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I posted a question about what I believe to be a flaw in Thomas Piketty's Capital in the 21st Century. Given the enormous success and authority of Mr Piketty, which made it unlikely that I would be reasoning correctly and he wasn't, I sought to consolidate my understanding using this question, which was essentially about basic microeconomics.

The question has since received several negative votes and remains unanswered. It is evidently considered inappropriate by the community.

Why should this kind of question be considered inappropriate when I did not ask for personal opinions on the work, but rather simply wanted to understand whether the reasoning employed is economically sound.

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  • $\begingroup$ For what it's worth, I think the question is a good one. $\endgroup$
    – Ubiquitous
    Commented Dec 16, 2014 at 8:09

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The underlying question was ok, it was just worded in a manner that was a little offensive (e.g. "Is Picketty really pretending not to understand this... etc). This probably accounts for some of those negative votes. (I have edited it, in response to a few flags raised, to remove the offending parts.) I'm not sure if this accounts for all the negative votes, but I'm sure it at least accounts for some.

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  • $\begingroup$ I understand the question could have been perceived as offensive. Thank you for the corrections! $\endgroup$
    – Constantin
    Commented Dec 16, 2014 at 1:31
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When a question comes across as an opinion piece disguised as a question, then it will receive downvotes.

Even when that wasn't your intention.

Questions that come across as objective, and open to answers from varying perspectives, will be better received.

I expect we'll find that contributors here tend towards the positive, rather than the normative: that is, the interest is in the scientific aspects of economics, rather than the political. The latter does tend to lack rigour; it frequently ignores history and evidence; and generates more heat than light. It's characterised by pundits using the language of economics like a drunk uses a lamp-post: more for support than for illumination (to co-opt the old saw about statistics).

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There´s going to be an ongoing issue here, I suspect, with questions that expose areas which are more of an open research question than many realise, or to put it another way where the Scottish "not proven" verdict could be said to apply.

Personally I thought it was a good question, nor did I think it was offensive, but I did expect it get down voted. On the one hand we have general equilibrium theory which seems to make a lot of sense when we think about the problem analytically, on the other hand we have the real world which is stubbornly refusing to exhibit anything approaching equilibrium behaviour on any kind of reasonable time scale, and a lot of intellectually honest people frankly scratching their heads. While we´re doing that, a contingent of people who have studied and memorised their way through to graduate school, believe what they have been taught, and so down vote questions that cause them undue cognitive dissonance.

Don´t take it personally - I´m actually finding it quite fascinating watching how questions like this which expose areas of economics that are not as firmly founded as some prefer to think are being received - and also starting to think this should guide my research.

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    $\begingroup$ I think this answer raises an important, more general, point which is how will controversial topics get treated? Many aspects of economics, frankly, are controversial (if not for you, then for someone else). This cannot be avoided. The issue, I see, with down-voting or closing is to be mindful that such questions (if properly phrased, researched, etc, etc) can induce fruitful, positive contributions. On the other hand, questions such as "what is a Giffen good" or "what is the Phillips curve" better suit the Q/A format - but add little more than a lmgtfy.com/?q=phillips+curve . $\endgroup$
    – Rusan Kax
    Commented Dec 16, 2014 at 12:48

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