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Important Message to Economists: You No Longer Need to Be Nice to Me

I became an editor at the Journal of Political Economy eight years ago.

The J.P.E., as it is known within the economics profession, is one of the most prestigious academic journals in economics. Having a paper accepted or rejected at J.P.E. can make or break a young academic’s career. My guess is that having a paper published in the journal is worth $100,000 in future earnings. Being an editor gives you real power within the profession.

The first thing I noticed when I became an editor is how nice everyone was to me all of a sudden. When I would visit another school there was never a shortage of people who wanted to talk to me. Folks I barely knew were always making the extra effort to keep me up to date on their latest ideas. Whenever I asked for a favor, there was rarely any hesitation to help me out.

Some new editors are bothered by this royal treatment. Others recognize the phenomenon for what it is and simply discount all the friendly attention. I took a third course: even though deep down I knew the real reason why people were being nice to me, in my mind I pretended that economists really liked me for who I was as a person and a scholar. As long as I didn’t think too hard about it, I was able to deceive myself pretty successfully for eight years.

Now the party is over.

As of April 1, 2008 I have stepped down as an editor at J.P.E. and will not be taking any new manuscripts. Except for the handful of authors whose papers I am currently handling, there is officially no longer any reason for economists to be nice to me. (Unless, of course, they plan on writing a popular economics book and want me to blurb it, as happens about once a week.) I suspect that once the word spreads, I can forget about any kindness within the profession.

As an editor I rejected nearly 2,000 papers. Every time I rejected a paper I made an enemy. That is a lot of enemies.

I accepted only about 100 papers total. Every author whose paper I accepted was certain their paper should be accepted and therefore gave me little credit for making the proper decision.

Being an editor is not a great job. I spent at least a day a week on the job and never received any official financial compensation.

I did find, however, that people were willing to offer me large bribes to get their papers published — often upwards of $50,000 per paper. So I made a pretty good living off the corruption. I will miss the extra income.