Archive for the ‘economics’ Category

The Sixth Transom

Thursday, 22 February 2024

Shortly before mid-night on 21 February, I submitted a copy of my paper on Sraffa to yet another journal.

The submission software of the previous journal still lists my paper with a status of Submitted to Journal. Perhaps they don't have a mechanism in place for removing an entry when an author has responded to abuse by withdrawing work at that stage; perhaps someone is hoping to avoid the attention of a manager with greater authority. I've received no further communication from the publisher, nor any from the editor.

The Fifth Transom

Friday, 2 February 2024

On 19 January, I received an expected desk-rejection of my paper on Sraffa from the journal to which I'd submitted it a day or two earlier. The editor wrote that he'd enjoyed looking at the paper but that it were not the style of work that the journal published. I don't feel slighted by the lack of an explanation, but I'm more unhappy with something that might be mistaken for an explanation that doesn't actually explain anything.

(My paper on indecision was more than once rejected without explanation for the rejection, but with meta-explanation that providing an explanation would delay my submitting to some other journal.)

Upon receiving the rejection, I looked for another journal. What otherwise might have seemed the best choice required a €100 submission fee, not refunded in the event of a desk-rejection. I instead chose a different journal, in part because it is headquartered in Italy, where I expect more attention is paid to Sraffa even by mainstream economists.

The submission process was stalled by a failure of the software used by the journal's publisher, and a weekend had to pass before that failure was corrected. In the early morning of 23 January, I completed the process. Since then, the reported status of the paper has stood at Submitted to Journal. That report is supposed to change when the paper is assigned to a specific editor.

Once more, a desk-rejection is highly likely. Most papers that are sent to reviewers are rejected by the reviewers. Most papers that are not rejected are returned to the authors for revision. Most papers returned for revision are accepted after revision, but not always.

Over the Transom Again

Thursday, 18 January 2024

I've submitted my paper on Sraffa to yet another journal. Fortunately, this latest journal wanted the initial submission to be in PDF, and wants accepted papers in LAΤΕΧ.

I expect a rejection from this journal, simply because they receive an enormous number of submissions, and will probably decide that their readers would rather not digest a thorough examination of a heterodox theory to which few of them ascribe any credibility, which examination reaches conclusions that, over all, will not surprise them. But I'll hope for an editor to think otherwise.

No Shock

Wednesday, 17 January 2024

And, unshockingly, to-day my paper on Sraffa was rejected by the journal of history of economic thought to which I submitted the paper. In my previous entry, I wrote

A few problems threaten this submission. […] Third, historians might — rather reasonably — see the article as better placed in a journal of theory than of history; I do not, for example, much discuss the position of Sraffa's book in historic context.

Well, the editor didn't suggest submitting to a journal of theory, but did say that it didn't fit the mission of a journal of history of thought.

If I again submit to a journal of theory, then I'll make a note to its editor of the history of rejection. But I'd like to find a respected journal that publishes both articles on theory and articles on the history of economic thought, so that the editors won't pass the buck based upon such distinctions. I'd also very much prefer not to submit to any journal published by Springer, given the abuse to which they subjected me in the case of my paper on indecision.

Another Bounce-back

Sunday, 14 January 2024

As anticipated, my submission to a second journal of my paper on Sraffa received a desk-rejection, in the morning of 8 January. The editor at the second journal, like that at the first, suggested submitting to a journal on the history of economic thought.

I decided to go ahead to do just that, but found that my first choice amongst such journals both wanted the article to be submitted in the format of Microsoft Word, and was somewhat particular about the appearance of formulæ. I do not have any recent versions of MS Word running on any computer, and the computers on which I have old versions installed are old devices, tucked-away, and of course I wouldn't in any case want to reënter the whole article from the keyboard. So I wrestled with going from LAΤΕΧ (by way of LyX) to DOCX by various means, with the formulæ repeatedly trashed in the process. I stepped-away from the problem a few times, rather than become over-stressed.

Finally, early this morning, I had a version that I thought were good enough to submit. I stepped-away again until to-night, and then effected a submission.

A few problems threaten this submission. First, the journal normally wants articles of 11,000 words or fewer, whereäs this article is about 12,665. Second, as may be inferred from their insistence upon the format of Microsoft Word, this journal leans away from mathematic presentation. Third, historians might — rather reasonably — see the article as better placed in a journal of theory than of history; I do not, for example, much discuss the position of Sraffa's book in historic context.

If the paper is rejected in whole or in part on that last basis, then of course I will make a note of such objection in any subsequent submission to a journal of economic theory.

As to how I effected the conversion, I used LyX to export a file in ODT format, then used LibreOffice Writer to do extensive clean-up and export to DOCX, then reïmported the DOCX file into LibreOffice Writer, and effected a second extensive clean-up, the results of which I later submitted.


Thursday, 4 January 2024

In keeping with my expectations, albeït not with my hopes, during this morning I received a desk-rejection from the first journal to which I submitted my paper on Sraffa. The editor wrote

I read your paper with interest. I appreciate the ambition and breadth of the work as well as the care you put in writing the paper in an accessible and engaging way. However, the contribution is more appropriate for a journal that specializes in the history of economic thought, rather than for a journal that focuses on modern contributions to economic theory.

Two conceptions of modernity seem to be confused here. If the editor were to say that Sraffa's work were not at or near the cutting edge, then I would completely agree with the editor. On the other hand, only if the applicability of that work were without living controversy would discussion properly be restricted to history-of-thought, yet Sraffa's work is at-or-near the center of thought for academically active schools.

Mind you that something could reasonably be treated as within the scope of history-of-thought without being restricted to that scope, so I may indeed submit the paper to a journal on the history of economic thought. But, before taking that route, this evening I submitted the paper to a different journal of economic theory. Yes, I do expect another rejection, and probably another desk-rejection. Still, I gambled on a hope of acceptance.

If-and-when I submit to a journal of history of economic thought, I face some threat of my paper being rejected as too mathematic for the readership. (One reason that I have not submitted the paper to The Cambridge Journal of Economics is that their guidelines for authors suggest that they would reject the paper with the excuse that the exposition relies too heavily upon mathematics.)

Before receiving the rejection, I had effected some minor revisions to the paper. I corrected a typographic error, replaced adjectival -ical with -ic wherever the latter would do, and removed most of my expletive uses of it and of there.

Although expletive uses are grammatic and I've not seen them condemned in any book of style, after I first completed a draft of that paper I became uncomfortable with those uses. That discomfort is part of a prior trend of my becoming uncomfortable with expressions that facilitate conceptual illusions. Saying or writing it is X suggests that something is X; sometimes something is X, as when we say it is sad that you couldn't come, in which case the something is that you couldn't come. Even then, it is a forward reference, and forward references are generally very bad things. But sometimes the it is just a way of satisfying the grammatic need for a subject, as in it's raining. Saying or writing there is X or there are X suggests that X is-or-are at a specific location, but likewise is often just a way of satisfying the grammatic need for a subject.

Usually, one can easily do without these expletive uses, but I acknowledge that sometimes they actually produce more easily understood sentences. Indeed, I left two such uses in the paper because no alternative occurred to me that did not create ambiguity.

[Up-Date (2024:01/07):Alas, I have found more expletive uses in my paper. My search string was naïve, and missed cases with modal auxiliaries. I don't know when or even if I will eliminate those further cases.]

Reordering the Queue

Friday, 29 December 2023

Late last night, I finally got around to submitting to a journal a draft of my paper on Sraffa's Production of Commodities by Means of Commodities; Prelude to a Critique of Economic Theory [1960].

My attention was first directed to Production of Commodities in the mid-'80s. I did no more than to skim the work at the time, but I planned someday to critique it carefully, and developed an expectation that I would write my critique for academic publication. In the spring or summer of 2015, I finally took-up that task. I completed a working draft by 18 May 2016, then entitled The Begged Questions and Confusions in Mr. Sraffa's Theory of Price, and began providing copies to other economists.

I've made no profound changes to the paper in the time since, but I'd hoped to complete and have published my generalization of decision theory before publishing this paper on PoCbMoC. And editors and reviewers seem likely to treat my paper either as uninteresting or as anathematic; I've been unsure about to which journals I should submit it. But some dreadful lines of thought have been resurgent, and I have grown concerned that Sraffan thought — which epitomizes much left-wing thought about economics — may soon have accelerating popularity. So I've decided to seek now a respectable journal to publish my paper, with the title Mr. Sraffa's Theory of Price; A Thorough and Critical Examination.

I can expect that the article will be rejected by several journals before it finds acceptance. Editors who reject the article without sending it to peer-review may take a few weeks. Peer-review in each case is likely to take four or more months. So perhaps a couple of years will pass before the article is accepted, and then perhaps the better part of a year will follow before it is published.

Egalitarian Pickpocketing

Saturday, 23 December 2023
Google NGram chart of “material inequality” and “material equality” for the years 1901 through 2019

Google Ngram chart of economic inequality and economic equality for the years 1901 through 2019

During my lifetime, the notion that material inequality, as such, is an ill has been made a dogma of the mainstream narrative.

Before this proposition was a dogma advanced from the commanding heights of our culture, I seldom encountered any argument for it; and, when I did encounter an argument, it was just one of two.

The less infrequent argument was one of a crude utilitarianism. Like any utilitarianism, it assumed that utility were a quantity (or measurable by a quantity) commensurable across persons, the interpersonal sum of which quantity ought to be maximized; the argument further assumed that the marginal utility of wealth diminished at rates sufficiently close between any two persons that one could be assured that, by playing Robin Hood, one would generally increase that interpersonal sum. This argument could not have won the day, because its distinctive assumptions wither and die as they are dragged into the light.

The remaining argument was that material inequality impeded growth or even caused economic decline. Still less discussion was provided as to how material inequality brought-about these effects on growth; but, when discussion was provided, that discussion was characterized by confirmation-bias in the interpretation of correlation, by an unstated presumption that unconsumed wealth tends just to be warehoused (rather than invested), and by hand-waving.

However, instead of relying much upon these two arguments or upon some alternative, journalists and others increasingly began treating the idea that material inequality were bad as if it were obvious and unquestionable and in no need of argument; indeed, it was not explicitly stated, but insinuated, in expressions such as the problem of rising economic inequality. I expect that, if pressed and unable simply to dismiss a challenger as wicked or as stupid, the typical subscriber to this egalitarianism would grope his or her way to the old utilitarian argument or something very much like it, or would grab with relief at the claim that inequality undermines growth. But the typical subscriber simply is not pressed; she is in a bubble in which the proposition is just not challenged, and not even stated so that she might imagine challenge.

On the Practical Uselessness of Minimax Prescriptions

Monday, 25 October 2021

[I posted the following as an entry to Facebook two years ago.]

In game theory, there's a proposal that, in selecting amongst options, a player should choose that option with the least-bad worst case. So, for example, if the worst that could happen if you go to the bistro is that they get your order wrong, while the worst that could happen if you go to the bar is that you get knifed, then you should go the bistro.

Such a strategy is usually called minimax. (I think that it should have been called maximin, and indeed some people call it that, but they're very much bucking convention.)

The proposal seems plausible, especially when measures of probabilities are unknown (so that expected values cannot be calculated). But I think that notions of probabilities as measures inform and thus disinform the apparent reasonableness of minimax strategy.

When one conceptualizes probability as a measure, it is all too easy to think that all events with probability measure 0 might as well be treated as impossible. But they're not quite the same thing if one has to deal with infinitely many possible cases; some precisely specified possibilities would each have to have a probability measure of 0.

Possible events with truly horrible consequences can have a probability measure of zero, and will be disregarded if one treats that probability as equivalent to impossibility.

And, in the absence of actual measures of probability, then from the habit of treating events with very low measures of probability as if impossible can slide into the practice of more generally disregarding events that have low probability rank.

In a textbook game of poker or of dice or whatever, the worst possible outcome in the model is most often a loss of funds. In a real-world game of poker or of dice or whatever, the worst possible outcome is something far more dire, and hard to identify; we can think of awful possibilities, and then think of something still worse. Puffy may get angry, and shoot us; or he may shoot not only us but in his rage go shoot our loved ones as well.

Dissimilar Equivalence

Saturday, 28 August 2021

One of the points taught in a great many introductory courses on microeconomics is that a tax-cut can be expected to have the same effect on schedules of supply and of demand, and thence on the resulting equilibrium, as would a subsidy. In this sense, economics shows that a tax-cut is equivalent to a subsidy. And, ignoring differences in administrative costs, the resources possessed by the state given a tax-cut are equivalent to those after dispensation of a subsidy. But it is only in these effects that microeconomics shows an equivalence; and, even if we confine ourselves to the considerations of non-normative microeconomic theory, we would be speaking or writing rather loosely if we simply said that a tax-cut were the same as subsidy.

In the sphere of normative discourse, whether a party's refraining from taking is equivalent to giving is determined by whether that person or group of people is entitled to take. A person who forgives a debt may be said to give;[1] but the person who does not steal that which is yours does not in this way donate to you. The invaders or other thugs who declared themselves to be lords did not give what they merely did not confiscate from the farmers whom they conquered.

To treat a tax-cut as morally equivalent to a subsidy, or to do as so many progressives and left-wing populists — to insist that a failure to increase some tax on some party to a prior or even new level simply is a subsidy — is to insist that the state is morally entitled to tax at the greater level, that the state owns those resources.

This moral claim is certainly not a principle of economics nor a consequence of bringing economic principles to bear on moral theory, and should not be allowed to pass as such nor by insinuation.

[1] A creditor who forgives a debt has given her rights as surely as if she had assigned them to a third party.