From the Editor
Although I think that the Cambridge Journal of Economics (CJE) is surely a fine outlet for any paper, I have to confess I was a little bit surprised to see the already famous critique on Reinhart and Rogoff's argument regarding the relationship between public debt and growth (the "a public debt-to-GDP ratio of 90% is a red line”-argument) authored by Thomas Herndon, Michael Ash and Robert Pollin being published in the current issue of the CJE. This paper is not only famous, but also interesting and goes far beyond the "Excel-Gate"-aspect mainly featured in the media (you hopefully have seen Tom Herndon's report on his findings at Colbert's...); it's work of considerable scholarly value, since it corrects some past errors. However, my confusion stems from the fact the original papers by Reinhart and Rogoff were published in the NBER-series as well as in the Papers & Proceedings Issue of the American Economic Review (AER). So, why do I find this utterly important paper on the pages of the CJE and not in one of these two outlets?
Driven by intense curiosity I confronted Robert Pollin, the paper's corresponding author, with the question whether the paper has not been submitted to the AER, where the original article of Reinhart and Rogoff has appeared. He told me that "The AER turned down our paper. Their reason was that the original Reinhart/Rogoff paper was published in their Papers and Proceedings issue of the AER, not in their issues in which papers are refereed. They said they have a strict policy of not publishing responses to the papers from their papers and proceedings issue."I think this episode is exemplary for the academic standards established in current economics. In this case of "rigorous editing" the element of “rigor” is, as in so many other branches of mainstream economic thinking, expressed by “rigorously following conventions”. While “rigor” is often alluded to in economic research seminars, such a kind of conventionalist rigorism trumps critical attitude and hinders the search for true or reliable answers to economic questions. However, while this case is sad as well as amusing, there is no actual news-value here. As we have already been told in 1898: “The standpoint of classical (and current, if I might add) economists […] may not inaptly be called the standpoint of ceremonial adequacy.” (T.B. Veblen)
All the Best!