Ed. note: Today’s column is written by Darren Bush, who has a unique experience, along with his coauthors Gabriel Lozada and Mark Glick. The following are his words alone.
Our piece was published in ProMarket. Then, it was pulled by ProMarket. This is the story of that nightmare.
What follows should not be interpreted as disparaging ProMarket staff editors, who we have thoroughly enjoyed working with. The problem, quite frankly, came from the Advisory Board.
It started with a simple proof: Output does not increase welfare. Many in the antitrust community have written that output always increases welfare. It is tied to welfare. We aimed to prove, and did prove, it ain’t necessarily so. Hence the title “The Antitrust Output Goal Cannot Measure Welfare.”
After the piece was posted, we sent it around to other economists. No one said a word of complaint. And according to ProMarket, it did not receive any complaints, either. Except one: An anonymous Board member complained to an Editorial Board member. Then the trouble started. To this day, we do not know the name of the Advisory Board member. In fact, we were not even told that an Advisory Board member complained until the last day of this ordeal.
What followed was several suggestions. Pull the graphs in the piece. But the graphs weren’t wrong. ProMarket admitted to us that we proved what we set out to prove. We have all the emails.
A week of near daily back and forth began. We offered to change the graphs to avoid any confusion. We rewrote the piece and offered to publish that revision instead to avoid any potential confusion. And at that point, we believed it was indeed confusion, which we were happy to resolve. Then, abruptly, as our replacement piece was submitted, ProMarket suggested that we just voluntarily pull the article.
We balked. You only withdraw pieces that are wrong. This one isn’t wrong. At that point, within 24 hours, ProMarket insisted on the piece being pulled.
Did I mention that I have shown the piece to economists (including ones who have published in ProMarket)? No one except this Board Member and the Editorial Board member has claimed anything wrong with our argument, which was quite simple: Increased output does not necessarily increase welfare.
It wasn’t the first time we had trouble with ProMarket. We had to pull a piece from them before. Moreover, the reasons stated for pulling this piece demonstrated serious misunderstanding and perhaps mere pretext as to some other reason for pulling the piece. I’m speculating. The piece was correct, but someone required that it be pulled. No one had complained except an anonymous Advisory Board member. NO ONE.
We simultaneously pulled another piece we had planned to submit to ProMarket on the proposed Merger Guideliness. At this point, ProMarket signaled to us major concerns about their intellectual integrity. Why would they hesitate to do this to ourpieces in the future? They appeared to have no problem doing it to us now.
I confess I lost my temper. I insisted they preserve all documents related to ANY pieces we published. If they had claimed the piece was wrong, I would have sued. I threatened suit, and reminded ProMarket that it sits at the University of Chicago, a university that allegedly prides itself on free speech. The irony is not lost on me.
A compromise was reached. They would pull the piece, and this language would be put in its stead:
ProMarket published the article “The Antitrust Output Goal Cannot Measure Welfare.” The main claim of the article was that “a shift out in a production possibility frontier does not necessarily increase welfare, as assessed by a social welfare function.” The published version was unclear on whether the theorem contained in the article was a statement about an equilibrium outcome or a mere existence claim, regardless of the possibility that this outcome might occur in equilibrium. When we asked the authors to clarify, they stated that their claim regarded only the existence of such points, not their occurrence in equilibrium. After this clarification, ProMarket decided that the article was uninteresting and withdrew its publication.
The piece will soon reappear in The Sling (along with proposed revisions that were rejected). I write to point out that the usual, professional, and correct step if you find issue with a piece is to write a reply, NOT FORCE THE REMOVAL from behind a cowardly anonymous veil of power.
LawProfBlawg is an anonymous law professor. You can see more of his musings here. He is way funnier on social media, he claims. Please follow him on X/Twitter/whatever (@lawprofblawg). Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.