Lonesome George

With the closure of Catallaxy, this blog is now pretty much the last remnant of what was once called Ozplogistan – the Australian political blogosphere, which was, for a while, a serious alternative to the political journalism of the mainstream media.

There are a couple of partial exceptions. Tim Blair started blogging in 2002, a few months before me, but retreated behind the Telegraph paywall years ago, and now produces nothing but snark in the manner of Andrew Bolt (it was always an element of his blogging, but when he was out on his own he did some good work).

Club Troppo is a descendent of Ken Parish’s Troppo Armadillo, after several changes of personnel. These days it alternates between interesting but abstruse essays by Nicholas Gruen and Covid denialism/do nothingism from a former colleague of mine.

And that’s about it. Group blogs like Larvatus Prodeo and individual blogs like Tim Dunlop’s Road to Surfdom are long gone. If there are any others left, I’ve lost track of them. Those who haven’t retired altogether have migrated to Twitter, as, to a large extent have I.

Twittter itself is, in many ways, a return to the early days of weblogging – links to interesting material on the web with (necessarily) pithy comments. While that has its appeal, it’s sad to see attempts to recreate long-form blogging, with lengthy linked threads, spoolers and unmanageable strings of comments.

I still have a small but loyal following here and as long as that continues I’ll keep posting. But like Lonesome George I understand I’m the last of my kind.

17 thoughts on “Lonesome George

  1. I have told many people that they would really benefit from reading this blog, usually in response to a question on what to read or a discussion in which I use one of your arguments. I have never had one of those people then refer to the blog in a subsequent conversation.

    I have no explanation for that, except to say that the majority of people seem to enjoy thinking about content, rather than process. They’ll happily decry the absurdity of carbon capture and storage but lose interest as soon as the discussion moves to why it carries on as a viable policy. Or they’ll moan about the corruption and incompetence of our politicians but have no patience for a discussion of what an alternative system might look like and how we might get there. I think economists of the non-revolutionary left tend to be very process-oriented – to the general bafflement and boredom of most people.

    I have ambitions to write a book called “Process Queens” about the lonely journey of those of us who would rather talk about how we make the decision than the decision itself. The key anecdote that I would use to illustrate this is being with my sister and a bunch of her friends and deciding where to have dinner. Someone suggested pizza, someone else suggested Vietnamese, someone called for a vote and I said that I didn’t feel majority rules was the optimal decision-making strategy for choosing where to have dinner. Of course this was met with baffled silence.

    I’m aware that is somewhat beside the point of John’s post. I suspect that the more general decline is as a result of the rise of hyper-partisanship, particularly on the right. I think there used to be, rather naively as it turned out, a sense that common ground could be found and arguments could convince. As the right abandoned good faith and it became clear that the kind of reasoned public square liberalism we hoped the internet might provide would never eventuate, the energy went out of the blog world. I’m of the view that the problem is liberalism itself that has failed, but I think some others blame the technology.

  2. I wonder where some newspaper opinion authors on socio-economic issues would get their topics from if you were to stop blogging.

  3. Blogs are dying across all domains, I write for a music blog and we’ve certainly felt this over the last 5-8 years in particular.

    Having found myself frequently agreeing with many of your views expressed in The Conversation, I’ve only just found your blog – only about 20 years late, but better late than never.

  4. Twitter definitely does not work for me. Even did away with Facebook. Never used Instagram or Snapchat. Those interfaces just ain’t healthy when you are easy to distract.

  5. I thought it was the eastern whippoorwill (Antrostomus vociferus) that was lonesome. 😉

    It seems many have lost (or never gained) the ability to read, write and comprehend more than a few clipped sentences. Hence, the popularity of Twitter. The dumbing-down of the population continues. Let us hope J.Q. keeps his blog, a beacon, a light on the hill, shining a little longer.

  6. Twitter is a poor substitute. It’s been sad to see so many former bloggers reduced to pithy jibes and retweets. Something does seem to have happened to the pace and structure of public discourse. It seems rarer for anyone to pursue long form thinking, except the crazies who fixate on things. There has been a slow rise in alternatives to the traditional newspaper.Writers need to be paid and it’s a pity no one has found a way of packaging subscriptions to make it manageable and affordable.

  7. I wonder how much of it is just due to a certain generation of bloggers just not having so much time on our hands any more?

    Maybe in a few years’ time we’ll all have a bit more time to bash out the odd longform piece again. Here’s hoping!

  8. JQ, if you were to (I hope not) migrate to substack, I’d say these mentioned by Ernestine “… some newspaper opinion authors on socio-economic issues would get their topics from if you were to stop blogging.”, would pay just to see what you are currently speaking of. And a legion of others who feel money denotes trust, would pay to read. Popular, paid, less productive, more polarising I’d say though.

    Lucky us, you are tenuered.
    *

    seqaugur says @ 8:50 pm
    “I have told many people that they would really benefit from reading this blog, usually in response to a question on what to read or a discussion in which I use one of your arguments. I have never had one of those people then refer to the blog in a subsequent conversation.”

    Exactly my experience  seqaugur.
    *

    Time to give this a 2021 update JQ?

    “Blogs, wikis and creative innovation”

    By John Quiggin

    “Description
    In this article, recent developments in the creation of web content, such as blogs and wikis, are surveyed with a focus on their role in technological and social innovation. The innovations associated with blogs and wikis are important in themselves, and the process of creative collaboration they represent is becoming central to technological progress in general. The internet and the world wide web, which have driven much of the economic growth of the past decade, were produced in this way. Standard assumptions about the competitive nature of innovation are undersupported in the new environment. If governments want to encourage the maximum amount of innovation in social production, they need to de-emphasize competition and emphasize creativity and cooperation.”
    https://www.researchgate.net/publication/24125264_Blogs_Wikis_and_Creative_Innovation
    *

    And thanks Jaques? of ozblogistan. Very helpful back in time.

  9. I get the impression that rational arguments on the internet have mostly died. They worked on blogs, they don’t seem to work on the replacements. Instead we get various imitations of traditional unidirectional media (medium, substack, github for some reason). Hacker news seems to be one of the few vaguely useful comment fields outside the remaining blogs.

    Reddit is very patchy, a few parts of it have quite good comments, others are just vomit or full of downvoters so contrary voices disappear (often wildly inconsistently between posts). The various flavours of mastodon and discord annoy me because they’re explicitly designed to remove history (as is reddit) which means useful information has to be repeated regularly or it is lost (and search even on reddit is unreasonably difficult).

    I still like blogs, and still interact on the better ones. There does not seem to be a better replacement. Albeit I don’t participate in the various personal information mining sites, but that’s got an “any more” caveat for most of them.

  10. As the old joke has it, ProfQ fills a much needed gap. Please don’t stop. Civilised discussion is an important part of life.

  11. Whilst I enjoy your thoughts and analyses John, there is a tendency for this blog also to be an echo chamber. There is not a lot of respectful and genuine debate but like most places in the blogosphere a discussion that is more the narcissism of small differences.

  12. “I still have a small but loyal following here …” It does not look a safe assumption that the handle of regular commenters are representative of our total readership. You may be able to get a handle on total readership using Google Analytics, And/or try a short reader survev. Possible questions: Are you a regular or occasional visitor to the blog (regular = most weeks)? Which topic areas do you find most worthwhile (supply list)? Do you typically read comments? Do you regularly share links to posts on socal media, email or other blogs?

    The decline of the blogosphere is part of the general crisis of democracy. I tried my hand here with an attempted proof that algorithmic democracy cannot work: http://www.jameswimberley.es/Articles/Arrow%20democracy.html . My modest innovation was an argument that circular majorities are not only possible (as per Arrow) but quite likely under a rule of consistency between means and ends. You do not however need me to see the obvious truth that a healthy democracy has to be a debate and negotiation to construct coherent platforms. Parties, pundits and spaces for expert and non-expert discussion are not optional. Emotion-driven social media are a step backwards.

  13. “Carl Sagan predicted the mess we would be in 25 years ago.” sic [1]

    In the first replayed part of the interview, Sagan makes some pithy comments about Starwars: How did evolution, by an immense fluke, produce human beings in a galaxy far, far away? He also notes everyone has white skins and the Wookie doesn’t get a medal at the end.

    The second replayed part of the interview makes some interesting observations about the dumbing down of the population. Sagan certainly predicted the modern mess.

    Note 1. Actually good English expression would have it:
    “Twenty-five years ago, Carl Sagan predicted the mess we would be in today.”

  14. 1. Well, it is clear that Michael De Percy is a Scott Morrison supporter. So I guess if you want right-wing echo chamber libertarianism and market fundamentalist propaganda, it is the site to go to.

    In “Stop comparing Australia’s EV uptake with Norway’s”, Michael De Percy writes as follows:

    “Nevertheless, it is difficult to have a point of view that differs from what I reluctantly refer to as “green-left ideology”.

    While he reluctantly refers to “green-left ideology” as a term (for unknown reasons) he non-reluctantly links to “The ideological drive behind the Greens” by Kevin Andrews. Andrews, early on in that article, manages to refer to Greens and Green supporters as “young university students or graduates, frequently working or still studying in academia, no kids, often gay, arts and drama type degrees or architecture where they specialise is designing environmentally friendly suburbs, agnostic or atheist…”

    There you have it Greens and other people who care about environment and sustainability are young, academic, gay, atheist or agnostic. This is tribalist dog-whistling at its best or rather worst: a strange kind of dog-whistling where the whistles are all in the audible range. When dog-whistles are in the audible range you know the reactionaries are also signalling opponents and minorities “We are coming for you.”just as the neo-fascist Trumpers did quite brazenly.

    The claim that “it is difficult to have a point of view that differs from what I reluctantly refer to as “green-left ideology”.” is entirely disingenuous. It is very easy to have that pro-growth, pro-fossil fuels, anti-environmental anti-sustainability opinion and to get it promulgated almost everywhere in the mainstream media. The other (Green) opinion is very difficult to get promulgated. It is mainly seen in minority outlets with little capital(ist) backing. Advertisements, in our economic system, are also part of the public propaganda and discourse of the current system. Advertisements for fossil fuel cars, for gas projects and for coal projects vastly outnumber advertisements for EVs and clean energy. This is especially so when a significant proportion of ads for “clean energy” are really green-washing for fossil fuel companies.

    2. To shift this critique into a different gear and be balanced, yes it is quite obvious that partisanship is as bad on the Left as on the Right. The Monthly Review, whose scholarship, analyses and writers have been superb in the last decade, especially John Bellamy Foster, have now shifted over into blind partisan support for China. This is China of the totalitarian CCP with a dictator-for-life in charge. This is a China which is aggressive, expansionist, revisionist, nationalist and pro-Han chauvinist. This is a China which while Marxist in name only (and even Marx himself cautioned “I am not a Marxist”) is actually a state capitalist system full of crony capitalism: where the capitalist cronies are right now being attacked and forced to turn over all “capital power”, the power inherent in capital-as-power, back to the Party oligarchs in their own crony party system. This is a China which oppresses the Uyghurs, places them in concentration camps for brainwashing and works them as near-slaves in an end-to-end cotton production system in echoes of Deep South US cotton slavery.

    When ideology blinds people to facts on the ground we have a huge problem. The facts on the ground in the US were that Trump attempted a self coup or autocoup [1] to install himself as a neo-fascist dictator. His brownshirt minions stormed the capitol, seat of (sort of) representative (sort of) democracy. The USA is really an oligarchy of the plutocrats and the executive with weak pretensions to democracy. Trump attempted to turn that plutocracy of oligarchs into a dictatorship by one populist, failed oligarch.

    The facts on the ground in China are that China is, as I wrote above, an aggressive, expansionist, revisionist, nationalist, pro-Han chauvinist dictatorship

    The facts on the ground, taking an environmental science viewpoint, are that both US Oligarchic Capitalism and Chinese Party Capitalism are completely unsustainable along with the globalized economy in toto. Catastrophic environmental collapse is absolutely assured in and under this system.

    The collapse of all these systems is completely assured unless we change radically and globally within this decade. Of course, this is tantamount to saying collapse is assured. The chances we will change in this time frame AND avoid negative-sum, open strategic competition are vanishingly small.

    Note 1.” A self-coup, also called autocoup (from the Spanish autogolpe), is a form of coup d’état in which a nation’s leader, having come to power through legal means, dissolves or renders powerless the national legislature and unlawfully assumes extraordinary powers not granted under normal circumstances. Other measures taken may include annulling the nation’s constitution, suspending civil courts, and having the head of government assume dictatorial powers.” Wikipedia.

    It’s instructive to note that Hitler came to power by a self-coup. Xi Jinping also came to dictator-for-life power by essentially a self-coup fom within the Party and against Party rules, as they stood up to that time.

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