Why we don\'t just blog about politics

I don't read Stumbling & Mumbling, but perhaps I should start. He was interviewed here, and wrote a fabulous followup, I found the second half quite profound:

Here's the link with stock markets. Because these are “unimportant”, they permit careful, detailed and illuminating thinking. By contrast, big issues – Iraq, Palestine or Westminster politics – are often just platforms for the mentally ill, or (to change the metaphor) areas in which people from intellectual ghettos lob stones at each other.

Put it this way. Show me a paper about Iraq that combines the careful empirical work with good theorizing that you can find in this paper (to cite only one of many recent examples). Papers like this give me an intellectual, even aesthetic, satisfaction I hardly ever get from anyone's writings about Iraq.

Or this way. Thinking about equity returns is dominated by men like Robert Shiller and John Cochrane. “Thinking” about Iraq is dominated by the likes of Bush, Galloway and Chomsky. Spot the difference? Am I alone in being depressed by the fact that Oliver Kam can waste his intellect writing about Chomsky?

What's more, thinking about stock markets does, maybe inadvertently, yield insights into human nature; it tells us about our attitudes to risk, and the errors we make in making judgments under uncertainty.

Of course, there are charlatans and idiots in the stock market, as in any walk of life, some in senior positions. But I can ignore these. On the bigthink issues, no-one seems able to do this.

What I’m saying is that greatness, in intellect or in aesthetics, is more often pursued and achieved in small arenas than large ones – which is, I guess, one message of this poem.

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It's largely a matter of

It's largely a matter of impact and effect. The "little things" are really the big things to us and to all those who pursue their own little things. They are often what delivers the bread and butter and what is soon measured for its own success. Thus we focus more on these things and really put thought and planning into them.

Rather than small vs. large,

Rather than small vs. large, isn't the relevant distinction here that between the production of private and public goods?

Equity return is about the production of private goods which many have ample incentive to excel at. Politics is about the production of public goods which people mostly suck at because the same incentives don't exist.

The implication seems to be

The implication seems to be that the public goods are the "large" things and the private ones are the "small things", with maybe a little overlap.

The small/large distiction

The small/large distiction is off base becasue people excel at producing very large private goods and still suck at producing relatively small public goods.