EconLog FAQ

EconLog is a daily ongoing blog--a collection of short, topical articles and insights on the week's issues in economics. It is written by Bryan Caplan, David Henderson, along with other guest bloggers. Nine to twelve new entries are added each week. Entries take current topics in the news and highlight educational, objective economic analyses for thoughtful readers or for classroom use. Readers are encouraged to add (post) comments.

EconLog is one of the Wall Street Journal's Top 25 Economics Blogs. It is also number 2 in the 100 Best Blogs for Econ Students rated by Online Universities.


Frequently Asked Questions


 Q: Who selects and prepares the material for EconLog?
    Bryan Caplan, David Henderson, and the individual guest bloggers prepare their own material for EconLog. Comments on the material are submitted by individual readers.
 Q: What's the relationship between Arnold Kling's Great Questions of Economics and EconLog?
    Great Questions of Economics (GQE) was the predecessor to EconLog. GQE articles run from 2002 - January 2003. EconLog, adding new features such as the ability to add comments, continues from late January 2003 to the present. All GQE articles are permanently archived on EconLog. Arnold Kling blogged regularly on EconLog from January 2003-August 2012. He continues to blog occasionally.
 Q: The articles on EconLog's Main page change every few days. How can I link to EconLog articles from my website or for classroom use?

    Clicking an article title sends your browser to the Permanent Link for that article. That url will not change, so you may reliably copy the url from your browser address window.

    Every EconLog article has a Permanent Link (sometimes called a permalink). Any time you see a link to the Permanent Link, you can be sure that clicking it will take you to the one definitive page for that article, a page that includes the complete content of the article, along with up-to-date comments made by readers.

    To browse complete lists of the permanent links of article titles, go to the EconLog Archives pages.

 Q: What are the Categories for? Are the Category pages permanent?

    Articles on EconLog are classified into one or more broad topics, called, Categories, when they are first posted. By selecting a particular category, you will get an instant browser page with all the articles within that category. If you have a specific topic in mind, the appropriate category page can be a very fast way to get information and links from lots of related articles at once.

    Although the Category page URLs are relatively stable, we do not recommend linking to them. If categories get too large over time, they may be split up. New categories are also added periodically, and some articles may be reclassified. To link to a specific article, go the Permanent Link for that article.

 Q: Can I link directly to specific comments?
    Yes. If you View the Page Source from the Permanent Link page for an article, you will see the id tag names for the comments on that page. They usually consist mostly of numbers and are positioned above each comment. The link you should create is the permanent link url (in the browser window) followed by a sharp sign (#), followed by the id tag name.

    Be sure to insert the entire permanent link url. The comment id tags may change if the software is updated or changed, but the permanent links will remain the same.
 Q: Posting Comments: How do I post a comment?

    If you see an entry that strikes your fancy, first read the other comments. If comments are allowed, then at the bottom of the page you will find a form to add your own comment.

    1. Name Required: Fill in your name or nickname in the space provided.

      Most people use their first and last names, or an abbreviated variant (e.g., TimB for Tim Borland). Feel free to use a nickname if you have a standard nickname you already go by online. What you use for your login name for email or a screen name for IM is probably fine.

      Pick a unique name! Don't use just a common first name (e.g., Jessica, Matt, dave) without a last name because another person may also use that name to post comments. Your comments could easily be confused with those of people with whom you disagree. Nicknames you may think are creative or even a name that is rightfully yours but common may have been used already. (Examples: Anonymous, Another Bob, Al Smith.)

      To see if your nickname has been used before, you can check for it by searching for it in EconLog Articles or EconTalk Articles. Put your name or nick in quotation marks for the most accurate results.

      Anonymous comments are automatically held for review until the email address is validated.

    2. Email Address Required: Fill in your correct, working email address. It will not appear online.

      Why is your email address required? Security.
      Examples of our use of your email address: If someone else were to claim to be you and want to cancel one of your posts, we would email you first to verify the request. We send warning emails to individual commenters for violating our comment policies before moderating or banning them. We send individual verification emails to a subset of new commenters to validate their email addresses.
      Privacy Policy: Email addresses provided by our commenters are not given out by us to anyone, used for spam or mass mailings of any sort, nor used for any purposes other than site security.

    3. URL Optional: If you have your own website or blog, you can fill that URL in. It will show online as a link around your name. Check it when you Preview your post.

    4. Comment. Type or paste your comments into the text area in the form. Keep your comments brief, polite, and to the point! Edit as much as you like. Nothing you type into the form is ever posted or visible to anyone else unless you select the Submit button (step 5 below).

      You can use the buttons above the form to emphasize or indent text, and to add links. Details below.
      Hint for newcomers: Do not close the Comment or Preview window till you are done altogether, as a backup. Experienced form-users know that it's a good idea to highlight and copy anything substantial they have composed before switching or closing any windows, or even if the phone rings, lest the whole thing get lost by accident. You can alternatively type your comment into your own word processor and then copy and paste it into the form window. Formatting such as italics won't transfer, but if your browser crashes or you accidentally close the window, at least you won't lose what you so-thoughtfully composed!

    5. Preview, Edit, Submit, or Cancel your comments.

      Preview. The Preview window is required before you can post a comment. Select the Preview button to see how your comment will look online to others, check whether any links you've included are broken, re-edit your comment, or reread the original article or previous comments. You can re-Preview your comment as many times as you like.
        Check any links you included to make sure they are not broken! Suggestion: right-click your links in the online view at the top of the Preview page to open them in a new window. Skipping too quickly through the Preview is the main source of errors by experienced and inexperienced commenters alike. Re-read your comment in the Preview window even if you are sure it's perfect.
      Edit. To edit your comment, scroll to the comment box directly below the preview and change your form entries in the box. Re-Preview and re-edit till you are satisfied.
      Cancel. You can cancel your comment any time by simply closing the comment or preview window, leaving the page, or clicking the Cancel button. Nothing you write is ever sent or posted to EconLog or EconTalk unless you select the Submit button. Till then, it's all on your own machine.
      Submit. Select the Submit button to post your comment when you are satisfied.

    6. Additional Matters and Followups.

      Also available is a checkbox that allows you to save your personal information (name, email address, url) on your own machine, in case you are thinking of posting again some time. (This uses cookies.)

      After submitting your comment you will be taken to a response page which will let you know whether your comment has been posted. You can then go to the Permanent Link to see it. Occasionally, comments are held for review. If your comment has been held for review, you will see an explanatory notice. Please do not resubmit your comment. We'll get to it as soon as we can.

      If you accidentally post something you truly wish to remove or modify, you can try emailing the Econlib Webmaster from the address you filled in in Step 2.

 Q: In comments, how do I:

     To bold, italicize, or indent a short block of quoted text:

      Use the shortcut buttons b, i, or quote above the comment box to format the way your comment looks to the public. The buttons will insert the correct HTML code. The shortcut buttons work in most browsers.

        Method 1. Highlight, then Click: Highlight the words you want to format. Click the appropriate shortcut button. The appropriate codes will appear surrounding your words.
        Method 2. Click, Type, Click: Click the appropriate shortcut button above the comment box. Type or paste the words you want to format. Click the shortcut button again to end the formatting (the button will now read /b, /i, or /quote). If you do not end the formatting, the entire rest of your comment will be formatted in the style you chose.
      The code should end up looking like this in your comment box:
        <b>Mike</b> is <i>the one</i> who first said <blockquote>That doesn't work.</blockquote> Mike was right!
      It will display to the public like this:
        Mike is the one who first said
        That doesn't work.
        Mike was right!
      Preview your page to check the final look! N.B.: It is not a good idea to include in blockquotes more than one paragraph at a time. Internal hard returns may be treated as the end of the blockquote when your comment is actually posted, depending on the reader's browser. Format each indented paragraph as a stand-alone blockquote.

      In some browsers the buttons insert the code at the end of your comment. Cut and paste it if you want it to appear elsewhere.

     To make an indented, bulleted list:

      Use the bullet shortcut button above the comment box to create an indented bulleted list. The buttons will insert the correct HTML code.

      • Method 1. Highlight, then Click: First, type your list. Highlight all the words in the first item you want to show up as an indented, bulleted item. Click the bullet shortcut button. The appropriate codes will appear surrounding your line item. Repeat for each item in your list.

      • Method 2. Click, Type, Click: Click the bullet shortcut button. That will begin the indentation and insert a bullet. Type or paste the first item you want in your bulleted list. Click the bullet shortcut button again to end the first item in your list (the button will now read /bullet). Repeat by clicking the bullet button at the beginning and end of each line item.
      The code should end up looking like this in your comment box:
        I have three points to make:
        <ul><li>First, type your list.</li></ul>
        <ul><li>Second, each item in the list should be surrounded by ul-li code pairs. They will start new lines and insert bullets.</li></ul>
        <ul><li>Finally, if you want to single-space your list, remove the Returns between the </ul> and <ul> codes within the list after Previewing. The code will run together and be harder to proofread but it may look better in some people's browsers. You may also remove the interior pairs of </ul><ul> codes, but do not remove the initial <ul> and final </ul> codes surrounding the list or your list will not indent at all. The amount of vertical space depends on the browser. Preview till you like the look.</li></ul>
      It will display to the public like this:
        I have three points to make:
        • First, type your list.
        • Second, each item in the list should be surrounded by ul-li code pairs. They will start new lines and insert bullets.
        • Finally, if you want to single-space your list, remove the Returns between the </ul> and <ul> codes within the list after Previewing. The code will run together and be harder to proofread but it may look better in people's browsers. You may also remove the interior pairs of </ul><ul> codes, but do not remove the initial <ul> and final </ul> codes surrounding the list or your list will not indent at all. The amount of vertical space depends on the browser. Preview till you like the look.
      Preview your page to check the final look! Use bulleted lists sparingly. Also, the way the bullets appear and the vertical spacing may depend on people's browsers. Bullets may be round, square, etc. Finally, it is not a good idea to nest lists inside each other to try to create sublists. We cannot guarantee how that will appear in other readers' browsers.

      In some browsers the buttons insert the code at the end of your comment. Cut and paste it if you want it to appear elsewhere.

     To create a link:

        Method 1. Highlight, then Click: Highlight the words you want to show as a colored link. Click the link button above the comment box. A pop-up window will open. Enter the URL of the link and select OK.
        Method 2. Click, Type, Click: Click the link button above the comment box. A pop-up window will open. Enter the URL of the link and select OK. Now paste or type the URL again, or type the words you want to show as a link. Click the shortcut button again to close the link (the button will now read /link). (If you do not close the link, the entire rest of your comment will be linked.)
      The correct code should look like this (substituting your URL) in the comment box:
        See <a href="http://www.econlib.org">http://www.econlib.org</a> for ideas.
        or
        See <a href="http://www.econlib.org">this link</a> for ideas.

      In the Preview and Posted view, it will look like this:

      If the code doesn't look like that in your comment box, then just paste the URL into your comment box so readers can see it even if it's not a clickable link.

      Test any links by examining the Preview and Right-Clicking the link to open it in a new window. Broken links result in lots of complaints about your comment; or people may ignore your comment altogether. Whether or not you create a link, we recommend that you make sure the full URL shows in your comment, so that users can paste it to their browser address windows in a pinch.

      In some browsers the buttons insert the code at the end of your comment. Cut and paste it if you want it to appear elsewhere.

     A few other HTML codes are also available. The full available set is:

      a href, b, i, br, p, strong, em, ul, ol, li, blockquote, pre,
      for
      links, bold, italics, break line, new paragraph, strong, emphasize, unnumbered list, ordered (numbered) list, bulleted item, indented blockquote, pre-formatted text breaks,

      and also the entity codes (beginning with & and ending with ;):
      &lt;, &gt;
      for
      <, >
      N.B. To type a visible less-than symbol (<), you must use the entity code &lt; rather than the keyboard < symbol, else the remainder of your comment may be invisible to readers. (The keyboard less-than symbol is treated as an angle-bracket indicating the start of html code, so nothing till the closing angle-bracket or the end of the comment will appear to readers.) The keyboard greater-than symbol (>) may optionally be used to create the visible character in comments; but we recommend typing &gt; for greatest clarity.

 Q: Why is there sometimes no comment form?
    The ability to comment on old EconLog or EconTalk articles is restricted to reduce spam. If you do not see a comment form on the page, then comments are no longer allowed.

    Occasionally, comment threads are closed temporarily or permanently because they have attracted too much spam or have deteriorated into irrelevance or flaming. Some posts that merely announce technical changes do not have a comment box.
 Q: I tried to submit a comment but I got an error message. What does it mean?
    If your error message indicates your comment is being held for approval, read about Why didn't my comment show up right away?.

    If you got an error message about an "invalid request," your IP address may have been banned. We do sometimes ban some service providers and IP addresses for submitting spam. In that case, we may be able to restore your access. Email us at webmaster@econlib.org.

    Alternatively, if you violate our comment policies you may be banned, either temporarily or permanently. Read about our comment policies.
 Q: Why didn't my comment show up right away?
    Comments sometimes are held up for Moderation or may inadvertently trigger one of our spam filters. You will see a message indicating that your comment is being held after hitting the Submit button to post your comment. Please do not resubmit your comment.

    We try to review both Moderated comments and comments designated as spam once every few hours during the daytime (U.S. time). Occasionally it can take 12-24 hours. If you think your comment is taking unduly long to get posted, you can email us webmaster@econlib.org.

    We do not put anyone into Moderate mode or remove comments without first issuing a warning and explanation. If you have not received an email warning or email validation request, your comment probably just triggered one of our spam filters.

    Although we cannot give out the details of our spam filters (because avoiding spam filters is an ongoing game played by spammers), we can offer a few hints. The main spam filter is based on a point system. Both positive and negative points are assigned to each comment. For example, regular commenters using valid email addresses get a few extra positive points. Points are subtracted for such things as using keywords currently flagged by our spam filter, supplying too many URLs, or supplying a URL that is listed by an outside service as a spam source (which can happen even if it is perfectly legitimate). Comments with final scores below our point threshold are held for review.
 Q: Help! I'm banned but I've done nothing wrong! What are your comment policies?

    EconLog and EconTalk are committed to providing a civilized space for rational debate and discussion. Dissent is welcomed. No one is banned for relevant content or point of view. Commenters are not banned without notification. We send explanatory email and post notices in place of comments that violate our policies.

    Did you give a functioning email address with your comment? If you gave a mistyped or nonfunctional email address, or if your spam filter removed our test email to you before you saw it, you may be banned. Check your spam mail to see if you received email from us, or email us at webmaster@econlib.org from your functioning email address to validate your email address and request restoring your access. Your email address is not used to send you any mass mailings or sold to any outside sources. See our Privacy Policy and why we require valid email addresses.

    Is your comment relevant to the topic? Comments are required to address the substantive content of the original posts and the discussion thread on the table. Comments that focus on the personal characteristics of individuals are usually not focused on the substantive economic points of the discussion, and thus are generally disallowed. A good rule of thumb is: Discuss or critique the argument, not the person making the argument.

    Did you paste or re-post a comment that appears online elsewhere? Material that appears elsewhere and is repeated or pasted in its entirety to EconLog or EconTalk is deemed to be spam and is a bannable offense. We expect commenters to engage in discussion that is unique and relevant to the thread at hand.

    Rudeness, crude language, name-calling, ad hominem remarks, engaging in flame wars, repeating the same points over and over in every comment instead of making new points, or posting angry rants devoid of relevant discussion may result in your having your comment removed, delayed, receiving a warning email, or being banned.

    EconLog and EconTalk both follow the same rules. Our policies for warning and banning commenters are discussed in greater detail in these posts and comment sections:

 Q: Trackbacks and Pings: What are the "Trackback" links about?

    Trackbacks are links to outside sites that link to and discuss specific EconLog articles. Click any Trackback link to be taken to another blog that links to and discusses that EconLog article.

    Many blogs linking to EconLog use automatic software that pings us when they link to us. (We similarly ping other blogs when we link to them.)

    Pinging is a behind-the-scenes, site-to-site electronic notification that a link to your site has been published elsewhere on the web. These notifications are available through Moveable Type (MT) and various other types of blogging software. Pinging can be done by hand or set up to occur automatically.
 Q: My website links to EconLog articles. How do I ping EconLog articles?

    Automated pinging. If you use MT, Typepad, or a few other blogging software packages, you can automate pinging. See your blogging software's instructions. You may need to set Auto-Discovery to ON in your preferences or options.

    Hand-pinging: If you prefer not to do automated pings or for some reason your software didn't do it for you on previous entries, you can hand-ping a recent EconLog entry. Find the Trackback URL to hand-ping by looking at the horizontal Trackback bar for the Permanent Link to which you are linking. It is located directly below the post, above the comments.

    Why is there sometimes no Trackback bar? Trackbacks remain open for several days after an entry is posted. Trackbacks are closed after a few days because they become the targets of spam attacks. Once trackbacks are closed for a particular entry, new trackbacks to the post will not be registered, even if the Trackback bar and Trackback URL are visible. If there are zero trackbacks at the time trackbacks are closed, the Trackback bar will not show up any more in the entry. Otherwise, the Trackback bar and existing trackbacks will show up, but pinging the Trackback url will have no effect.

    Help! My ping didn't show up.

      If trackbacks are open, our Trackback link to your site should be registered and visible to the public within minutes. Occasional delays may take up to 24 hours. Trackbacks are often held for review by our spam software. We review them as quickly as we can. Feel free to email us at webmaster@econlib.org if you have ongoing problems.

      Trackbacks that merely parrot EconLog posts or list a series of links with no thoughtful independent content or commentary are usually disallowed. We do not want our readers to spend their valuable time clicking links that only lead to material they have already read or lists of links that may not be related.

      If your trackback still has not showed up after 24 hours, you may want to write a comment that includes a link to your post and a brief description of why readers of that thread may be interested in it.

      Trackbacks in languages other than English are sometimes permitted. They must meet the same independent-content requirements as English-language trackbacks. We check for legitimacy using our own language skills plus online translation software. If you submit a trackback in a language we cannot easily parse, unfortunately we cannot post it.
 Q: Feeds and Subscriptions: What are the "Subscribe" links about? Is subscribing free? How do I subscribe?
    Many blogs (e.g., EconLog), some newspapers, and various other frequently-updated websites commonly offer a free automated feature: Any time they add something new to their site, they simultaneously provide an automated summary file with the additions. The automated summary is called an RSS feed. It can be used to subscribe to the blog.

    Subscribing to EconLog is free. The full list of optional subscription links is available in the left column of every EconLog page. Click the link to which you want to subscribe and follow the directions in your browser or available through your Newsreader to add or remove RSS feeds. See also: How to pick a subscription link.
 Q: What exactly is an RSS feed? What are Newsreaders?
    An RSS feed is a standardized XML-based file from which other websites or software can cull information. They are generally provided free of charge by the originating website or blog. RSS stands for RDF Site Summary or, more generally, Rich Site Summary. RSS feeds usually have extensions of .rdf or .xml. Whatever the extension, they are all applications of various simplified forms of XML. They let the originating site syndicate itself by being available any time of the day or night to services called Newsreaders or News Aggregators, which comb the web for such standardized files.

    Newsreaders locate the RSS feeds and reformat them to make them appealing to read. Newsreaders are usually provided free with your browser or portal site. A quality Newsreader lets you customize your options. It may let you specify an update-schedule (first thing in the morning? once every hour?), how much of each post you see without having to click for more material, the ability to alphabetize by blog author or remove posts you've already read, etc.

 Q: Why do you offer many different RSS feeds? How do I pick a feed or subscription link? Can I follow only one blogger instead of all three?

    Some people like to see only headlines, or only headlines and short excerpts, with the option to go to the originating site via a link. Others prefer to read the whole article without going to the originating site.
      The EconLog rdf file includes headlines and article excerpts.

      The EconLog xml file includes headlines and full articles.

        Note: Different newsreaders sometimes only recognize only one type of file, or may not take advantage of the full range of features. Both the EconLog rdf file (http://econlog.econlib.org/index.rdf) and xml file (http://econlog.econlib.org/index.xml) conform to all specified standards. Most Newsreader software lets you pick one or both. If one doesn't work perfectly, try the other.
    Full article feeds are also available for each individual blog author. Select any of these: