Happy New Year, A Request for Requests

Happy 2011 everyone.  Hope your headaches are recovering in good order.

Thanks for reading – 2010 has been a fantastic year for this blog and for me.  I’ve gotten to engage with so many people through your comments, emails, blog posts, twitters, etc.   One thing that my friends in graduate school and academia have pointed out to me is that the blogosphere gives you very quick feedback – if I post something particularly dumb or clever others will start pointing this out fairly quickly. Most people in the intellectual professions have a much harder time getting feedback – time and critical attention from others is a very valuable commodity, and the blogosphere produces it in groves.

A couple of blogging resolutions:   This will be the year I figure out the “grammar” thing.   I’m going for far less typos and better writing overall.  Forgive me for the few pie charts and double y-axis graphs that were posted in 2010 – those terrible decisions are behind me now.  I’ll be posting a little bit more, a bit shorter and more concise and about a greater variety of topics in 2011. I’d encourage you to follow me on twitter if you have an account and don’t already as I usually link to new writing here and elsewhere there.

Now here’s a serious request from you guys:  What do you want to see more or less from in 2011?   I’d really benefit from some critical feedback:  I’m not great at figuring out how others see this blog, what people benefit from and what people would like to see more of.  Half the time I think the writing here comes across as this red shirt guy from a Warcraft convention if he was to talk about capital ratios and UI extensions:

(Not that there is anything wrong with that at all.)  But I want to kick this blog up another level in 2011, and hopefully you will all have some suggestions.   Feel free to email me as well with suggestions if you’d prefer not to comment.

Here’s to a successful 2011.

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18 Responses to Happy New Year, A Request for Requests

  1. Thanks for a wonderful series of posts.

    My request: Think big! We are really in need of a new Keynes. I know that sounds grandiose, but I think that someone needs to try to synthesize the various insights from the critical finance blogosphere into a research program and a larger view of the economy.

    Yes, it is important to “score points” and correct the worst mistakes of press and pundits. But without an overarching framework to develop a new approach to economics, we will always be playing catch-up, trying to debate terms that are already stacked against us.

    In short: the critical finance blogosphere needs a positive research program.

  2. engineer27 says:

    Mike: My advice would be to play to your strengths. The key advantage you bring to the discussion is your insider’s view. Use it. Flavor your exposition with some juicy anecdotes. Emphasize that your criticism is coming from someone who has “been there”.

  3. JP says:

    I’d just like to say thanks for running a great, informative blog.

    The information on interchange rules was helpful this past year as were the insights on FinReg reform, the debates over unemployment benefit extensions, and the fraudclosure crisis. I’m sure there will be new issues on the radar that come up over the upcoming year. My only hope would be that the shorter post don’t come at the cost of substance. I think you’ve struck a nice balance over the past year.

  4. southwerk says:

    I ran an analysis of my blog based on hits. What I found sort of made sense and sort of not. I don’t think this blogging thing is a science yet. Since, I can’t figure out anything for certain about my blog, giving you advice doesn’t strike me as a good idea. However, I llike your writing. I think your heart is in the right place. Above all, I think you are committed to the good fight. I have recommended you on my blog and see nothing on the horizon that will change that. I wish you well for the new year.
    Pilant’s Business Ethics Blog

  5. Philip W says:

    I subscribed to the blog because of the long, in-depth analyses of aspects of the financial crisis. I didn’t have any idea of your politics at that point, I just felt like you were engaging the material more deeply and with greater sensitivity for detail than anyone else I was reading, so I decided to read everything from you. The more you become just another Yglesias or Klein opining about all manner of political subjects, or the “right strategy” for the Democrats, or whatever, the less valuable you are to me. Play to your strengths: be an expert, don’t shy away from the long, involved posts. More banking policy!

  6. steve2 says:

    I appreciate your getting into the weeds on details like finance reform, especially areas like credit cards. If you were so inclined, and have the same level of expertise, applying this to areas in health care reform would be appreciated.


  7. Ed says:

    My request is that you don’t take requests. I’m not sure anyone becomes more successful at this by attempting to become what the audience wants given that a poll of 100 readers will produce 90 different responses. Just do what you do.

    Your strengths are in the area of pointing out “This is the right thing to do, and this is the wrong thing to do” with a useful explanation. I don’t think anecdotes will add a lot to it unless they start with you and Robert Reich doing whippets at a gun show.

  8. Hmmm ….

    I ask myself the same questions. How to make the blog better? More charts? Less charts? Jokes? Which other blogs do I like? Why?

    I don’t think there is any model, since blogs are ‘new journalism’ or something like that. It’s all new. New means evolution. Who knows how any of this is going to turn out?

    There is a lot of good info out there. The best thing to do is synthesize it. Since you are already doing this why change? What Frank uplink says is true. A big picture is necessary, lots of big pictures as a matter of fact. The world is a lost child right now.

    With the blog you wind up writing the same article over and over again. It gets to be a challenge after awhile to figure out how to make it different.

    Good luck.

  9. ZeroInMyOnes says:

    First, thanks for a great blog. I am just a layperson here to learn, and although some of your topics are too advanced for my abilities, they way you put across technical concepts is very clear.

    I would be interested in more of your analysis of government worker compensation. Broadly. But for example, what is the social worth of, let’s say, a Federal park ranger? Two sales people in an electronics store? Tenth of a banker? And how much of what attempts to pass for ‘policy debate’ is actually an attempt by one side (and maybe even the other) to use government money for party building? For example when right-leaning politicians implement subsidies for financial companies, is that because the US benefits from an amplified financial industry, or is it just to amplify the number of predominantly right-voting finance workers. If a left-leaning organization wants to decrease student class size, is that just to increase the number of predominantly left-voting teachers?… What is real?

  10. Anjon R says:


    1st off, Happy New Year and thanks for providing such a great service for all of us!

    I think many of the comments above make sense, but I want to echo a combination of what Frank P, Engineer 27 and Phillip W said. You should play to your strengths, which is banking / financial policy. Now, this may be tough because you are smart enough to be able to blog credibly as an policy wonk on a number of topics beyond finance, but I would recommend staying focused 80% to 90% of the time on financial regulatory policy, where you are an undisputed uber-wonk, and resist the temptation of straying too far into other policy areas, and certainly avoid partisan politics unless you have to. Occasional collaborations with other young uber-wonks like Ezra Klein is ok, but don’t forget that you know the “blood and guts” of finance better than he and almost everyone else.

    However, I also believe that your financial regulatory policy background puts you in a great position to help develop a new over-arching philosophy on how to structure a 21st century economy. Frank P is right, we need an updated Keynes for the modern era, and you could be a big part in contributing! Furthermore, in 2011 I believe many of the old coalitions will break on two big policies, particularly (1) GSEs / Housing policy and (2) monetary policy. Much like debates over Central banking going back to Hamilton vs Jefferson, Andrew Jackson vs Biddle, William Jennings Bryan vs the Gold Standard, and the debates during the creation of the Fed, many of the traditional alliances of left and right will break down when it comes to monetary policy (already started with bills like “Audit the Fed” getting a bizarre coalition of support from Ron Paul, Alan Grayson, Jim Demint, Bernie Sanders, etc). For instance, I believe the entire the monetary transmission mechanism itself could be open for debate, as Americans see Fed stimulative policy primarily benefiting the large institutions that have access to the fed window. Surely, there must be a way for monetary policy to be stimulative without creating either asset bubbles in secondary markets and/or “free reserves” for large privileged institutions? I don’t know what the answers are, but I do know that there is a huge opening now in monetary policy like we haven’t seen since perhaps 1913. As with all disruptions, opportunities for “ideas entrepreneurs” to reorder the established consensus will present themselves.

    Similarly, with housing policy/GSEs, on the political right, the Hard money conservatives want to put the GSEs to sleep, but the Wall Street Banks no longer oppose the GSEs (especially because they are providing back door bailout to them!). In the reform community, we’ve seen the (so far) silent split between the “systemic” people who see US housing policy as a form of poor industrial policy entrenching Wall Street and certain industries, whereas the “responsible lending/consumer groups”, tend to support the GSE’s because they see increased home ownership as a positive end goal in itself. Huge openings for “ideas people” here as well

    Well, this “short” post has gone on far longer than I initially intended.

    My summary take-away is this:

    1. Play to your strengths
    2. Stay focused on financial reg policy as much as possible
    3. Use your strengths in financial reg policy as a foundation for developing a “new consensus” that disrupts the traditional established order; 2 areas particularly rife for “ideas entrepreneurs” : GSEs/Housing policy and Monetary Policy.

  11. WmB says:


    Happy New Year to you, and thanks for your enlightening posts — especially the Foreclosure series.

    I’ve hesitated to request this for fear of posing the proverbial stupid question, but since you’ve asked —

    Is the next mortgage fraud crisis going to be a Bialystock & Bloom problem? I’ve seen rumblings about it elsewhere. And considering the sketchy nature of the MERS system, the appallingly sloppy record-keeping, and the sale of synthetic derivatives that were not backed by ANYTHING– what would have stopped the packagers who sliced and diced mortgages into tranches from selling more than 100% of individual mortgages? Has anyone ever discovered mortgages that were securitized multiple times, to the tune of investors holding 200%, 300% or more interest in the underlying properties? Is this why “produce the note” is apparently a good defense?
    Just asking…

  12. Brad says:

    I’d only pass along Tony Judt’s warning about public intellectuals who eschew specific expertise to become “blah-blah generalists—and then you’re David Brooks. And you’re garbage.”

    Also, the jokes are uniquely good. I hope they don’t get polished out of existence.

  13. grape_crush says:

    2010 has been a fantastic year for this blog and for me…What do you want to see more or less from in 2011?

    If it ain’t broke…

    Half the time I think the writing here comes across as this red shirt guy from a Warcraft convention if he was to talk about capital ratios and UI extensions..

    Nah. Your writing is much more accessible. If you wander off into the weeds of economic arcana, there’s a point to it. If I occasionally blip over it like I do reading one of those Russian names in a Dostoevsky novel, well, that’s my problem, not yours.

    I want to kick this blog up another level in 2011.

    Then I guess the question really is, “what needs to be done in order to move this in the direction I want,” isn’t it?

  14. TC says:

    Hi Mike,

    I would like to see position papers on the side. These of course can change as your opinion changes. You have great analysis, but many posts mash a few points together. Shorter, more frequent individual posts, with a few longer articles a week.

    Specific issues:

    The interchange fees is a big deal – do not let go of that one even after the legislation is passed.

    I would like to see some commentary on Gortons shadow banking proposals!!! When banks operate in an unregulated environment, they Minsky out until they blow up the economy. We have a shadow banking system, and we also apparently have many trillions of dollars in offshore accounts. What can we do to make this safe for humans?

    Clearinghouses: I think you vastly underestimate the power of clearinghouses, particularly government backed clearinghouses with the ability to nationalize members and clawback earnings plus damages from executives. Yes, they set us up for very large systemic risks – but I think were already awfully exposed to very large systemic risks without a resolution authority. Basically, AIG could not have happened in a clearinghouse because the risk manager would have said “We only one company short the entire market for these securities.” This would have most likely stopped the last 2 years of the housing bubble dead in its tracks.

    Of course, the unfolding misplaced note/foreclosure crisis.



  15. ripley says:


    I think the focus on banking/financial policy is great, but I also think you have a great skill for linking these issues through example, anecdote and analogy to larger issues, to parallel issues, or just in order to illustrate them to people who aren’t at a similar level of wonkishness. Continuing that at least every now and again would be awesome.

    Or maybe I just want more wu-tang lyrics.

  16. chrismealy says:

    I think being the next Keynes is good goal for 2011, but it might spill over into 2012 a little bit.

    I’d love to see more models, spreadsheets, and calculations. Anything with the words “stock” and “flow” in it.

    Does anybody do a cradle-to-grave model of household finance? Is it any good?

    If you’re looking for more eye candy check out protovis (http://vis.stanford.edu/protovis/ex/). Let me know if you need any webdev help.

  17. hhoran says:

    Let me add my New Years’ greetings and sincere thanks for all your past work.

    Your question is really “should I expand the scope of the blog a bit?”. As others have said, this must be answered in light of general “do what you love and what you think most important” advice, as that’s where the passion and quality come from.

    Two possible scope expansions: (a) a broader synthesis of the financial economics (the “we need a new Keynes” comments) or (b) greater linkage of the “political economy” problems in finance (ie TBTF, rent-seeking displacing value creation, regulatory capture, sellout of the political/academic/media elites to the rent-seekers, etc etc) to the comparable problems across the rest of the economy.

    I realize the Roosevelt Institute ND 2.0 stuff is supposed to do part (b) but it really doesn’t, as it is an overly broad mish-mash of views and appears incapable of laying out a coherent/rigorous worldview.

    I presume the only way to expand scope while maintaining the detail/rigor we all value so much would be to expand the number of blog authors (which could be done several different ways while avoiding the ND mish-mash problem). Don’t know if that is of any interest to you. If not, I’d stay on the path you’re already on.

  18. Pingback: Bleg: What Do You Want to See on Prison Law Blog in 2011? « Prison Law Blog

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