[OPE-L:2173] Depreciation: Seminar proposal

Alan Freeman (100042.617@compuserve.com)
Sun, 12 May 1996 15:30:02 -0700

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"It might be more constructive to identify a couple of
questions of interest, and work out the consequences of the
various interpretations on them, preferably with each camp
taking the responsibility of working out the consequences of
the other interpretations carefully and accurately."

I'm happy to run with this. I have a concrete proposal. I
volunteer to run a 'seminar' on depreciation. This is one of
the principal concerns of many on the list, it has been aired a
lot and OPE as a whole has a lot to contribute on it. One
further advantage of this topic may be that there is by no
means a homogenous view on it in any 'camp' so that it won't
just be a set-to between camps. Moreover by separating it out
as a distinct discussion we may deal with some of the problems
of volume that have preoccupied us in the past.

I want to suggest some procedures that I think will help but am
open to any others; this is only an initial list to give an
idea of what I have in mind.

(1) I would like to be given about four weeks to prepare a
paper on the question, rather than just a few comments. This
would let me carefully examine what everyone else has written,
which I have fallen behind on.

(2) I would not simply argue a single point of view but examine
what I see as the several different points of view on the
question, and to try to introduce all the different issues that
have been raised (uncertainty, moral and material depreciation,
the role of capitalist accounting, etc). My sights would be set
in the first instance on increasing our understanding of
deprectiation. However my criterion for success (unlikely)
would be if in addition I can draw up a 'road-map' of the
different views which all agree, accurately represents their

(3)the discussion should take place on CAP-L so that it leaves
space for other debates on OPE-L and so that the CAP-L
discussion can focus more single-mindedly on the issue

(4)there should be adequate space for 'longer' contributions.
The general motto would be 'less but better'. I think I would
probably post my paper on some agreed web or FTP site rather
than post it as a general message, and perhaps some of the
replies could be likewise placed in a generally accessible

(5)if we can we should try and find a moderator and some
discussants. The moderator's job is not great but would combine
ensuring that all issues are discussed, that all points of view
are considered, and that the discussion does not digress too
much. Since it is not likely that any point of view will stay
quiet or that anyone will fail to raise an issue of concern, at
least two-thirds of the job is quite easy. The discussants
would have the normal role of trying to point out
inconsistencies or gaps, looking for additional connections,
and so on.

(5) the discussion should run for a definite time (I suggest
six weeks). At the end of this time it would be the job of
myself, aided by the moderator and the discussants, to try and
propose some conclusions. Conclusions would not be 'what has
been proven' but 'what the issues are, where we agree, and
where we disagree'. There might then be a further round to
establish whether these conclusions are generally accepted or
not and to try and refine them.

(6) we take a list of who wants to participate in the
discussion at the outset, and agree that if a participant wants
to propose a couple of additional non-OPE-L members to take
part in the discussion, this would be normally accepted. This
corresponds quite closely to the original plan for CAP-L if my
memory serves me right

(7) possibly the most controversial aspect of my proposal is to
agree in advance that the results would be in principle in the
public domain. By this I don't mean we rush out and publish it,
but that for example if I want to send the debate to colleagues
interested in the issue, I have the prior consent of all
participants to send the whole of the debate. The reason for
this is that (a) I think it will lead to a more carefully
considered debate (b) it is important for all of us not to
exclude from our discussions people whom we work with and who
are interested in these topics, who are not members of OPE.

I am only volunteering myself because so far in response to
several suggestions I have made for a more or less 'documented'
or seminar-type discussion, no-one else has yet come forward.

I would be happy to see other topics similarly discussed,
for example the value of money or dynamic models, and would
love to see other seminar leaders.

Perhaps if this seminar is a success others might be encouraged
to do likewise.