially all of your initial instincts and analysis was spot-on, but you cast all your original analysis as mistakes because of the silliness of the dot.com bubble, which seemed to prove up was down. Perhaps that is the main reason you cannot be an entrepreneur: you didn’t have the confidence to stick by your initial analysis, plus the technical background to go it on your own. But most people cannot even get the analysis right, so perhaps you would be a good advisor to some startups, who would benefit from some wise counsel.

    • Thanks for your comments on the old essay. I do wish that the deposit system for email could work. I would also like to see it in place for phone spam–where I could press a key sequence to charge the caller for the call.

  9. > I will try to keep the posts here free of put-downs, snark, cheap shots, straw-man arguments, and taking the least charitable interpretation of what others say.

    I congratulate you on a much more virtuous blogging style than I practice, and much more virtuous than your commenters.

    But, subconsciously and unintentionally, your world view, which is not a all sympathetic to those you disagree with, that unintentionally and innocently denigrates those who disagree with you as wicked, selfish, greedy, racist, ignorant, etc, necessarily offends those who are presumed to be inferior, evil, and dangerous.

    Despite my criticisms, what you are trying to do is a very good objective, and you succeed in it more often than not, but you do tend, from time to time, to inadvertently imply that those who disagree with you are room temperature IQ rednecks who take the family to a lynching every sunday.

    You, perhaps subconsciously, have a worldview that would only make sense in a world where the major danger to Jews was genocide by working class white male Christians, where minorities huddled in small ghettoes because leaving the ghetto was legally prohibited, either straight out legally prohibited, or legally prohibited in that ghetto inhabitants were likely to be arrested for vagrancy or some legalistic technicality, or socially prohibited in that leaving the ghetto was apt to result in a socially approved beating.

    Instead, privileged whites are huddling in ever shrinking bubbles, and the white working class suffers ethnic cleansing.

    You have world view that would only make sense if blacks were regularly lynched for being black, or, as the progressive fantasy tells it, for whistling at a white woman. Instead, we live in a world where whites are regularly beaten up and often killed merely for being white.

    You are very worried about whites being influenced by the tribal or clannish world view, while entirely failing to notice that schools are systematically teaching blacks and mestizos the tribal and clannish world view. If hate crimes are a problem, how about hate crime law being applied to black, mestizos, and Muslims?

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