Thursday, September 6, 2012

Columbia U Restricting Public Access to William Vickrey Articles [that should be in the Public Domain]

JSTOR, Springer Verlag & Columbia U all want $10-$40 each, to read ~20 year old William Vickrey articles.

See this list at

Does anyone have links to existing copies of these articles?

It's a complete travesty. How are we supposed to have an "informed electorate" when basic information is subject to this kind of gate keeping?

This problem is biblical in scope, and reminscent of the Prodigal Son story, rephrased as the PARABLE OF THE PRODIGAL INSIGHTS.   In that parable, all of our best minds labor in public service.  Yet when they go away and leave their insights to us, do we distribute those insights far and wide, as fast as possible - so that they can be put to work for the general welfare of the public? NO! We let some idiots lock them up and charge a fee to anyone wanting to access publicly owned knowledge. @#$%^&!  Talk about a cruel, pious fraud!*

It's no surprise that there are so many gold-bugs and Deficit Terrorists in a supposedly educated, 21st Century USA, when such useful information as Vickrey's many essays are so thoroughly banned from public access!

Every highschool kid in the USA - nay, every single voter - should have free & timely access to this and similar papers. They should all be in Wikipedia or similar archives.

Is Columbia University purposely going out of it's way to limit or deny public access to these articles? Does this constitute racketeering between CU and publishers such as JSTOR and Springer-Verlag?  Personally, I think they should all be brought up on charges of High Treason against the USA, for preventing distribution of insights and arguments which would obviously alter public policy.

I called the Columbia U Rare Book Library, and was offered the alternative of having a copy of each paper copied "for my personal use only" for the price of ... get this ... $50 for the first (30?) pages, and $12 for each (10?) pages after that.

Aside from the price, it was the "personal use only" claim that stood out to me.

Was William Vickrey's research funded by US Government grants? Is it a gross perversion of public purpose to purposely shield and otherwise limit a Nobel prize winning economist's published work from public access?

If you feel the same, please register your suggestions with the Columbia U rare book library.

ps: Specific articles I'd like to be able to read, at will, whenever needed, are as follows.

All That Anguish Over a Phony Number, letter to editor, 12 Dec. 1995
(which editor, at which journal or news outlet?)

Averting Unemployment and Inflation in Transition to Market Economy, paper, 1992

Balanced Budget is Not the Answer, paper, 2 June 1992

Balancing the Budget is a Recipe for Economic Disaster, paper, Feb-May 1995

* Budget Balancing: A Cruel, Pious Fraud, letter to editor, undated

Chock-full Employment without Increased Inflation, paper, Jan. 1991
[For presentation at session entitled "Achieving High Employment without Inflation", New Orleans, 4 Jan. 1991.]

Debt Limits Throttle the Economy, essay, 14 Nov. 1995

Debts, Deficits, and Delusions, paper, 14 Dec. 1990

Effective Fiscal Policy, paper, 23 May 1993

Fifteen Fatal Fallacies of Financial Fundamentalism, paper, 7 Sept. 1995
(note that this one escaped the censors somehow, and is online;
(Note further: in another ironic twist, I called the CU Economics dept, which displays this page; they had forgotten about it, and said that if anyone knew, they'd probably take it down. So please, copy the text and archive it yourself, while you can.)
 (Meanwhile, the PNAS version is sometimes available here for free.)

A Growing Debt is a Necessity, not a Threat, letter to the editor, 31 May 1995
[Response to letter by Congressman Mark W. Neumann, 24 May 1995.]
(which editor, at which newspaper?)

How Big a "Deficit" Do We Need?, essay, 28 June 1993

How to Get Real Full Employment (Jobs for All), paper, 8 Aug. 1996

Letter to Senator, 1 June 1993
[Discusses government deficit.] (Which Senator?)

Necessary and Optimum Government Debt, paper, March-April 1993
[Discusses optimum government normal economy without capital but with money.]
(only a tease available, here; a very few used print copies at Amzon aren't so expensive, but copyright prevents quick and wide distribution of an electronic copy - go figure!)

Social Pathologies, Unemployment, and the Fatal Obsession with Debt Reduction and Other Fallacies, paper, 14 July 1994

Three Degrees of Separation between Budgets and Reality, paper, 9 March 1996

We Need a Bigger Deficit, paper, Aug-Sept. 1993

Why Balance the Budget?, article, 1959-1960 [Published in Challenge Magazine]

 Challenge, Vol. 8, No. 7 (APRIL, 1960)

This tribute to Vickrey by Rick Arnott mentions Vickrey's use in 1986 of the familiar economic sector equation,
C + S + T = C + I + G , or D[eficit] = G − T = S − I,
and his opposition to a balanced budget amendment.

Finally, yet another review asks of Macroeconomics: Was Vickrey Ten Years Ahead?  David Colander  Challenge, Vol. 41, No. 5 (SEPTEMBER-OCTOBER 1998)
  (again, $30 from JSTOR)


Roger Erickson said...

forgot to mention this one

A Proposal for Revising New York's Subway Fare Structure
William S. Vickrey
Journal of the Operations Research Society of America, Vol. 3, No. 1 (Feb., 1955), pp. 38-68

You guessed it, $30 from JSTOR

And we wonder why the US electorate is ill informed?

Anonymous said...

Yes Bill Vickrey is an old favourite of mine.I hope someone find those articles from this almost forgotten genuios.Thank´s for bring him up Roger

Leverage said...

There is a corporate mafia (an other one) around the world of academic publishing that has been denounced over time by a big part of the academic community.

It's very sad we are still having trouble by all this after all the years but with Internet more open source journals and archives have been pooping around (like for physics/maths preprints and papers or PLoS peer reviewed online journal for biology and medicine), so it's unstoppable these mafias will die thanks to progress.

Or said...

Hi Roger, what is your email address? I would like to see if I can help

Anonymous said...

Here is some articles about Bill Vickrey
Warm Memories of Bill Vickrey
by Mason Gaffney and James K. Galbraith and others

William Vickrey

Roger Erickson said...

"Hi Roger, what is your email address? I would like to see if I can help"

please email me directly at
rge (at) OperationsInstitute (dot) com

Ralph Musgrave said...

Re his article “We need a bigger deficit”, it’s available here:

googleheim said...

the problem is with the hoarding of the treasury accounts which are marketed to the masses of people as "borrowed debt money from country XYZ"

hoarders of US treasuries - their bank accounts are too big

do you want stimulus - get them to spend it.

The good news is that all USD Treasury holders like OPEC, UK, Japan, China, etc are all currency borrowers of the USD. They only traded garbage to us and we allowed them access to our goods markets via a USD treasury account.

They are forever ( at least in terms of trillions ) tied to the dollar, tied into our economy, and can never get out of USD unless they create a mountain somewhere else equivalently greater than the trillions they have in USD.

Oil will also never be in Euros or Yuan since in the past 10 years we have another trillion dollar USD user / member to join - China.

To get back to that 1998 "magic" requires some serious "GRIDLOCK" - but the Republicans control more than 50% of House and Senate and probably more than 50% of Obama's though processes due to his beliefs against spending.

Does anyone remember "RUKEYSER REPORT" 1999 ? Gridlock is where it is.

googleheim said...

So we see the dual marketing effects of "debt"

The US politicians say that American is in "debt" for 1 trillion "borrowed" from China or UK or Japan or OPEC.

Effects :

1. Americans think they need to export more and all that.
2. Americans can say Team A of politics ( say Democrats ) is at fault or Team B ( say Republicans).
3. Foreigner reserve holders can feel glorious that they gave us money when in fact they gave them the money and they are forever tied into our system and cannot get out of it.

The Dollar Illusion said...

"They can never get out of USD"


If I hold US treasuries there's nothing stopping me from cashing out. There's nothing stopping me from selling my dollars in exchange for other currencies, or in exchange for real assets, like gold, oil, land, etc.

Anyone can do this.

What's to stop China dumping its 1 trillion of dollar assets? If it did that the dollar would drop like a stone and inflation would go through the roof.

paul meli said...

"What's to stop China dumping its 1 trillion of dollar assets? If it did that the dollar would drop like a stone…"

Maybe the fact that the value of China's claim on US goods and services would drop with the same stone.

"…and inflation would go through the roof."

So now the mere event of Treasuries changing hands would cause inflation.

Silly me, I thought inflation had something to do with spending. Now I find out it's just a natural phenomenon that occurs as a random event.

Tom Hickey said...

What's to stop China dumping its 1 trillion of dollar assets? If it did that the dollar would drop like a stone and inflation would go through the roof.

You can get out, but you aren't holding trillions either, I assume. Anyone "dumping" trillions of Tsys into the market would affect the market adverse their position. They would not get the "best price" and very probably would get burned.

Anyway, once the Fed realized that this was happening, it would likely just buy them up to support the market.

Anyway, the Chinese are not going to sell their tsys anytime soon, that is, as long as Chimerica is both US and Chinese policy. There is no indication that this is ending. As long as China wants to be a net exporter it will have to save in the importing countries currencies or invest in foreign assets.

I would also be surprised if the Chinese didn't have a plan for eventual use of some their foreign reserves as they rebalance to increase the domestic consumption as a % of GDP. That would mean paying for increased imports of foreign goods and increased FDI in area that would benefit their shifting economy.

beowulf said...

I'm sure Vickrey donated his papers to Columbia. There's no reason they couldn't just scan all his papers (or allow someone to come up with a portable scanner) and then put them all online.

I just read somewhere that when Vickrey worked for Tsy during World War II, he shared an office with Milton Friedman, which is kind of amusing since Vickrey thought the monetarist view of inflation was all wet. He believed the key was whacking rent seeking monopoly profits. To that end, I've always thought that Vickrey's idea of using a gross markups market (though a cap and auction system could be used to "buy down" other tax rates) to control inflation is the single most valuable policy proposal I've ever read. It's so big that its hard to wrap your brain around the implications.

If inflation could be effectively controlled even at 2.0% unemployment equilibrium (as opposed to current NAIRU goal of 5.0% or so unemployment), it'd expand the economy's potential output (using current GDP sums) by $800 billion over and over the current output gap of roughly the same size.

Roger Erickson said...

yes, Vickrey's papers are all held at Columbia, didn't you read this line?

'I called the Columbia U Rare Book Library, and was offered the alternative of having a copy of each paper copied "FOR MY PERSONAL USE ONLY" for the price of ... get this ... $50 for the first (30?) pages, and $12 for each (10?) pages after that.'

Note "personal use only"
the copyright ogres are everywhere, trying to charge rent on human evolution

Roger Erickson said...

Beowulf - yes, the concept of a "gross markups market" seems brilliant, but is still a decade ahead of it's time.

The train of thought of most economists, let alone voters, is still boarding at the platform of dynamic value. A gross markups market doesn't even register as a Cargo Cult yet to these people. The typical response is a blank stare and a verbalized "Huh?"

beowulf said...

"yes, Vickrey's papers are all held at Columbia, didn't you read this line?"

Sigh... Even though every library in the world hold a slew of Harry Potter novels, only JK Rowling holds the copyright. On the other had, when someone donates their papers to a university, the IP rights go with it.

So yes I read that line but the point is if Columbia did not hold the IP rights they couldn't post the Vickrey holdings online without risk of a lawsuit from the copyright holder. Since they DO hold the IP rights, with their permission, you could post online Vickrey articles scanned from any library. Since its a noncommercial use, I can't imagine they'd say no (if they do give you any static, ask via either his archivist Richard Arnott or Mellon Foundation which gave a grant to fund Arnott's work) since its a noncommercial use.

As for a commercial use... I think Vickrey would make a fine character in a Murder She Wrote TV detective series, elderly Columbia professor helps his NYPD detective niece solve crime every week by use of economic theory-- that sort of thing. Yeah, for that Columbia will want royalties. :o)

beowulf said...

"A gross markups market doesn't even register as a Cargo Cult yet to these people..."

Yeah, I've thought about that, the precondition is a Value Added Tax (value added = gross markups). During the war, Vickrey worked as a price controller at the OPA (where, of course, Old Man Galbraith was chief economist for a time) and as a tax economist with Friedman at Tsy. An underrated anti-inflation tool during the war was the excess profits tax (As a sidenote, Tsy considered and rejected the idea of recommending Congress levy a wartime VAT-- this was before it had been implemented anywhere else in the world).

The diabolical genius part of Vickrey's plan was taking all these parts and throwing them in the stew to design an "OPA in a box" system of price controls without having to create a new bureaucracy to enforce it (we control prices now by the Fed jacking up interest rates until the unemployment rate rises).

The problem with the OPA's price controls was it took a staff of tens of thousands to police the price of every single item in the economy to distinguish this year's new and improved product versus the old product just with a higher price. The excess gross profits tax used net profits which are easier to game than gross and relied on Congress to adjust any tax rates (which is slightly faster than geological time). Vickrey recognized that a VAT system provides an X-ray that tells the tax authorities the degree of any company's monopolistic pricing (Vickrey's buddy Abba Lerner made the point that the higher a sales price got above its marginal cost, the greater the rent seeking). So its both the OPA and the FTC in a box. :o)

If the govt replaces the payroll and corporate taxes with a VAT (which it should do anyway), from the first quarterly filings, Tsy could derive the excess gross profits of every large corporation (no reason not to exempt small business) and could use the info to cap and trade (or cap and auction) any gross markups above a set percentage, say 50%. Politically, I'm persuaded a cap and auction system is better because the revenue could be used to cut other tax rates (ditto with a carbon tax vs a cap and trade market).

In any event, the market system would determine the cost of buying markup rights and any corporate taxpayer could avoid the tax with one simple step-- cut their prices (Walmart would never have to pay it since small markups are a part of their business plan).

Anonymous said...

So manipulative fare out right German Springer Verlag have the copies of William Vickrey?They are in Germany what Murdoch is US and Britain!Tis seems strange!

Roger Erickson said...

"In any event, the market system would determine the cost of buying markup rights and any corporate taxpayer could avoid the tax with one simple step-- cut their prices"

That is, indeed, a clever way to auto-regulate excessive rent-seeking. Still wouldn't solve all issues, such as lobbying to over-tax & under-fund competing classes ... but it's certainly a start! And, it's elegant aspects could perhaps be emulated in automatically adjusting adaptively distributed incomes too?

Roger Erickson said...

Didn't now Arnott was Vickrey's official archivist. Thanks, Beowulf. I'll contact Arnott about this.