Matthew Yglesias and Ezra Klein believe that they are two very lucky people:
Matthew Yglesias: I Am Terrifying: I may not be as hot as Ezra Klein, but I’m really smart:
Whatever their provenance, the public intellectuals of 2009 will want to be fluent in the obvious issues of the moment: environment and energy, market turmoil, China, Russia, Islam. On that basis it looks like another good year for established stars such as Thomas Friedman, Martin Wolf, Bjorn Lomborg and Minxin Pei. But a rising generation of bloggers is terrifyingly young and bright: expect to hear more from Ezra Klein, Megan McArdle, Will Wilkinson and Matthew Yglesias.
I think it would be strange if the main qualification for becoming a high-profile public intellectual in the future is that you had to start a personal blog in 2002 or 2003.
Ezra Klein: Luck: If my metric is "large media institutions making outlandish claims abut my virtues," then it's been a pretty good day or two. But as Matt Yglesias says, it's a bit unnerving to realize just how much of my career is the product of starting a blog during a very narrow window that spanned from 2001 to early-2003.
I always say that if I had done the same work on my school paper, no one would have noticed, but it's actually worse than that: A week after starting my first blog, I was rejected from City on a Hill press, Santa Cruz's student newspaper. And it's entirely possible that if I hadn't been rejected from City on a Hill, I would have put a lot of effort into that, and let my little vanity blog expire. Now, of course, it's harder to break into blogging, even as the talent and sophistication of the contenders has rocketed. Dylan Matthews, for instance, is smarter and more informed than I am now, and he's 18. And not 18 in the sense that 18 stands in to dramatize some low number. He's just actually 18. It's terrifying.
All of which is to say, luck is important, and more people should be Rawlsians.
Me? I owe what place I have to the fact that I have smart friends, and listen to them. It was Paul Mende who told me in 1995 when I left the Treasury that if I were smart I would get onto the internet in a big way--that it was The Next Really Big Thing--and I listened. It hasn't been The Next Really Big Thing in anything like the way anybody envisioned in 1995, but it has been very good to us.