Have a look at this question. Due to poor formatting, the question has only received one upvote.

One of the posters, (who I've seen posting aggressive anti mainstream answers and comments on several occasions) does two things:

  1. Posts a (I suppose) Marxist answer, where the typically labelled labor share is labeled as the inverse of the "exploitation rate".
  2. Comments under the other answer:

    Wrong. The labor share is an accounting abstraction that does not reflect actual class dynamics

There's several issues at hand here:

  1. I personally believe we should allow answers from all parts of Economics, as long as they're somewhat credible. Up votes should be a signal of quality of the answer.
  2. This leaves the issue on what to do when this happens on questions with low visibility. I have no clear suggestion on this part.
  3. Disrespect, however, is out of the question. Disagreement with a specific answer should be based on facts. Instead of a long discussion on comments, a separate answer should be the way to go.
  4. There should be a minimum threshold. I don't think we want truther-type people who just claim things that are too far off the basics (hard to define). Answers like the following (same user, deleted) should result in a strongly-worded warning and eventually to removal from the community

    In reality GDP, like all economic statistics, are made up and arbitrary. So go for it, whatever you're suggesting.

These are of course initial suggestions, and I'd like to hear what others think.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ My broad policy as a moderator has been to rely on the community's various voting mechanisms to demote low quality content and restrict interventions to cases of abuse (sabotage, rude or offensive behavior, etc.—mostly in response to flags). But this policy can be shaped to meet the community's needs. $\endgroup$ – Ubiquitous Apr 20 '16 at 21:22
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    $\begingroup$ Why acting upon "heterodox answers to low-frequency questions" needs a special/modified set of principles compared to the principles applied to, say, "orthodox answers to high-frequency questions"? Your post is not clear about this aspect, which it appears to me to be critical. $\endgroup$ – Alecos Papadopoulos Apr 21 '16 at 16:44
  • $\begingroup$ @AlecosPapadopoulos Because I assume that badly written heterodox answers in high frequency questions will be punished by readers that understand this and care. In low-frequency questions, idiots can run havoc. $\endgroup$ – FooBar Apr 21 '16 at 17:04
  • $\begingroup$ @FooBar I think the heterodoxy angle of this post is interesting and deserves a separate meta question. (When in doubt, should I defend the Establishment?) I am not a fan of any kind of doxy, but an obvious problem with heterodox users is that if they do persist they are likely to vote enthusastically which may distort the voting process. Especially in unclear questions where non-believers may not be inclined to vote. $\endgroup$ – denesp Apr 22 '16 at 23:14

After a comment exchange with the OP, it is my impression that the issue here is more accurately described as

"What to do with low-quality answers in low-frequency questions where the SE mechanisms like comments or downvotes or flags for moderator attention have low probability of functioning effectively since site users won't be frequenting the said question and so said quality-preserving actions have low-probability of materializing?"

Well, in a fully-volunteered place like economics.se, the only "policy" I see is "volunteer more!": namely, those who care enough, to substitute for the missing "large general public" in these low-frequency Q&A threads.

To say it more concretely, monitoring economics.se by those members who care enough for the site itself and push their involvement beyond their immediate interests in the economics discipline. This is the only way I see.

As for "rules on excommunicating rogue members", I believe that the much larger than economics.se SE-universe has evolved and prospered without such rules in place, recognizing that it would be very difficult to agree on such rules in the first place (and agreed by whom?), and that what matters is to "know one when you see one" (under the "be nice-offer helpful content" fundamental principle), and then alert the moderators and the community to action.

I am not saying that this is necessarily typical for on-line communities: there maybe others where the degree of "command and control" is much higher, but this does not appear to be the SE-way.


Here's my decision flow (YMMV), in the hope that it might illustrate some of the issues in your question:

On flagging:

Is the answer (or comment) abusive, offensive, or spam? If so, flag accordingly.


Does the answer at least try to answer the question? No matter how wrong-headedly, how outrageously wrong, however misguided - does it try to answer the question? If not, flag accordingly. Shog9 has written a helpful and characteristically witty post on the subject.

On voting: (this is independent of flagging)

Is it correct and useful, and am I in a good position to assess this? Upvote.

Is it wrong (and am I in a good position to assess this), not an answer, or spam? Downvote.


[answer:] In reality GDP, like all economic statistics, are made up and arbitrary. So go for it, whatever you're suggesting.

Downvote. Flag as "not an answer" - it doesn't remotely try to address the question.

[comment]: Wrong. The labor share is an accounting abstraction that does not reflect actual class dynamics

It's terse, but I wouldn't call it "not constructive" or offensive - it is trying (rightly or wrongly) to point out an error in the answer, which is one of the things comments are for. If you're not the answerer whose answer is being commented on, then ignore and move on; or post a comment if you can clear up the commenter's misunderstanding kindly. Ideally, the answerer will then edit the answer to either explain kindly why the comment is incorrect, or to incorporate a correction if the comment is correct.

  • $\begingroup$ I agree with the first part, but not on the evaluation of the comment - so average vote of zero. $\endgroup$ – FooBar Apr 21 '16 at 14:39
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    $\begingroup$ It is my answer that got the comment. I did not find it offensive. I also did not find it prudent to argue as the commenter is a troll. It is a shame he misled the OP (not the OP of this meta-post), but I think the OP might have been looking for this kind of answer anyway. $\endgroup$ – denesp Apr 22 '16 at 23:08

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