Monday assorted links


4: I'm having to guess about the Stephen Curry reference. Meaning that the son is upstaging the father? Fair enough, except Dell Curry was never a household name nor a superstar, whereas Richard Posner is (at least within households familiar with law and economics).

And Eric is not upstaging his father in fame, at least not yet, he's merely doing so in citations. Whereas Stephen is upstaging his father in both points (or whatever the analogue to citations is) and fame.

I think this is right on. Another way in which the comparison is backward is that Richard Posner (like Steph) helped revolutionize a field; Eric's work is entirely derivative.

Frankly, it would be quite embarrassing for Posner the younger were he not to finish with a much higher citation count than his father, considering only one of the two gets to write academic articles on a full-time basis.

Any intertemporal comparison of citations, such as between Richard and Eric, would need to control for the rises in the number of law journal articles and the number of citations per article. I suspect that the first has doubled, and the latter increased by 50%, in the last 30 years, yielding a triple in total citations.

#5, At the Economics Job Market Rumors site, the related discussion thread — which extended well past 1400 comments at the time of this writing — veers from sober analysis toward the offensive.

Yeah, Economics Job Market Rumors is like the Youtube comments section of economics -- if you post there, you *are* an idiot, no exceptions.

It's very likely that most readers of this blog lack the technical training to understand the criticisms from the EJMR thread.

What an ignorant comment - you are criticizing the "tone" of ejmr while completely ignoring the substance of the thread - either b/c you have no argument or are unable to understand the criticisms. EJMR can indeed be crude but there are undeniably many smart people there

#5: "I don’t let computer books in here because they are obsolete the day they’re printed."

It's very curious to find someone with a very passionate opinion but without any experience in the matter. It's his shop, he can do whatever he wants. But, Fortran and C++ are here for a long time, perhaps longer than the proud guardian of the bookshop gate =)

Throw in a "most" and he is right. For every "The Unix Programming Environment" there are 10 (or 100?) "Using Digital Research GEM," or "Newton, The Missing Manual."

You basically need to be a subject matter expert to know which are worth keeping around, so I don't blame him. He probably gets people trying to dump VBA 5.0 For Dummies on him.

"...he can do whatever he wants."

Yeah, that's the point. Good on him.

This book store owner is a kook and not that profitable, if he does not sell romance novels: "I won’t let romance novels pass the door sill. Why is that? Because they suck as literature."

In fact, as noted on this blog and as evidenced by my Filipino gf half my age, people who read romance novels tend to buy lots of them, even when the plot seems (to me) the same. Not unlike I suppose people who buy chess books. It's bad for business to ignore these customers.

I'm guessing he values being a smug elitist more than profits.

5: I agree that it doesn't seem to something to get worked up about, although some of the comments make decent points about sloppy literature review and incentives to get approved for publication first and finish the citations later.

I don't think I've seen commentary here about the website Econ Job Market Rumors. It can play a useful role, as in pointing out inadequate citation. But after I made a few visits there, I've never gone back to read it; not only is the signal-to-noise ratio abysmal, the noise is particularly toxic and trollish. Even the worst commentary here is a model of civilized discourse compared to the majority of EJMR's commentary. It is both saddening and worrisome to wonder how representative of economists are the mentalities on display there.

As the net marches on, this will only get worse. Everything will be subject to minute scrutiny by a million critical eyes. Perhaps that's a good thing in that it will force authors to be more thorough and disciplined. I don't see a downside except a few hurt feelings.

I wonder if a Watson-like AI could help here. Maybe it could store the entire literature in its knowledge base and provide a list of citations, ordered by relevance, for any requested topic -- and include comments on why a paper is relevant and how it relates to other papers.

That's a good and funny idea. Watson should correct all extant citations.

My original idea was you could automate the brickbat generation. You could use the EJMR comments to train the language generator.

This paper is typical (name of author's institution) puffery! It completely ignores contradictory studies in (citation) and (citation)! And the landmark paper (citation)! But when you're picking cherries in the cherry orchard, you ignore all the prunes! How come (name of first author's thesis adviser) students are all liars and con-artists?

If you read the comments on the link, it's pretty clear that the paper is not original but a replication exercise of a study done 40 years ago with a minor variation, the sort of thing that is never accepted in AER. Furthermore it is pretty likely the authors deliberately covered up the original rather than being ignorant of the study they "accidentally" replicated.

Completely agree Cliff - the comments about "tone" of ejmr are a red herring - anyone can go look at the thread and see it's a well-reasoned sober analysis that doesn't look good for the authors. The crude comments have been removed and that site serves as a public good for our profession in times like these

Ah, if there is now some form of moderation or deletion of comments, then I will take another look at EJMR. Even MR occasionally deletes comments, to the benefit of all (except the commenter, but the cost-benefit ratio is enormous even if not Pareto superior).

I agree with the public good nature of the site, however there are only so many hours in the day and I learn a lot more by spending x minutes reading MR than I do spending x minutes reading EJMR, given how many of those x minutes will be wasted wading through irrelevant foolish invective in the comments. Or finding good threads in the first place.

I suspect that I will continue my current strategy: if EJMR comes up with something interesting, then good on 'em. But I'll wait around and let somebody else find the needles in a haystack.

But I'll take another look (actually I did briefly look when I clicked on Tyler's link 5 and then glanced at the EJMR website; even the titles of the threads looked unpromising but I only glanced at them).

If Sunstein and Posner are amassing citations that much, then clearly the legal system (and likewise the country) are doomed.

But it will be a very exceptional police state. Americans deserve the best.

Sunstein at least is in tune with the new science of economics.

(It would be an error to believe mild paternalism is equivalent to fascism at this juncture, when elections offer that very choice.)

I will take the bait. Gosh, Joseph, which legal scholars do you wish were the most cited so that we can avoid a doomed legal system and a future police state?

Restricting ourselves to the 20th century and beyond, I’d suggest John W. Burgess (after about 1900), Edward S. Corwin (after 1947), John Bassett Moore, Edwin M. Borchard, Raoul Berger, Wythe Holt, George M. Dennison, Jonathan Turley, Thomas Y. Davies, William J. Novak, Peter Irons, and Dirk Markus Dubber. (There are quite a few others.) I have included a few legal historians, since the law is too important to leave to the lawyers.

5. There is a lot of noise on the Economics Job Market Rumors site, but the revelation that the AER permitted an editor to handle the paper of their collaborator in violation if their editorial policies raises eyebrows.

This seems like standard practice at some other journals like the Quarterly Journal of Economics, but the AER has long been thought of as the more meritocratic of the major economics journals. If true this is troubling indeed.

5: the story is not about missing a citation, it is about falsely claiming novelty and mis-representation of one's work in order to publish in the very best economic journal.
When one knows the impact that one paper in the AER can have on your academic career and on your lifetime income, then this business is actually very exciting.

3) interesting and positive at the neighborhood level, but disquieting that it is only time before robot shrimp crawl up to find the offending toilet.

#5 I'm liking him already. He has a taste when it comes to selecting books.

Seeing "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!" In a corner on the first picture of his bookstore is a good start. And it only gets better.

May 31-June 1 1916 - Battle of Jutland. Of the 9,000 or so who died in the waters off Denmark that day maybe about one hundred had pregnant wives and did not know it. Of those one hundred babies, there may be one or two still alive today; maybe hoisting a gin and a water in honor of their brave long-lost father. No direct connection to today's links (although Yikang was 4 at the time, neither of her parents directly participated in The Battle of Jutland).

#4: 8 out of 10 have 'constitutional law' as part of their book, even though that encompasses just a small sliver of legal manpower. Bores and sophists madly quoting each other, perhaps?

#5: For those of you who don't want to wade through the 1000 replies to the EJMR thread, here is a summary of the key issues (most of which weren't covered in the Retraction Watch article) of which "missing citations" is the least egregious:

1. Technical issues with the paper, which severely undercut the author's alleged contribution. See:

2. Editor has a close relationship with the authors, including being a recent and current coauthor.

3. Editor allowed the authors to add the missing citations and change how they placed their paper in the literature (at least the focus of their contribution) after the paper was reviewed.

4. The authors omitted highly relevant citations from their original paper. Whether this was done intentionally is irrelevant. Even after this was fixed in the latest drafts, there is still plenty to "get excited about" in light of the above points.

Thanks for the summary. Please allow me to give the first opinion of a layman (a non-economist, though I have published one paper in an economics journal long ago). This opinion may change is I get (or go fetch) more info.

1. is a serious problem for the paper, but not in itself for the authors: everyone can make mistake. If the issues are acknowledged, and the paper either corrected or retracted, I do not see any problem.

2. I don't know how it is in Economics, but in math this is fairly standard. At any given time, the number of very active and leading persons (say the persons who publish papers on this domain in the few best journals) in a domain is small, so the chance that an author and an editor (and an anonymous reviewer) knows themselves is high.
This is not ideal but this seems pretty unavoidable.

3. does not seem to me outrageous either, except if you mean that the referees have been induced into error on the significance of the paper by the first version, and were not given a chance to change their mind after seeing the corrected version.
Is there a way to know if this is the case? The referees could come out and protest against the editor, if that is the case (that is what I would do).

4. I think that whether it is intentional or not is on the contrary the main point of the whole affair.

In mathematics plagiarism is of course considered a very bad thing to do, but re-decovering unintentionally and without realizing it something already discovered earlier is frequent and unproblematic. "Something which is worth proving once is certainly worth proving twice", as we say. Often the oversight by the most recent author is pointed out by the overlooked one (if still alive), or by a third person, or by the overlooking author itself in a subsequent paper. Except when there is reason
to doubt the good faith of that author, no damage is done, and no hard feelings is created.

For 2, it is against the stated editorial policy of the journal in question for the assigned editor to be a current or recent coauthor. For 3, that is what I mean. The editor confirmed that the paper was not sent back out to the reviewers after the edits were made in the story on the Retraction Watch site. For 4, I meant that it's irrelevant in that it likely cannot be proved whether or not it was intentional, but that there is nevertheless more to the story (although the story is more about the journal and editor than the authors).

For 1, as the author of some of those criticisms of the paper, I fear raising them publically. The authors, editor, and the advisor of one of the authors had such an insulting and dismissive attitude towards those who raised the issue of the missing citations in the story on Retraction Watch, that I fear professional retaliation. Nevermind that they all acknowledged that the issue of the missing citations was legitimate.

Thanks a lot, Brett, for the explanation. Meanwhile I have skimmed the paper (final version), the comments on the rumors site (especially the one you link to), and re-read more carefully the story on Retraction Watch (which answered my point 3 as you did). I begin to understand what you find fishy about this paper. If I can summarize the argument against it as follows: In the current version, it is not nearly original enough to be published in that top journal. In the original submitted
version this lack of originality was not apparent because the relevant literature was not cited.

I agree that the comments of the former PhD advisor, as reported on Retraction Watch, are obnoxious.

Yes - your summary is correct - which is troublesome to me on several levels. First - if the issue is not dealt with it would create perverse incentives for our discipline - i.e. intentionally overlook citations while claiming novelty in a paper - if you're not caught then great you get a top publication! If you are caught - then you can just add a footnote and not be reevaluated in the correct context of the literature (think of all the things that could be "rediscovered").

Then there is the pure cronyism - which anyone can see violates AER's stated policies and we all agree is troubling in this case.

I kind of understand the whole story now. I am convinced that the paper should not have been published where it is and that someone did something wrong, even if it is not clear who among the author, the editor, the referees is to blame.

I am still surprised to see that this provokes such a large reaction from so many economists. This seems to mean that you guys Economists have higher standards than us. In Mathematics, we are used to see bad papers in top journals. I could have gotten upset from this 15 years ago, when I was a PhD student. But since then, I do not care. For what I have seen, when we hire or promote someone (as a post-doc, tenure-track or tenured professor) we do not look at where the papers are published, but as much as we can, at their content, and we use the help of all our relations in the field to try to get the most precise sense of what happens in these papers and how important they are. Well, at least, it is what I have seen in the US, because in France, where I began my life and career, journals and their rankings is all that matter.


The reason for such large response from economists as you mentioned is likely due to differences in our fields. In Economics - quality in papers is more subjective relative to Mathematics - which means that hiring, promotion, tenure, etc. it is more difficult to objectively measure quality - so it ends up being a very hierarchical prestige / signaling game where prestige of institutions and publications matters greatly - so for this journal an AER would have made someone else's career - so you can imagine how upsetting this whole affair is to people when a better paper was likely rejected in place of "Ruptures".

4. It's a sign of the times that the legal scholars most often cited for real-world subjects are experts in the fields of international (military) law and intellectual property law. Mark Lemley trains (at Stanford) aspiring patent lawyers when he isn't being one himself. Eric Posner often collaborates with Jack Goldsmith, the latter best known for attempting to derail the torture train in the Bush administration. Sometimes law school is relevant.

Your assertion runs contrary to the actual areas of specialization listed at the linked page. Constitutional law dominates this list, by far, followed by law and economics, and then by IP. Note that Jack Goldsmith himself is not on the list.

I had not heard of Yang Jiang. What a fascinating life, thanks for posting the link to the obituary.

#6. ...asked no one...ever.

The exchange between the person who proposed the question and DeLong's response of "hey that's a good question!" seems weird.

It's not a good question at all, for anyone who actually understands the culture and the institutions of the Byzantine world. They descendants of the Roman Empire. They may have been in the time of Constantine, but not for 800 years past that. Just think of who the ruling class in the Byzantine world were. Illyrians, Thracians, Dacians, with rudimentary understanding of the Roman world. Justin, Justinian etc. were just common peasants turned emperors. Common shepherds from Illyria.

Claiming that the Byzantine Empire represented an institutional and cultural continuation of the Roman like claiming that...Nigeria...represents a continuation of the British Empire :)

There was...NOT...800 years of continuity and stability. Most of their Empire was taken over for large periods of time by numerous competing entities, Slavic kingdoms, local warlords and chieftains etc. There was no central authority or common cultural/institutional overlap between the major areas of their Empire. They were, in essence, similar to the Ottoman Empire which succeeded them, where the central authority in Constantinople/Istanbul send out war parties to put down local warlords if they got too far out of control, but otherwise, left them to do as they wished.

The obvious and right answer is...Christianity. Orthodox Christianity is about as primitive and backward as they come. It's an Eastern religion whose only tentative link to Christianity is the fact that there's this dude named Jesus in it. Other than that, there's nothing Christian about that religion.

You look at the countries where "modernity" developed, and you see the same pattern. Protestant Christianity. The development of capitalism, industrialization and modernity is linked with Protestantism at the hip.

Hey DeLong...have you ever read anything by Doug North? Just a thought. It might explain why the question is actually quite, uninteresting.

The development of a personal relationship with God outside the structure of church and state seems to be the magic elixir for human progress in the last few centuries. From the Dutch to the British and then the US, it's a common thread.

And when that relationship falters, people again start to embrace the state for protection.

I'm an atheist so it's all rather peculiar.

It's not all that peculiar. The Catholic Church...was...a state. An authoritarian all-encompassing state. Its interests were in maintaining the relevance of their "state".

Protestantism allowed people to have their own interpretation of how to lead their lived, and how to relate to other people. Allowed ideas to flourish, and equally importantly, allowed ideas to compete. Without Protestantism, there can be no such thing as competition of ideas, since competing ideas were to be squashed.

Along comes Calvin and says "hey guys, maybe money-lending and trading ain't such a bad thing", and there you have the beginnings of banking and financial markets. Some people adopt that idea, others don't. Those that do, advance economically.

Additionally, the Catholic Church, and most prior religious institutions in most societies, emphasized that the highest thing someone could achieve with their lives was to enter the "exclusive" and "select" group of religious scholars. So if you were smart, you went into the church and retreated from the world.

This "retreat from the world" was a pretty fundamental concept of the Catholic Church. It remains so for most of the world's religions. Become an Imam, become a Buddhist monk etc. Those are the highest "ideals" for most pre-industrial societies.

Trading, and even worst, "money-lending", as well as almost every other "secular" economic activity was frowned upon. Or looked at as something for people who were not "chosen" or good enough to enter the select group of the few. You could engage in "science" and other sort of secular activities on your own as a hobby, or as a means of revealing theological truths. But not as ends in themselves. Certainly not for any commercial reasons. Big no-no.

Protestantism led to a major shift in ideology. Now, the way you...LIVED...your life mattered. What you did in the "secular" world was a reflection of your spirituality. There was no select group who lived "outside" the world. Anyone could interpret their spirituality anyway they wanted to. There was no "magic" knowledge that a small group had. This allowed the smart people, who previously would have decayed away closed up in a monastery, to apply their talents in the "secular" world. And by...creating wealth...which improved other people's lived a good life (which was something that Calvin implied). You were now...blessed...if you could make money! (fast forward to Joel Osteen :) )

And equally importantly, the "taboos" which had been around for hundreds of years due to one particular interpretation of the Bible by the Catholic Church, like the interpretation on money-lending, were open for debate and re-evaluation.

That's why Jews were so successful and ingrained in the banking industry in Europe. They didn't have to adhere to Catholic doctrine. Well, now neither did the Protestants.

PS: Not a knock on the Catholic Church. They did eventually "reform" their views on a lot of these things. But even today this whole "if you're any good, you should retreat from the secular world and come become a priest" is still a big theme in Catholicism. Just listen to EWTN radio or their TV channel sometime.

PPS: I highly recommend "Reformation Thought" by Alister McGrath. It's a fantastic book which highlights some of these points, although not as much since its a theology textbook. But in the last chapter he talks about some of these implications for the development of capitalism and modern institutions.

"It’s an Eastern religion whose only tentative link to Christianity is the fact that there’s this dude named Jesus in it."

Christianism, as all we know, is a religion who appeared in Spain, in the Western Europe.

Orthodox Christianity is about as primitive and backward as they come. It’s an Eastern religion whose only tentative link to Christianity is the fact that there’s this dude named Jesus in it. Other than that, there’s nothing Christian about that religion.

If you're a complete ignoramus about a subject, you might do people the courtesy of shutting your trap about it.

I was born and raised Orthodox.

Want to teach me something? lol

Having been raised in such an environment, you're probably more prone to biases about it than anyone.

"Why didn't the Byzantines develop an industrial revolution?" is the wrong question.

We wouldn't ask "why didn't chimpanzees tame fire?" because chimps are not supposed to tame fire, and neither were early human ancestors. These sorts of things are just not deterministic in that way.

No one is supposed to develop an industrial resolution. That's why the Byzantines didn't develop an one.

Right, I think we talked about that a little while back. That the industrial revolution came late means that it was long odds for everyone. Humans settled Scotland about 14,000 years ago. About 14,000 years later they broadly applied the steam engine.

A few hundred years later, we think it was easy.

Why didn't the Byzantines invent the internet?

What a bunch of dummies!

- Brad DeLong

"You look at the countries where “modernity” developed, and you see the same pattern. Protestant Christianity."

Ain't it the truth. The Protestants realized that riches were impossible to attain by individual effort. They could only come from the work of many directed by few, consumed by more. The Protestants decided to become the few.

Protestantism allowed for the development of capital markets. Prior to that, you couldn't get things like the industrial revolution.

Catholic trading cities Venice and Florence had reasonably sophisticated capital markets and systems of extending trade credit. Merchants would write IOUs to each other and banks would purchase the IOUs at a discount -- a loophole that allowed finance to flourish without religiously-minded authorities interfering.

IOUs will only get you so far. They are not capital markets.

Indeed, wasn't the Renaissance a necessary predecessor, before the Industrial Revolution could take place? And the Renaissance started, or at least first flourished, in Italy.

Wasn't not swinging from trees a necessity before the Renaissance? The chain of causality goes infinitum.

Although the IR started in a protestant country (the UK) it quickly spread to Europe and I don't think you could say that Catholic Bavaria for instance did not industrialize early. It seems to me that protestantism is more of a symptom than a cause, along with the idea of individualism and skepticism, of independent thinking people. It was that independent thinking tendency of North West European thinking that lead to the IR, as well as (earlier) protestantism , JS Mill, Adam Smith etc etc.

Bavaria did not industrialize early. It had little industrialization by 1850. But Bavaria is also hardly Catholic. It has a slight Catholic majority, but 40+% were Protestant even there.

Protestantism started about 150 years earlier than Industrialization.

Of course, the mechanisms through which it causes it can be argued and debated:

But it's still there.

If you focus on the set of conditions which existed in early industrializers and not other places, you basically have coal+naval.

Presumably not having "truth" dictated from the Vatican helped a lot, but I don't think there's anything specifically Protestant about that. Like, yeah, I get that it was a Protestant thing, but in my opinion it really doesn't go any deeper than not having truth dictated from a theocracy.

Re number 6 - Brad DeLong has been good on WWII so maybe he will have interesting things to say on the the Byzantines (the answer to his question, in my humble opinion, is not beyond historical comprehension - Chesterton (but not his crabby friend Belloc) completely missed it, and Gibbon would have missed it had he addressed it (although if they had cheap jet travel they would have come closer than they did) - Richardson got it (part - but only part - of the answer being the Turks as Soames/Lovelace)). By the way, N N Taleb - who, for all his self-indulgent liberal leanings, knows a lot about history - has recently had three really good twitter days - including a remarkable insight on the Byzantine power structure (Byzantine clerics would have dressed like charismatic politicians) and some honest explanations of the Revolutionary War winners' understanding of the First Amendment (Hulk Hogan was right).

#4 - Nihilst Tushnet is still on the list ... which others are nihilists?

5. The cabal led by Hillary Hoynes and Janet Currie has done a great deal of harm to the integrity of AER.

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