Thanks to all of you who visit this blog, whether regularly or occasionally. About 18 months ago, ten years after starting this Conversable Economist blog, I finally put up a link for donations. (I have my skills, but asking for donations is not one of them.) My plan is to remind readers of the donation button about once a year, and the time has come for such a reminder.
My hope is that the blog serves as an example of what economic sociologist Mark Granovetter once called “the strength of weak ties.” His argument was that all of our social networks have “strong ties” and “weak ties,” where strong ties refers to a connections who are also quite likely to be connected with others in our personal network, and weak ties refers connections to those who are mostly not connected with others in your personal network. Granovetter makes the point that when you learn something from one of your strong ties, the same lesson could have (and probably would have) been passed along by another one of your strong ties. But the information and lessons that you learn from weak ties might not have come to you in any other way.
If you are looking for a blog with predictable, partisan, and preferably snarky opinions about the headlines of the day, then the Conversable Economist is not going to be your cup of tea. Instead, much of what I do on this blog is to provide weak ties to articles, subjects, and authors that you are less likely to have run across. I’m sure that some of my personal opinions come across in what I choose to pass along, but I’m neither trying to hide my own opinions nor to push them very hard. My own belief is that the supply of opinionated and partisan opinion-writing on the web has become so large that the value of marginal contributors to that dialog has sunk to near-zero. Instead, I hope that whether you agree with me or not, the facts and connections that I pass along are of some value. I am less invested in persuading readers to agree (although agreement is always nice!) than I am in what John Courtney Murray called “achieving disagreement,” by which he meant disagreement reached with a full and sympathetic understanding of the alternative position, rather than disagreement that occurs from confusion, distrust, and a cussed disposition.
But these kinds of explanations for the blog run a risk of making the effort seem more systematic than it actually is. On the bulletin board outside my office, one of the quotations is a remark from Gabriel García Márquez that perhaps captures my approach more accurately. He said: “On another occasion a sociologist from Austin, Texas, came to see me because he’d grown dissatisfied with his methods, found them arid, insufficient. So he asked me what my own method was. I told him I didn’t have a method. All I do is read a lot, think a lot, and rewrite constantly. It’s not a scientific thing.”
This blog serves many purposes for me. It’s an outlet for stuff in my head, so I don’t have to burden family and friends with an overload of economics. It’s a memory aid, so that I can track down things I read 6 or 12 or 60 months ago with relative ease. It’s a commitment device, forcing me to actually read various reports and articles that I might otherwise skim past. But the honest truth is that without a group of faithful readers, none of those motivations would be enough motivation for me to keep the blog going for almost 12 years now.
I will keep the Conversable Economist blog freely available to all readers, no matter what. But if you feel moved to make a contribution in support of my efforts and if you have the financial resources to do so, this is my once-a-year you to click on the “Donation” button near the upper-right of this page.
A number of readers have already donated generously in late 2022, even before I managed to post this reminder, and I appreciate your support more than I can say.