+6 votes
asked ago by (1.5k points)
I am shortly going to post a question on teaching the shutdown decision (P<AVC) and thought I’d like to post under my real name. I found that I could switch, but it’s clumsy and takes about a day. That made me think of the ways one can post. If I were running this site, I’d allow any post or comment to be made under any of the three following, with easy personalized graphics for doing so:
1. Under one’s real name: Eric Rasmusen.
2. Under a semi-permanent pseudonym, Hoosier Economist, knowable by the webmaster and not especially secret.
3. Under a one-time-use pseudonym, Econ142a, knowable by the webmaster but secret from everyone else in the world under pain of liquidated damages of $50,000 paid by the AEA.
   Ex post regulation should be used, not ex ante regulation. Ex ante regulation is what research ethics committees do: they require you, at great cost and delay, to show in advance that you aren’t going to torture undergraduates, even though 99.9% of research is harmless. The alternative is ex post regulation: punish the .01% of researchers that torture undergraduates.  In the current context: let everything go through, but then punish posters who behave badly--- something very easy in EconSpark because only AEA members can post, so you can expel a miscreant, as a last resort, and make him buy a new membership to avoid your punishment.
commented ago by (1.2k points)
I firmly believe that people should own up to their opinions and writings under their true names. Think how much trouble would have been avoided if Facebook and other sites had enforced such a policy rigorously. There may be extremely rare exceptions (leaking the Pentagon Papers?), but they should be governed by very clear and narrow editorial policies. A problem with the ex post regulation that Rasmusen proposes is that the penalties cannot be severe enough to serve as an adequate deterrence to misuse. Of course my proposal is subject to its own problems: Who governs the editors?

1 Answer

+3 votes
answered ago by (800 points)
Yes! But I think the relevant comparison is not EJMR, as the tag suggests, but the very civil stack exchange site on academia at https://academia.stackexchange.com/ which also uses the question-answer format EconSpark uses rather than being a traditional forum.

Taking a look there, it should be clear that this is a very civil, constructive, and useful place in which many users ask questions anonymously (all the suggested options are present) for good reasons. Here are some examples in which anonymity makes very much sense:




Side remark: I'm not sure only AEA members are allowed to post here; the "About EconSpark"-section says "[t]his moderated message board was created to provide a place for members and other registered users to share information relevant to economics."

Another side remark: A point of research ethics committees is that allows researchers to do things that might be on the borderline of what might is admissible without having to fear negative consequences. It might well encourage bolder rather than timider research, though this clearly depends on the specific implementation. But messages don't need to get preapproved at EconSpark anyways.
commented ago by (1.8k points)
Michael Greinecker makes a very good point about StackExchange. I do not think we understand when the anonymity option turns toxic and when it does not—something about the frequency and motives of the trolls, and the confidence of the community, and the willingness of moderators to act, I suspect.

Until we figure this out, I am leery about Eric's option 3. But I wholeheartedly endorse (2). Secret identities have their uses, but they work best when they get reputations attached to them...


commented ago by (190 points)
edited ago by
How do you post something anonymously on EconSpark? I have a personal question I'd like to ask anonymously.
commented ago by (3.2k points)
The AEA will know who you are, but you can have a username (such as datacrat I suppose) that doesn't identify you to anyone else.