Thinking About Checking Out of Blogging

I am not sure I am able to continue blogging in the current environment.  When I began blogging over 12 years ago, it was to report on my various adventures in trying to run a small business.  It soon morphed into a platform for me to think out loud about various policy issues.  For example, while I didn't really understand this when I started, it became a platform for me to think through mistakes I made in my initial enthusiasm for the Iraq War.  You can see me in the early years evolve from a kind of knee-jerk global warming absolute denier to a lukewarmer with much more understanding of the underlying science.  I think of myself as an intellectual (though one who cannot spell or proof-read) who likes to discuss policy.

But I am not sure this is the time for that.  The world seems to be moving away from intellectualism.  I say this not because Trump voters were somehow rejecting intellectualism, but because intellectuals themselves seem to be rejecting it.  They act like children, they are turning universities into totalitarian monoculters, and they compete with each other to craft mindless 140-character "gotchas" on Twitter.  I challenge you to even find a forum today for intellectual exchange between people who disagree with one another.  In politics, Trump clearly rejects intellectualism but for whatever reasons, the Democratic opposition has as well.

We have a tribal war going on in this country that has officially gone beyond any real policy issues.  While the US and the Soviet Union had real differences in philosophy and approach, most of their confrontations were in proxy wars which bore little resemblance to these values.  That is what politics are now -- a series of proxy wars.  We spend several days focusing attention on Jeff Sessions, but spend pretty much zero time talking about real issues like approaches to the drug war, and police accountability, and sentencing reform.  Instead all we can focus on is the political proxy war of this stupid Russia hacking story.   Obama's birth certificate and Hillary's servers and Russian hacking and Trump's real estate sales -- all we fight are proxy wars.

And like most tribal warfare, the two tribes are incredibly similar.  I have called them the Coke and Pepsi party for years.  Go talk to the the rank and file and sure, one group may like Nascar and barbecue while the other likes Phish concerts and kale, but you will see them asking for the same sorts of things out of government.   Take the minimum wage, a traditional blue tribe issue.  In Arizona, a heavily red state (we have a super-majority in the legislature of the red team), a $10 minimum wage referendum passed by nearly 60% of the vote last year.  The members of the two tribes absolutely hate each other, but they support the same laws.  I guess I should be happy they don't get together, since as a libertarian I think many of these things they want are bad ideas.

People tell me I need to just deal with the adversity.  But I don't mind opposition per se.  I love when I get a chance to respond to real criticism.  Hell, I wrote 5000 words or so here in response to such criticism.  It's fun.  But more likely nowadays I will write a couple thousand words on school choice and the response will be, in total, "Your a Trump cuckservative."  Several years ago I wrote a long article on rail in response to a Joel Epstein piece.  Epstein had argued the US rail rail system was inferior to those in Europe and Asia because we don't have enough passenger rail.  I argued with a series of charts and analysis that the US rail system was superior because it focused on freight over passengers, and that shifting freight to rail had far more environmental benefits than shifting passengers to rail.  Epstein's entire response to my article was, "You should get out of the country more often."  This is the classic intellectual argument of our day.  It was smug.  It implied my article was based on being part of the wrong tribe, the narrow-minded denizens of flyover country rather than the coastal set that have been to Gstaad but not Tulsa.  At it did not even bother addressing the issues raised.

Or look at Black Lives Matter.  BLM actually had what looked to me to be the outlines of a pretty good plan.  To really achieve their goals, though, was going to take a lot of work jurisdiction by jurisdiction, establishing some model legislation and best practices and bringing it to various municipalities.  It didn't even try.  It abandoned this plan in favor of just disrupting sh*t and shaming the unwoke for saying that "all lives matter."  Today, invocations of BLM consist pretty much 100% of virtue signalling for one's own tribe or shaming of the other tribe.  Its the equivalent of dueling fans at a game yelling "Yankees suck!" "No, Red Sox suck!"

People also tell me to just deal with it, that if I love the policy stuff I should ignore these problems.  But let me give you an analogy.  Let's say you absolutely love English Premier League football, but every time you try to go to a game, you miss most of what happens on the field because hooligans are fighting around you in the stands.  Do you keep going for your love of football or at some point is the mess that surrounds it just too much?

Anyway, I am highly tempted just to say "screw it" for a while and focus on something else entirely.  I am trying a different approach as a change of pace, trying to write a more formal policy piece for a think tank, but I am having a surprising amount of trouble doing it well.  Writing such pieces was not really my forte at McKinsey when I was a consultant and I am not sure it is now.  Not disciplined enough in my writing, I think.

Anyway, on a positive front, I now have a dedicated (though very small) room for my model railroad and I installed the first bit of benchwork.  This is sort of like laying the keel for a new ship.  Coyoteblog readers, I know, will be hanging on the edges of their seats for further updates.

From Parks and Recreation:

Jean-Ralphio: Why don’t you use that time to go after one of your passions? Like model trains, or toy Gandalfs or something.

Ben: I don’t know why you jumped straight to model trains. I mean, it’s accurate…

  • Brad Warbiany

    I know how that feels... I'd started blogging in 2004, and ended up taking over The Liberty Papers shortly after it was founded due to the previous head having work conflicts. We went from nothing to having >1000 uniques a day during the 2008 election season, plenty of comments on every post, etc.

    But I burned out. It was painful to watch someone write a 300-word puff piece about partisan issues and get 25 comments, while writing 2500-word, well thought out, well researched, posts on policy issues and hear crickets. It almost seemed like actually justifying my opinion with evidence made people less likely to read it because they couldn't argue. I tried to have a unique viewpoint, and look at the subtler issues within issues, which I didn't see a lot of out there. But nuance and subtlety don't play in today's environment.

    I asked myself why I should bother? Why should I put in the effort if nobody reads it?

    Well, Warren, if it means anything (and I'm not sure it does), Coyote Blog is one of the few remaining things in my RSS reader that I don't ever skip. As burned out as I am on politics, you always offer a fresh take, and I appreciate it. And the small business stuff is interesting. So you at least have one reader who appreciates a deeper look at issues.

    But I won't blame you if you focus on other things...

  • Deuce of Clubs

    Don't do it, Warren! Maybe take another break from it, but please keep up your work here.

  • Deuce of Clubs

    (Also, where else can I read reasoned thinking about politics coupled with a quotation from Parks and Recreation, the greatest sitcom of all time?)

  • Titan28

    What you say is accurate and true, but the world would not be better off if you stopped blogging. You are a clear and logical thinker. They are in short supply. I would say more on the left than the right, but that doesn't matter. I have learned some things reading your Blog. You have at times improved my thinking. I'd hate to see you go. I understand your reasons. But as others have suggested, maybe take some time off. Or perhaps blog a bit less. I enjoy your topic range. Eclectic and sound. The Epicurean Dealmaker is gone, Anthony Watts needs some time off, Jeff Id just about never posts. We need you.

  • I would definitely miss you, but it's not like you owe me anything. But I do know of a few blogs that are thoughtful and try to avoid the tribalism. Check out Slate Star Codex for example ( http://slatestarcodex.com ): long, thoughtful articles. Too bad he hasn't given much thought to Climate Change!

  • mckyj57

    Whatever you think best. But I would love for you to keep your parks blogging going, even if you give up climate and CoyoteBlog.

  • MikeS

    Warren, I hope you continue to blog. I find your discussions on the environment and other subjects enlightening. I learn things I did not know and am challenged to rethink previously held opinions. Previously I was a small businessman and I enjoy reading about the problems associated with running a small business. Your problems make me very glad I sold out and semi-retired.

  • Mike

    Been lurking and faithfully reading for years - your blog is one of my very favorites. Much respect for whatever decision you make. Thank you for your writings.

  • Ed

    Ditto

  • zjohna

    Yours is the only blog I've found that is consistently worth my time reading. I'd hate to see it go away, but understand if that's the route you choose. Either way, thank you for years of great thought-provoking reads.

  • Jim Collins

    It is your decision. I don't always agree with you, but, I do respect your opinion.

  • kidmugsy

    A man's gotta do what a man's gotta do.

    I hope that means you'll continue blogging, but if not - farewell, and thanks for all the fish.

  • MikeBruner

    I totally understand your frustrations. I just wanted to state that you are probably my favorite voice to read and have no doubt that you've actually changed some minds on some things (you certainly changed mine). I respect whatever you decide but do hope that if you take a step back that it is not permanent.

  • rowbigred26

    Same here. I was just explaining this blog and all you do to my dad last week. And my wife the week before that. Your voice is a refreshing break from vitriol.

  • MikeBruner

    Ditto. Maybe that is a way to deal with the frustration -- by posting on specific topics quite apart from the partisan back and forth.

  • Aggie

    I echo the sentiments here - I hope you continue to blog. You communicate great ideas and your blog always offers things to challenge and ruminate over.

    Personally I think the past 5 years or so has resulted in the creation of a terrific body of social activism on the web, to the point where I don't need TV media anymore, and so hardly watch it. I get much better debates, much more thought provocation, online. Yes, there is a lot of hyper-polarization out there - but there is also much more than that. And the present fad of infantilizing all human endeavors is ending.

    I hope you carry on; I understand if you choose to bow out; but I would hope it would not be because you think your blog is not highly valued.

  • Aaron Simac

    Have been a fan a long time without ever commenting, I've emailed your articles 100's of times. Can't remember if I found Cafe Hayek through you or the other way around. Either way love love love the blog and hope you can find a way to keep it enjoyable. Thank You for all the time you put in.

  • Kevin

    I also hope you continue to blog. I've always found your posts very insightful and very straightforward in helping to explain the Libertarian viewpoint on many policy and other issues. I often refer to your posts when having discussions with those in the Coke and Pepsi parties. I would certainly miss your blog posts.

  • slocum

    Yep. Slatestarcodex was the answer that came to the top of my head in response to Warren's challenge of finding a "forum of intellectual exchange between people who disagree with one another."

  • Mark Sundstrom

    I'll echo this comment as well; I've been reading your blog for many years; never skip it. Thank you!

  • Tom Berens

    I've never commented before, but I've been reading and enjoying your work for years. Please don't quit.

  • esoxlucius

    Best blog ever. Daily read. Super interesting.

    My favorite story was when you puked in John Glenn's bed? Or was it some other astronaut? I love this place. It'll be a shame if you pack it in. I was disappointed when you stopped writing every day. As a small business guy, I appreciated all the business stories of government idiocy. I remember a license to sell eggs in Tennessee maybe? That cost under a dollar. I also remember the story of the tree that blew down in the creek in California and the DNR hassled whichever of your friends ran that campground.

    If you want some time off, play your greatest hits. Wrack them up for replay. You probably have 2 years worth of daily articles in your greatest hits column.

    Just out of curiosity, I'd like to know what your stats were for your highest scoring blog post.

  • Max

    I understand you. I also abstain from most current news nowadays because politics has turned so negative or to say in the words of Bryan Caplan : I stay in my bubble and enjoy life.
    It is even worse here in Europe though it is not so obvious.

    PS. Regarding Epstein, he should go out of the country more often. Train service in Germany is horrible. That's why 80 percent still use cars.

  • me

    Wow. I understand where you are coming from, attempting to cause positive change only to see any progress mired in really pointless and as you so accurately describe them tribal discussions is terribly frustrating. So: if you bow out or take a break, thank you for being here for that last decade and providing reason, commentary and thoughtful perspective, not to mention the really impressive quality of writing.

    That said, I know at least my life will be enriched if you happened to continue, so that's what I am hoping you'll do.

    If you end up actively engaging in politics instead, I can't help but believe that that'll end up improving all of our lives in the long run. I'll take this opportunity to reiterate that Warren for President has my full support; even if you don't go all the way there, at least future archaeologists might refer to your posts as evidence that "see, they weren't all crazy back in the day" 😉

    Best of luck and thank you for all your contributions over the years!

  • Tym Stegner

    I expect your [model] train blogging will be as interesting as the other topics upon which you have posted, so I plan to keep reading... Z or N gauge? -TJ

  • Joe O

    You have no idea how much I've learned here. I hope you continue but if you don't thanks for sharing your knowledge and point of view. My favorite blog BY FAR.

  • Rondo

    You will be missed. I didn't always agree with you but you were honest and thoughtful which made you objective.

  • Joshua

    That would suck a little bit for me since I enjoy the succinctness and thoughtfulness of your blog, but it sounds like it's the right choice for you. You gotta do what you gotta do.

  • Bloke in North Dorset

    Whether or not you decide to quit. I hope you don't, thank you.

    Your climate skeptic blog helped me clarify my own muddled thinking and I used it as a site of reference in many a discussion.

    This blog has been a great window in to the USA very few people see and as a UK libertarian I've enjoyed your take on life and politics.

    If I'm ever in the USA again I will make a point of staying on one of your camp grounds, they look wonderful.

    Best wishes for the future and I will not be removing you from my RSS feeder,

  • James Howe

    I understand where you are coming from, but I would hate for you to stop posting here. This blog is definitely one of the better, more thoughtful, blogs out there and it would be greatly missed.

  • Steve Burrows

    Hey, model railroading is a fabulous hobby! I've enjoyed your writing every time, invariably, it has sparked much deep thinking. Taking a break would be well deserved, who knows how many you may have inspired to write in your absence.

  • Bill Schjelderup

    I've been reading your blog for years, purchased and read your books, and find I'm reading fewer and fewer blogs over time, but continue to enjoy the various topics you publish. I rarely comment, but I read everything you've written, and watched every video. I have a libertarian perspective, so we come from the same roots, but I like reading your different perspective. It's educational, and entertaining.

    I enjoy reading your stories, even when the underlying topic isn't of interest to me, i.e. Sports, model RR, or building speakers. I'm not going to read anything if I can't learn from it, and I learn from your stories.

    I can't stand reading the MSM, it's boring and thoughtless. There is so much going on that is depressing to freedom loving people, but there are also wonderful things happening in the world, and I've decided to spend more time reading about creation than destruction. Your presentation on the two sites you rebuilt was interesting, and thoughtful.

    Don't let the negatives destroy your love of writing and story telling. You have made a positive difference in my life, and from reading the other comments, in the lives of many people.

    Thank you for the time you've spent on this Blog all these years, and I hope you decide to continue.

  • Mondak

    Do what you have to in order to protect your sanity. In a way, I'm surprised you have made it this long.

    For what it is worth, I referenced the points you made YESTERDAY to a friend of mine when the concept of rail in Europe being great and rail in the US being garbage. My thoughts, argument and conclusions were clear and well made. This is due to what I learned from your writing.

    I understand the concept of being a modern day Cassandra. But the thing you describe is something I have been trying to name for years. A well thought out, well supported argument that is unafraid and almost welcoming to debate is eviscerated in a single sentence that is founded in "well your mother wears combat boots" and then runs away the "winner". It is everywhere. Everything is a sound bite and nothing is pursued. There is no learning to be had in debate any more.

    I can tell you I truly value the work you have done here. I will continue to come back even if it is strictly posts about finding elusive Japanese laundry racks instead of the cost per mile of light rail or measuring biases of urban heat islands.

    EDIT: (maybe time for more String Theory then?)

  • Maximum Liberty

    Yours is my favorite blog. I hope you keep writing, even if you dial it back some.

  • BobLouGlob

    It's unfortunate you feel this way, and I completely understand. I quit responding on web sites recently, and I signed back up to Disqus just to respond to this post. I truly believe that it is social media and commenting that has brought to this point. As you mention, you can't have an intellectual discussion without someone interjecting a personal insult or without someone pushing their political ideology.

    I admit I supported Trump. Not because he was the smartest or the best candidate, but because I believes that blowing up the system is what we needed. Be careful what you wish for, right? But this has opened my discussions up to so much insult slinging and awfulness that it becomes tiring. And I'm not good at mud slinging. It just isn't in my nature. I cannot respond with a witty comeback or clever response. That's not what I want from a conversation.

    Instead, a few weeks back I deleted my Disqus account, deleted all of my tweets from the slime pit known as Twitter, and I have unfollowed even very good friends on Facebook. In many ways, it has been freeing. I don't have to keep up with insult-fests and awfulness that runs rampant online. And accept for this comment, I don't plan on coming back.

    Luckily, there are good places online. This blog is one of them, but I have really taken to Dave Rubin's podcast, also. He is at least advocating for intellectual honesty, which is a nice change of pace from the normal vitriol. If you feel you need to drop out, its understandable. However, I believe you do a good service through your blog, and if you still feel like you have something to say, I encourage you to keep it up. Whatever you do decide, I wish you luck.

  • Todd

    Dear Coyote,

    Of the dozens of blogs in my RSS feed yours is listed in second position behind only my daughter's travel blog, and she gets that prominent location due to nepotism. Her blog and yours are the only two for which I read every single post. All the other blogs in my feed - which closely resembles your own blog roll - get looked at frequently but I will skip over whole swaths of their posts without trepidation I might miss something important or special. Not so for Coyote Blog, which is always an immediate must-read.

    The insights, analysis, and wisdom you have provided over the last decade on Coyote Blog have made me a smarter and better person, and for that I will always be grateful.

    Whatever you decide, be it less blogging, more blogging, or no blogging, please know this Coyote Fan supports you fully.

    TB
    Chicago

  • Ward Chartier

    Been reading Coyote Blog for 5+ years. I learn from what you write. Sometimes I quote you. Please keep on blogging.

  • Jeff Nelson

    Don't go! Carefully considered intellectual thought and rationalism has always been a minority pursuit in this world. They jailed Galileo, burned Einstein's books, and drove Turing to suicide. Fortunately there remains groups of individuals who seek truth, spread truth, and respect it. Looking towards comments on the internet and what passes for journalism in the increasingly eviscerated mainstream media is of course disheartening. Then we also have the insane proliferation of pure lies and angry invective which now get equal billing to reasonable people, because on the internet you don't have the benefit of knowing/meeting the source and being able to disregard those people who are clearly loopy.

    Fortunately there remain a solid number of blogs, writers, and places where real discourse takes place, and discerning minds go to be exposed to new ideas. Your blog has regularly been one of these places for me, for years now. Just look to your links and you will find a good set of other sites too. My advice is to read fewer opinion pieces and more data, and to continue blogging for years to come.

  • trentmcbride

    I hope you don't quit, but certainly understand if you do. It's inevitable that the few holdouts who have kept blogging since the wild west days will eventually all stop, and that will be a sad day for me. Either way, thanks for running a great blog also, you may not remember, but back a few years ago when I was considering moving to Phoenix, you graciously talked to me for 30 minutes on the phone, and I will never forget your willingness to give me your time like that. Thanks for everything.

  • Wayne McLaren

    I really enjoy your blog. For every loudmouth statist who calls you a cuckservative, there's somebody like me who never says a word, but really appreciates your thinking. We may even be the "silent majority." Keep up the good work and just try to ignore the haters. If it's just too much, thanks so much for all the blogs you've done. It's been a good read.

  • brec

    Me, too!

  • Mason

    I found your blog a couple months back thanks to Megan McArdle and devoured the history over the course of a couple days. I've been back just about every day since then.

    Know that your posts are insightful and thought provoking. The internet would be a poorer place if you stepped away.

  • jdt

    This is my favorite blog so I hope you keep it going.

    Also, your a trump cuckservative

  • stan

    Your blog is worthwhile. I've read for many years. I haven't always agreed with your positions, but you try to think through them. For the most part I think your analysis was much better earlier on. In recent years your focus has turned more on trying too hard to condemn both parties. Your move to the middle has caused more of a muddle -- mostly in your thought process.

  • johnmoore

    Please keep blogging! I disagree with you on a number of issues (including the Coke and Pepsi comparison). But your blog is always worth reading.

    And, you don't have to blog frequently - aggregators mean that folks like myself will be alerted on new articles, even if you go weeks without one.

  • johnmoore

    I should add... the Internet makes it easy to mistake the actual makeup of your readers. Commenting is so easy that any grumpy loon can show up and throw an insult. Just ignore them (or deleted them). Don't take it personally.

  • Everyone needs a break. Take it. Relax. Recharge. Come back when you're rested and ready.

  • MikeW

    Agreed. I have always found your writing to be thoughtful and worthwhile (even if there were a few typos!). I'll miss having you around.

  • It may be that overcoming the intellect of the opposition is the wrong goal. Maybe, galvanizing your own thinking, and that of your compatriots, is still a lasting service. And maybe it can help put some cracks into the opposition too -- but don't define value by that.

  • Luke J. Novak

    I think you dramatically underestimate your impact. But thank you for all your efforts. You've made a large contribution to my understanding of many topics.