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On Supply and Demand

write.as/poetgrant/on-supply-a

Here is a new little essay by yours truly analyzing supply and demand as a natural law of human psychology and natural economics.

Yay! How boring could it possibly be?

@poetgrant Thank you for that - not boring at all! - article.

I'd like to discuss one example where I believe that even without governmental influence, the law of supply and demand failed to properly could not work properly: Academic publishing.

The situation on the academic publishing market was that for many fields, at some point certain journals and their publishers emerged as dominant, their high prestige being reflected in a high impact factor.
(1/x)

@poetgrant
Since academic success at most institutions is measured in part by publications in prestigious journals, most scientist try to get published in the most prestigious journal possible, so the best science tends to be published in those dominant journals
Other scientists in turn need to read the top-quality papers on a subject in order for their own publications to be taken seriously.
This forced libraries to pay unrealistically high prices for subscriptions to these journals.
(2/x)

@poetgrant They don't have the ability to get the same papers from a competitor, because the journals have exclusive publishing rights.

While they theoretically ca just cancel their subscriptions if prices get too high, that means they're hurting people working in their institutions and with that the reputation of the institution itself.
Now the problem is that when authors decide where to publish, they don't take subscription costs into account because they don't pay them, the readers do.(3/x)

@poetgrant Of course at some point, the law of supply and demand would still kick in, but from the perspective of those who pay for subscriptions far too late.

This is why the Open Access movement emerged, which is asking for policies from funding organizations (i.e. often the government) to mandate Open Access publication so that the disconnect between buyers and producers would be fixed.

From your perspective: What had gone wrong there, why did the law of supply and demand not work? (4/4)

@colomar that is a really well formed and good question. Thank you.

I will actually have to look into it further because a lot of times there are deeper issues that are helping to prop up the price of a good like research.

For one thing, copyrights are probably the biggest issue here. Copyrights are government aggression, pure and simple. I don't want to claim without evidence, but my strong suspicion is that copyrights are the major culprit.

Relating to supply and demand... (1/2)

@colomar ... copyrights restrict supply and push down demand (down and to the left). It creates an inelestic demand curve.

So, for instance, I don't often refer to nonfree journals because I don't have easy access to them, instead I turn to more open resources that may not be as comprehensive, but still effectively supply my need for knowledge. It is more difficult, but more cost effective.

I will look into this further because I don't know if it is a good enough answer.

@poetgrant Good point that copyright is a government-enforced monopoly.
Even though I know that in theory, of course, it's something that I keep forgetting. Not least because ironically enough many proponents of free markets are also strong proponents of copyright regulations (the stricter the better).

You know, those people who want a free market when they stand to benefit from it, but cry for regulations as soon as they feel threatened by the competition.

@colomar that is actually my main concern with the 'free market' types... they generally only want free markets as long as it benefits them, but if they write a book, well sure they want copyrights! Of course they do! Otherwise they would have to work and be creative to make their moneys.

My main rule for myself is skepticism. Unilateral skepticism of any action that requires violent force or the threat thereof. Copyright is directly the threat of violent force.

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