Monday’s post generated an unusually large number of comments that consisted of nothing but namecalling, directed in almost all cases at Paul Krugman (though in exactly one case at me). I’ve deleted all of these comments, in most cases before they were ever posted.
I strongly encourage spirited discussion. I understand that spirited discussion can get pretty heated, and that in heated discussion people (including me) sometimes say nasty things. I prefer to keep that to a minimum, but I still allow a fair amount of it as long as the comments advance the discussion. But if your post consists of 100% pure nastiness, with no conceivable way for anybody to learn anything from it, I will usually delete it. One exception: Being very funny can compensate for a lot of nastiness, especially if it’s the kind of funny that draws the reader’s attention to a genuine flaw in someone’s reasoning. The many posts I’ve deleted over the past 48 hours were nasty without even trying to be funny.
I also strongly encourage staying on topic. I usually interpret the latter requirement as broadly as possible, so that I usually allow comments that are (in my opinion) pretty tangential as long as there’s some connection to the topic at hand. But there’s a limit. With that in mind, I deleted some comments that addressed the pros and cons of progressive taxation with no particular relevance to the point at hand. Those same comments would have been welcome in some other thread. In general, if you’re dying to talk about something that’s entirely off-topic, please either wait till I post about it, or speed up the process by sending me an email with a request for a post on that topic. (I promise nothing of course.)
(On the other hand, don’t let the above be too discouraging. As I said, tangential relevance is not ideal, but I usually let it through.)
If you go to Paul Krugman’s blog, you’ll find that a very large percentage of the comments are either nasty, devoid of content, or both. We’ve always drawn a much higher class of comments here at The Big Questions and I aim to continue that tradition.