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By Arnold Kling - February 13, 2003 12:00 AM

I've been known to forget about Valentine's Day, but I always remember that February brings with it the Economic Report of the President, produced by the Council of Economic Advisers (CEA). As usual, this year's report is informative and educational. However, it also struck me as tedious, stale, stuffy, and just plain ... out of it.

What I want to see instead is The Economic Blog of the President. A blog would engage the CEA and the interested public in the day-to-day discussions of economic policy, instead of relying on the single annual tree-killing festival of the Report.

Doc Searls recently caused great amusement merely by juxtaposing a link to a traditional think thank report with a link to a weblog, with the latter coming across as much more lively and engaged. Indeed, if markets are conversations, then so are policy debates.

In the blogosphere, there is a conversation about economic policy going on, and the Council of Economic Advisers ought to join it. With its own weblog, the CEA could provide continuous, on-going analysis and argument on the topics that are most current.

Topics from 2001

In contrast, much of this year's Report speaks to issues that crested in 2001. A chapter on deregulation discusses the California energy debacle. Another chapter focuses on corporate governance, an issue that has so little salience today that even Paul Krugman is spending more time discussing the war on terrorism.

Speaking of the war, the Report is silent on the issue that concerns many economists and others. What will be the cost of a war on Iraq and the subsequent occupation and nation building? A CEA blog could provide estimates and guidance.

The Report is also silent on the issue of long-term fiscal sustainability, where concerns have been voiced in the blogosphere by Krugman-critics as well as Krugman-fans. Instead, the conversation is taking place on EconLog and other weblogs.

The Real Conversations

There are a lot of important conversations that the CEA should be joining. Lynne Kiesling doubts the wisdom of the proposed subsidy for automobiles fueled by hydrogen cells. Megan McArdle ('Jane Galt') struggles to get people to understand the economics of drug company research. Zimran Ahmed tries to calculate the cost of the music "copyright tax."

The issue of copyright and intellectual property is much discussed on weblogs, for example by Donna Wentworth. Indeed, the entire "big tent" of Corante web logs includes discussions that relate to the regulation of media and the telephone industry, as does the Reed, Frankston and Friends blog.

In fact, telecom is arguably the single most important regulatory issue for the Bush administration, and the CEA's voice is completely absent from the conversation. Fortunately, FCC Chairman Michael Powell says he is a big fan of innovation -- he would seem to be the most likely candidate for the first administration official to create a public web log.

In fact, although I've focused this essay on the Council of Economic Advisers, there is no reason why it should not apply to other policymakers. Maybe the president himself should use the weblog medium -- just as previous presidents have adopted radio and television as they emerged as media. Why should the State of the Union be an annual address? Turn it into a weblog, and let it become be an ongoing conversation!

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