[OPE-L:915] Re: Closed Lists RFC

Steve.Keen@unsw.EDU.AU (Steve.Keen@unsw.EDU.AU)
Thu, 1 Feb 1996 12:27:41 -0800

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Alan's arguments re opening the list remind me of recent debates on
PKT about closing it. Several leading PKers--Randy Wray is the most
recent--have lamented that the standard of debate is so low that
they're disinclined to stay on it, and they refer to others--such as
Hyman Minsky--who have already left.

In my opinion, they're right: the total openness of the list means
that characters with only passing knowledge of the area can dominate
the discussion, and--normally unintentionally--drive away those who
know a lot. An old retired gent called John Gelles, an Austrian (Greg
Ransom) and a believer in Say's Law (James Akhiapor) do most of this,
but there are others.

On the Marxism list, on the other hand,... lots of people do it. That
was started as an academic forum; it is now, for want of a better word,
an activist one. The level of "intra-species conflict" there frequently
reminded me of the Colloseum scene in the Life of Brian; life imitates
art once more.

So a couple of Alan's counter arguments to problems with opening the list
are, to my mind, blown out of the water by practical experience:

|Objection 1: There is a risk that this will open the list to spammers,
|list-jocks, neer-do-wells and lowlifes.
|Counter-argument 1: I think that if we have well-defined aims and
|objectives it is reasonably easy to explain to the unwanted why they are
|unwanted (because we're a group of people who have a agreed to do
|a definite thing, and if you don't want to do that thing, it's
|reasonable to ask you to do your own thing somewhere else)
|Counter-argument 2: I think the number of people wanting to involve their
|egos in a list on such an esoteric subject as political economy in the
|tradition of Marx, is not likely to be enormous; even if we do get the odd
|disruptive intervention, it's a safe bet they will soon get bored and go away.

Try explaining to some of the Marxism list why their comments on value debate
aren't what we're after! If you want to increase the noise to signal ratio,
I can't think of a better way to do it. And if you think there's a limited
number wanting to get in on the Marxism act, you're right. It's probably only
about 0.010f those on the Internet, which according to most recent estimates
is probably 3,500 people...

My comment on the PKT debates re format (I simply left Marxism) were that you
would never hold a real seminar in Times Square, so why hold a virtual one

My compromise suggestion was a two-tiered list, one open, one closed, with a
moderator(s); the closed list's posts were sent to both lists; the open list's
posts just went to the open list; the moderator could cross-post an interesting
open list comment to the closed, and people on the open list could be invited
to join by one (or maybe two) member of the closed list. This isn't perfect,
but I think inevitably the sheer volume (of posts and of potential postees)
will force a similar format on lists that are currently open.

I don't suggest that we do this with OPE-L at present; though I've been on
the sidelines for a while, it's only through time commitments elsewhere, and
I intend "making a noise" in about two weeks (using some of the debate over
Gil's posts as a springboard). It's not because I'm unhappy with the state of
the list--far from it.

All I would suggest is that maybe we could suggest some additional members. I
would recommend Ajit Sinha, for example.

But in general, I see Alan's post from the classic American (and I'm not one,
of course!) industrial perspective of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it".

Steve Keen