Bryan Caplan has an excellent post on why so many George Mason Econ profs blog.
To understand the real story of GMU econ blogging, you have to know our biographies. (Several are right here). None of us discovered economics in a mainstream econ class, found it fascinating, then decided to try to ascend the academic hierarchy. Instead, our inspiration came from libertarian books, libertarian friends, and libertarian intellectuals, plus our broader reading in philosophy, history, and the history of economic thought. Once we fell in love with ideas, we asked, “How can I make a career out of this?” We would have preferred to be instantly anointed as public intellectuals. But the best realistic path, we learned, was “Become a professor of economics.”
To secure academic positions, we all endured years of grad school boredom. Some of us even spent years boring ourselves doing conventional research to get tenure. (See my dissertation). But our ultimate goal was always the same: Get paid to pursue the kind of ideas that inspired us to study economics in the first place.
Once you know these biographical patterns, you should be amazed if lots of GMU economists hadn’t started blogging. Think about it: Here’s a forum where you write for a sizable, high-quality audience about anything that interests you. Here’s a forum where you can eternally debate other people obsessed with ideas. Here’s a forum where you can instantly pose as a public intellectual – and try to “fake it till you make it.” Here’s a forum that actually penalizes atrocious academic writing!
I think similar reasoning applies to GMU Law Prawfs. Taking a look at the GMU Law Faculty Directory, I count (at least) 11 Profs (I know of) who at some point blogged (there may be more I am missing).
- David Bernstein – Volokh
- Michele Boardman – former Volokh
- TJ-Chiang- guest-blogged on PrawfsBlawg
- Michael Krauss- Point of Law
- Craig Lerner – guest-blogged on Volokh
- Nelson Lund- guest-blogged on Volokh
- Adam Mossoff- guest-blogged on Volokh
- David Schleicher- guest-blogged on Volokh
- Ilya Somin- Volokh
- J.W. Verret – Conglomerate, Truth on the Market
- Josh Wright – Truth on the Market
- Todd Zywicki – Volokh
I count about 50 faculty members total. That’s about 20% of the entire law faculty that blogs. Rather impressive.
Traditionally libertarians and conservatives may have had some difficulty breaking into academia, and turned to alternative mediums to express their thoughts and gain exposure. The blogosphere has proven to be a great equalizer in providing access to intelligent audiences, and improved the ability of writers to influence public thought.
For purposes of full disclosure, I attended GMU and have had classes with, any know many more, members of the faculty.
H/T Don Boudreaux (shocker, another GMU Prof).
Update: I forgot to include Nelson Lund and Craig Lerner, who guest-blogged on Volokh.