Recently, my question was closed on the grounds that it was opinion-based, and it's not the first time. After having a discussion with one of the moderators (he didn't vote to close himself but favored the moderation decision), I found out that a ban on what is perceived as "opinion-based" questions includes academic opinions. As I understand it, a ban on opinion-based questions is historically aimed at preventing flamewars ("Do you think Trump's trade policies benefit America?"). I don't see how questions asking for academic opinions and predictions may lead to such incidents and make this SE a worse place. It's all the more ridiculous given that the most popular question here explicitly asks for "thoughts" and is not closed nonetheless (and it shouldn't be). So what I propose is amending the rule about a ban on opinion-based questions. For example, we could explicitly point out that it doesn't apply to academic opinions (e.g. an economist making a prediction of what things will be in the future with regard to income inequality, free trade or anything else).

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ This question inspired me to remove the "So...thoughts?" part from the popular question. $\endgroup$
    – Giskard
    May 7, 2021 at 10:53
  • $\begingroup$ I also edited the title of this question, so that it would be a question rather than an imperative. $\endgroup$
    – Giskard
    May 7, 2021 at 11:00

3 Answers 3


As the help center article explains:

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than on facts, references, or specific expertise.

So it's not asking for opinions per se that is the issue; rather, the issue is asking for opinions that are unlikely to be backed by "facts, references, or specific expertise". I think your question does suffer from this issue.

Another issue of your question is that it's too broad, or it

Needs more focus - if your question has many valid answers (but no way to determine which - if any - are correct), then it probably needs to be more focused to be successful in our format.

Lastly, regarding your reference to a popular question of a similar format to yours but remained open, you should note that that question was asked in 2015, when this SE was still not far from its infancy. Hence, the policies were more lax back then. Now, this SE is more mature, and we have since formulated several new policies on quality standards for both questions and answers. Thus current Q&A's should be subject to current site policies.

  • $\begingroup$ Why are answers to my question unlikely to be backed by facts, references, or specific expertise? $\endgroup$ May 6, 2021 at 21:34

The question you posted as an example of not being closed is a hypothetical question. If "X" occur if "Y" happens. I don't exactly like even this framing of the question, but it is tolerable. Your question asks since "X" will happen, what can we do about it, with "X" being a non-obvious premise that might not be true.

I think the closure is justified. Inequality is a very large topic in economics, so you have to provide evidence that you've looked into what may exacerbate or mitigate inequality. A bunch of people being rich and saying the rich get richer is a non-starter. Maybe you could ask a different question along the lines of "will inequality get better or worse" but even this may be too broad/discussion based unless you really narrow the framing of the question.

  • $\begingroup$ "A bunch of people being rich and saying the rich get richer is a non-starter." Why? I referenced a book $\endgroup$ May 6, 2021 at 21:37
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    $\begingroup$ @SergeyZolotarev you gave a link to a book you did not actually referenced anything written in it. I read capital in the 21st century - heck that was even topic I picked during our inequality seminar at uni to write about, and the book does not say “rich will get richer”. The book argues that as long as return on capital is higher than growth wealth will get more concentrated. That is not the same as blanket statement that rich will get richer some rich may get poorer even if you take the book at face value. Lastly the book just conjectures that wealth gets concentrated because $\endgroup$
    – 1muflon1 Mod
    May 6, 2021 at 21:59
  • $\begingroup$ Can’t known if r>g will hold forever and there Picketty $\endgroup$
    – 1muflon1 Mod
    May 6, 2021 at 22:00
  • $\begingroup$ I think the rich getter richer is not implausible. But it is a non-starter for a Q&A board like this. There has to be more. Muflon's response is good here. $\endgroup$
    – Kitsune Cavalry Mod
    May 6, 2021 at 22:39
  • $\begingroup$ "The book argues that as long as return on capital is higher than growth wealth will get more concentrated." Exactly. If it becomes more concentrated, then inequality gets worse, not better $\endgroup$ May 6, 2021 at 22:50
  • $\begingroup$ @SergeyZolotarev this is the problem, you don't understand what inequality, wealth etc is and then you go and make absurd statements. What you are saying is equivalent of saying I read in a physics book that distance = time x velocity so weight = time x velocity right? Thats absurd. 1. Wealth inequality, and wealth concentration can happen while rich are getting poorer <- this is completely valid possibility. 2. Overall inequality can get better while wealth gets more concentrated <- again completely valid possibility. Income and consumption inequality can decrease at the same time $\endgroup$
    – 1muflon1 Mod
    May 7, 2021 at 13:41
  • $\begingroup$ @1muflon1 An individual's wealth influences their income and vice versa. I hardly imagine a wealthy person with low income or a high-earner with little wealth. However, as I said, if you think it's important to differentiate the terms, I invite you to include it in your answer. I asked a question for the exact reason that I lack knowledge and want to expand it, I'm a curious person. I could've made some mistakes in my premise, and that's ok. I doesn't mean the questions can't be answered $\endgroup$ May 7, 2021 at 22:01
  • $\begingroup$ @SergeyZolotarev 1. many old people living in cities that grow can easily end up in top 20-10% of wealth distribution just on account of living in a home that appreciated in value rapidly, yet those old people might not be able to get any income out of that house because they might not have any other place to live or perhaps psychological attachment to it. Such retirees might only have meager pension. This is just one example, but there are infinite amount of ways in which person might have high amount of wealth but little income. 2. Your question was not closed for 1 mistake in a premise $\endgroup$
    – 1muflon1 Mod
    May 7, 2021 at 22:28

First of all:

After having a discussion with one of the moderators (he didn't vote to close himself but favored the moderation decision

that was community decision not moderation decision Kitsune Cavalry and EconJohn were not involved in that decision either.

Second, question seeking opinions are considered off topic because it goes against the stack exchange purpose. Stack exchange is supposed to be repository of knowledge and questions and answers, especially on science stacks, should thus not be opinion based. For more discussion of Stack Exchange model see the discussion on Stack Exchange Meta in this thread.

This does not mean that opinion seeking questions do not have any value or are not interesting or do not deserve to be answered. There are hundreds if not thousands of internet forums and sites where you can post questions seeking pure opinions. For example, Rddit has ton of sites dedicated to even purely opinion based economics discussion.

This is like demanding that gym puts on its website advertisement for ice cream or cakes. Well there is place and time for anything and ice cream cakes are great but that's no reason on advertising them everywhere.

Third, note your question was closed as opinion based but it has several problems. Unfortunately there is no option for people to select more than 1 reason for voting close, but in your case people might have voted to close as opinion based because that was the major reason, but aside from seeking opinion your question:

  • violates our policy on too broad questions. Our help center states:

Too broad questions: We are dealing with a scientific discipline here, and science works by initially narrowing its focus in order to be able to go deep. We suggest you do the same: narrow the focus of your question. In social sciences, very rarely do we have truly "universal laws", and Economics is no different.

Your question as it is asks 2 main questions and 1 sub-question (in the first half about Picketty's work) and you specifically request each of those questions to be answered from global and personal dimension.

That means that in total there are 4 questions (6 if we count the sub question *2 since again you want everything from personal and global perspective) to be asked and each of those 4 (6) individual questions is quite broad.

However, note you can solve this problem by splitting question into separate question. There is no limit on how many questions you can ask on Stack Exchange - so there is no reason for you to willfully violate our rules against too broad question.

Now to be also crystal clear we on this site do not impose one question per question rule in draconian fashion but I am sorry any reasonable user of stack exchange has to clearly see that the question is simply way too broad.

Consequently, even if the question gets reopened it should be closed again but now for too broad reason.

  • it violates our policy on personal finance questions our help center also states:

Personal finance: Personal matters of finance and investment are offtopic here. Have a go at Personal Finance & Money.

In your question you ask:

Personal dimension: What, if anything, an individual with a lack of access to capital can theoretically do to reduce her/his gap?

I am sorry but this belongs on personal finance and money stack.

  1. Economists are not professional personal finance advisors, so for your own sake you should ask specialists on personal finance not economists - this would be like asking biologist about what to do with your food poisoning. Just because biologist studies biology and thus also human body that does not mean they are qualified to give you medical advice.
  2. There is dedicated stack for that question where I am sure people will happily give you financial advice. Again there is no rule against you crating an account on personal finance and money SE so you should consider putting it
  • Your question is quite chatty and open ended and our help center specifically says:

You should only ask practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that you face. Chatty, open-ended questions diminish the usefulness of our site and push other questions off the front page.

This site is for Questions and answers and is not a forum. This means that there is a quite strict format enforced here. Please post an answerable question using the Ask Question button (after searching for existing similar questions first of course) or post a solution for an existing question as an answer post. Please do not start discussions

For example, your question has a lot of unnecessary ballast, all the discussion about democracy and authoritarian regimes is only vaguely connected to the question and question would not change if that would be deleted. Are you asking a question or making statement? If you want you can ask a question and then answer it yourself instead of making statements in the question.

To sum it up,

  • Stack Exchange is not discussion forum chatty open ended, opinion based questions do not belong here. Just because some questions fall through the cracks does not mean we have to throw all rules out - that would be like arguing just because justice system can't capture all criminals we should abolish all laws. In every country I am sure there are some people that managed to get away even from murder thanks to good lawyers or mistakes by judges that does not mean we need anarchy.

  • Even if the rules on opinion based questions would change I am sorry but your question would be likely closed for many other reasons

PS: You should consider taking a bit of an introspective here. Instead of stubbornly refusing to follow the rules why don't you try the following:

  1. Take out the personal finance questions and ask them on personal finance and money
  2. Make the questions non-opinion based, for example turn them into literature requests. Instead of asking [comments in square brackets are mine]:

I didn't read this book [Picketty Capital in 21st century] (I'd like to), but I read that one of its key messages is that this relatively short period of shrinking inequality due to productivity growth was more of a blip than a shifted trend, and we're about to see even more inequality. Is there a way out of this?

Ask instead:

I didn't read this book [Picketty Capital in 21st century] (I'd like to), but I read that one of its key messages is that this relatively short period of shrinking inequality due to productivity growth was more of a blip than a shifted trend, and we're about to see even more inequality. Are these conclusions supported by wider academic literature on inequality? If yes there any proposals in policy economics literature to address these issues?

And just like that you turned opinion based question into perfectly fine reference request. It literally took almost no effort to change it. Please feel free to copy paste the suggestion from above and ask it as a separate question - I can't speak for others but I would even upvote such question.

  1. Instead of asking question with god knows how many sub questions, just ask all those questions separately. You are allowed to post multiple questions. You won't get into trouble on Stack Exchange for asking 6 questions on inequality at the same time if they are different. Heck quite the opposite - a) you are likely to get more upvotes because if all those separate questions are good the same people upvote all of them. b) you will minimize chance of being closed for lack of focus.

PPS: On a personal note, when I send my article to a journal and it gets rejected on account of not fitting journal when in past I saw articles there I though were similar I also was disappointed, but instead of demanding from editors to change their mind I decided to take their comments seriously and improve it and eventually it got accepted. This is just my personal advice so feel free to ignore it but I would recommend you to try to do introspective on that question and instead of being defensive or blaming the 'system' improve it to fit the rules, or if you do not like Stack Exchange format post the same question in other places where there are no such rules.

  • $\begingroup$ I don't agree with you that I asked 4 questions. It was one question: how do you shrink an income gap if those at the bottom naturally have less possibility to generate money than those at the top (on individual and global levels)? That is, how do you solve this contradiction? $\endgroup$ May 6, 2021 at 21:54
  • $\begingroup$ @SergeyZolotarev first you literally asked 3 questions (2 main ones and 1 sub Q. I am not sure if you are familiar with English grammar but question mark literally signifies that sentence is a question. Next one of those questions literally asks that everything should be answered from 2 perspectives meaning even though there are 3 sentences with question marks they all need 2 separate answers. That’s an equivalent of writing all those questions twice but once adding answer from personal POV. Thus there are effectively 4 main questions and 2 subquestions $\endgroup$
    – 1muflon1 Mod
    May 6, 2021 at 22:05
  • $\begingroup$ I never suggested abolishing all rules, I suggested amending one rule. So comparing it to some sort of anarchy is spurious $\endgroup$ May 6, 2021 at 23:09
  • $\begingroup$ " Please feel free to copy paste the suggestion from above and ask it as a separate question" Thanks for your proposal, but it's not what my question is about. It's not about whether we'll see more inequality or not but rather how to solve this contradiction between the goal of shrinking the wealth/income gap and the fact that the rich, because they have more money, naturally have more opportunities to get richer than the poor $\endgroup$ May 6, 2021 at 23:17
  • $\begingroup$ And, by the way, this post is not even on how I can have my question reopened. Whether it helps it or not, I think the rule on opinion-based questions should be amended to expressly say that asking for academic opinions is ok (you are of the opinion that it's not, judging from the comments under that question) $\endgroup$ May 6, 2021 at 23:33
  • $\begingroup$ @SergeyZolotarev 1. the one rule you want to amend is core rule of economics stack exchange so that is non starter. 2. But that was one of the questions in your original question which as already established earlier contained multiple questions. If that was not even a question you wanted to ask at all you should have just remove it altogether. In addition, those claims you are making are not even economically valid but thats not for meta discussion so I wont be discussing that $\endgroup$
    – 1muflon1 Mod
    May 6, 2021 at 23:35
  • $\begingroup$ As for the personal finance SE, again, I'm not asking what a poor person can do concretely to get richer, rather what theoretical ways out there are (like, off the top of my head, 1 to borrow capital, 2 to try to convert your existing skills into capital and then into skill acquisition, etc.) $\endgroup$ May 6, 2021 at 23:37
  • $\begingroup$ "I am not sure if you are familiar with English grammar but question mark literally signifies that sentence is a question." One can phrase the same question differently, and that's what I did. I asked it in several places using different words. You shouldn't count question marks, obviously $\endgroup$ May 6, 2021 at 23:41
  • $\begingroup$ @SergeyZolotarev 1. you are asking about what a private person can do that belongs under personal finance. Personal finance is not just about what a poor person can do to be rich its generally about any personal financial advice. 2. If you are asking same question 3 times that violates rules about questions being too chatty. Then you should just ask it once and delete all other ballast 3. I do not consider those 3 questions the same question but even if they were point 2 applies $\endgroup$
    – 1muflon1 Mod
    May 6, 2021 at 23:47
  • $\begingroup$ I edited the publication. Now, one can skip the "chatty" part and just read the question (before the divider) $\endgroup$ May 7, 2021 at 3:12
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    $\begingroup$ "This is just my personal advice so feel free to ignore it" This is such a nice line! I think you should have stopped engaging after it. $\endgroup$
    – Giskard
    May 7, 2021 at 10:59

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