6
$\begingroup$

We've already had a couple of questions that are into that grey area where heterodoxy and crankery flow seamlessly into each other.

And while a developed public beta, or better a fully graduated site, can have the resources to deal with heterodoxy productively, the private beta is a different phase, and has a different role. We're attracting experts and building expert content.

I'll also note that even some graduated sites, such as Physics, don't deal with heterodoxy: it's explicitly off-topic there.

Economics is one of those subjects, like physics, that attracts a lot of non-expert heterodoxy.

Specifically, during the private beta, what should we do with question and answers that take a heterodox viewpoint? Note that this can change during public beta, and can change after graduation, so this question is specifically about the private beta.

| |
$\endgroup$
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Equating hetrodox schools with crankery is precisely why the majority of the populace holds mainstream economics in contempt after the GFC. Revitalisation of the field requires bringing in "hetrodox" schools from out of the cold. $\endgroup$ – LateralFractal Nov 19 '14 at 9:00
  • $\begingroup$ Besides, diffusion of innovations means that some hetrodox schools (presumably the evidence-based ones) are going to be inherently better than mainstream by definition. $\endgroup$ – LateralFractal Nov 19 '14 at 9:05
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ The private beta been narrowed too much. It's broken faith with the scope as defined in the commitment phase. So yeah, I'll revisit this site in few weeks once it's in public beta; maybe. Depends on whether the academics play ball and open the floor to the other 50% curious/prosumer crowd. No "fake it till you make it" badge for me. $\endgroup$ – LateralFractal Nov 19 '14 at 12:08
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @LateralFractal Has it really been narrowed? My I-looked-it-up-on-wikipedia-once-long-ago questions are being received okay. $\endgroup$ – curiousdannii Nov 19 '14 at 12:23
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @curiousdannii Implied gamification/SEO characteristics of the private beta stage have been used to skip scoping discussions. Had I realised that the private beta would zigzag away from the initial scope or the public beta scope, I'd would have simply waited until the public beta from the onset. The all or nothing approach that some people are using to ensure a mainstream economics expert-to-expert textbook Q&A site, simply switches exactly which cohort gets driven out as second class citizens; with an unproven claim that they'll find a receptive audience later. $\endgroup$ – LateralFractal Nov 19 '14 at 12:49
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Could you link to some of the questions you view as problematic? In principle, heterodox questions should be dealt with like any other question - reduced to a factual/evidence and theory basis, and answered as best the expert can. LateralFractal's point is quite right - if mainstream economics is reduced to a set of memorized answers that are the definition of correct, then contempt will be what this exercise unfortunately deserves. $\endgroup$ – Lumi Nov 19 '14 at 16:18
  • $\begingroup$ @Lumi the worst has already been deleted. I don't think anyone's suggesting that mainstream economics can be represented by memorized answers: it is, after all, a set of analytic tools and conventions built on a knowledge base. The question here is very specifically about the first week or two of this site's life, the private beta, when particularly tight rules apply, and we try to build a body of expert content, and a community of experts. Once that's done, then there's scope to deal with the goldbugs, austrian school, illuminati, bitcoiners, thermoeconomics, alien lizard shapeshifters, etc. $\endgroup$ – 410 gone Nov 19 '14 at 21:57
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @EnergyNumbers Pft. I rage quit and deleted my own question out of frustration with a minority of the private beta crowd. Hardly says anything other than I'm not going to be spat at by a subset deadset on creating an electronic fiefdom by co-opting the originally intended and agreed upon site diversity. I want expert-to-expert content; but I don't want expert-only content. The voting patterns suggests this is the majority opinion; fallacious ipso facto rhetoric about the will of the gods aside. $\endgroup$ – LateralFractal Nov 20 '14 at 6:23
  • $\begingroup$ This question appears to be off-topic because it is about the private beta, which has ended. $\endgroup$ – Ubiquitous Dec 11 '14 at 8:07
7
$\begingroup$

Frankly, I think the best argument against heterodoxy in the private beta stage is that questions of that nature will--in all likelihood--simply go unanswered, left to rot during a period when high percentage-answered and answers-per-question stats matter most.

Now, just to clarify things a little, when I use the term "heterodoxy" I'm not referring to the Austrian School or the German Historical School or any other economic school of thought which can reasonably be expected to show up in a self-respecting reference work. I'm talking about fringe.

Personally, as an ad hoc rule-of-thumb for determining what does and what does not belong on the Economics SE (if only for the beta phase), I propose the following guideline:

If it isn't mentioned in The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics at least once, then it doesn't belong on this site and, hence, should be deleted.

Why The New Palgrave? Because:

  1. It's as authoritative as they come.
  2. It's almost 8,000 pages (and, hence, it's not abridged in any way).
  3. As far as Economics is concerned, Wikipedia's standards are way too low.

In other words, it means that Charles Fourier *sigh* can stay but Thermoeconomics is gone--simple as that. Got it?

Anyway, this is just something I've been thinking about--please feel free to offer comments below, positive or negative. I'm interested to what you guys think about this...

| |
$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ In practice the lowest common denominator for entrainment in a discipline will by definition be mainstream. Heterodox enquiries will constitute a minority of content for exactly the same reason - so impact on stack ratios is lower than the impact on community diversity of blanket prohibiting them simply because a smaller portion of the community is trained or interested in them. By analogy, if 1 in 1000 people in a community are skilled in X but only 1 in 1000 problems require X - the resolution ratio is effectively 1:1; providing you didn't stifle the community diversity to begin with. $\endgroup$ – LateralFractal Nov 20 '14 at 13:31
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @LateralFractal: So now Marx is "mainstream" because he's mentioned in every Economics dictionary around?? Of course not! You are arguing for the sake of arguing! And it's exactly the same tact as the typical crank: first make a blind assertion, then treat it as if it were some self-evident axiom, building on it with more and more layers of garbage assertions (obfuscating it with pseudo-technical jargon), and then complaining when everyone else grows tired of humoring you. Listen, if you want a forum to talk about Thermoeconomics and such then start a blog. $\endgroup$ – Steve S Nov 20 '14 at 19:17
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ You've fallen prey to the fundamental attribution error. Frankly I couldn't care less about thermoeconomics, although your choice of Marx is telling. I've just been surprised how profoundly narrow some people want this site to be; considering it wasn't discussed with that mindset during the commit phase - and I figured what with half the committers being of the non-expert categories, the site wouldn't collapse in on itself. I don't like having to be the one to defend non-academic members and get, quite rightly, labelled as a shit-stirrer because of it. But what would you have me do? $\endgroup$ – LateralFractal Nov 20 '14 at 20:43
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ These meta discussions are becoming a matter of stamina; a resource that I'm rapidly depleting. And when it's fully depleted, I don't see anyone else stepping up to argue against isolationism. Especially if they see how little effect I've had on convincing the hard-liners. $\endgroup$ – LateralFractal Nov 20 '14 at 20:50
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Charles Fourier of the 80,000 year plan in four and five year plans alternating can stay?! And in the same camp Leroux and his circulus? I hope not. That's far worse than thermoeconomics (the majority of whose proponents don't understand economic questions, let alone answer them) in signal to noise ratio. And Marx and other "theory of history" literature belongs properly to history of science (which has a stackexchange website), not to economics, for clear reasons, I would argue. What research level questions can it answer? If none, isn't it contrary to the purpose of this site? $\endgroup$ – user218 Nov 23 '14 at 14:11
  • $\begingroup$ I am a mathematical researcher, but Austrian economics, economic history, etc., is perfectly fine and good for this website, if worded properly, I think. What needs to be excluded are the no-scarcity theories (including the conspiracy theories of all kinds), the racist theories (Fourier claimed Jews invented capitalism and claimed socialism'd arise as soon as they are kicked out of France...), theories ignoring utility, demand, supply, intentional behavior completely (e.g., thermoeconomics). For the reason given above. $\endgroup$ – user218 Nov 23 '14 at 14:19
  • $\begingroup$ @GuidoJorg: Fourier also claimed that the ocean would turn to lemonade and that, if his lifestyle were undertaken, his followers would grew powerful prehensile tails. In other words, the guy was crazy. Obviously, my point was not that his theories should be expounded. In fact, I'm mildly offended that you would even have the gall to imply that that was even close to my intent for mentioning Fourier. $\endgroup$ – Steve S Nov 23 '14 at 16:35
  • $\begingroup$ @GuidoJorg: However, if you're going to talk about 19th Century Socialism then Utopian Socialism is bound to come up and, frankly, his name bears mentioning as well. Because Economic History is actually another branch of Economics. $\endgroup$ – Steve S Nov 23 '14 at 16:37
  • $\begingroup$ I think you misunderstood me; I agreed with your answer mostly and do not imply anything regarding you having any positive opinion regarding Fourier. I I merely took exception to your answer on the point of allowing Fourier-ism. Arguably it should not be allowed to be posted, I think. I agree economic history is a something that can be discussed and is interesting. However, economic history is not history of economics. ;) These are very different subjects. $\endgroup$ – user218 Nov 23 '14 at 21:07
  • $\begingroup$ There is already a website for history of science, and economics is included: hsm.se, and Fourier-ist theories, for example, would have nothing to contribute to economics as economic science today. And yet, to discuss such things is also not economic history. That is, it's not history of economic development, technology, etc.) What it would be is history of economics as a science, since Fourier-ism was a theoretical episode in that history. SE benefits by proper division of labor. So it does not belong on this website, I suggest. $\endgroup$ – user218 Nov 23 '14 at 21:12
  • $\begingroup$ Shooting from the hip, I think the "New Palgrave" answer is great -- simple, easy, and pretty darn broad. (And I suspect it already includes any "heterodoxy" items I'm interested in, haha.) $\endgroup$ – CompEcon Nov 23 '14 at 22:01
3
$\begingroup$

Questions concerning heterodox schools of thought should be perfectly acceptable. If we are to assume that economics is an objective discipline with methodologies driven towards positive instead of normative truths, then heterodox school questions should be fine. However, I do think someone asking a heterodox school question should be self aware. They should understand that the assumptions that they're making (or the assumptions that they refuse to make) contradict or conflict in some way with mainstream economics.

I believe the way we word questions can radically change the tone in which the community can answer it. Instead of asking, "Why are Keynesians so dumb with their obsession with aggregates?" one can instead ask, "What are the responses to criticisms towards aggregate analysis?" One should not ask, "How can Austrians actually believe that there are no market failures?" A better and more formal question would be, "What is the response to the 'Negative externalities are the results of unresolved property rights' critique?" Remember, economics should be a positive discipline. Every school that treats economics in that sense should be open to discussion. And honestly, if we look at the differences between the different schools it all really boils down to methodology and assumptions. Neoclassicals make more assumptions about rationality than, say, the Austrians do. But that doesn't mean we can't ask about neoclassical rationality. It's a concept, developed and defended by very smart and very well educated people. We should be able to answer a Neoclassical question by stating, "Given X, Y, and Z here is my answer. However, I do not believe X, Y, and Z can be assumed so easily."

For example, I think cost curves are fallacious. If you take a microeconomics course, you learn about subjective value; and then, these objective cost curves appear in the following chapter. That doesn't mean I can't answer the question with cost curve analysis. The goal of an answer isn't to show what's right or wrong on any holistic level. The point of answering a question is to answer the question at hand. By having guidelines on good questions and good answers, we can allow for a huge breed of thought to exist without running into errors of meta-arguing.

| |
$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for this. I am specifically asking about the short period of 1-2 weeks of the private beta, rather than generally. I'd agree with your answer if it were about the public beta, but the question is not about the public beta, it's about the private beta. $\endgroup$ – 410 gone Nov 20 '14 at 8:22
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @EnergyNumbers This was directed towards the private beta as well. As long as the question has some level of expertise, formality, and specificity, it should be fine. $\endgroup$ – rosenjcb Nov 20 '14 at 16:31
  • $\begingroup$ I strongly agree with this answer. Actually, if questions are phrased this way, this would be fine in the private beta too, I suggest. $\endgroup$ – user218 Nov 23 '14 at 14:14
3
$\begingroup$

I think all schools should be welcomed, but that does not mean that one can be non scientific, e.g., why wouldn't neoclassical economics accept the such and such theory? That is not an expert question, it should be rephrased in terms not of vacuous group confrontation but either self contained: e.g., how does the theory of wages in such theory differs from this other theory. Or based on some common ground, e.g., what empirical work has contrasted this theory with this other?

| |
$\endgroup$
2
$\begingroup$

I think we must distinguish between hetrodoxy and crankery. We should be open to all points of view that actually try to understand economic phenomena. We should be strict against conspiracy theories and attempt to misuse this site to propagate sects or carry out sectarian debates instead of asking and answering concrete questions using evidence and logic.

In physics the orthodoxy is much more successful in explaining things that the hetrodoxy. In economics, in my opinion, that is not the case. I think we should respect this state of things.

| |
$\endgroup$
0
$\begingroup$

There's no place for it during the private beta. Such questions are magnets for cranks. The more crank posts we have, the harder it will be to attract experts. And building a community of experts is crucial for the private beta. I want a site for which I can proudly send private beta invitations to my economist colleagues, and know that they'll see the growing body of content and feel at home, and not have to deal with the usual silliness that exists on the average internet economics forum. We're not a forum, and let's have no interest in being average.

| |
$\endgroup$
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Q&A diversity isn't the same as a forum, especially if we aren't a bastion for a few mainstream economic schools that get funded by vested interests. $\endgroup$ – LateralFractal Nov 19 '14 at 9:02
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I'll admit there is a crankery risk but cranks and trolls are lazy - I've yet to see a stack exchange crank that bothers with good spelling, citation, post quality and elimination of rhetoric. You can spot those ones on reasons entirely separate from scope agreement or issues of orthodoxy. $\endgroup$ – LateralFractal Nov 19 '14 at 9:20
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @curiousdannii Ah yes, well I deliberately evaded mentioning religion and politics because I know from politics.se that people with ideological drivers will put in the time to create well-polished dog excrement. $\endgroup$ – LateralFractal Nov 19 '14 at 9:44
  • $\begingroup$ @LateralFractal The odd thing with that user is that they really don't seem very ideological at all. They don't seem to be pushing an agenda. They patiently persist despite more than half of their answers having a negative score. They seem happy to be considered a crank who gets a consistently bad reception. And they normally format their answers decently. $\endgroup$ – curiousdannii Nov 19 '14 at 9:48
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I'm somewhat sympathetic to this post. An important emphasis is that (a) the private beta period is something like 6 days, and (b) the private beta, public beta, and eventual full launch are all different periods meant to do different things. Of course, as @curiousdannii notes, we haven't seen much ferocious ideological users in our userbase, which is extremely nice. (I also suspect that EnergyNumbers is influenced by the earlier attempt at an econ stackexchange, where there was some "crankery" -- I personally had colleagues who visited the private beta and commented on that back then...) $\endgroup$ – CompEcon Nov 24 '14 at 15:57

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .