“Although predatory publishers predate open access, their
recent explosion was expedited by the emergence of fee-charging OA journals. Monica
Berger and Jill
Cirasella argue that librarians can play an important role in
helping researchers to avoid becoming prey. But there remains ambiguity over
what makes a publisher predatory. Librarians can help to counteract the
misconceptions and alarmism that stymie the acceptance of OA.”
They have some valid points, but there is also much that I disagree
with. They spend too much time criticizing Jeffrey Beall for not being
sufficiently supportive of OA. In addition, they confuse the issue of low
quality and predatory. There are a lot of low quality journals out there, but
they do not charge large fees to publish papers on line, they do not advertise that
you can have your paper published in a month, they do provide some peer review
and editing. They do not face up to the costs of the rush to OA, especially
attempts to mandate publication in OA journals.
Open access is not the same thing as predatory. Open access
means that people can view a piece of scholarship without having to pay a fee,
either directly or indirectly through their school or employer. Predatory
journals exist to make money by selling false information. The false
information that they sell is that the papers in them have been published in a
peer reviewed journal. Academics pay the predatory publisher to say that their
paper has been published in a peer reviewed journal; the academics then put the
lie into their cvs and their annual activity reports and their tenure and
promotion files. After examining a number of these journals I am convinced that
it is all too easy tell legitimate publishers from predatory publishers. The
researchers that publish in these fake journals are not being preyed upon; the
people that are led to believe that these researchers are publishing in peer
reviewed journals are the prey. Beall’slist is really more of a tool for these people than it is for researchers.
Being open access does not prove that a journal is predatory.
Not being open access does not prove that a journal is not predatory. There is,
however, a connection between open access and predatory publishers. Legitimate
open access journals have created an opportunity for predatory publishers by
publishing online and charging fees. Predatory publishers mimic these features,
but, unlike traditional journals they have no incentive to provide peer review
and editing. Traditional journals have an incentive to engage in careful peer
review and editing. They need to get people to buy their journal. The articles
have to be good enough that universities, members of an association, or people
in the field will be willing to pay to read them. Predatory publishers have no
incentive to expend time and resources on peer review and editing. The last
thing they want is to have anyone read the articles. If you read something like this it
will only make it harder to tell people that you thought you were publishing in
a legitimate journal.
Personally, I do not see publication in traditional journals
as incompatible with open access. I noted in a previous post that I went
through a recent issue of The American Economic
Review and was able to find an open access, or ungated, version of every
paper.In addition, we were hiring this
year and pretty much everyone had a website with access to their job market
paper. There are often some differences between the “ungated” version of a
paper and published version of a paper; if you want to cite a paper you should
probably get access to the published version. But if the issue is simply access
to research results the ungated version will typically provide this. It seems
to me that this general approach existed in economics for a long time. Even
before widespread access to the internet economists distributed working papers.
Pretty much anyone who mattered had
probably read your paper years before it appeared in print.There may be reasons why this approach will
not work in some disciplines. There may even be reasons it will not continue to
work in economics, but advocates for open access journals need to acknowledge
the problems they give rise to and the possible alternatives.
The U.S. Intellectual History Blog has published an interesting essay by James Livingston on the new history of capitalism and Walter Johnson's River of Dark Dreams. The essay is part 3 of a 4 part series.
I saw the other day that James Grant’s The Forgotten Depression had received an award from the Manhattan
Institute. The book argues that the economy recovered quickly from a “Depression”
in the early 1920s because the government did not intervene, and that this
provides a lesson for our times. On the same day I read a new paper in the Journal of American History, “Before the
Roar: U.S. Unemployment Relief after World War I and the Long History of a
Paternalist Welfare Policy,” by Daniel Amsterdam. You would think they were written about two
different countries. Amsterdam describes numerous government responses (largely
at the state and local level, but in some cases promoted at the federal level)
to unemployment during the recession in the early 1920s.
I have to say, I find The
Forgotten Depression and its reception a bit puzzling. It seems to me that
the need to identify examples of times when the economy recovered quickly
without government intervention is motivated more by politics than by economic
theory or historical evidence. Why should a recovery be quick? If a credit boom
leads to a severe misallocation of resources, why would we expect that
reallocation after the boom would occur at any particular speed? Where is there
in, for example, Austrian Business Cycle Theory a method of predicting how many months a
recovery will take? Why, even in the absence of government intervention, might
it not take years for reallocation to occur?
I can understand making an argument that, other things
equal, markets should adjust more quickly when there are fewer restrictions
placed upon them. But 1920 and 2008 are so far from other things equal it is
difficult to make useful comparisons. The two periods differ fundamentally in
terms of the source of the boom and bust. The misallocation of resources, by
peacetime standards, was driven by the war. In addition, Grant focuses on the federal
government’s response to unemployment, but before WWII spending by state and
local governments (as well as regulation) exceeded that of the federal
government. Just because the federal
government did not do something in the past does not mean that government did
not do it. One would need to look carefully at state and local actions to
understand the role of “government” during the recession of the early twenties.
Amsterdam does not provide a complete picture of state and local action, but it is a good start.
And, yes, I called it a recession, not a depression. If we
choose to call the early twenties a depression then almost every downturn in
U.S. history should be called a depression. Grant rejects recent estimates of
historical business cycles by Christina Romer. Perhaps Romer’s estimates are in
error, but I do not find the lyrics of “Aint We Got Fun” to be persuasive
evidence that she erred.
The graph below shows percent change in Real GDP (1890-1950) based on the Millennial
Edition of Historical Statistics (Ca 9). The recession of the early 1920s was simply was not unusually long or severe compared to other downturns.
I have recently written about some new books on the history
of slavery that I did not like. I just finished one that I really did like: A
Tale of Two Plantations: Slave Life and Labor in Jamaica and Virginia
by Stephen Dunn. It is a remarkable work, following the lives of hundreds of
slaves on two large plantations: Mesopotamia in Jamaica and Mount Airy on the
Northern Neck of Virginia, not far from where I live. The bloggers at the Junto devoted several days to
discussion of the book and an interview with the author. One of the things that
I most enjoyed was the description of the process of historical
research. I thought this book was a great example of the historian taking his
reader along with him to the archives, describing the difficulties in finding
sources, the limits of those sources, and how he made certain inferences from
I posted a link to Trevor Burnard’s review of The
Half Has Never Been Told in Slavery and Abolition. The review raises many of
the issues that I and Pseudoerasmus had
previously raised in our blogs. Because the journal also published Baptist’s reply I thought I
would review my take on the book and Baptist’s reply to some of the criticism.
My understanding of Baptist’s book is that he attempts
to develop the following chain of reasoning.
were capitalists, seeking profits by physically coercing, i.e. torturing slaves
to produce more.
time slaveholders increased productivity in cotton picking.
intense (or more effective) coercion was the source of increased productivity.
increases in cotton production were the driving force behind American economic
American capitalist development was driven by increasingly intense exploitation
Link 1. The first link in the chain is the strongest.
It is also the least novel. No one disputes that slaveholders physically abused
slaves to force them to work harder. The only real disputes have been about the
extent to which rewards were used relative to the extent to which punishment
was used. Fogel and Engerman leaned toward an emphasis on positive incentives.
Research since Time on the Cross, leans
the other way. Gutman showed the flaws in TOC analysis of whipping. Rick
Steckel demonstrated that heights of slaves were significantly lower than
whites, consistent with inadequate nutrition. The available evidence suggests
that the amount of labor that African Americans supplied after emancipation was
much less than they had supplied under slavery. And, although one might
question the extent to which they are representative, numerous slave narratives
and autobiographies provide evidence of extensive use of whipping and other
forms of torture.
Baptist, however, also tries to portray his view of
slaveholders as capitalists as a shift in historical understanding, and this is
one of the points upon which Burnard criticizes his book.
Baptist replies to Burnard
my introduction, I suggest that historians have not done enough to show the
nineteenth-century changes in the Southern slave economy on the one hand,
the emergence of industrial and financial capitalism in the USA on the other.
is miffed that I do not begin with a recitation of historiographical begats and
True enough, in this trade-press book, I chose to eschew the traditional long
slog of a monograph’s introductory chapter.
But in his book he does not just suggest that
historians have not done enough. He declares that
late antebellum years, northern travelers insisted that slave labor was less
efficient than free labor, a point of dogma that most historians and economists
This statement is demonstrably false and misleads
readers about the historiography of slavery. there have been
surveys of economic historians that show that more than two-thirds would agree
that slave agriculture was efficient relative to non-slave agriculture. It has
been more than a half century since Conrad and Meyer showed that investment in
slaves had a return comparable to other potential investments. Fogel and
Engerman long ago argued that slave agriculture was as dynamic a version of
capitalism as existed anywhere in the United States. In awarding the Nobel Prize to Fogel in 1993, the Nobel committee
stated that “Fogel showed that the established opinion that slavery was an
ineffective, unprofitable and pre-capitalist organization was incorrect. The
institution did not fall to pieces due to its economic weakness but collapsed
because of political decisions. He showed that the system, in spite of its
inhumanity, had been economically efficient.”
Burnard and others
have also questioned Baptist’s use of approaches usually associated with
fiction to describe the slave experience. This is not my style and it is
generally not what I like to read. On the other hand, as long as it is clear
when he is trying to use historical imagination to enhance our understanding I
don’t think it is necessarily illegitimate as a technique.
Link 2. There is considerable evidence that productivity
of cotton production increased. Baptist, however, did not produce this evidence
Paul Rhode and Alan Olmstead did. Baptist cites them, but he cites an old working
paper rather than the paper that was published in the Journal of Economic
History several years ago.
Link 3.Baptist misrepresents Rhode and Olmstead on the source of productivity increase.
They argue that the increase was due to improvements in cotton plants. They not
only provide evidence for increased productivity, they provide evidence that increase
in productivity were largest in areas where there was the most development of
new cotton plants. This evidence is the reason that they argue that plant
breeding was the primary source of productivity increase. They did not just
assume that it must have been improved knowledge about plant breeding. Baptist uses
their evidence on an overall increase in productivity but does not address
their evidence that productivity increased at different rates in different
parts of the South.
It is plausible that slaveholders got better at
coercion over time. They could have, for instance, made more extensive use of
the record books that form Olmstead and Rhode’s primary source to more
effectively determine their use of force. The trouble is that Baptist does not
show that coercion increased over time or respond to the evidence that
differences in plants caused the increases in picking productivity. Link 3 is
Link 4. This link
is the weakest. It is also not new. In the 1960s, Doug North essentially argued
that cotton exports were the driving force in antebellum growth because they
were at the center of interregional trade between the South, the West, and the
North. However, evidence since then has accumulated that tended to undermine
this theory. The South was not dependent on the West for food. Northern
development was driven largely by intra- regional rather than inter-regional
trade (see, for instance, Lindstrom on Philadelphia or more broadly, David
Meyer on industrialization).
The fundamental problem is that although cotton was
a large part of exports, exports were not a large part of GDP. Consequently,
cotton only accounted for about 4 percent of GDP. Baptist seeks to deal with
this through a bit of imaginative accounting. As I have pointed out previously
Baptist simply makes up the numbers for his calculation.
He replies to Burnard’s criticism of his calculation
consider my ‘back-of-the-envelope’ calculation on page 321 of my text.
. . don’t work out GNP by “back of the envelope” calculations’, Burnard huffs.
two of the finest economic historians of the nineteenth-century USA say about
‘work out’ historical GNP estimates:
pre-1929 estimates are based on fragmentary data that were not originally
the purpose of making national product estimates. This means that the
are less precise than the official estimates. Moreover, the further back in
these estimating methods are pushed, the more degraded the quality of existing
and the more scarce reliable detailed series become. These problems force the
to fill the gaps with interpolated data, rough estimates, and conjectured
between available and missing data. (PaulW. Rhode and Richard Sutch,
of National Product Before 1929’, in Historical Statistics of the United
Millennial Edition On Line, ed. Susan B. Carter et al. (Cambridge: Cambridge
Press, 2006), 3–12) In addition, careful readers will realize that whatever the
strengths or weaknesses of the speculations and conjectures which I undertake
on page 321, the exercise is not actually one of ‘working out GNP’.
This is a red herring. Interpolating and estimating
based upon conjectured relationships are not the same as just making things up.
Economists that make this calculations document the methods and the evidence
that they use to make these estimates. Baptist just throws numbers out, with no
rational or documentation. In addition,
although he says here that he is not working out GNP, in his book he refers to
GNP as a measure of economic activity and then concludes by telling us that nearly
half of economic activity can be attributed to cotton production by slaves.
Without links 3 and 4, the final link in the chain
also fails. What we are left with is a book that documents the abuse of slaves
and their movement west. These are important and, at points, Baptist handles
them well. There isn’t, however, much that is new.
As an economist I also feel the need to comment on
the exchange between Burnard and Baptist regarding economics. In his book
Baptist frequently feels the need to tell people what economists think or say. Almost
invariably, he ends up showing how little he knows about economics. I have already described his trouble with GDP,
but here are two additional examples.
led to continuous increases in productivity per person- what economists call “efficiency.”
Productivity refers to output per unit of input. Productivity
per person is like saying output per person per person. There are several
different definitions of efficiency. None are the same as productivity. In
other words, this is not what economists call efficiency.
decades before the financial crisis of 2008, most economists dogmatically
insisted the behavior of the market and its actors was inevitably rational. Yet
a few brave souls insisted that the history of bubbles, booms and crashes showed
a clear historical record of mass irrational economic behavior.” Page 270
In most of economists, rationality is a pretty
narrow concept having to do with preferences. It requires things like
any two bundles of goods a person either prefers one to the other or indifferent
between the two
bundle A is preferred to bundle B, and bundle
B to bundle C, then A is preferred to C
There is absolutely nothing in this conception of
rationality that implies that people have perfect information or that things
will always work out well. Many economic models analyze how things might not
work out well if people asymmetric information. A few people may have used the phrase
rational market, but it is not the typical use of the word rational among economists. Many economists do refer to
efficient markets. Ironically, the efficient market hypothesis implies that markets
follow a random walk; they are not predictable.