Segal Discusses Econometric Society, Academic Journals
Published: Thursday, February 21, 2013
Updated: Thursday, February 21, 2013 01:02
At the end of 2012, economics professor Uzi Segal was elected a fellow of the Econometric Society, the learned society for economists around the world. He joined fellow colleagues, Arthur Lewbel and Tayfun Sonmez, who were elected fellows in 2003.
Founded in 1930 by a Yale economics professor and a Norwegian economist, the Econometric Society serves to promote the study of economics and bring together the theoretical and empirical aspects of economics. Its primary work includes holding regional meetings every year and publishing economic journals, including its most prominent, Econometrica.
In addition to this work, the society also elects new fellows every year, one of the highest honorary distinctions in the field of economics. Each election, approximately 20 names are presented to the Society, and those who receive at least 30 percent of current fellows’ votes.
Segal began his involvement with the society in 1995, when he began serving as an associate editor of Econometrica. In 2005, he became one of the initial associate editors of Theoretical Economics, one of the first open access journals.
“It makes no sense today that journals cost almost nothing to produce and they cost $2,000 to $3,000 per year,” Segal said. “There are more and more free journals in the business, and Theoretical Economics was one of the first to do such.”
One of the reasons Segal was excited for these changes was the access that academics gained through open access journals. He described the old system, in which authors had to transfer all copyrights to the journal and were unable to put papers on their own websites.
“We are the people who are producing the knowledge and we cannot always access it,” Segal said. “Publishing companies refused to let go and charged more and more. When Theoretical Economics was launched, there was a nominal submission fee, which is now replaced by membership with the Econometric Society—$100 per year. Now, once [the article] is published, it is free. Not everything is money. I want what I write to be accessible to other people.”
For his own research, Segal has been dedicated to decision theory and social justice. His decision theory research has focused on risk and uncertainty and how people make decisions.
“People don’t always obey the law of multiplication of probabilities of independent events,” Segal said. “Quite often, people act differently—when confronted with a lottery over lotteries they don’t just compute the probabilities. Rather, they consider it a lottery over the values of these lotteries. This can explain behavior patterns that otherwise seem to be crazy. For example, people sometimes prefer not to know the true probability of certain events.”
For his social justice research, Segal worked on the problem of what markets could solve.
“The problem is that we say markets will solve everything,” Segal said. “This is not true. For example, abortion rights are not for markets to decide.”
Segal described his work in terms of the choices a society has to make and how members of that society make those decisions.
“There are different views of what to do and we want to reach an agreement,” Segal said. “What is the meaning of compromise? We must think of other people. The question is how much empathy should we have for other people. An extreme case is to be indifferent between yourself and everyone else—this is essentially the ‘veil of ignorance’ argument. This is too strong because you know who you are. What is the minimum level of consideration? We must all agree that dictatorship is bad regardless of who the dictator is. In a way this is very little. It still turns out that this leads to the possibility of a lot of cooperation.”
Another economic problem for social justice that he described was something that could not be divided. He used college admittance as an example. Segal suggested that, when two candidates are very similar, the one who is a little better should not necessarily be accepted all of the time. He proposed that the one who is almost as good should also get a chance of acceptance, albeit a much smaller one.