The Economist as...?: The Public Square and Economists

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My paper for the Notre Dame conference on "public intellectualism" is finally making its way through the publication process...

I. The Salience Today of the Economic

Sit down some evening and watch the news on the TV, or scan the magazine covers in the supermarket, or simply immerse yourself in modern America...


A. Elements of Public-Square Gossip

If you are like me, you will be struck by the extent to which our collective public conversation focuses on seven topic areas:

  1. The personal doings of the beautiful, the powerful, and the rich – and how to become more like them.
  2. The weather.
  3. Local threats and dangers, especially to children.
  4. Amusements – usually gossip about the past or about our imaginary friends, frenemies, etc. (it is amazing how many people I know who have strong opinions about Daenerys Stormborn of House Targaryen1 – many more than have any opinions at all about her creator George R.R. Martin, author of the Song of Ice and Fire novels on which “Game of Thrones”2 is based).
  5. How to best procure necessities and conveniences.
  6. Large scale dangers (and, rarely, opportunities): plagues, wars and rumors of wars, the fall and rise of dynasties, etc.
  7. “The economy”: unemployment, spending, inflation, construction, stock market values, and bond market interest rates.

Now out of these seven topic areas, the first six are found not just in our but in other societies as far back as we have records. They are common in human history as far back as we have been writing things down, or singing long story-songs to one another around the campfire.

What, after all, is the story of Akhilleus, Hektor, and Agamemnon in Homer’s Iliad but a combination of (1), (4), and (6)?3

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A Now-Extended Non-Sokratic Dialogue on Webite Design: The Honest Broker for the Week of August 3, 2015

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Multiple Comments of the Day: What I, at least, regard as an interesting discussion in the comments to my A Very Brief Sokratic Dialogue on Website Redesign: From that post:

Platon: Five requirements?

Sokrates: Yes.... The stream... so... who want to either read what is new or to treat the site as a weblog--that is, have a sustained engagement and conversation with the website considered as a Turing-class hivemind--can do so.... The front-end... to give each piece of content a visually-engaging and subhead-teaser informative welcome mat.... The syndication... to propagate the front-end cards out to Twitter and Facebook.... The stock... a pathway... by which people can pull things written in the past... relevant... to their concerns today.... The grammar: The visually-interesting and subhead-teaser front-end... needs to lead the people who would want to and enjoy engaging with the content to actually do so.... [But,] as William Goldman says, nobody knows anything.

Platon: Is there anybody whose degree of not-knowingness is even slightly less than the degree of not-knowingness of the rest of us?...

Sokrates: My guess... Klein and Melissa Bell and company--are most likely to be slightly less not-knowing than the rest of us....

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Internet Media and the Fall of GigaOm: The Honest Broker for the Week of March 15, 2015

Sokrates: Internet Media and the Fall of GigaOm

Adeimantos: What? Are you now intellectually flirting with both Hinduism and techno-transhumanism?

Sokrates: No. GigaOm. Om Malik's weblog grown huge and turned into a business. A rather large business. That failed.

Felix Salmon: I told you so. If I may quote myself:

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