Bryan Caplan has a very straightforward explanation as to why so many faculty at GMU publish. The reasons Bryan gives for blogging are basically the same that any of us at Coordination Problem would give.
But Bryan also makes an important point --- those of us who blog at GMU, also pursue a very conventional career of academic publishing in the journals. This fact is often ignored by critics of our program at GMU. A recent comment by a PhD student at Stanford attempting to answer the question as to why so many faculty at GMU blog, argued that it was because of the low academic standards at GMU expected of faculty. This sort of statement can only be made if the most basic form of evidence is ignored (that of a quick viewing of the CVs of those blogging). Some of those who blog do specialize in being public intellectuals, but the vast majority are active in publishing research, editing scientific journals, and blogging.
On the comments to Bryan's post, however, there is the source of my frustration with blogging. The commentator congratulates Bryan on blogging and then says that he thinks blogging is more influential than academic work, and then admits he doesn't read much academic work. The question is influential to who?
Blogging doesn't cultivate the conversation that academic publication does, and many in the blogosphere don't really want to see that translation of academic work to be meaningful for the general public.
In my view, we economists have a responsibility as a scientific community to communicate our results to 4 audiences: scientific peers, students, policy-makers, and general public. Obviously, not all economists can communicate equally across all 4 audiences and so a specialization tends to emerge. But the very best economists do better than others in communicating across the audiences, and the very best remember that our #1 priority as economic scientists is the communication with our peers in the scientific community. If we stop doing that, then we run the risk of failing in our job.
So my frustration with blogging is that sometimes it leads individuals to forget the ultimate responsibility of the economist --- which is to persuade our professional peers. More people read blogs than a host of academic journals. But you also have to ask who is doing the reading --- the answer matters depending on what audience you are trying to reach with your work. If it is your peers in the scientific community, then I would argue that blogs are a best complementary, and never can be seen as a substitute for journal publication.
So why do so many GMU economists blog? What Bryan says about intellectual background and the way we approach the discipline, but also look at what Bryan says about publication in academic journals, books, and a variety of outlets. The real question is not why GMU economists blog, it is why do GMU economists publish in a variety of outlets as much as they do. One explanation that might fit with Bryan's is the article by Richard McKenzie on what made the Center for Study of Public Choice so special an environment at VPI. The spirit that McKenzie expresses in that article permeates the intellectual environment of GMU from the 1980s to today.