Friday, December 7, 2012

A Statistical Enigma

An author is someone who would run around in public waving their arms up and down if that were the only way they could attract attention
H.L. Mencken

Most bloggers, I suspect are at least as self-obsessed as any other kind of author and thus probably check their blog stats frequently to see if anyone has actually read a thing they have written. Certainly, I have to confess to viewing my stats at least occasionally, but find it less than satisfying not only because the numbers are distinctly unastronomical, but because it is hard to know what the numbers, such as they are, really mean.

Of yesterday's 571 page views, for example, how many represented people who got here by accident and left as fast as their browser back-button would take them, how many read something, and of those who read something, how many read a piece right through and felt they had, if not learned something, at least found food for thought. In addition, arises the nagging question of how many page views were generated not by people, but by spam delivering robots. Yesterday for example, one intelligent comment was posted together with half a dozen imbecile bits of spam.

Another puzzle is the source of hits. During the last couple of weeks I have had a mass of hits -- well relatively speaking -- from Sweden, second in number only to hits from the US. That's very nice if so many Swedes have visited, and well they might since they are among the smartest people on the planet. Moreover, that the clicks from Sweden are genuine visits is suggested by the fact that they correlate quite closely with downloads of the piece entitled: The Cause and Cure of the Second Great Depression, which despite a minor miscalculation about the result of the recent US Presidential election, is probably the most significant article appearing here recently.

Still, I have a nagging anxiety that I'm being targeted by a scoundrel spambot using an open link on an ill-attended server in Sweden.

Comments from anyone familiar with such matters would be welcome.

In the meantime, we will blog on. Once we have recovered our messianic self-confidence, that is.


  1. My most popular piece, on a daily basis, is my post about dragon fruit. A lot of people get there through search engines, which is, I think, the number one source of traffic for me. On one recent day, my traffic suddenly jumped to over twice it's normal rate. The reason? For some reason, hordes of people were searching for "Nibiru" and came across a post I'd written about that. It's certainly an interesting source of speculation, trying to figure out such things.

    1. Ah, well, dragon fruit are really interesting!

      But, yes, you could be right about the source of hits on my currently hottest page, for I suppose, the title, the "Cause and Cure of the Second Great Depression." must evoke a certain interest among the tens of millions of unemployed workers in the West who may Google for enlightenment about the economic future.

  2. I don’t think one can determine the interest a blog generated from the number of comments it received. I suspect that the vast majority of regular readers never comment at any time, and that the portion of those likely to comment will be even less where (1) the blog is dealing with complex material (people are scared their comments might look stupid) and (2) where the matters being discussed are contentious.

    As for your comments re readership of your article “The Cause and Cure of the Second Great Depression” - of course the article attracted high readership since it is a subject of immense interest (indeed worry) to us all, even though I don’t agree with your conclusions. The major cause of both depressions being too much public sector debt rather than problems with GATT.

    1. The major cause of both depressions being too much public sector debt rather than problems with GATT.

      And if there were no public sector debt, would tens of millions of unemployed Europeans and Americans suddenly find work making shoes and shirts and computers and car parts that are now being made in sweatshops in Asia and elsewhere by workers earning pennies an hour?

      I don't think so.

      That is the difference between the current depression and the first great depression. In the first great depression, increased government spending (and public sector debt) increased aggregate demand and thus tended to increase employment. But you can increase aggregate demand today as much as you like and still Apple will make all but a token number of computers and i-pads and i-phones in Asian sweatshops, not in America.

      the same is true of the bulk of merchandise distributed by Walmart and the other big boxes that now dominate retailing. In fact, as the working and middle class become impoverished they are driven to buy increasingly from the importers of cheap foreign-made goods, thereby worsening their own situation.

      But one will never get the facts through the head of a liberal globalist.

    2. Of course I value public services as much as anyone else - infrastructure, education, health care, etc - but believe that in many cases the bureaucracies that deliver them have become too bloated in time. In short that the the amounts spent on overheads (layers and layers of bureaucracy) within the public sector has been growing out of control for many years. The health care sysyem is an example of this. Here in Alberta we have the most expensive per capita health system in the world (excepting USA); yet it's clearly not performing as well as it should and is apparently "short" of funds - the problem does not appear to be what we pay doctors and nurses, but that there is too much overhead in the system.

      The result of this is that a percentage of GDP that should have gone to new investment, and growing the economy and jobs, was essentially wasted on ineficiences in the public sector (too much overhead). Had this (Government overhead) money been spent on growing the economy, then we would have been in better shape to compete with the far east.

      So we now have two problems - a bloated public sector that needs to have its delivery costs / overhead (not programs that help people)cut back on - too much debt which we will have to inflate away, since there is no way we can repay it.

    3. "Of course I value public services as much as anyone else"

      Really, well I don't. I don't want the goddam government picking my pocket and the deciding how much of the cash it has taken from me it is prepared to spend on my healthcare, or whatever.

      But you are confusing the issue here. When public sector debt is incurred, it increases aggregate demand, even if that increased demand is due solely to spending by unproductive bureaucrats.

      That is why the Keynesian solution to recession or depression is to increase the public sector deficit. And in times past, when national economies were more or less self-contained, that worked.

      But now increased deficits increase aggregate demand for cheap stuff imported from the Third World, thus having little effect on domestic employment. The net result is an increase in debt service costs which become a drag on the economy when the rate of increase in the debt falls below the debt service costs.

      Western governments reacted to the financial crisis by pumping up government deficits, but have now panicked about the unsustainability of mounting debt and so have opted for austerity. This is what you advocate. But obviously it cuts aggregate demand and so worsens the depression.

      What the damn fools need to do is restore full employment and that cannot be done while wages in the West have a legal minimum ten to twenty times that of the Third World sweatshop labor against which Western workers must compete.

      So there are only two means to restore full employment in the West:

      1. Tariffs to exclude cheap labor intensive imports from the Third World,

      2. Wage subsidies that enable Western workers and firms to compete with China and the rest of the developing world.

      This is a choice that an ex-Glasgow, free-trade liberal is incapable of confronting. Hence the flim-flam about public sector debt, etc.

      Then of course there's immigration. When you've millions of excess workers stop importing more from the Third World. But that's another obvious reality that a liberal globalist will never take on board.

  3. But anyhow, those Swedes disappeared overnight. Not a single one yesterday, after more than 100 a day for the last week or so.

    A fickle lot the Swedes, evidently.

  4. The spam, however, continues, so comment moderation is now enabled.