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Are questions that ask for the pros vs cons of x allowed on the site?

And does the answer change depending on whether x is:

  1. An economic policy (e.g. monetary, fiscal, other)
  2. A non-economic policy (e.g. road rules, internet regulation)
  3. Not a policy/regulation at all (e.g. a feature in biology, or in computer science - tradeoffs in CPU architectures for example)

Note: I use the term "pros vs cons" as opposed to "costs vs benefits" because the latter hints more specifically toward measuring (especially in $ values), whereas the "pros and cons" would give regard to the same implications without necessarily measuring them in dollars.

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I largely agree with the answer by 1muflon1, but let me give a slightly different perspective...

There have been a number of questions on this site where it is fairly clear that the questioner has a strongly held opinion on a topic, because their text seems more to be presenting an argument than asking a question, in extreme cases because it reads like a rant. Such questions are generally unwelcome. Conversely, questions formulated in a way which suggests the questioner is open to different points of view and willing to learn are much more likely to be welcome.

Having said that, the "pros v cons" formulation is just one way of formulating such an "open-minded" question, and perhaps invites opinions rather than economic reasoning or evidence. Other and perhaps better ways include asking for (in the context of economic theory) "reasons for or against" or (in the context of applied economics) "evidence for or against".

While questions on economic policy are certainly not off-topic as such, they should be carefully formulated to encourage answers focusing on economic considerations rather than personal or political opinions, and reasonably focused so as not to be too broad. You make a good point about avoiding an assumption that everything is measurable, but formulations in terms of reasons or evidence can also avoid that assumption.

I'm not sure I understand your item 3, but re item 2 there are many areas of policy which may not be primarily driven by economic considerations but nevertheless have economic effects. Congestion charging to limit traffic in cities is an example. Questions about such policies would I think be on-topic provided they are focused on the economic effects.

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These would be in my opinion allowed per se but devil is in a detail.

  1. You should make it clear that you are not looking opinions but for what literature says on the direction of an effect or implications of the x for which prons vs cons you examine. Asking for pros vs cons sounds a little bit like asking for an opinion. Opinion based questions are not on topic here since this is not a forum as stated in our rules in the help center.

  2. You should make sure your pros vs cons question is sufficiently narrow. For example, I suspect that if you would ask vague question like what are the pros vs cons of capitalism vs socialism it would likely be closed as too broad.

Perhaps if you want to inquire about pros and cons of some policy a better question would be one that would be formatted as:

"what are the effects of policy X on Y, Z, W"

In the above you make it clear that you are looking for some effect rather than peoples opinion and you also automatically narrow the scope just to Y, Z and W (and in fact preferably it might be better to just ask question only on what is effect of X on Y as we also have policy against multiple questions - this being said as long as the multiple questions are connected community generally tolerates them and so would I (While I cant speak for other mods I would go on a limb to say they would be find with it as well).

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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks. For completeness, what of instances where the asker knows no published research exists on a matter? (then asking for literature may not be a logical thing to do from the asker's perspective) $\endgroup$ – stevec Nov 30 '20 at 13:10
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    $\begingroup$ @stevec if there is no literature (neither theoretical or empirical) then I can’t see how could anyone give you anything more than opinion. There has to be at least some way how to answer that question with science/fact based answers. That does not mean the question can’t be about theory or theoretical situation. There also could be cases when there is no literature on specific problem but still general one. For example question on price floor for bananas can be answered based on literature/facts about price floor on other products (at least in some general terms). $\endgroup$ – 1muflon1 Nov 30 '20 at 16:09

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