A Tale of Three Posts

Since I started blogging in July 2011, I have published 521 posts (not including this one). A number of my posts have achieved a fair amount of popularity, as measured by the number of views, which WordPress allows me to keep track of. Many, though not all, of my most widely viewed posts were mentioned by Paul Krugman in his blog. Whenever I noticed an unusually large uptick in the number of viewers visiting the blog, I usually found Krugman had linked to my post, causing a surge of viewers to my blog.

The most visitors I ever had in one day was on August 7, 2012. It was the day after I wrote a post mocking an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal by Arthur Laffer (“Arthur Laffer, Anti-Enlightenment Economist”) in which, based on some questionable data, and embarrassingly bad logic, Laffer maintained that countries that had adopted fiscal stimulus after the 2008-09 downturn had weaker recoveries than countries that had practiced fiscal austerity. This was not the first or last time that Krugman linked to a post of mine, but what made it special was that Krugman linked to it while he on vacation, so that for three days, everyone who visited Krugman’s blog found his post linking to my post, so that on August 7 alone, my post was viewed 7885 times, with 3004 viewing the post on August 8, 1591 on August 9, and 953 on August 10. In the entire month of August, the Laffer post was viewed 15,399 times. To this day, that post remains the most viewed post that I have ever written, having been viewed a total 17,604 times.

As you can see, the post has not maintained its popular appeal, over 87 percent of all views having occurred within three and a half weeks of its having been published. And there’s no reason why it should have retained its popularity. It was a well-written post, properly taking a moderately well-known right-wing economist to task for publishing a silly piece of ideological drivel in a once-great newspaper, but there was nothing especially profound or original about it. It was just the sort of post that Krugman loves to link to, and I was at the top of his blog for three days before he published his next post.

Exactly a year and a half later, February 6, 2014, I wrote another post (“Why Are Wages Sticky?“) that Krugman mentioned on his blog. I wasn’t mocking or attacking anyone, but suggesting what I think is an original theoretical explanation for why wages are more sticky than most other prices, while also reminding people that in the General Theory, Keynes actually tried to explain why wage stickiness was not an essential element of his theoretical argument for the existence of involuntary unemployment. Because it wasn’t as polemical as the earlier post, and because I didn’t have Krugman’s blog all to myself for three days, Krugman’s link did not generate anywhere near the traffic for this post that it did for the Laffer post. The day that Krugman linked to my post, February 7, it was viewed by 1034 viewers (333 of whom were referred by Krugman). Very good, but nowhere near the traffic I got a year and a half earlier. For the entire month of February, the post was viewed 2145 times. Again, that’s pretty good, but probably below average for a post to which Kruman posted a link. But the nice thing about the wage stickiness post is that although the traffic to that post dropped off over the next few months, the decline was not nearly as precipitous as dropoff in traffic to the Laffer post. During all of 2014, wage-stickiness post was viewed a total of 6622 times.

What I also noticed was that after traffic gradully dropped off in the months after February, traffic picked up again in September and again in October before dropping off slightly in December and January,  only to pick up again in February. That pattern, which has continued ever since, suggests to me that somehow econ students, on their own or perhaps at the suggestion of their professors, are looking up what I had to say about wage stickiness. Here is a WordPress table tracking monthly views of this post.

So unlike the Laffer post, the vast majority of the visits to the wage-stickiness post (almost 88%) have occurred since the month in which it was published. So for about two years I have been watching the visits to my wage-stickiness post gradually move up in the rankings of my all-time most viewed posts until I could announce that it had eclipsed the fluke Laffer post as my number one post. The price-stickiness post is now within less than fifty views of passing the Laffer post. Yes, I know it’s not a big deal, but I feel good about it.

But over the past six months, suddenly since October, a third post (“Gold Standard or Gold Exchange Standard: What’s the Difference?“), originally published on July 1, 2015, has been attracting a lot of traffic. When first published, it was moderately successful, drawing 569 visits on July 2, 2015, which is still the most visits it has received on any single day, mostly via links from Mark Toma’s blog and Brad DeLong’s blog. The post was not terribly original, but I think it did a nice job of describing that evolution of the gold standard from an almost accidental and peculiarly British, institution into a totem of late nineteenth-century international monetary orthodoxy, whose principal features remain till this day surprisingly obscure even to well trained and sophisticated monetary economists and financial experts.

And I also tried to show that the supposed differences between the pre-World-War I gold standard and the attempted and ultimately disastrous resurrection of the gold standard (GS 2.0) in the 1920s in the form of what was called a gold-exchange standard were really pretty trivial. So if the gold standard failed when it was reconstituted after World War I, the reason was not that what was tried was not the real thing. It was because of deeper systemic problems that had no direct connection to the nominal difference between the original gold standard and the gold exchange standard. I cconclluded the post with three lengthy quotations from J. M. Keynes’s first book on economics Indian Currency and Finance, which displayed an excellent understanding of the workings of the gold standard and the gold exchange standard, the latter having been the system by which India was linked to gold while under British control before World War I. Here is the WordPress table tracking monthly views of my post on the gold exchange standard.

The number of views this month alone is a staggering amount of traffic for any post — the second most views in a month for any post I have written. And what is more amazing is that the traffic has not been driven by links from other blogs, but has been driven, as best as I can tell, at least partially, by search engines.

The other amazing thing about the burst of traffic to this post is that most of the visitors seem to be coming from India. Over the past 30 days since February 28, this blog has been viewed 17,165 times. The most-often viewed post in that time period was my gold-exchange standard post, which was viewed 7385 times, i.e., over 40% of all views were of that one single post. In the past 30 days, my blog was viewed from India 6446 times while my blog was viewed from the United States only 4863 times. Over the entire history of this blog, about 50% of views have been from within the US. So India is clearly where it’s at now.

Now I know that the Indian monetary system was implicated in this post owing to my extended quotation from Keynes’s book, but that reference is largely incidental. So I am at a loss to explain why all these Indian visitors have been attracted to the blog, and why the attraction seems to be growing exponentially, though I suspect that traffic may have peaked over the last week.

At any rate here is how a WordPress table with my 11 most popular posts (as of today at 3:07 pm EDST).

So, as I write this it is not clear whether my hopes that my price-stickiness post will become my all-time most viewed post will ever come to pass, because my gold exchange standard post may very well pass it before it passes the Laffer post. Even so, over the very long run, I still have a feeling that the wage stickiness post will eventually come out on top. We shall see.

At any rate, if you have ever viewed either one of those posts in the past, I would be interested in hearing from you how you got to it.

PS I realized that, by identifying Paul Krugman’s blog as the blog from which many of my most popular posts have received the largest number of viewers, I inadvertently slighted Mark Thoma’s indispensible blog (Economistsview.typepad.com), which really is the heart and soul of the econ blogosphere. I just checked, and I see that since my blog started in 2011, over 79,000 viewers have visited my blog via Mark’s blog compared to 53,000 viewers who have visited via Krugman. And I daresay that when Krugman has linked to one of my posts, it’s probably only after he followed Thoma’s link to my blog, so I’m doubly indebted to Mark.

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14 Responses to “A Tale of Three Posts”


  1. 1 Frank Restly March 30, 2017 at 5:25 pm

    If memory serves, I originally found this site via a Krugman link to one of your articles – I don’t remember which one.

  2. 2 Michael Eugene Turner March 30, 2017 at 5:28 pm

    The price-stickiness post might become the most relevant one for our time. Lafferism isn’t likely to score any major comebacks; it looks like the most recent incarnation — Trump’s tax cut proposals — won’t fly. And the gold standard (or anything like it) is even less likely to score a major comeback. Labor markets on the other hand …

    Ihe internet seems to be enabling large categories of labor to shop themselves at bidded rates. Krugman and Eggertsson’s “paradox of toil” might kick in rather viciously in the next economic downturn. It appear that not does wages being downward-sticky not matter much in contractions, but also that removing the stickiness only makes the downward spiral swifter. I was surprised that this topic had no Wikipedia article, considering the fuss it kicked up at the time. So I wrote one.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paradox_of_toil

  3. 3 Jason Smith March 30, 2017 at 5:52 pm

    David,

    I had similar experience (still ongoing) where a post of mine suddenly became my most viewed post of all time with 12k views. The source seems to have been France, but I still haven’t found where the link came from.

    One idea is to add an update to the top of the post addressing the people following the link to say in comments where they are coming from. Although it didn’t work for me (making me think it is a bot of some kind), it might work for you.

  4. 4 Frank Restly March 30, 2017 at 5:53 pm

    Michael,

    I remember this article by Krugman and Eggertsson. I will say two things:

    1. The private sector relies on both debt and equity financing and so while the zero bound (with no tax policy effects) may preclude any additional easing in credit conditions, equity financing is not limited in this way.

    2. The private sector realizes it’s cost of debt service on an after tax basis. And so, the zero bound (in terms of private credit) really is no boundary at all. On an after tax basis, the cost of private debt service can indeed be negative.

  5. 5 Henry March 30, 2017 at 11:22 pm

    David,

    I was looking at your list of posts and went to “Who’s afraid of Say’s Law”. In the last paragraph you mention Earl Thomson’s paper on Say’s Law and provide a link to it. Unfortunately the link no longer works. Do you have another reference link to it or at least the title of the paper?

  6. 6 JKH March 31, 2017 at 2:39 am

    Regarding stepped up India viewing, the timing seems like too much of a coincidence for this not to be a factor at least in background correlation:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2016_Indian_banknote_demonetisation

  7. 7 philipji March 31, 2017 at 4:42 am

    I saw your post because I subscribe to your blog through feedly.

    That it has proved popular is hardly surprising since involuntary unemployment is the central problem of macroeconomics

  8. 8 Jacques René Giguère March 31, 2017 at 4:06 pm

    Like philiji, I am a happy suscriber. Do those views automatically count?

  9. 9 nottrampis April 2, 2017 at 3:57 pm

    David,

    your posts are as enlightening today as when I first read them. I am unsure how I came to your blog. Whether it was via Kruggers or Brad De long or even Mark Thoma but I am certainly glad I found you.

    Live long and blog!

  10. 11 Andreas Hoffmann April 4, 2017 at 8:14 am

    Reading the first sentences I was worried that you are going to stop blogging. Your posts are usually very good.

  11. 12 dan thorn April 14, 2017 at 7:28 am

    I read all your posts, and I arrive at them through Thoma’s links.
    I am not in India.

    Looks like you need a theory for sticky blog posts.

    Thank you,
    dan

  12. 13 Benjamin Cole April 14, 2017 at 6:27 pm

    India is a huge consumer of gold (with China) and large paper bills were recently outlawed on the subcontinent.

    Not sure that means anything.

  13. 14 Toby April 16, 2017 at 12:46 am

    Hi David,

    I believe I came to your blog through either Tyler or Alex from MR or Scott from the Money Illusion announcing that you had started blogging. Since then I’ve followed you through Google Reader which now is maintained by “the Old Reader”. I got your posts therefore straight into my “blog inbox”. I am not sure how that counts in your views.


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About Me

David Glasner
Washington, DC

I am an economist in the Washington DC area. My research and writing has been mostly on monetary economics and policy and the history of economics. In my book Free Banking and Monetary Reform, I argued for a non-Monetarist non-Keynesian approach to monetary policy, based on a theory of a competitive supply of money. Over the years, I have become increasingly impressed by the similarities between my approach and that of R. G. Hawtrey and hope to bring Hawtrey's unduly neglected contributions to the attention of a wider audience.

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