Thursday, May 25, 2023

SSRN follies

Earlier today, I decided to post on the Social Science Research Network (SSRN) two papers that I have written since the start of the year. Once they're up, I planned to link them here and make minor efforts to publicize them to potentially interested readers.

But one of them has been pulled by SSRN due to bizarro malfunctioning on their part that I have as not yet been able to get them to correct.

The paper at issue is called "Ancillary Benefits and Income Versus Consumption Taxation in Liam Murphy's and Thomas Nagel's The Myth of Ownership." It revisits my friendly disagreement with the authors, about twenty years ago, and my rethinking of my views since that time, regarding the relative merits of income and consumption taxes.

Here is the first email I got from SSRN about it:

"The SSRN Processing Team has added the following comment to your submission, Ancillary Benefits and Income Versus Consumption Taxation in Liam Murphy's and Thomas Nagel's The Myth of Ownership (Abstract ID 4459236):

"SSRN's medical screening process has begun. While under review, your paper will be temporarily removed from public view and your My Papers page."

Here is my response:

"This makes no sense. Why would this paper require "medical screening"? It has nothing more to do with medical issues than it does with the Man on the Moon. Please restore the paper for public viewing ASAP."

I also called SSRN and spoke to a live human who said she would get a further response from their reviewers. It came within a couple of hours, and read as follows:

"Dear Daniel,

"Your paper or analysis may be framed around a legal, economic, or other topic question; however, if the data that is used in the analysis is medical or health related, we must use caution around both patient and health information. We conduct medical screening on any such papers that include medical or health data to provide complete transparency and to follow best practices around any health data. Due to the caution that is required around health care or medical preprints for prevention of harm and to meet required reporting standards, SSRN screens these papers to ensure they have appropriate declarations around competing interests and funding as well as ethical approval and trial registration, where appropriate."

Here is how I responded:

"I’m sorry to have to repeat this, but nothing in the paper is IN ANY WAY WHATSOEVER medical or health related. It’s about philosophers and tax policy.

"My paper does NOT use any data - much less data that is medical or health related. It is not within a billion miles of having anything to do with patient or health information. There is absolutely nothing even remotely related to medical content OF ANY KIND.

"Please correct its erroneous suspension as soon as possible."

[Added 5 minutes later:] Now, looking back at all this, I think I've finally guessed the nature of the problem. If  you do a Google search for "ancillary benefits" (a phrase which is in my paper title), you can get something like this:

"Ancillary benefits are secondary health benefits provided alongside group health insurance to cover things like prescriptions and medical bills incurred during hospital stays."

 By contrast, when I speak of "ancillary benefits" in the paper, I am referring to Murphy's and Nagel's discussion of the benefits people may enjoy by reason of wealth-holding other than getting to consume the wealth - for example, its augmenting one's "security, political power, and social standing."

While this makes the whole thing less incomprehensible, I am not at present finding it very mollifying. 


Bruce said...

Do you think this is an AI-generated problem?

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