I recently made a life-changing decision, which, to those under the age of 30, will probably sound ridiculous. I finally decided that I trust the Internet enough to stop subscribing to a number of publications that are now easily available online.
When you younger folk finish laughing, try to look at it from my point of view. For many years, the only way you could get critical data was to go down to places like the Bureau of Economic Analysis or the Bureau of Labor Statistics and pick it up yourself. If you were a journalist, you might get them to put you on a mailing list, but it might be days or weeks before the press release arrived.
If you wanted to know what the Federal Reserve was doing, you had to trek up to Capitol Hill and try and get a place in the hearing room when the chairman testified. If you were really lucky, there might be a few copies of his statement left when he finished and a congressional staffer might let you have one.
And if you wanted analysis of economic or labor trends, you had to subscribe to obscure publications like the Survey of Current Business or the Monthly Labor Review or the Federal Reserve Bulletin. These were also the only places you could find important statistics. And to put together a time-series, you needed access to past issues, because the compendiums of such data only appeared every few years.
Obviously, this was a pain in the you-know-what. But it did have compensating advantages. The main one was that those of us who could quickly get hold of the government's economic publications and statistical releases had a lot of power simply by virtue of our access to information. When I joined the staff of the Joint Economic Committee of Congress, one of the benefits was having all this material at my disposal for the first time.
Now, of course, everyone on Earth with a computer and an Internet connection can instantly obtain all this material that was so hard to come by just a few years ago. When the Fed chairman testifies, they can watch it live on the web while simultaneously printing out a copy of his statement. And such statements may contain hyperlinks to studies and data releases that would otherwise be unknown to the average person.
This is all to the good. The faster information is made available and absorbed by financial markets, the better it is for everyone. It creates transparency, avoids misunderstandings, and therefore reduces errors.
But old habits die hard and I have maintained my subscriptions to all the old publications I've trusted for so long and saved all the back issues—just in case. But 25 years or more of any publication is going to take up a lot of space and I finally decided I had to let go.
Bruce Bartlett is a former senior fellow with the National Center for Policy Analysis of Dallas, Texas. Bartlett is a prolific author, having published over 900 articles in national publications, and prominent magazines and published four books, including Reaganomics: Supply-Side Economics in Action.
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