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Jokes in Economics; Challenging Assumptions in the Dismal Science


This question, if asked on any other site on StackExchange that I participate in, ("what are some good programming jokes", etc), would get downvoted and closed so hard. But here, it has gotten upvotes and is apparently being tolerated.

Since this completely throws my idea of this site's scope off the rails, would anyone be willing to enlighten me on why this question is on-topic here?


The reason I think it would get closed quickly on another SE site is that the question, as is:

  • Invites subjective answers
  • Contradicts the help center guidelines: https://economics.stackexchange.com/help/dont-ask says you should avoid avoid asking subjective questions where "every answer is equally valid" and that questions should be "more than just mindless social fun"
  • The asker is not looking for understanding of something
  • The asker is looking for jokes (technically speaking, this would be "product recommendation" of sorts, most sites don't allow this, some do, but nearly all of them require that you state your requirements, so that answers will be usable from the perspective of "this is what I was looking for")
  • It looks like a "boat programming" question, where you slap "programming" (or, in this case, "economics") onto the question so that it is on-topic, where-as the version of the question without the applied label would be off-topic without a doubt.

I do not have an isse with the fact that this is a list-question, as there are great questions available in that format, primarily historical, "what were the reasons that led to X happening" is secretly a list question but can be explained quite in an answer.

It might have been on-topic on Humor if that goes into beta.

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    $\begingroup$ I think that because this site is less mature than something like S.O., and because the community here is less well-developed it takes longer to reach consensus on what is and is not on topic (that's a big part of what this beta is about). This question may yet end up being closed. $\endgroup$ – Ubiquitous Mar 22 '16 at 9:59
  • $\begingroup$ But I don't think we should have a per se prohibition on list questions because there are some great examples of such questions around the network. One of my favorites is tex.stackexchange.com/questions/339/latex-editors-ides The challenge is ensuring the question is sufficiently well-curated and are on a topic where an exhaustive list is really valuable. $\endgroup$ – Ubiquitous Mar 22 '16 at 10:04
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    $\begingroup$ @Ubiquitous I do not have a problem with list-questions. My issue is with the jokes themselves - it reads like boat programming, and without well-defined criteria, that's likely to devolve in everybody just posting their own opinion, which is harmful to a site that wants to build reputation as a place where you can get expert factual information. $\endgroup$ – Pimgd Mar 22 '16 at 10:07
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    $\begingroup$ I am still not sure I get what your exact problem is. Bad jokes will just slap the word economics in there but good jokes will incorporate economic logic. Any question can have bad answers. I think your other point, that the aim of the OP is not the understanding a specific thing is much better. $\endgroup$ – Giskard Mar 22 '16 at 10:12
  • $\begingroup$ @denesp I'll try editing the question so it lists each reason separately $\endgroup$ – Pimgd Mar 22 '16 at 10:15
  • $\begingroup$ Did you make an Econ SE account 2 days ago just to make a case against my post lmao??? Well I'll be editing it shortly with some of the suggestions from here to improve it. $\endgroup$ – Kitsune Cavalry Mar 23 '16 at 21:17
  • $\begingroup$ @KitsuneCavalry Does it matter if I did? $\endgroup$ – Pimgd Mar 23 '16 at 21:23
  • $\begingroup$ Well it means you must've been pretty revolted at the audacity of my question. ¯_(ツ)_/¯ $\endgroup$ – Kitsune Cavalry Mar 23 '16 at 21:58
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Other Stack Exchange sites have tried these joke questions. In almost all cases, they've turned out to be a bad idea. They're junk magnets.

They do not incentivise new high-quality content.

They do, however, incentivise jokey rubbish. This becomes a self-reinforcing cycle, where more jokey junk gets posted, attracting more jokey junk.

This particular question is problematic for several reasons. It's not about economic theory or applications, so is explicitly off-topic. It's a big-list question, so there's no single right answer, thus working against the whole structure of the site. And as per above, it's a junk magnet.

And so it should be deleted.

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  • $\begingroup$ So? What course of action do you recommend? $\endgroup$ – Pimgd Mar 22 '16 at 12:51
  • $\begingroup$ I agree, close vote for off-topic reasons. Just because something is within the the fields of economics, doesn't mean it's on-topic regarding the science of economics. $\endgroup$ – FooBar Mar 22 '16 at 13:45
  • $\begingroup$ You ought to add your course of action to the answer $\endgroup$ – Pimgd Mar 22 '16 at 16:20
  • $\begingroup$ (+1) These are good, pragmatic points. $\endgroup$ – Alecos Papadopoulos Mar 23 '16 at 5:37
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Because humour may be a very effective way to convey the core essence of something.

What is probably missing from the answers already posted, is an explanation, or a hint, on what "core essence" does each "joke" allude to, just to make sure that everybody will get it.

"Get downvoted and closed so hard" in other sites- why? What's so unhelpful, un-educational and unscientific about humour?

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  • $\begingroup$ explained in question $\endgroup$ – Pimgd Mar 22 '16 at 9:55
  • $\begingroup$ Aside from question explanation, whilst your point is valid, the question as is right now is bad and warrants closing. It's unhelpful in that the question doesn't have a purpose other than "fun" at the moment. $\endgroup$ – Pimgd Mar 22 '16 at 10:43
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    $\begingroup$ @Pimgd That is a different issue from the one you raised in your question, which was about principle, not delivery. $\endgroup$ – Alecos Papadopoulos Mar 22 '16 at 12:16
  • $\begingroup$ I strongly agree with Alecos and therefore voted to reopen the question. A joke collection could be very useful for researchers and teachers for presentations/teaching purposes. $\endgroup$ – HRSE Mar 23 '16 at 5:28
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I find the argument that

Jokes in Economics; Challenging Assumptions in the Dismal Science

is problematic to be persuasive, mostly because this question is opinion-based.

I think the question is salvageable if

  1. it is edited to have a more specific and less opinion-based criterion by which answers might be assessed. One approach, for example, would be to ask "what jokes can be used to make important ideas in economics clear and easy to understand?" (along the lines suggested by Alecos Papadopoulos);
  2. we impose a bit more structure on the formatting (perhaps along the lines described here). In particular, one joke per answer and consistent formatting across all answers will make the list more navigable and useful to future visitors of the site.
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  • $\begingroup$ Criteria fixes point 1 and 2. The example approach fixes point 3. Criteria again fixes point 4... and point 5 is likely to go away once the question reads more like a search for material rather than a bored person looking for amusement. $\endgroup$ – Pimgd Mar 22 '16 at 10:42
  • $\begingroup$ removed accept because I thought there was consensus, but apparently not, will check later today $\endgroup$ – Pimgd Mar 22 '16 at 12:50

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