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Exemplifying Equitable Growth: Mr. Google Serves Me a Baker's Half-Dozen from the WCEG Website, and What I Learn Thereby...

Equitable growth Google Search

Time to relaunch the Equitable Growth website!

That makes this a good time to look back at what Equitable Growth does and has been doing over this past half decade. As I grow older, I become more and more and organizational realist: The Purpose of an organization is what it does, rather than what its mission statement says it is going to do or what it’s funders believe that their money is going to pay for. What the worker bees do determines what the organization does. What the planners and vision architects say does not determine what the organization does.

Thus I look for exemplars: What are the things on the current Equitable Growth website that exemplify what it does, or perhaps what it should do?

Let's ask Mr. Google:

The simple—anonymized— for "" produces as its first hits pages aggregating people associated with Equitable Growth, like "Austin Clemens": their headshots, a sentence, or two, and a list of things on the website associated with their name. The search also produces pages aggregating tags: all things on the website tagged with "Macroeconomics". And it produces pages aggregating categories—like "Labor Markets"—plus an about page, and so forth.

But as I scroll down past page upon page upon page of results I find that Mr. Google does not think that people searching for "" should have their attention primarily drawn to any worker bee product. There are few direct links to any findings, data, or arguments, rather than to the aggregative pages.

There are some direct links. Those links are, well, links to me: "Equitablog" posts. Here are the top 7 according to Mr. Google: four things that I have written, and three from my highlighting the work of other people—Steve Cecchetti and Enisse Kharroubi, Judy Shulevitz and Heather Boushey, and Simon Wren-Lewis.

The top four google-ranked from me:

June 9, 2017: My joining a letter of worthies begging the Federal Reserve to think hard about what it is doing: Rethink 2%: Even if a 2 percent inflation target set an appropriate balance a decade ago, it is increasingly clear that the underlying changes in the economy would mean that, whatever the correct rate was then, it would be higher today...

March 10, 2016: My interpretation of the "helicopter money" debate as an attempt to create opportunities for central banks to avoid failure at economic management in an era of low interest rates: Social credit is the answer: Today’s debate [over "Helicopter Money"]... is a result of the default Washington-Consensus Great-Moderation assignment of the stabilization-policy role to independent and technocratic central banks.... To speak of “helicopter money” is to convey the impression that this is the central bank undertaking its proper business... [but] needs the active support of the directly-elected government... to undertake what is... monetary policy...

May 18, 2015: My pointing out to Krusell and Smith that their critique of Thomas Piketty's Economics in the Twenty-First Century implicitly assumes that depreciation is not the 5% of national income it is but rather 50%, and my further pointing out that their pretending that this error is unimportant is unprofessional: The Theory of Growth and Inequality: Piketty, Zucman, Krusell, Smith, and “Mathiness”: Paul Romer inquired why I did not endorse his... characterizing Piketty and Piketty and Zucman as a canonical example of what Romer calls “mathiness”. Indeed, I think that, instead, it is Krusell and Smith (2014) that suffers from “mathiness”–people not in control of their models deploying algebra untethered to the real world in a manner that approaches gibberish...

April 8, 2014: My hopes for the construction of a useful public sphere by Ezra Klein and his posse: Motivated Reasoning and the Launch of Ezra Klein’s Vox.Com: Kudos to Ezra Klein and company for the highly-successful launch of their But... Ezra Klein worries... it might be... hopeless enterprise.... Paul Krugman... (1) Ezra’s is not a hopeless enterprise.... (2) Nevertheless his technocratic policy debate can only be carried out within the philosophical-liberal community: that conservatives either cannot or will not participate...

The top three google-ranked of me highlighting the work of other people—Steve Cecchetti and Enisse Kharroubi, Judy Shulevitz and Heather Boushey, and Simon Wren-Lewis:

February 17, 2015: My highlighting Steve Cecchetti and Enisse Kharroubi's finding that yes, a hypertrophied financial sector is a drag on the economy as a whole: Evening Must-Read: Why Does Financial Sector Growth Crowd Out Real Economic Growth?: Stephen G Cecchetti and Enisse Kharroubi: "Financial sector growth benefits disproportionately high collateral/low productivity projects… Where financiers employ the [most] skilled workers… productivity growth is lower than it would be had… entrepreneurs attract[ed] the [most] skilled labour…. [Thus] financial booms in which skilled labour work for the financial sector, are sub-optimal when the bargaining power of financiers is sufficiently large…. We focus on manufacturing industries and find that industries that are in competition for resources with finance are particularly damaged by financial booms…"

June 13, 2016: My highlighting Judy Shulevitz's review of Fearless Leader Heather Boushey's Finding Time: The Economics of Work-Life Balance: Must-Read: How to Fix Feminism: Judith Shulevitz: "Heather Boushey argues that the failure of government and businesses to replace the services provided by ‘America’s silent partner’–the stay-at-home wife–is dampening productivity and checking long-term economic growth.... American families, particularly low-income families, can’t do without a double income.... But having to work should not be confused with wanting to work…. Marissa Mayer... reported that... [at] Google... she slept under her desk, one disgusted feminist, Sarah Leonard, wrote, ‘If feminism means the right to sleep under my desk, then screw it’…"

September 19, 2016: My highlighting Simon Wren-Lewis's rejection of demands that he should "stick with the economics": Must-Read: Economics, DSGE and Reality: Simon Wren-Lewis: "Entering the ERM at an overvalued exchange rate would lead to a UK recession…. I saw close up academics who had not done similar research but who had influence use that influence to support simplistic reasoning. It is difficult to understate the impact that had…. After the financial crisis… governments from around the world first went with what macroeconomic theory and evidence would prescribe, and then in 2010 dramatically went the opposite way…. The Coalition government’s constant refrain was simply wrong... [and] the Labour opposition seemed uninterested.... Austerity is not the first time good advice has been ignored at considerable cost.... Tell me I should ‘stick with the economics’, you can see why given my experience I find that rather difficult to do. It is a bit like asking a chef to ignore how bad the service is... and just stick with the cooking..."

And then, down toward the both of the seventh page of search results, there is something: From last month:

Sarah Jane Glynn: Gender wage inequality What we know and how we can fix it: "Over the past 40 years, women['s]... rising incomes became a significant part of overall household financial stability.... Yet... (1) Women make up... close to half of all currently employed workers (46.7 percent), yet the average earnings of all women who work full time, year round is 80.5 percent of men who.... (2) Women’s earnings are critical... more likely than men to be single heads of households raising children.... Families that have experienced real, inflation-adjusted income growth since the 1970s are likely to be married couples where the wife works. (3).... If women had not increased their work hours since 1979, U.S. GDP in 2012 would have been 11 percent lower...

What does this mean?

My first conclusion is that Mr. Google is, at least relative to my expectations as of the early 2000s, a failure. Mr. Google is of little help here. Raw google rank—the predisposition of Google to return a page independent of search terms—is not a good guide to either how Equitable Growth is influencing the technocratic and moral philosophical conversation nor to the best things that Equitable Growth has done over the past half decade plus. The hope was that the trails humans left in the web would prove a useful guide to what you should pay attention to. But that has not worked: Mr. Google is happy to send you to the Equitable Growth aggregator page on "Macroeconomics" but does not have strong views on what the best contributions of Equitable Growth to the debate on macroeconomics have been.

My second conclusion is that the death of the weblog is overstated.

Now what Ezra Klein calls the “flow“ has indeed moved away from the open bloggy web. It has moved behind paywalls and onto Twitter, into Facebook and Instagram, and into organizations that (with some honorable exceptions) either have very strong funders or partake strongly of the clickbait nature. Plus the new "flow" is hard to search for in real time: things come to your attention when they become viral, which is when they have hacked your or somebody else’s brain rather than when they bring information you want to pay attention to. The quality of the public sphere does seem to have suffered substantially. Good speech is being not driven out but, instead, nearly drowned out by clickbait speech, ignorant speech, and malevolent speech. And the enthusiastic reembrace by for-profit advertising-supported mass media of journalism based on "source cultivation" has not helped.

But people do, more than ever, still attempt to find things on the internet by searching via Mr. Google, imperfect as he may be. And when they do, the links they find are not to working papers or .pdfs or books studies, they are to weblog posts: things bite-sized enough to have attracted enough human trails through the internet to register. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and company have become the essential tools to become part of the "flow". But the "stock"—human knowledge that is findable and accessible when you need it but are not sure of what you need or where it might be—is still indexed by weblog posts.

To the extent that it is indexed and findable at all.

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