The new era

With a lot of changes going on lately, I’ve taken a bit of time to think about the future of this blog. It will be ten years old in June, which makes it one of the longest running Australian blogs (a few, like Catallaxy, are a little older, IIRC, but their archives seem to have been lost). Those ten years have seen the rise and decline of blogging, particularly individual, independent blogs like this one. The XKCD cartoon linked in this Crooked Timber post tells the story.

The writing was on the wall as early as 2004, when I saw lots of my favorite blogs being assimilated by the Borg that became Crooked Timber. Seeing that resistance was futile, I joined the rush, but have kept this blog going with lots of crossposting, but more specifically Australian content here. Still, group blogs were clearly the wave of (what was then) the future. The most successful in Ozplogistan (the briefly popular name for Australian political blogs) have been Catallaxy, Club Troppo and Larvatus Prodeo. But there haven’t been any new entrants successful enough to attract sustained attention, and now LP is gone.

There are two obvious reasons for the decline of blogging. First, after disdaining everything to do with blogging for years, the mainstream media embraced the idea with enthusiasm five years ago or so, putting much of their content in blog form. The big media blogs now attract much larger audience than independent efforts like this one. Second, there has been the rise of Facebook and Twitter, both of which supply a lot of what attracted people to blogging in the first place. Twitter, in particular, can be quite close to the original form of blogging, based on short (very short in the case of Twitter) links to interesting material found on the web.

So, with the closure of LP and getting booted from the Fin, it seemed like a good time to reassess what I’m doing here. I’ve decided to put most of my effort into work that I can post in larger sites (I’ve had invitations from several, and at this stage I think I will try to play the field, rather than picking just one), but I will make it a condition that I can crosspost here. That will enable the discussion that goes on here to continue, and also make this blog a convenient point to collect all my material.

I’ll close by reproducing this post from 10 years ago

My blog is just about a week old, and I haven’t found the Internet this exciting since I discovered Usenet in the early 90s. Even setting up my website five years ago was not as good. Despite wildly varying ideological views, I’ve had a friendly welcome from bloggers across the board, and I’m already getting links and referrals (My return links will be up soon, I promise). It really seems as if blogs might deliver on the original promise of the Web – certainly the technology seems ideally suited for individuals and small groups, with no obvious way of scaling it up to corporate level. No doubt I’ll get jaded and disillusioned one day, but I hope it will be a long way in the future.

The coming boom in inherited wealth

As everyone who has been paying attention knows, the news on inequality is nearly all bad. Not only has inequality increased dramatically in the US, but intergenerational economic mobility is declining[1]. And, where the US leads, the rest of the world looks likely to follow. The top 1 per cent lost more than most during the crisis of 2008-09 but, as Stephen Rattner reports here (drawing on work by Piketty and Saez), that was just a blip. A stunning 93 percent of the additional income created in the US in 2010, compared to 2009, went to the top 1 per cent, and there’s no reason to think things were much better in 2011 – average real earnings have fallen yet again, and employment growth, though positive, was still modest. Wealth inequality is also high, though it has not increased as much as income inequality.

The one bright spot mentioned by Rattner is that ” those at the top were more likely to earn than inherit their riches”. Since I’m already noticing that point popping up in the places you might expect to see it (can’t find a link right now), let me point out that Rattner’s explanation, that “the rapid growth of new American industries — from technology to financial services — has increased the need for highly educated and skilled workers” is wrong, and that there is every reason to expect a boom in inherited wealth.

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A real end to an era

Bob Brown has just announced his retirement from politics. It comes as a shock, but such announcements usually do. I can’t do justice to Bob’s thirty or more years of activism in a blog post, but there have been few people in political life who’ve achieved as much while not compromising their integrity to secure political support. The Green Party which Bob effectively founded and has largely embodied for many years, has made a big positive contribution to Australian political life

Given the rubbish in the comments threads recently, I’m going to be ruthless in moderating this one. There will be plenty of time for critical thoughts on Bob Brown’s political career and on the Green Party. If you can’t wait for a more appropriate occasion, take such comments to the sandpit. Anything in this post that crosses my subjective line will be deleted with prejudice.

Fortunate in my enemies

That’s how Robert Vienneau described me after some of my stoushes last year.

It seems as if my luck is holding in that respect at any rate. While I’ve had plenty of supportive responses after being booted from the Fin, I’m sure not everyone is sorry to see me go. Most of those in the latter class, however, haven’t seen any need to gloat.

I would have been disappointed, however, if Andrew Bolt had not lived down to his usual form on this occasion. Sure enough, as his fans have advised me both by email and in comments here, he’s written a gloating column, expressing the hope that Laura Tingle (a far better journalist than Bolt could ever be, even if he was trying) will be next to go.

Bolt can’t even manage an original line of attack, dragging out the tired misrepresentation of a 2007 blog post that the Telegraph ran last week.

The great thing about having Bolt as an enemy is that you get his fans thrown in as part of the package. There’s something comforting in knowing that, if someone dislikes you, there’s a high probability that they are the kind of person who comments on Bolt’s blog.

Of course, it isn’t much of a distinction to be one of Bolt’s enemies. With the exception of the late Paddy McGuinness (who at least had some style to combine with the vitriol) I can’t think of anyone who is less discriminating in his hatreds.