“Orthodox economics is in many ways an empty box. Its understanding of the world is similar to that of the physical sciences in the Middle Ages. A few insights have been obtained which will stand the test of time, but they are very few indeed, and the whole basis of conventional economics is deeply flawed… Increasingly, the subject is taught not as a way of learning how the world might operate, but as a set of discovered truths about how the world does operate… It cannot be stated too often that very little of the
content of (economic) textbooks is known to be true, in the sense that many of the statements on, say, engineering are known to be true.” Paul Omerod c.1994
“Whatever happened to economies of scale?… The excellent companies understand that beyond a certain surprisingly small size, diseconomies of scale seem to set in with a vengeance.” Tom Peters
“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” Inigo Montoya
If it really is true that blogging is back and 2015 is the new 2006 then it is definitely time for some old school blogging.
And what’s the first thing you need for some good old fashion blogging?
A casual disregard for the source material.
I didn’t read Jonathan Chait’s rant in the New York Times last weekend and neither did you. OK, that’s not entirely fair. I did give it a cursory look and Mom gave it a quick speed read. We both agreed that there was no point in putting any quality time into his piece for the same reason that you can stand next to a working heat lamp and know that you’re standing next to a working heat lamp. Even from a distance you could see that Mr. Chait’s bile was ready to jump right off the page and/or screen and neither Mom nor I wanted to stand there and let it get all over our breakfast. We’ve seen this sort of thing before and we pretty much know when to get out of the way.
Hell, we even know where it comes from.
Here’s how it works: Chait, if that really is his name, like all rapidly aging white men, walks around the house and is suddenly overcome with an uneasiness he can’t explain. First, he looks outside and sees no kids on his lawn. Next he makes his way to his desk and shuffles things around and around. That’s when it begins to dawn on him – someone has been moving his cheese. So he hollers downstairs to see if the old lady has seen his cheese, she hollers back, “YOU WERE THE LAST ONE TO HAVE IT!” and that’s when all hell breaks loose.
Then he says to himself, “By God, someone moved my cheese.”
That’s when he swings into action. Sitting at his desk he rapidly and nervously flips through his Rolodex to see if he still has the after hours number for the Old Cronies Desk at the New York Times. His call is answered after two rings by another rapidly aging white man who was dying for the phone to ring so he wouldn’t have to deal with th’ e-mail. For the next hours there is huffing, there is puffing, and there is a precipitous rise in the blood pressure of all involved, and they’re all going to make sure this outrage is contagious.
Long ago and far away the men of America handled this sort of thing by either going to the corner tavern to bitch into a Schlitz or mowing the lawn within an inch of its life. Come Monday they would channel that energy into commerce and that’s why we went to moon, built the best cars in the world, and invented the Marlboro cigarette, a device so ingenious that it slowly but surely shorten the life of Leonid Brehznev, the long sitting premier of the Soviet Union.
Now that energy is spent belching fire into the dwindling number of pages that make up the Sunday New York Times.
Sadly, Mom ‘n me have a front row seat on all of this. In fact, if the outrage gets ginned up properly herds of old white men convene conferences and panels which means that I have to go downtown and represent us. Prior to departure I always have to rummage through the closet and find THE CLOTHES. While that Harry Potter kid can poke around an old steamer trunk and come up with his Cloak of Invisibility, I have to rifle through the closet to find what can only be called my Cloak of Respectability.
For the better part of three years I meticulously went through the racks of the short ‘n portly section of the major chains until I came up with an outfit that would fool most people into thinking – at first glance at least – that I am not a fat little goofball.
The coat alone is a London Fog.
In fact, it proves my father was right when he said that the Army surplus store wasn’t the only place that sold clothes.
Where were we?
Oh yeah, so I put on the suit of lights, which includes a jaunty scarf in the winter months, and I wander into lecture halls so that men far whiter and much older than I am can rant and rave and bitch, but mostly use the word “scale” over and over and over. Supposedly they’re talking about economies of scale, but they don’t know that. The years and years of newspaper training taught them that money was a dirty, dirty thing they should never touch. This left most of them incapable of understanding even rudimentary economics. Their repeated attempts to talk about scale is like trying to have your grade school nuns write erotic poetry. Sure, maybe one or two might make a valiant attempt, one poem might be really good, but in the long run you’ve only got so many people going against the grain of what is deep in their hearts.
And no good can comes of that.
Why did Andrew Sullivan quit this week?
Why is neighborhood news a bust?
Never gonna scale.
The last one revolves around the newspapers’ buying up weekly papers in the 80’s and 90’s. Yes, it scaled and then it collapsed. It left countless small towns and neighborhood with a weekly paper that was nothing more than classifieds and legal notices – and that just the ones that didn’t go under in a whipstitch. All that THANK YOU ST. JUDE and sheriff’s auction notices get swept under the rug because they do not serve the argument of scale.
I’d say more, but I have nothing more. Yes, that’s not good old school blogging form, but at least I can leave you with this cheap shot – everything the old white newspaper men sincerely want the rest of us to do can be summed up in this exchange between Peter Cook and Dudley More.
Dudley Moore: Yes, indeed. Do you feel you’ve learnt by your mistakes here?
Peter Cook: I think I have, yes, and I think I can probably repeat them almost perfectly. I know my mistakes inside out.
Dudley Moore: I’m sure you will repeat them. Well, thank you very much, Sir Arthur.
Is there a point here?
No, because this is old school blogging so I’ll end with a couple of long block quotes rather than working on a conclusion.
Hank Green, one of those YouTube vloggers who interviewed Obama, said this about the criticism he and his fellow interviewers received from those in the working media:
There is nothing actually legitimate about Fox News (or MSNBC for that matter) and young people know this. They don’t trust news organizations because news organizations have given them no reason to be trusting. These channels exist not to inform but to uphold the biases and values of particular ideologies. Ideologies and values, by the way, that very few young people embody. Even when they try to strike a balance, they do it by pitting different perspectives against each other in staged arguments. But neither perspective looks familiar to most people under the age of 40, so they just tune out.
The somewhat later he added:
Legacy media isn’t mocking us because we aren’t a legitimate source of information; they’re mocking us because they’re terrified. Their legitimacy came from the fact that they have access to distribution channels and that they get to be in the White House press pool because of some long-ago established procedures that assumed they would use that power in the public interest. In reality, those things are becoming less and less important and less and less true. Distribution is free to anyone with a cell phone and the legitimacy of cable news sounds to me like an oxymoron. The median-aged CNN viewer is 60. For Fox, it’s 68.
None of this has anything to do with political correctness. What it’s about is that the train has left the station and, as Mom’s old boss used to say, you can either be on it or under it. Information has no preference about how it is delivered only people do. If Mr. Chait wishes to revoke his legitimacy by clinging to his old school ways – then so be it.
I’m gonna go hang up all $350 in clothes with the other stuff that was originally meant for our boys in the Philipines. Once I think I’ve wrung all the $350 I got tied up in those duds I’ll probably take a flyer on going downtown to hear how the damn kids just won’t get off the newspaper’s lawn.
ed.note: The Axis of Drivel graphic was designed by Berlin Wally and appropriated without permission because in old school blogging that’s how we rolled.