I got into blogging as a sometime commenter on the Volokh Conspiracy, until Eugene Volokh encouraged me to spin off on my own. When the conspiracy consisted of Eugene and Sasha, the VC was a consistently good read, even if you mostly disagreed (as I did). The stuff was literate, thoughtful, often well-informed, and unfailingly polite. And Eugene was willing to change his mind, and say so, if presented with compelling fact and argument.
So it distresses me to see the VC’s descent into predictable glibertarianism. Kenneth Anderson’s silly, nasty, fact-free attack on Ezra Klein — who has a much better record than most daily-press reporters of actually doing his homework and learning about the substance of the issues he writes about — provides a sorry example of the trend. Of course Klein doesn’t know as much economics as Greg Mankiw, but knowing economics and knowing health economics are two different things.
Klein knows a bunch of economists who know as much economics as Mankiw does, and, being a quick study, has made himself an advanced amateur in health economics. And it doesn’t take any deep knowledge to notice that Mankiw simply ignores some potentially cost-reducing elements of the plan that is now emerging, while proclaiming ex cathedra that it fails to reduce cost.
Footnote There’s only one formula for keeping a group blog from trending downward: start with someone halfway decent, and then have a strict rule that every addition to the group must raise the mean. Now that would have been hard for Eugene, since there aren’t many people smarter than he is. But I’m perfectly happy as the weak player on a very strong team.