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Something has gone very wrong with the peer-review process.

Could it be that the reviewers are more concerned with WHO the author is than with what the author has to say?  - unless, of course, what the author has to say is critical of some beloved assumptions of those guarding the gates to their own academic citadel. This response it common to religions that are symbiotic with a state.

Thorstein Veblen compared hierarchical religious sects to retail distribution chains. An anthropologist would see the behavior amongst those in the 'mainstream' of modern economics as much more like a church and the theoretical systems as more like doctrine and heresy than like scientific postulate and experimental testing. It is not without reason that economists 'joke' about to which 'church' various economists belong. It is also significant that senior members of the profession argue that economics is more a branch of moral philosophy than of social science and that therefore a deductive, axiom based approach is in order. I agree with that view, though I find the 'moral' aspect problematic.  

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sat Mar 9th, 2013 at 01:07:24 PM EST
In, for instance, the Catholic Church any nonsense that the archbishop writes, provided it does not provoke a negative response from Rome, is 'received' guidance for the truly faithful. David Greenlaw has a rank in 'mainstream economics' comparable to that of a Catholic archbishop, I would argue.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sat Mar 9th, 2013 at 01:11:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And the Wall Street Journal is like the church news letter, especially the opinion pages. Substitute for 'moral' guidance investment guidance and you have the same tendentious advise, intended, at least, to make a positive contribution to the bottom line of the 'Chruch'.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sat Mar 9th, 2013 at 01:22:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
As I said, it's not that it was in the WSJ that baffles me. It's that the academic paper was published.

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed. Gandhi
by Cyrille (cyrillev domain yahoo.fr) on Sat Mar 9th, 2013 at 01:26:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Which journal?

The not-really-secret of scientific peer review is that you can get any old shit published somewhere. The problem with economics is that it publishes shit in its "top-tier" journals.

Actually, the real problem with the journal culture in economics is that it lacks second-tier journals - which is where all the scientific legwork gets done, as anybody who has ever compared, say, Nature and Physical Review Letters side-by-side will know.

So what you have in economics is three top-tier journals, which can get away with publishing any old shit which is Novel and Interesting, because there are no second-tier journals around to push them to at least make a cursory check that it is also methodologically sound and empirically relevant. And then you have a vast gulf of nothing at all until the third-tier specialist journals start. Which are, as in all fields, a somewhat mixed bag.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sat Mar 9th, 2013 at 03:24:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, that situation would, I feel, fully justify my title.
There are some honest PhDs in economics -I would bet my life that my brother is one. They joined a field that purports to follow scientific processes.

Now, I know that the views here are somewhat cynical towards that field. And I fully include myself in that. But this was not necessarily written with an ET reader in mind. If I just claim that the WSJ is corrupt, I'll be preaching to the choir -those who don't believe it will instantly stop listening.

So my angle of attack was not the conclusion, not even the person (well, not only the person), but the process. And my bitterness that something that I had to teach in introduction classes can be entirely overlooked by a per-review in the field.
And knowing that I am a far, far better economist than this overpaid guy, but currently unemployed while he's raking in millions, sort of rubs it in deeper, of course.

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed. Gandhi

by Cyrille (cyrillev domain yahoo.fr) on Sat Mar 9th, 2013 at 03:41:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There are a great many honest and competent people in economics. The natural habitat for honest, competent professionals is the second-tier journal.

In economics, they get published in third-tier journals and then tacitly ignored by everyone Important. Because the Important People publish mainly in the top-tier journals (whereas in a field like physics, even the Very, Very Important people don't regularly publish in top-tier journals - this definitely helps build recognition and credibility for the second tier, which I would argue is more important anyway).

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sat Mar 9th, 2013 at 04:46:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Economics is such an outlier in its politicization. Inconvenient economists are just ignored (Veblen included), while "useful" shit is accepted as routine (or even top tier) science.

I was asked a few times economics students to help with their regression or modeling exercises, thesis. It's always a disgrace: few points and with obvious problems, and always to show a tax/growth correlation or something.

Broadly though, the standards of science are quite decreasing (thanks to Indian publishers perhaps, but especially to corporatization of universities in management, funding). Apart from economics, those standards have a long way to go down for creationist satisfaction, though.

by das monde on Sun Mar 10th, 2013 at 06:36:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There is obviously little need for further decline, as the current state of resolute disconnect between economic theory and observed reality indicates.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Mar 10th, 2013 at 12:23:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"Economics is such an outlier in its politicization."

There is law. That said I sometimes suspect it's just tolerated at universities as a legacy. Being a part of university before the time science was invented.

by IM on Thu Mar 14th, 2013 at 04:47:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There is not much pretense of law studies as science. The academic tradition of law (and largely, medicine) studies stems from the need to prepare really skilled practitioners.

You also have "political sciences", "social studies" - but the softer flavor of science is humbly acknowledged there.

Economics is unique in its pretentiousness and its public status. They even give Nobel prizes (as they are widely known) in Economics, right?

by das monde on Sun Mar 17th, 2013 at 05:31:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, they do in Peace and Literature and they hardly pretend to be sciences.

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed. Gandhi
by Cyrille (cyrillev domain yahoo.fr) on Sun Mar 17th, 2013 at 05:42:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I had a frightening discussion with an expert in the Philosophy of Law recently.

Most people assume justice is a moral concept. But in legal terms it's considered by many lawyers and judges to be purely procedural.

So justice is considered served if due process is followed, even if the result is a moral nonsense.

This explains a lot about both politics and law, IMO.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sun Mar 17th, 2013 at 06:04:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, the important thing to understand is that the institution called "Justice" in various countries is not there to deliver justice but to uphold the law. It shocks most people's intuition, however there are also some good reasons for it in most situations.

But that does lead to some extreme. I'm pretty sure that it's a current US Supreme Court Justice who claimed that proof of innocence was no reason to cancel an execution that was decided by due process.

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed. Gandhi

by Cyrille (cyrillev domain yahoo.fr) on Sun Mar 17th, 2013 at 08:19:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Legal Positivism.

It has its merits, because the "natural law" people are also insane.

I distribute. You re-distribute. He gives your hard-earned money to lazy scroungers. -- JakeS

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Mar 17th, 2013 at 08:30:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well - both are a subjective exercise of political power. So I'm not sure one is any more insane than the other.

Utilitarianism is rather more practically oriented.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sun Mar 17th, 2013 at 09:27:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Except that utilitarianism is based on an exceedingly poor model of human behavior, making it just another Utopian mirage.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun Mar 17th, 2013 at 10:09:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That's better than being based on distilled fluff and rhetoric.

I suppose ideally you'd have explicit legal/political goals, and sanctions/rewards which would be calibrated and tested against an objective and provably accurate assessment of their value.

But why bother when you don't have to progress beyond simple emotionalism?

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sun Mar 17th, 2013 at 10:13:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
 >But in legal terms it's considered by many lawyers and judges to be purely procedural.<

Gerechtigkeit durch Verfahren. (Luhmann)

That said, due process is at least achievable. A just result is much more difficult.

by IM on Sun Mar 17th, 2013 at 03:19:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Do we know well how are we are treated by law?

Say, is that stuff about us as natural persons or CORPORATIONS serious?

For a change, here is a peculiar story of "science" and law colliding:
The Professor, the Bikini Model and the Suitcase Full of Trouble

by das monde on Mon Mar 18th, 2013 at 06:23:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
>There is not much pretense of law studies as science.<

True, that is the saving grace. A discipline should know it's limitations.

by IM on Sun Mar 17th, 2013 at 03:17:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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