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Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: “Early blogging days”

In my column for the November 9th, 2011, issue of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review I looked back on some of Russ Roberts’s and my the early posts at Cafe Hayek. You can read the full column beneath the fold.

Early blogging days

I recall when I was first asked if I blogged. The year was 2003. I had no idea what a “blog” was. The term “blogging” sounded vaguely icky — perhaps something that drunk college students do to each other at rock concerts.

“You should blog!” this person advised me. For several months I resisted this advice.

Finally, in April 2004, my George Mason University colleague Russ Roberts and I started a blog — Cafe Hayek (cafehayek.com ). Nearly every day since then, Russ and I have foisted our thoughts, free of charge, upon a world already drowning in punditry. Nevertheless, having now posted more 6,000 different entries at Cafe Hayek, I can’t resist sharing with you here portions of five of our offerings from 2004.

On April 22 of that year, Russ wrote: “At the heart of these fears (of American jobs being lost to workers in low-wage countries) is a theory about how nations prosper — the key is to get the good jobs. Ross Perot had a simple way of expressing it. He said it’s better to make computer chips than potato chips. In this mistaken theory of how jobs affect our standard of living, wages depend on the title on your business card. If somehow the foreigners corner the computer chip market, we’re left peeling potatoes for minimum wage, if we’re lucky.

“The problem with this theory is that, if a nation’s skill level is low, making computer chips makes you poorer, not richer. It’s like me at 5′ 6″ deciding to be a basketball player because basketball players have high salaries.”

On May 29, I quoted the lyrics of my favorite country song, “Mind Your Own Business,” in which the late, great Hank Williams Sr. laments that “mindin’ other people’s business seems to be high-toned.” I then offered this observation: “Indeed. Mindin’ other people’s business is regarded as high-toned. It’s the principal occupation of too many folks. How insightful of a twentysomething, poorly educated, guitar-strumming farm boy from Alabama to recognize an important truth overlooked by so many PhD-sporting intellectuals — namely, for each of us, taking care of our own business is business enough. Minding the business of other people not only officiously and arrogantly interferes with other people’s lives, it takes us away from the most important business that each of us should attend to: our own.”

On June 14, Russ responded to complaints that George W. Bush’s presidency was “divisive”: “How could it be otherwise? Every President is divisive. That is the nature of politics. The only President in American history who wasn’t divisive might be William Henry Harrison who died a month into office.”

On Aug. 9, Russ wrote: “According to (historian William) Manchester, London in 1875 had ten (10!) mail deliveries a day. Slightly more labor intensive than email. Such a system makes sense when labor is relatively cheap and people really want to stay in touch. Another interesting number — 1000 people died a year in England’s coal mines. Makes nuclear power look really safe.”

And on Aug. 5, Russ explained: “The American economy is very good at creating jobs. The key question is what kind of jobs. Imagine keeping long-distance technology unchanged at its 1920 level. We’d have saved the jobs of all those telephone operators and made the world poorer and more isolated. We let those jobs go and created new jobs in all the industries we couldn’t have dreamed of in 1920.”

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