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« New Issue of Critical Review on Financial Crisis | Main | Nature Vol. 460 (July 2009): 176-177. »


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"On a recent post on this blog, the comments went to over 100, but one of the commentators used 3 different names (something we know because the posts were all from the same IP address). At one point, the 3 sustained the discussion by having a conversation with one another!" - Dr. Boettke

Well, I suppose more than one person can use the same computer.

But, supposing that you are correct, since you think that people should be held accountable for their comments as much as possible (I agree), why did you refrain from telling us what 3 names the commentater was using? Since I believe that I contributed to the thread in question, I would like to know.

Personally, I am glad that you, Horwitz, and others respond in the comments. It's nice to get some feedback. My only problem is a nagging guilt that I get to enjoy some of your teaching free of charge!

Well, I consider this as the best "academic" blog in the world because it engages in serious interesting topics (and it is austrian, of course).

I think that a loot of productive discussion happens in the comments here. They are on average much better than the comments on most other blogs, for example, Mankiw has turned off comments because they were mostly crap.

Boettke said:
"But efforts to insist on that have failed. Where do we go from here? I don't know, but perhaps the advice of Adam and Doug is the place to start --- "Don't feed the trolls." But perhaps I need some help determining who the inquiring minds who want to know are versus the trolls that just want to disrupt and derail."

If he doesn't use a real name (like, "Lord Buzungulus") I think that it is prudent to always ignore.

Reply to everyone but stop when the returns are diminishing.
Do not feed known trolls.
For what it is worth, that advice is based on defending (or declining to defend) some hundreds of posts on Catallaxy from late 04 to early 08.

Very interesting thoughts. It all depends on what you are trying to achieve through your blog. If it is an extention of your classroom, as you say it is, and you only intend to engage the students from your classroom, then you can limit ability to post comments to only your students.

However, if your goal is to spread good economic thinking, then you shouldn't read too much into the nature of the comments or the commentors. you should sleep well @ night knowing that your message is reaching people @ various levels, not all of them need to become tomorrow's economists.

As for conspiracy, which socio-political group doesn't have their cliques of kooks, especially amongst libertarians, who by their very nature are suspicious of an all powerful state.

Pete -- your software should allow you to block trolls. If it doesn't, I'd recommend switching to WordPress.

I'd also recommend requiring genuine email addresses for commenters. That way you can easily find out who you are dealing with, and channel them in a different direction or warn them.

Or you can suggest they get their own blog.

I've done that on my own blog.

And ban folks who won't give a genuine email.

Bottom line, if you want to cull the trolls, or let folks know they are heading into troll territory that will not be tolerated, you can do that fairly easily.

Pete -- with WordPress, you can also required "signing up" before having the ability to post, and you can even moderate sign ups. You can demand that people supply their picture, and their picture will be posted with their comments.

In other words, there are all sorts of technological ways to make it more "professionional" and more like a real seminar, and once you get started, it shouldn't take much work to maintain.

Pete wrote: "On a recent post on this blog, the comments went to over 100, but one of the commentators used 3 different names (something we know because the posts were all from the same IP address). At one point, the 3 sustained the discussion by having a conversation with one another!"

I have to admit that I have done this on occasion. I absolutely don´t see what or where the problem is. Some of the greatest thinkers, including Plato, Galileo etc. have used the dialogue form to get across their messages. -:)

I am sorry to say so, but I am afraid you have yourself perhaps been creating a problem where there isn´t necessarily any. Thus you have on occasion denigrated yourself by portraying yourself on this blog as a failed academic, which is a thing I would NEVER do if I were in your position...

>> "On this site, we have a certain percentage of visitors who are convinced that the academic world is aligned against them, and that publishing in the refereed journals is all rigged against them."

I took part in at least one of the discussions about peer review here, and my point was, in effect, that peer review seems to be unfairly rigged against you posters. I'm not an academic and would never try to get anything published in a peer-reviewed journal or in any kind of academic outlet, so at least in my case it wasn't motivated by a personal grudge. I even linked through to an interview with a philosophy-of-science professor and former academic-journal editor whose arguments I echoed (he was my former tutor, and so surely influenced my thinking on this).

>> "So some individuals are willing to put their reputation on the line. I respect those individuals much more than the anonymous and allias posters even when I think their positions are highly questionable. ... I think insisting on the use of names that link to a web-page so we have background, might provide the right incentives."

Most of us have no reputation as an economist to lose or gain. If we did, we would certainly have our own economics blog. In my case, my professional reputation is not connected with economics; my personal site can be identified by the posters from my email address (but I see no reason beyond vanity to publish it in the thread - unless we are required to do so); and the only reason I give my full name now and provide my email address is because Pete Boettke requested we do this. Pete Boettke: I think you need to make all this a requirement or stop complaining when people don't do it!


>> "I have to admit that I have done this on occasion. I absolutely don´t see what or where the problem is. Some of the greatest thinkers, including Plato, Galileo etc. have used the dialogue form to get across their messages. -:)"

You talked to yourself pseudonymously in a comment thread? Do you have any idea how bizarre that is? Having to out yourself is bad enough. I think you should be grateful that none of the posters here outed you!

Well, then this is something we disagree on. I repeat: some of the greatest literature, philosophy etc. was conceived in the dialogue form, in part probably for pedagogical reasons. THIS ISN´T BIZARRE AT ALL.

What is REALLY BIZARRE is to publicly portray yourself as a failed academic when you are teaching at a university that has several Nobel Prize winning economists on its faculty...

You wrote: "I think you should be grateful that none of the posters here outed you!"

I absolutely don´t care... But again your own comment illustrates some of the trouble with this blog, which is (1) too much moralizing; and (2) too much personalizing... One shouldn´t try too hard to make a good impression...

>> "too much personalizing..."

... and not enough multi-personality disorder.

Maybe, but what I meant is that, if the aim is to provide information to students, it isn´t all that important who provides the information. Students are not interested, I guess, in whether or not the information was provided by an individual who was or was not denied tenure.

They are probably more inhterested in information like this:

On multi-personality disorder, try the following:

Stephen E. Braude, First Person Plural: Multiple Personality and the Philosophy of Mind.

I would simply follow Tyler Cowen's advise. Actually, I try to do it. The only time I didn't, it was with a very unpolited (and supposed) "wise" guy with 17 years old (or less). And, believe me, it was a very unpleasant movement.

Rather than use multiple names you can let someone else can provide the counter-arguments, or you could preempt obvious counter-arguments in the original post. Talking to yourself using multiple names is creepy and misleading in a forum where uniquely identifiable individuals are expected to parcipitate.

There is an age old problem with democracy, that the true demos knows no form of hierarchy.

As I read what you are trying to do with the blog, it seems that you are trying to represent the classroom online. However, you would not put up with this type of discussion in the classroom, the classroom imposes constraints on the nature of the discussion. In order to approximate the classroom, there needs to be a way to import those institutions. George Mason sorts students into your class that have completed prerequisites. They have demonstrated by forgoing alternative opportunities that they are on board with university administration's management of the faculty. They are applauded and booed by classmates who feel they speak out of turn. There is a certain deference expected from someone who contributes regularly to the field.

However, outside of the university the hierarchies and the distinctions that are made in the classroom do not reflect the nature of discourse. All we can do is refuse to engage in conversation with people who do not enter the dialog with the purpose of learning. I am not sure that the blog can constrain discussion to the teacher-student model as well as a peer-reviewed journal can (where proposition and opposition are clear). Only an extremely pedantic attention to the flow of an argument (like in debate) can show fallacies and tangents. The trolls would have to state clearly their ends for their arguments to be evaluated. As with anything, democratization of the learning process has its problems, but it might be humbling in an informative way. Afterall, if we spend all our time talking to people who have disciplined minds, how would we appreciate the artifice we construct in our professional life.

You wrote: "it was with a very unpolited (and supposed) "wise" guy with 17 years old (or less)"

A "wise guy" is a member of the Mafia. Even I agree that those guys should be outed here...

"look at the work habits of James Buchanan and Vernon Smith, compare that to Andrei Shleifer or John List."

You're being a bit uncharitable here. These guys are good, but so too are Ronald Coase who didn't write nearly as much. William Hutt and Sir Arnold Plant are also well worth reading despite not being as prolific. Similarly the collected works of Armen Alchian and Harold Demsetz each only go for two volumes.

But generally your point is well made.

"Tyler Cowen, told me early on that the secret was to not engage in the comment section, but limit your interactions with commentators to your blog posts."

I couldn't disagree more. I think engaging the commentators is what makes a good blog a great blog. Perfect example is The professors there, with the exception of just a few, all actively participate in the comment section often resulting in a more informative/interesting discussion than the original blog post.

To weed out the trolls, perhaps you could require a .edu email address with confirmation. This way, you'd know their actually identity from their email address, and they'd be less likely to troll since you know their identity, but they could still keep pseudo-anonymity with their display name if preferred.

A few thoughts:

First, I think our willingness to jump into the comments is a strength not a weakness of this blog. It makes it feel more like a classroom/seminar room than many other blogs, and that's a good thing.

I also think we have, by and large, terrific commenters. One way Pete and I see this issue differently is that he's stuck in a neoclassical world, condemning the reality of the blog for not living up to his "perfectly competitive" ideal of scholarly discourse. I, being the true Austrian ;), follow Hayek and compare the reality of the blog to the world where the blog was absent, and recognize that what we're doing here is a big net "plus" for the spread of Austrian ideas. Yes, it's messy, but so are real-world markets. We do ourselves no good by wishing the blog were something it can't be.

A really good blog can capture some of the feel of what Mises's Vienna seminar did when they headed out to the coffee shop after the seminar itself was officially over. They continued to talk shop, but more informally and more conversationally. Yes, the level of conversation was higher than it is here, but I'm sure it was not all business either.

As for trolls and the like...

1. Our friend Mr. Van Den Hauwe does indeed suffer from multiple internet personality disorder. He and "Jonathan" and "Edmond" are/were all the same person. It is indeed bizarre behavior (his bullshit rationalizations noted) and if I catch him doing it again, I'll out him. And if he doesn't stop, we'll ban him. In the meantime, I suggest that you take Adam and Doug's advice and ignore people who engage in duplicitous behavior.

2. I'm more comfortable than Pete with anonymity and pseudonymity. I understand why people might wish to cloak themselves. I wish they wouldn't but so be it. I also have a lot more respect for people like Matt who are willing to put their own names/reputations on the line here. And one of my rules of thumb is to take more seriously those who use their real names and to engage them more frequently. So if the attention of your hosts is a valuable good, I've just given you the price.

3. I'm willing to engage with the very stubborn or even the crazy not because I think I can convince them, but because there are plenty of lurkers out there who are looking for a chance to learn and sharpen their own arguments. There's also a whole Web out there who might some day Google an Austrian topic. They should be able to find what's going on here, even if it's one of us beating up a punching bag. Teaching is often about "the rest of the class" not the person asking the question.

Bottom line: it's a blog. No matter how hard we try, it can't be anything more than that. I think it's also a really good blog precisely because we're willing to tolerate a lot of noise to get a lot of really good signals. We can ban the real troublemakers, but my own view is that raising the costs of entry will do more harm than good. And us staying out of the comments would kill it.

Finally, one sign that a blog is in trouble is when the bloggers frequently blog about the blog. So Pete... relax, chill, smile, enjoy the ride and spent your valuable time and considerable skill in blogging about Austrian economics, not blogging. :)

>> "perhaps you could require a .edu email address with confirmation."

I've never understood the notion that only academics should be interested in, say, economics. If the bloggers here want to exclude non-academics, then that's fair enough, especially if this is supposed to be no more than an extension of the classroom. But they should make it clear.

I'm fascinated in particular with free banking, and this is one of the few places on the Web it is discussed. That's one reason I come here. But if I was locked out, I'd probably stop dropping by. It would be pretty strange if we were told to take a hike, though, as the pirates book - which was discussed a lot here - was itself surely aimed at a mainly non-academic audience. And I got the impression that Pete Boettke seemed pretty pleased at the non-academic interest in the book.

I think the bloggers needs to decide on the rules and then maybe look at some of the "technological ways" suggested by Greg Ransom for ensuring that those who comment abide by them.

you will likely have too many posts to get to this one, but though i do not consider myself an economist, i consider you my professor. I saw one of your videos forwarded by Ben Pratt of MBM and hooked on since.

I hope to hear you speak in person one day.

Thank you for your passions and what you do with them.

I will change my name from Davo to David McGinnis so i'm not perceived as a troll.

As a frequent blog commenter, I like the idea that by commenting I become "part of the discussion." However, just because I like the idea doesn't make it true, and blog comments are not "the discussion," they're just comments. It is not an effective way to have a conversation, and not an efficient way to address a mass audience. As a blogger, it is a good way to get a sense of your audience's interests and concerns, and as a reader it can be a good way to share your thoughts.

In my opinion, the best bloggers monitor the comments but do not respond to them directly (except in rare cases of direct responses to questions that are of interest to the general audience). In the event that a comment is truly provocative, they create another post and reference it. To a commenter there is no greater honor than a front-page feature ;)

Don't get me wrong- I think it is very cool that I can say "I'm interested in Austrian economics" and within minutes be trading posts with top minds in the field like Prof Boettke and the other authors here. But such interactions are almost always disappointing, because it is very difficult to communicate in this way. I remain surprised that the authors here continue to engage the audience in this manner, especially with such high frequency.

"I wonder whether Austrian economics disproportionally attracts the low productivity and conspiratorial sort of individual to its ranks."

Disproportionately might not be the best word. I find that minority positions attract these sorts if for no other reason than the smaller audience means their voice has more prominence regardless of the merit of their words. Also, the assumption is that people care less about credentials if they hold views outside the mainstream. It is an interesting topic though, especially for a contrarian like me.

I think it does very much depend on what the blog is and what the purpose of the blog is supposed to be. I think some people have misunderstood the meaning of "extension of the classroom." I take it to mean, extend to a broader audience, both for student and teacher alike to attempt to broaden the field of query and discussion, to engage more questions with more people, etc, on often a highly theoretical and academic set of topics for which each can be engaged in depth. You want to WRESTLE with questions in a new forum.

This is quite different from the purpose of a blog like Marginal Revolution or Volokh Conspiracy, let alone to less academic blogs. With Marginal Revolution there are many short one-off one-liner type posts that are fun, perhaps link elsewhere, etc. Usually comments for those are just for folk who have nothing better to do to engage a silly topic for a moment and have their voice heard.

More serious posts sometimes get high quality comments - but for the most part, if someone makes a really good point then maybe Tyler (or whoever blogged it) can update their initial posting; otherwise these insightful comments just add to the great discussion for the other readers. It is not an academic WRESTLE, it is a post by the leader, and then a series of follower-comments that add juice for other readers, and squabbling and debate can occur between all those followers at (usually) a low level.

Anyway--my advice is that if it bothers you, you should require people to sign in, and that is associated with an email address (which need not show), and if people become trouble, try sending them an email, and finally ban them if you must. It is never perfect, but I think what is going here is pretty cool.

Steve wrote: "1. Our friend Mr. Van Den Hauwe does indeed suffer from multiple internet personality disorder. He and "Jonathan" and "Edmond" are/were all the same person. It is indeed bizarre behavior (his bullshit rationalizations noted) and if I catch him doing it again, I'll out him. And if he doesn't stop, we'll ban him. In the meantime, I suggest that you take Adam and Doug's advice and ignore people who engage in duplicitous behavior."

OK, no problem.

Note nevertheless that I always consistently try to avoid insulting people, and that I always consistently apologize when apparently I do not succeed in this. I also always try to make my comments informative. I am quite serious about the advantages of the dialogue form.

Note also that it is _Dr. van den Hauwe_. I am a Ph.D. economist and refereed author.

I do not have multiple personality disorder, but I am indeed a lawyer-cum-philosopher-cum-economist. I hold degrees and I have published in all those fields...

"Finally, one sign that a blog is in trouble is when the bloggers frequently blog about the blog. So Pete... relax, chill, smile, enjoy the ride and spent your valuable time and considerable skill in blogging about Austrian economics, not blogging. :)" - Steve Horwitz

Yes, good point.

Just look at how many words you and Dr. Boettke just wrote, and consider what else they could have been about: praxeology, microeconomics vs. macroeconomics, fiscal policy, free banking, economic history, Mises's favourite flavour of ice cream, etc.

Regarding anonymity, I'll use my real name if you folks want. However, since I am no-one in economics it doesn't really help. If I use my pseudonym though you can use it to look for my other posts on, Marginal Revolution, the Adam Smith institute and Scott Sumner's blog.

Regarding Andrei Shleifer or John List.... I'm not sure there is such a strong relationship between quality and output. Menger did not that publish much, nor did Ricardo.

I would say keep the comments open and keep interacting with serious people. I don't comment much, but I read this blog all the time. I'm a sociology PhD student who has never offically had an Austrian professor. Blogs like this keep me in the loop and allow me to engage with like-minded scholars who I wouldn't have contact with otherwise.

So ignore the boneheads and keep talking to everyone else.

"Finally, I wonder whether Austrian economics disproportionally attracts the low productivity and conspiratorial sort of individual to its ranks."

I don't have much to say about this from the professional side, but I think Austrian economics attracts disproportionate numbers of web-surfing laymen curious about economics because it is conveyed through words, not math.

This accessibility in the common language differentiates it from opposing strands of thought like Walrasian economics. Within these large numbers attracted to the accessibility of Mises et. al., you'll always get the conspiratorial/unproductive sort, but I don't think this proportion is any different from the populations of laymen interested in other brands of economics.

I don't comment much, but keep the comments please! They're a great learning tool.

I don't know if there is any parallel in economics, but one of the most influential philosophers of the last 50 years was a guy at Harvard who published almost nothing.

He was influential because he was a power at Harvard (a powerful dept. in the profession), he was brilliant, and he had the ear of many of the most influential philosophers in the world.

The guy published so little, I can't even remember his name.

But read a couple Quine articles, and you'll know who I'm talking about.

Thank you and other bloggers for the service you provide to public by educating us in the field of Economics. It is because of your outstanding efforts that the level of understanding has been elevated. I have been inspired to read and watch many great economists because of something I read on your blog. Sure we make jokes and some people make bad remarks. I have heard the same in classrooms and regard it as just "par for the course". If you shutdown the comment section it would be like attending a course in which the professor lectured the whole time and never invited interaction. Keep up the good work and win one for the "Gipper"

@JP Koning

>> "I think Austrian economics attracts disproportionate numbers of web-surfing laymen curious about economics because it is conveyed through words, not math."

That can't be entirely right. "Web-surfing laymen curious about economics" are unlikely to land on at least this blog. The blogs of plenty of non-Austrian economists have a much larger readership than this blog. Similarly non-mathematical areas of economics, such as NIE, don't seem to attract so many laymen. The non-mathematical aspect of AE is an integral part of it, not an accidental part. And the strength of feeling of many laymen here about certain aspects of AE would suggest that they're not just into AE because it happens to be easier to read.

I got into AE after a recommendation from the former chief economist of the OECD that I read Hayek. I kept reading and realized that there was a lot of overlap between Hayek and a load of stuff I studied in philosophy.

As long as none of us laymen starts lecturing the professors on the finer points of economics, and as long as they don't mind our occasionally hanging around here, I think we're okay.

There's probably something to what you write, though.

I think Austrian economics is incompatible with the mainstream economics ideonomy. Since I made up that term yesterday, what follows is a brief explanation of what I mean.

While economics concerns the study of how alternative laws and institutions affect the allocation of scarce resources, ideonomics might be understood to concern the study of how alternative rules and criteria affect the development of belief structures.

The concepts and terms of evolutionary biology lend themselves to ideonomics: rules and criteria act as "selection pressures;" new ideas must integrate themselves into an "ecological niche;" those ideas which are "unfit" must either "adapt" or go "extinct". An ideonomy is to an idea like an ecosystem is to an organism, but whereas an organism does not choose its ecosystem, we can choose our ideonomies.

Analysing ideonomies can be a difficult, since it involves casting light upon assumptions that are normally taken for granted; alternative ideonomic systems cannot be evaluated in the customary way, because that would include appeals to the same rules and criteria under evaluation. Instead, values and goals are of primary importance, such as a desire to strive for consistency, certainty, harmony, status, truth, power, or whatever else. For example, a scientist might strive to subject his theories to an ideonomic system with "selection pressures" that aim to promote consistency, truth, and testability.

Like the economies of two nations with the same economic system, ideonomies may differ between people who share the same system, because the type and order in which ideas which are evaluated will affect what ideonomic niches others can fill.

I think the mainstream ideonomy employs a battery of rules which Austrian economics fails to satisfy, and, moreover, its relative marginalisation means that ideonomic niches are already taken when people eventually discover it. Mises's apriorism, nonmathematisation, and Hayek's nonjustificationism are good examples of this ideonomic difference. Some Austrian insight was assimilated by the mainstream when it was compatible with the mainstream ideonomy, but much of it was either misunderstood, dismissed, or ignored.

Although idonomies can't really be mistaken (because what ideonomy do we judge them by), a person can be mistaken for adopting an ideonomic system which fails to satisfy their goals. Personally, I think Mises and Hayek were on the right track, and the mainstream, meanwhile, has regressed.

Hopefully this makes some sense.

Since I think it is with these underlying presuppositions that Austrian economics struggles, I am optimistic about developing argument and discussion that might be able to subvert these obstacles.

Pete asked "Help me out" and I would say it takes some courage and humility to ask that question.
A certain amount of humility is the most normal of characteristics for any true scholar by the way...
This blog is run by academics and so if the blog is in trouble it´s indeed up to them to ask themselves: Have I done anything to provoke this? Has my learning curve been too flat in that I went on repeating the same errors? As far as I can see, the problem of this blog was not that of laymen trying to teach the fine points of economics...

Thank you for running a great blog. I appreciate the quality of the entries here, and the quality of many of the responses.

I suppose that property -- and the benefits attributable to private property -- can exist only if owners sometimes display willingness to police their property rights. You have to police, although naturally you would rather not have to do so.

I really enjoy this blog. Sometimes the comments section does degenerate into bickering but such is life (and I confess I have taken part in it in the past but will resist temptation in the future.

I am not an expert in AE, although I am interested in it and will continue to come back.

As someone who co-blogs elsewhere I do as Pete does. I get into it with commenters, although as those who know me know, I am an argumentative sort, :-). It may be that for Pete as "lead blogger" here he should cut back on it a bit. However, for all the talk of Tyler not engaging the commenters, he does once in a while, but only very occasionally. I do note that those running the most widely read blogs tend to stay out of it. Maybe it is just too much in those cases.

Regarding unknown geniuses, I suspect that there are some. However, I seriously doubt that they are expressing themselves on blogs. They are probably having trouble expressing themselves at all, shy and possibly troubled people.

Several have thrown out some names of past figues who were renowned but published little. This was more acceptable in the past, but is much harder to pull off nowadays. But, I think that in some past cases the reluctance to write or finish writing played a role. Thus, Piero Sraffa, whom many here would dislike because he argued with Hayek, even as they shared some common concerns, took 35 years to complete his 99 page book, Production of Commodities by Means of Commodities. Today, we would not tolerate such eccentricity, or would be hard pressed to.

Regarding phoney monikers, I also prefer to see people provide real names, but do recognize that some have legitimate reasons for not doing so, especially if they are in certain sorts of employment situations. So, I know of some bloggers who use monikers (not just commenters), but these people generally have well-established identities and well known views. Furthermore, they do not engage in flaming or sliming or just general nastiness.

I think the problem is letting oneself get drawn into ridiculous firefights with trolls who hide behind these phoney monikers. It is engaging in personal attacks anonymously that is despicable (and I find the pomposity that some of these people exhibit to be quite something else sometimes).

This is one of the best blogs I've seen in terms of writing style, and it is the best one for the Austrian school tradition.

I respect and like Peter Boettke. Very intelligent guy, very dedicated, enormous commitment to students, great communicator in writing and as a public speaker et cetera. Lots of great things about him. If I had to make a complaint about him, I'd say there are times when he seems inconsistent, or like he's just alternating back and forth between incompatible ideas.

Regarding the comment policy. I say pick a written, stated comment policy -- any policy -- and then enforce it 100% consistently with no exceptions by any of the bloggers. If the policy requires real full name postings, then actually delete all comments that don't follow that policy as soon as they appear.

If alias postings are not being deleted, then have all people who blog here agree to make no negative remarks about people who post such comments -- at least not on the mere grounds of having done so. It is fine to complain about abrasive comments, and abrasiveness might be more likely when people don't have their name on the comments. But in that case, complaining about the comments should be directly on the grounds of abrasiveness, not anonymity.

Regarding the observation that some young admirers of Mises and Hayek fail to get involved in and take advantage of the grad school, publishing and academia process. As someone with a positive view of some of the ideas written by both Mises and Hayek, this sort of concern could be directed at me. I think the observation is valid, and I applaud Boettke for bringing attention to it and others. The solution I'd suggest is to clearly, consistently and unequivocally give the message that is consistent with overcoming this situation.

That includes:
- telling young Mises-Hayek admirers that mainstream economics textbooks, courses and programs on micro, macro, game theory, econometrics, and other topics, are not generally bad or wrong, and should be studied normally like any other topic, even if they're not perfect.
- telling them that you should take, work hard in, and do well in a large number of courses in pure mathematics, applied mathematics and statistics. Because, that is the best way to prepare for almost all economics Ph.D. programs (if economics is your chosen subject), as well as for trying to actually understand and write for many of the economics journals.
- telling them that economics work using mathematics, econometrics and statistics etc. is not generally bad and is not wrong, even if it's not perfect.
- telling them that the work done at economics departments that are highly mathematical, non-Austrian, non-free-market, and non-libertarian, is not generally bad or wrong, and that it should be judged mainly by those with the training and expertise to judge that work.

Part of the reason why so many young folks sympathetic to Mises and Hayek don't get the Ph.D. and publications is because so many people in the AE community give a message that is clearly different from what I've listed above. Or, in some cases, inconsistent and conflicted.

I've seen real life cases where a student was sympathetic to AE. The student attended libertarian think tank events, read some very good Austrian writings, and took almost no math in college. Then, one day I explained to the student why I have a tolerant view both of mathematical economic theory and of the small number of Mises writings I've read. I showed the student line-by-line how a mathematical theory in a mainstream textbook was equivalent to the economic theory Mises expressed in the language of his era. Then, the student seemed to feel an enormous regret, like they wished they had never known about AE. The student then wished they had just taken math courses early on in college. The student felt disappointment that they no longer had a shot at economics graduate school programs. When a student has done even as little as a year or two of their education following some of the fairly common advice that can be found in the AE community, it can be too late to go back and have the opportunities they would have had following mainstream advice. If you want more Mises and Hayek readers getting Ph.D.s in economics (or other subjects) and getting published, then I'd suggest giving advice that prevents, instead of encourages, the type of scenario I've described here, which is real and does happen.

That is my two cents about this topic. I don't expect everyone here to agree with me, and hopefully nobody is offended by what is above. None of it is meant in a personal or insulting way.


These are complex issues you raise. I'm not sure they can be simplified by delving into the complexities of commenter motivation, nor the ever changing nature of dialog (and multi-log on the internet) But they might be simplified by asking the right question.

To my mind, the question is, why do you blog?
If you are trying to please commentators, it is a fools errand. Stop.

If you are trying to share your insight and perspective, continue. (and I hope you do, I enjoy your posts)

The issue of degrees or academic accomplishment seem to be irrelevant to the activity at hand. Say what you have to say as clearly and and as passionately as possible. If the comments provide a springboard for you to do so, then respond to them. If they don't, then ignore them. They are not included in your purpose.

In short, don't feed the trolls.

To say it another way. The trolls are the first consequence of your blogging activity. And from what I understand of good economics (with my lowly undergraduate degree) it requires as complete an understanding as possible of all the consequences of a course of action.

The majority of people who read any blog never post. They sensibly ignore the 100+ comment threads and get on with their day. But just because they don't comment, doesn't mean that what you do is not important to them. (Call it the Rational Blog Comment Ignoring effect if you like)

So my suggestion is, post for you first. The people who read, second. And the trolls, not at all. But if the comments make it easier to generate material, use them. After all, a blog is a HUNGRY beast.

BTW, even in the old days when some got away with publishing less, there was still a price for being too infrequent, or more importantly, too slow. So, Paul Samuelson has argued (sorry, forget where) that Sraffa would have shared (maybe) the Nobel Prize for input-output analysis with Leontieff if he had published PCMC in five or even ten years rather than the 35 he actually took to do so.

Steve wrote: "Our friend Mr. Van Den Hauwe"

Since when are we friends?

Ludwig - that is a sarcastic expression. You really shouldn't insist on being called Dr - makes you look bad (certainly where I live), just saying.

I think Pete's post conflates many, many issues, all but one of which I'll ignore.

He had a PhD. But, as I understand it, Edward Castronova's academic reputation is based on an article he published only on SSRN - currently 5th most popular download there - not in a refereed journal.

I did not insist on anything of that sort. However, some folks here have on occasion insisted on "full disclosure".
So in the service of full disclosure...
Where do you live, by the way?

As for me, I really do not think much of Boettke´s blog posts. In my view, he is by far the least interesting blogger from this crowd. His posts usually consist of mere assertions that are typically not supported by any kind of logical or empirical argument.

Case in point: the latest Boettke´s paper ("The Ordinary Economics of an Extraordinary Crisis"). So MANY words ... and ALMOST NOTHING of real substance. Terrible paper.

I find it very amusing that this is the guy who permanently complains about the supposedly "low" quality of comments on this blog ... :-)

[On the other hand, the latest Horwitz´ paper (with Gene Callahan) is pretty good.]


Please look at Edward Castronova's CV at his homepage at IU --- where he is a Professor. He received his PhD from U of Wisc. and is an extremely well-published scholar. He taught at Rochester prior to moving to IU.

He also stumbled upon a field -- virtual worlds --- and was the first mover in that field as far as economics is concerned.

SSRN is a very useful tool, but it doesn't substitute for the journals.


Hey Matěj Šuster,

At least you use your name, so we can have a real conversation. I respect that.

On the other hand, I find it hard to believe that an argument about the democratic trap of deficits, debt and debasement, in the context of the current situation, and one that makes an argument for the return to basic economics and political economy, rather than feed the politicians with "special" economics for the times, is being held up as your example. But so be it. Perhaps you could provide us with a url for all of your papers on the subject so we can learn how better to tackle the current crisis as an economist.


I do not want to comment on Suster´s viewpoint with respect to Pete´s posts, but I agree that the recurrent invocation of/recourse to (implicit or explicit) "arguments from authority" is one of the most disturbing and disappointing aspects of this blog. Is it conceivable that Austrian economics has now become more intolerant than the mainstream?
This blog has also positive aspects, however.

The trouble is that your paper is virtually empty of content (apart from a few generalities). I´d call this genre "econo-babble" (inspired by the word "psycho-babble").

An truly excellent paper on the subject of financial crisis is Jeffrey Friedman´s "A Crisis of Politics, Not Economics: Complexity, Ignorance, and Policy Failure". Not that I agree with everything Friedman writes there, but he makes a great effort to discover the truth on that subject. In contrast, many so-called "austrians" (yourself included) seem to be content to repeat a few manthras again and again.

PS: it´s not that I have a desire to insult you etc. I am just totally fed up with your constant weeping about the comments (which are usually far, far better than comments elsewhere).

Not everyone wants their names attached to every comment they make on the Internet, even if you're just discussing economics rather than porn. I understand the reputation argument, but if someone makes a point or question worth discussing, what difference does it make if it's with someone who posts their name that you've never heard of before?

Someone might have mentioned this--I haven't read the 49 comments--but Division of Labour's default of no comments has more to do with blocking spammers than trolls. It's nice to avoid trolls but our policy is mostly a reflection of a "tragedy of the co-blogger commons" in that we need to upgrade to a newer version of blogging software that thwarts spammers.

Ludwig - I'm in Australia - anyone saying 'and it's Dr Ludwig' would be rapidly diagnosed as being an onanist and mocked from then on. As would a three way conversation with yourself.

And Sinclair wins the thread with the use of "onanist." :)


I really don´t follow. The discussion was about who should and who should not be expected to participate in a blog like this one. Pete has also written extensively on this blog about the importance of going to school, qualifications etc. So the discussion was generally about having certain qualifications, education, being tenured or not etc... (Actually I believe the discussion here is much too often about these issues; personally I am actually _much less obsessed_ by these matters than several other participants here...)

I know, on the basis of comments Steve has made in the past, that Steve doesn´t like me very much. I don´t know exactly why, but perhaps it´s because I have criticized in my writings some of his views on free banking in the past. (Note: at least two other papers are going to be published shortly in which I further criticize fractional-reserve free banking.)

Now, if there is one thing Steve couldn´t accuse me of, it is that I haven´t been to school. The fact that I hold a Ph.D. in economics - Chapter IV of which is devoted to a critique of fractional-reserve free banking - is relevant information in this context. And it´s simply not true that I usually bring up this fact _outside context_. However, in the context _we were discussing_, it was a relevant point...

Further also note that:
- although not currently in an academic position, I always make sure to have my writings refereed before publication;
- on the couple of occasions I indeed used a pseudonym on this blog, I still communicated what I consider to be moderately interesting information, such as how Popper´s views had been criticized by Adolf Grünbaum, Giancarlo Ghirardi...

Suster wrote: "I´d call this genre "econo-babble" (inspired by the word "psycho-babble")."

The same is certainly true as regards the philosophy discussion going on here recently with respect to Popper etc. It´s bad policy always to stay at the level of vague generalities and never enter into the technicalities of any subject matter...

Barkley Rosser wrote: "Regarding unknown geniuses, I suspect that there are some. However, I seriously doubt that they are expressing themselves on blogs. They are probably having trouble expressing themselves at all, shy and possibly troubled people."

Shyness is no excuse. I urgently invite all hidden geniuses to manifest themselves.

Ludwig - sure Pete often talks about the importance of getting an education, or publishing in good journals and so on. Yet nobody believes that having a PhD is the basis for making a sensible contribution to a blog comments thread. IMHO bloggers tend to dislike people who derail threads (trolls) irrespective of what else they say or whether they criticise the bloggers views. While I don't know what Pete and Steve may think about you, if you were able to show that they are wrong on some point they should be pleased, because that would mean that they had learned something - but I suspect the probability of that is low.

Sinclair wrote: "While I don't know what Pete and Steve may think about you, if you were able to show that they are wrong on some point they should be pleased, because that would mean that they had learned something - but I suspect the probability of that is low."

But that is precisely the problem with this blog... The technical level of some of the commenters (certainly guys like Greg and even some of the anonymous ones) here is demonstrably higher than that of main bloggers like Pete or Steve, and certainly higher than that of minuses like Lee Kelly... The technical level is not very high anyway. Compare what Steve or Pete have to say about the crisis with what, say, Darrell Duffie writes about it, or with some of the detailed analyses that have recently been presented in books... But I do not agree with you that a PhD is useless... And LVDH shouldn´t care what these guys think about him.

First, Jonathan aren't you really LVDH?

Second, Darrell Duffie is a top-flight financial economists I would expect him to be able to talk about Fannie and Freddie in more detail. We are actually writing for different purposes.

Third, you often make sweeping claims about this or that and insult both posters and commentators. Do you actually think this is how critical dialogue takes place?

Sinclair is right. While I have strong opinions about this or that, I also want to learn as much as I can. I will push back against criticisms, but ultimately I will gladly give up my opinion if I become persuaded that I was wrong. Science should hurt, so you should stick out your chin with conjectures. But often critics just throw insults and not reasons why your proposition should be overturned. Telling me I suck and that I lack a technical level in philosophy and economics isn't really a criticism, it is a merely a statement. Tell me where I am wrong, I will consider the position. For example, on the philosophy of economics is it that you think I have misidentified the methods of modern economics, the applications of those methods, or the underlying methodology. What is it? The paper was accepted, but that isn't an argument for its soundness --- except that it met a certain professional bar. But I don't know where I supposedly demonstrated a lack of understanding in philosophy or economics. If you told me, I might learn. But just telling me I am stupid assumes I cannot learn. See what I mean?

My post was intended to suggest to participants that I wanted this blog to be different from other blogs. I know the natural pull of blogs is to a bar conversation about the game you just watched --- heck I could play better than X, can you believe he screwed up an cost us the game. In those conversations it makes no sense whatsoever for X to be part of the conversation. X is a professional, the discussants were the fans in the stands.

But if a blog is a classroom and the participants are all advanced students, then the conversation can be among peers. Learning, not necessarily entertainment, is the goal. Degrees are not necessary, but a commitment to civility and learning is. My frustration results because rather than mutual learning, we get posts like you just wrote --- "The problem with this blog ... The technical level of some of the commentators here is demonstrably higher than that of the main bloggers." If so, then do not come here because there isn't much opportunity to learn in your assessment.

Follow this link:

If that is the ultimate assessment, then what more can you do but go elsewhere? The internet is a vast ocean of ideas, you can swim where you choose. Why swim in my vicinity if I so demonstrably lack a required technical level --- so much so in fact that what I am missing is never quite stated, but only suggested that I don't get it.

I'll just point out that "Jonathan" is indeed LVDH engaging in another round of "onanism." Inventing other personalities who post comments praising those under your name is so gauche that I have to believe it reflects some deep personal problem, crappy attempts to rationalize it noted.

If anyone cares, I'm happy to post the identical IP addresses.

My own view is that our resident onanist should be banished to the penalty box to spend eternity with our other friend, whose name cannot be mentioned.

At the very least, continued public shaming is in order.

And Ludwig: I don't dislike you b/c you've criticized me. I dislike you for doing stuff like this, and generally being obnoxious and rude on this blog. You were told not to do this sock puppet schtick, but you did it anyway. Don't be surprised if you go bye-bye.

Sock puppetry is especially noxious, although I would say it is really a problem when a poster uses a sock puppet to say nice things about themselves, which apparently just happened here.

The most notorious case of this was John Lott, who created a sock puppet that claimed to be a student of his who then went on to praise him and his work to the skies. I know of some even worse cases that are genuinely serious, but they do not directly involve economics.

The value of a PhD just declined a little.

Barkley Rosser,

Not true. I was not talking about myself. I was talking about a number of other commenters here (including you if you want). (By the way, I have been following up on a number of your writings recently which are rather impressive.)

I apologize if I gave the impression that I wanted to say nice things about myself. I very explicitly reject the idea/accusation that I was intent upon saying nice things about myself. (But it would be very hard to be better at that than some others here. There is hardly a better place to learn such things than this blog...)

But I do not apologize far anything else I wrote.

And if a person is attacked, he/she should be given an opportunity to defend him/herself. This is obviously different from "saying nice things about oneself".

Thanks for the compliment.
When I made my remark I was thinking specifically of "LDVH" and "Jonathan," not you. "Jonathan" made a sympathetic remark at the end of his last post about "LDVH," although it was not at the level of claiming to have been his student and praising him to the skies a la John Lott. I did not keep track of what your multiple identities said about each other.

Has Mueller been banished?

No Matt has not been banished. Being wrong isn't the same thing as breaking the rules of civil discussion. :)

We've only banned a certain person overly concerned with income redistribution no matter the actual topic. I also understand he's been recently banned from yet another Austrian-oriented blog ("Andrei, you've lost *another* submarine?"). I can't say his name, because like Voldemort, it will cause this comment to be treated as spam.


I would be more inclined to readily comply with the rules if I would be sure you apply the same rules to all.

I used to be a lawyer in a former life so I know what "equality before the law" means...

Ideally you should have sent a similar admonition to liberty, Current, Josh, our friend Lord Buzungulus, Paranoid Surfer, and a host of others... (to limit myself to this post only)

Not one of them has ever posted from the same IP under multiple names as far as I can tell. I have met "Liberty" and know who she is and I can assure you that she's not playing sock puppet games. I have checked several of the people you mention and none shows sock puppetry.

So please stop accusing me/us of not playing by the rules. The problem is NOT using a pseudonym. The problem is using *multiple* ones and not making it clear to the reader that all are you.

In fact, I think you owe each of those people mentioned an apology for appearing to be accusing them of engaging in YOUR bad habits.

This post makes the case for banning you even better.

Steve wrote: "The problem is using *multiple* ones and not making it clear to the reader that all are you."

I think you had made it clear since quite some time that _Edmond_ and _Jonathan_ were all me. So that is (should be) general knowledge on this blog. Besides that, the IP people use should be none of your business IMHO.

I again draw your attention to the fact that I did not use any other names with the purpose to mislead participants to this blog, only for reasons of discretion related to my other activities and projects.

Ludwig, I am disappointed to find that I was only talking to one or two other people instead of three or four in addition to the longsuffering original poster. My bad. You have to be a very strange and obsessive person to keep on that deep in a thread, you know the serious people have long since left the bar and gone home to burn some midnight oil on papers for proper journals.

On closer inspection, even one or two was too numerous to discuss that original poster... Fortunately, I do not suffer from such eccentricities too often...
And I thought you were too smart to be fooled like that, but apparently no..., no smarter than the others despite Popper...
And it would be difficult to be more obsessed with some Popper than you...

Call me naive. I was just trying to play the ball and not the mans:)

Pete wrote: "Third, you often make sweeping claims about this or that and insult both posters and commentators. Do you actually think this is how critical dialogue takes place?"

I never said and I would never say that you are stupid but what I mean is the following. When Austrians analyze, say, the financial crisis, they often formulate a number of propositions that are of course true but these propositions are all too often _trivially_ true, in the sense that they are equally true of any other of a dozen crises we´ve had in the past. Am I making a sweeping claim when I say that a proposition like "incentives matter" is not very illuminating when it comes to understanding what makes this crisis different from previous crises? I don´t think so. Still such a proposition may be useful in the classroom but it is not quite true it is directed at advanced students. My eleven-year old son who never took a course in economics certainly can understand it...

These students, as well as some of my colleagues, often laugh at me at my discomfort with the blogosphere.

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