Monday, May 25, 2009

Some Notes on Responsibility

Slightly revised version of some comments I left on - Does Blind Review Slow Down Science?

First I should state that I disagree with anonymous review for the same reasons that I disagree with an unaccountable judiciary - the negative effects on responsibility.

However, there are several problems with the theory in this essay - the most important being that the editors know who the writer or researcher is and can decide to go ahead and publish on that score no matter what the reviewers say. The editors have a strong incentive to advance novel but true theories in that it will advance the reputation of the journal.

About the unaccountable judiciary, you might check out this book by Max Boot, Out Of Order: Arrogance, Corruption, And Incompetence On The Bench, a large proportion of the problems he wrote about arose from judges not being personally responsible for their actions on the bench.

Also, more generally, I am a libertarian largely because I believe that everyone is totally and completely responsible for their own actions. Even if someone is holding a gun to your head, you decide what you do in response (and are responsible for letting yourself get in that position). Or if you are drunk or drugged, you are responsible for putting yourself in that position and therefore for what you do while that way.

By "responsible", I mean that people should bear some part of the forseeable costs of their actions. I say "some part" because the actions of others also influence costs, and stress "foreseeable" because in any complex system things interact to such an extent that only very direct results can actually be attributed reliably to any one party. Most attributions of "fault" in complex systems is scapegoating or motivated by interpersonal status games.

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