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Site for Economics

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With the dismal science always present it is important for there to be a forum that allows open communication and disagreement over the policy which affects us all. Included in this scope would not only be discussion of theory but also practicality and current events. For example, "In what ways does Modern Monetary Theory differ from Keynesian theory?" is just as much a question within the scope as "What are the effects of current US stimulus checks on general price levels?".

It is key that this community would be moderated with recognition that there is founded disagreement on nearly everything, so while objective facts can be required, it is essential for moderators(and the community in general) to acknowledge limitations of what they can objectively know. That is to say, disagreement must be tolerated.

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We have a proposed scope with some support (it can always be discussed and refined). What this proposal really needs now is more people who'll help build the community. Monica Cellio‭ 6 months ago

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It would be nice to have site for economics. However, I think that the scope of the site should be better defined.

As currently written the scope reads quite broadly. If the sites rules will be that anything goes I think it will creates an atmosphere that will not encourage experts using the site.

For example, if the scope is to include current events would that include things like questions about stock market? Stock market commentary questions would technically qualify as economics and would be a discussion of current events but any such questions often cannot be answered by anything else then opinions as the events unfold. Furthermore, while such questions might be very interesting to public most professional economists usually dislike providing stock market commentary and leave that to traders/financiers (nowadays the split between finance/trading and financial economics is becoming larger and larger).

Second the post emphasizes disagreements, which I think it is bit unfortunate. Of course, there are disagreements within economics, as in other science, but for last decades in economics most disagreements on policy and other issues stem from people having different moral/ethical philosophies not as much from disagreements on underlaying economic mechanisms.

I think that if the economics site is to be successful and attract experts and professional economists it should discourage questions/answers that are mainly ethical/moral in favor of more factual based discussion. Unfortunately far too often economics discussion on the internet devolves just into pure moralizing, politics or just 'throwing' around opinions.

As a result I think it should be strongly encouraged that discussions are fact and science based.

To be clear the above does not mean that we should stifle different opinions. For example, even though vast majority of Economics profession favors free trade (as shown by this poll of top academic economists), and because trade theories, models and empirics often show free trade is beneficial and if not first best, second best or at least preferred option due to political constraints (e.g. Krugman 1987) it is definitely possible to make some science fact based arguments in favor of protectionism.

However, should posts/policy discussion based on nationalistic opinions that are not rooted in economics be allowed because disagreements must be tolerated?

Or should the site allow 'theories' about Rothschild family trying to take over the world through fiat money system that has zero basis in fact or science because we need to acknowledge that there are epistemological limits to what can be objectively known?

I don't think so and if those will be allowed again it will just discourage/scare off experts away.

And yes I realize that the examples above are provocative, but even under generous reading of the description provided the above would be on topic. I think if the Economics Q&A site has any chance of being successful and attract economists who will then support the site there must be some litmus test applied to questions and answers.

Also, since the tone on internet is very hard to discern let me say that I am not trying to be harsh or overtly negative. Neither I am trying trying to advocate stifling open discourse. In fact as an economist I believe one should always be open not just to mainstream orthodoxy but also allow discussion of heterodox ideas. But there is fine line between being open-minded and encouraging sophistry. As the description is currently written it is in my opinion simply too permissive and puts too much emphasis on toleration of any disagreements. Unfortunately such permissiveness often leads discourse that while might be about economics is not rooted in it and tends to crowd out expert, fact and research based discourse (since as opposed to natural sciences like physics where people tend to be more self aware of the limits of their knowledge when it comes to economics the Dunning–Kruger effect is sadly widespread).


My proposed scope of an Economics site:

  1. Current events can be on topic but only to the degree they can be answered in objective fashion by models, (scientific) theories, research and facts.

For example:

  • question: what does trade theory says about Brexit? Would be on topic. One can provide grounded answer to such question.

  • question: why did stock market fall by 5% today? Would not be on topic. Even if there was some negative news that could have affected stock market how can we be sure that the fall was due to that information and not just random variation. To analyze variation in stock market prices in relation to some particular event one normally has to perform some sort of event study, or otherwise one can only opine about whether the event had any effect.

  • question: how does [enter some type of event] affect stock prices? Could be on topic since if it is not an unique and current event probably someone already did some rigorous research.

  1. Personal finance and accounting should be off topic. Even though strictly speaking these things might qualify as economics I think it would be best to have separate site for them. My reasoning for this is that personal finance and accounting often generate personal questions that are of little interest to most economist experts. If these will be allowed I worry the site will be so drowned in these questions that it will become just a personal finance and accounting site.

  2. When it comes to facts and sources, I agree there should be some epistemological humility on the side of moderators but I think there should be some minimum litmus test. For example, a question which starts with outlandish claim, for example all central banks are controlled by Rothschilds family should be closed.

I think the litmus test should be that the more outlandish claim the stricter should be the requirement for providing references to fact and sources (preferably of an academic sort).

  1. Economics is split into positive economics preoccupied with what is and normative economics that discusses what should be.
  • I think the site should have bias towards the positive economics. Positive economics questions can always be answered in objective manner. Even if there is disagreement in economics because of competing theories or empirical estimations at least here the discussion always tends to be grounded.

  • Normative economics should not be off topic per se but we should be very careful with what normative economics we allow here. I do not think this site should become moral philosophy site (there should be separate site for that). Consequently we should allow normative questions that not just pure moralizing.

That is normative questions such as:

  • what is the optimal marginal tax rate schedule under Rawlsian social preferences? or What is the difference between optimal top marginal tax rate under Rawlsian and Utilitarian and libertarian social preferences? Should be on topic.

but questions like:

  • Are money root of all evil? Is usury a sin? Is communism/capitalism etc. evil/good? Should not be allowed.
  1. We should discourage questions that are too broad or just seek opinions.

For example, questions such as:

  • if an economist could build an utopia how it would look like? While such question can be fun - there already are many platforms for such questions e.g. reddit, various facebook groups etc. From my observations these kinds of questions just devolve into purely opinionated discussion with no end because organizing the whole society is extremely broad question and implicit in the above question are also some serious moral/value judgements so it would be problematic also from the previous point.
  1. On purely practical note we should have some strict rules about 'homework' questions. This should stay on topic but there should be strict rules/litmus test so the site will not get flooded by questions such as:
  • Total costs are given by TC=2Q^2 how do I calculate marginal cost?

Users should be required to attempt the question themselves and describe where they go stuck.


I think criteria like those above (and maybe some further ones) would help to make site a space which would be treasured by professional economists. In turn professional economists will be able to provide high quality answers which will encourage users seeking answers to their questions about economics in science and fact based manner. It would encourage people who are passionate about economics as a science.

PS: Let me once more reiterate that I am not trying to be purposefully negative/provocative. The criticism above comes from a place of love for idea of another Economics Q&A site not hate.

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9 comments

Thank you; this is helpful input. Would you perhaps be able to propose a high-level scope description -- what topics should be on-topic, as opposed to what shouldn't be? How do expert economists (of which set I am not a member) frame things? Monica Cellio‭ 6 months ago

@MonicaCellio thanks for feedback I added section with such proposal. 1muflon1‭ 6 months ago

Thanks for these additions -- very helpful! This looks like a good starting point for other economics experts to weigh in on. (Oh, that reminds me -- "survey of interest" post coming right up.) Monica Cellio‭ 6 months ago

I would agree with your scope if it can be agreed that a question about a theory could still be allowed. For example, maybe instead of asking, "Will the US national debt cause total disaster?" a better question would be "What is the Keynesian perspective on excessive national debt?" Aidan‭ 6 months ago

@Aidan yes asking what is Keynesian perspective of National debt would be actually a positive question regardless of whether the theory is correct or not, theory is a set of positive statements. As such it would be totally within the scope. However, I am not sure if we completely understand each other because I am not sure if you are economist or not because non-economists often conflate some moral propositions about government role in economy with Keynesian economics. 1muflon1‭ 6 months ago

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Right now we don't have a good way of identifying people who would help build a new community, so let's do this: if you are interested in helping to build this site, please leave a comment describing your level of interest (casual visitor, enthusiast, expert in this topic within the site's scope, something else?), or edit this post directly if you're able to. I'll edit comments into the post later.

  • I would be willing to help build this community. I think it is fair to say I am expert in economics. I have Msc. in Public Economics and second Msc. in International Economics. I am also graduate student of economics and have 5y+ experience as research assistant at institutions that include among other member banks of ECB and in academia. I also happen to be high-rep user on beta Economics.SE. I know that is technically competing site but I don't see reason why I could not be actively engaged in both communities. As an economist I think competition is very important as monopolies lead to inefficiencies and give people power to make arbitrary decisions. I think I will have enough time to contribute to both communities and perhaps even help build bridges so these communities can coexist/cooperate together in harmony. — ‭1muflon1‭

  • Seeing as I am the one who submitted this idea I would say I am an enthusiast, but in no ways an expert. — ‭Aidan

  • Please add me. I'm no expert, but I work in the industry. — PLTR PSTH

  • Sign me up! Thanks! I majored in economics in undergrad. — Technologically illiterate‭

  • Add me please. I majored in economics in undergrad too. I have at least 100 questions? I'm stipulating a number so that you know you'll be seeing many questions from me! — Chgg Clou

  • I'm dumbfound this isn't already up and running! I think Codidact is missing out on the action! Just look at the investing subs on Reddit and Money Stack Exchange! People are flooding in because of the Game stop short squeeze! I took some econ courses as part of my undergrad degree in finance. I'll definitely be active. — DNB‭

  • Sign me up! I'm dumbstruck too why this hasn't been launched already. How can you not be affected by macroeconomics, like interest rate and unemployment? My dad has a MBA and we can all contribute. — Technologically illiterate‭

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7 comments

I would be willing to help build this community. I think it is fair to say I am expert in economics. I have Msc. in Public Economics and second Msc. in International Economics. I am also graduate student of economics and have 5y+ experience as research assistant at institutions that include among other member banks of ECB and in academia. I also happen to be high-rep user on beta Economics.SE (I rank 4th). I know that is technically competing site but I don't see reason... 1muflon1‭ 6 months ago

...why I could not be actively engaged in both communities. As an economist I think competition is very important as monopolies lead to inefficiencies and give people power to make arbitrary decisions. I think I will have enough time to contribute to both communities and perhaps even help build bridges so these communities can coexist/cooperate together in harmony. 1muflon1‭ 6 months ago

@1muflon1‭ glad to have you! I suspected from your scope answer that you had some decent background in the field. :-) We do not see Codidact and SE as a zero-sum game; the platforms and the communities emphasize different things, and it's quite fine to participate on both. Our Judaism community gets along well with SE's Mi Yodeya, for example. Bridges are good, and I hope others from Econ.SE would participate here too. Monica Cellio‭ 6 months ago

@MonicaCellio glad to hear that. I will try to encourage others to participate here as well if Economics site will be established. Also does codidact have any plans for allowing people to transfer reputation between sites? Such option would probably encourage high-rep users to be active on both networks. 1muflon1‭ 6 months ago

@‭1muflon1‭ we're going to be revising reputation, actually -- see coming soon: abilities and changes to reputation. We do have data import (so people can bring in Q&A from SE) but it's a little fragile and we want to make changes before doing more of that. So no direct rep transfer, but people will gain prominence here especially when a community is new, and we can talk about ways to make connections to SE identity more visible (thinking out loud). Monica Cellio‭ 6 months ago

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