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Where are the economists who specialize in antitrust, i.e., those
who have devoted their professional lives--decades of study--to monopoly
problems? Are they on the Net and, if so, where? If not, why not? As I
think I've mentioned before, some 2,000 members of the American Economic
Association (AEA) list industrial- organization (antimonopoly) economics as
one of their principal areas of interest. (My journal, the *Antitrust Law &
Economics Review,* goes to virtually all of the larger universities (plus a
lot of smaller ones) for the use, primarily, of their economics departments
and law schools.) Why are all these 'expert' antitrust economists not
participants in this discussion list? I can think of several possibilities:
1. They're not 'wired,' i.e., they're not on the Net. Unimpressed
by the cyber- space revolution, they're still somewhere back in the stacks
at their local libraries.
2. They're wired--have E-mail addresses--but they're too busy
making big bucks as 'expert' witnesses for, and consultants to, corporate
America (up to $5,000 per day) to bother with anything so trivial as a Net
3 They're hoarding their intellectual capital. Participating in a
discussion group means, by definition, a sharing of thoughts, ideas, data.
Under the publish-or -perish imperative, why give away something that a
rival-academic might steal, shove into a hasty article of his own, and use
to claim credit for intellectual achievement that rightly belongs elsewhere?
4. They've checked out this (and perhaps other) discussion groups
and don't like what they see, e.g., the issues being discussed don't
interest them, the format of the discussion list doesn't appeal to them, and
I know personally perhaps a couple of hundred of these specialized
economists and at least a few of the more senior ones are indeed unwired,
per (1), above. They've heard of nothing going on in cyberspace that, in
their view, would justify the personal effort they believe would be required
to master this new medium. And while I've not talked with any about
#3--sharing nothing with academic competitors until it has first been
published between paper covers--rivalry in academia is sufficiently intense
and personal that I would expect a substantial number to be, at best,
lurkers rather than participants in a discussion group.
#2--the lure of big 'consulting' bucks from the monopolists--is, in
my view, a virtually universal negative force here: When you can sell your
time for $500 or so per hour, why give even a few minutes of it away,
whether by writing a (paper) article or offering an online comment? Not all
of these 2,000 economic 'experts' are currently selling their opinions
(theories) so lucratively, of course, but all can--and most presumably
do--aspire to that lofty sell-out rate to the corporate monopolists.
That leaves us with #4--the possibility that there are at least a
few able and public-spirited (antimonopoly) economists who would be active
participants on an antitrust discussion list IF they found it personally and
professionally congenial. We can safely assume that no senior antitrust
economist would find it attractive to offer his hard-won experience and
knowledge to a group that responded by subjecting him to personal insults.
On the other hand, suppose that there was an antimonopoly discussion list
that gave appropriate recognition to his achievements, treated him with the
respect the latter deserved, considered his policy views with respect, and
carefully protected him from the insolent, the ignorant, and so on? How
could the list guarantee him that latter protection--and thus give this
senior scholar a serious incentive to share his wealth of economic knowledge
and experience with the rest of us?
Such a list could be 'unmoderated' in the generic sense that
membership is open to all and posts are allowed to go through to all members
without screening by a list owner or moderator. If the objective of the
list is to attract the most senior and knowledgeable members, however, its
other rules must be designed with their interests in mind. I would suggest
1. No name-calling, ad hominem attacks, or discourteous, uncivil,
disrespectful or offensive posts.
2. The list owner will himself, or through a designate, provide an
E-mail address for the lodging of complaints under (1), above, either by
the person offended or by any other member of the list.