We are getting a fair amount of questions of the type "what are the reasons for X", or "what are the impacts of X on Y" e.g.

Based on down-votes and comments, whether these questions are amenable to Economics.SE seems to be controversial.

  • How should we deal with these questions? Are they acceptable?
  • Under which conditions?
  • What would be some guidelines for OP who would want to ask this kind of questions and get good answers?

3 Answers 3


In my view such questions:

a) Can very easily come out as "too broad" (so guidelines to the OP)
b) In reality they are usually really complex, since they are actual real-world economic phenomena
and so
c) It would take a professional economist a whole paper (at least), and not just an on-screen post, to reach a conclusion.

So I consider them as the hardest challenge to our experts -to be able to formulate a condensed answer, providing some directions and tentative conclusions based on theory and on some relevant real-world info/experience, while keeping visible the parameters of the specific real-world issue that their answer has to leave out. This is applied economics (not econometrics).

So, given that many people here (including myself) would want to see a fair amount of activity coming from experts, I say they should prove that they are worthy of this positive bias in favor of them.

To conclude, some guidance to the OP when needed to make the question as focused as possible, and keep the questions in, in order to see our experts deliver -or not see them.

  • 5
    $\begingroup$ I think we should be very aggressive about down-voting poor answers. It should be this way in general, but especially on answers to questions like these. I expect they'll attract a lot of non-expert answers. $\endgroup$
    – jmbejara
    Commented Dec 4, 2014 at 2:02
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @jmbejara I think you are right. Exactly because they would be real-world cases, many people may think that their half-baked, usually "practical" knowledge will permit them to provide a useful answer. And it will be exactly the opposite: More often than not Economics are not "intuitive", as the term goes. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 4, 2014 at 2:05
  • $\begingroup$ So is this a fair summary of the policy: 1) these questions are okay, but the asker should make them as specific as possible , 2) answers should be either summaries of existing published research, or an experts' overview of the relevant factors, controversies and complexity. Any answers like "Well it's obviously X" will be downvoted/deleted. Is that about right? $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 30, 2014 at 11:45
  • $\begingroup$ @user568458 "Well it is obviously X" will most likely be turned into a comment. I would add a 3), which would be most interesting : a well organized argument (not necessarily long), by somebody who obviously is not an "expert", but knows how to process information and how to think, and has spent some time thinking and carefully writing his answer. Although really, this has not many chances of appearing: real world economic phenomena are deviously complex, since past, present, future, strategy, survival, position, intermingle tightly. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 30, 2014 at 12:08
  • $\begingroup$ Okay, I phrased that badly, by "Well obviously X" I meant "Well obviously X because...[paragraph or two of conjecture/ideology/anecdote]". Would this answer be an example of 3? I upvoted it because it acknowledged the construction crash, which is something I've seen in several expert analyses, but on second thoughts, maybe it's too conjecture-y? Maybe a better response would be "Interesting, but citations needed"? As a keen non-expert I want to be sure any contributions I make are positive! $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 30, 2014 at 12:16
  • $\begingroup$ @user568458 The first two paragraphs are rather the half-baked economic thinking I mentioned in an earlier comments (so they appear -the OP may now much more about these factors but I am talking about the way he presented them). But the last two are good arguments and to the point , that are not strictly economic but bring into the picture issues like culture, ethics, and even climate. I am a Greek and I can tell you, he is dead to the point on these two points. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 30, 2014 at 13:14

Given that the "dismal science" is mostly about influence of factors X,Y,Z on phenomena A, B, C, X, ZZZZ exclusion of such questions kind of seems unwarranted.


I agree with Alecos that there's a place for them, as long as they're consistent with the level we're aiming for; and that it's crucial to give guidance to posters to ask tightly focused questions, and to show at least some research effort.

It's also up to voters to signal when questions are poor. Both of those questions are very poor, and I am disappointed to see that they both currently have positive net scores. That doesn't preclude them getting good answers. But the key there is that bad questions such as these should be downvoted, and probably put on hold as "too broad", or "unclear what you are asking" until they're edited into better shape. (as a side note, it is unconstructive to add comments asking downvoters to explain - please don't do it; such comments are, in the words of the mighty Shog9, "noise at best, and potentially harmful at worst")

Good answers should be upvoted on their merits, regardless of whether they're on good or bad questions; by the same token, bad questions should be downvoted on their merits, regardless of whether they've got excellent answers.


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