Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The wisdom of Ezra Klein: don't read Ezra Klein

Tyler Cowen and Ezra Klein had an IM conversation in the New York magazine a couple of days ago about the current state of politics. I initially read the piece because of Cowen, but it was Klein who turned out to be the star. He noted that,
I think the primary failure in political reporting is the focus on the presidency. It's totally misleading. But it's easier to construct a narrative around one person than 535. But if you're a domestic-policy guy, like I am, the real problem is Congress, not the president. It's not like no one has tried health reform before....

Three weeks ago, I left the country for seven days. When I came back, nothing had changed in the election. Nothing! But before I'd left, it felt like all sorts of things were going on. There was plenty to write about... My main conclusion has been that it's a huge analytical mistake to pay much attention to politics. But it's also my job, so what're you going to do?
These two points really stick out to me--that 1) most pundits focus way too much on the president, and that 2) paying much attention to day-to-day politics is a "huge analytic mistake." I agree, but it's so hard to adhere to either when everybody around you is discussing the relative merits of McCain and Obama!

I also love the format here of instant messaging. Videos are largely a waste of time (for me), but I find the structure of a dialectic to be fascintating. Pitting your ideas against another persons' in real time is challenging, but it yields great results. The format would be even better if they displayed how long each person took to send each message, but would that put too much pressure on the participants?