[OPE-L:5536] Re: archives

andrew kliman (Andrew_Kliman@classic.msn.com)
Fri, 26 Sep 1997 11:54:28 -0700 (PDT)

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In ope-l 5534, Ajit Sinha wrote:

"How can Andrew accuse you [Fred Moseley] of being out of line when he himself
cites ope-l in published work. See the recent RRPE foot note 6. Now, who knows
the interpretation he has put on the discussion he referrs to is correct or
not? Nobody can rebutt it since no name is given."

(1) With respect to the second issue, Ajit is quite right. As I noted in the
very beginning of my post on Jerry's proposal (ope-l 5456):

"As many of your know, I have always supported the opening of ope-l and the
opening of the ope-l archives, in the interest of a truthful, public,
historical record. (It is very weird to have to do what I've just done,
publish an article and rebut arguments that I indicate were made on a "closed
e-mail discussion list." The poor readers have no way of verifying whether I
portrayed the arguments accurately -- which I did, of course -- much less who
made the arguments. ...)"

Due to the suspicions that I anticipated and that Ajit has now voiced, I would
have much preferred to provide full citation to the arguments I was rebutting.
However, due to the closed nature of this list, what I did was the absolute
best I could do. I could have omitted citing the arguments entirely, but then
it may well have appeared that (a) I was constructing strawmen in order then
to knock them down, instead of dealing with the actual objections, or (b) that
the ideas I was presenting were as yet untested in debate, and that the reader
could expect that objections which would be lodged against them would be
compelling, i.e., more compelling than the objections which were in fact

As we see, even the procedure that I followed has not been sufficient to
dispel the suspicion that (a) has indeed occurred. This is, IMHO, a very
strong argument for opening the archives. It would be different were the
folks who debate with us on this list to debate the issues in public,
published forums as well. Then we could cite published work, and *one* reason
for opening the archives would be taken care of.

(2) In ope-l 5561, Michael Williams suggested:

"Now, there exists already customary practice for citing (ie crediting without
misrepresenting) conversation: viz a note such as "Karl Marx brought this to
my attention in conversation."; or "Similar points were debated at a seminar
in Trieste, involving, amongst others,
Aristotle, Georg Hegel, David Ricardo and Queen Elizabeth II." Now for OPE-L
members, this seems to be the appropriate way of
acknowledging the insights we have gained from our OPE-L 'conversations'."

In some cases, yes. Yet this clearly doesn't overcome suspicions of the kind
that Ajit has now voiced -- he thinks I'm an ignorant and dishonest buffoon,
so that only hard evidence can serve to defend my account of the debtate.
Note also that I did *not* even have the "right" to name names in my account.
Nor, according to Mike's reasoning, would it have done much good. As he also
wrote, "I don't 'ban' anyone from citing what I say in other semi- public
forums (at an academic seminar, for example), but nor do I feel constrained to

acknowledge let alone defend any statement thus cited." Thus, according to
his reasoning, had I been permitted to name names, it would have been
approriate for those I named to fail to acknowledge that they had said what I

(2) For the record, here is what I wrote in the offending article:

"It has recently been suggested that the TSS critiques have not refuted the
Okishio theorem, since it was meant all along to apply only to the special
cases in which technical change in one-time-only and/or post-innovation prices
are stationary.[6] [Footnote 6: These views have been put forward on the
Outline of Political Economy List, a closed e-mail discussion list.] I find
such suggestions implausible; apart from the TSS literature, discussions of
the theorem entirely overlook these issues. It seems doubtful, moreover, that
the theorem would have become so prominent, or so widely regarded as refuting
Marx's LTFPR [law of the tendential fall in the profit rate], had it been
thought to be so restricted in scope.

"In any case, whether the theorem is true or false depends only upon whether
its conclusion follows necessarily from the explicitly stated premises of the
theorem. In no existing version of the theorem are the above restrictions
stated explicitly, so, as stated in all existing versions, the Okishio theorem
is false.

"This should be acknowledged, and the excessive claims that have been made
concerning the theorem's import should be retracted in print. ..."

("The Okishio Theorem: An obituary," RRPE 29:3, Summer 1997, p. 49.)

(3) While readers on the "outside" are not able to verify the arguments in
the debate for themselves, Ajit certainly is, as are other members of this
list. I will be happy to provide post numbers so they can verify matters for
themselves. And anyone on the list is of course free to challenge my account,
above, of the debate.

(4) In his first point, Ajit draws an analogy between my citation of a debate
on ope-l and Fred's reference to the list in his attack on me (yes, I've read
his post on this. When Fred explains how his charge that my behavior was
"illegitimate" does not constitute a personal attack, I will be happy to
withdraw my version of events). Again, Ajit writes: "How can Andrew accuse
you [Fred Moseley] of being out of line when he himself cites ope-l in
published work."

My understanding of the closed nature of this list is that a general reference
to the arguments is acceptable but that citing what particular people have
said or failed to say is not. In light of this, there are two respects in
which Ajit's analogy fails. First, I did not name names. Second, I did not
challenge anyone to discuss what had or had not been said on a closed list.
(Yes, Fred has noted that his reference to ope-l was a shorthand that enabled
him not to reiterate the issues at length -- and I accept that. Yet the
charge of "illegitima[cy]" constituted a challenge, and, as I noted, my
response -- had I been willing to violate list protocol -- would have further
publicize what has and has not been said on this list.)

Of course, it has been ruled that my understanding of the closed nature of the
list is incorrect. I would normally ask for clarification of this, but I DO
NOT wish to do anything that would jeopardize Jerry's health. So Jerry, if
you do happen to be reading this, PLEASE do not intervene. We'll continue to
be unclear about list protocol in this area, but that's also not a
life-or-death matter. Your health is.

Andrew Kliman