Before They Were Famous

6 August 2010 at 7:50 am 3 comments

| Peter Klein |

Joe Morgenstern’s recent rant about the horrible year in movies included a sidebar (scroll down) about cinema classics that appeared ordinary when they came out. Casablanca, for example, was considered just another patriotic war movie, which the studios were putting out by the dozen, and a syrupy one at that.

The sidebar reminded me of Josh Gans and George Shepherd’s essay on classic social-science papers that struggled to find a publisher. Akerlof’s “Market for Lemons” was rejected by the AER, JPE, and REStat before QJE finally picked it up in 1970. Williamson’s manuscript for Markets and Hierarchies was rejected by Brookings. Robert Lucas’s 1972 paper, “Expectations and the Neutrality of Money” was rejected by the AER on the grounds that it was too mathematical. William Sharpe’s 1964 paper that introduced the capital asset pricing model was initially rejected by the Journal of Finance because, wrote the editor, the assumption that all investors make the same predictions was “preposterous.”

Jim March, as often, gets the best line: “I recall on one occasion a referee filing a two paragraph commentary on a paper I co-authored suggesting (in the first paragraph) that the key theorem involved was trivially obvious and (in the second) that it was wrong. I thought on the whole that he ought to

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Entry filed under: - Klein -, Methods/Methodology/Theory of Science.

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3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Rafe  |  6 August 2010 at 8:49 pm

    The first Harry Potter story was rejected by eight publishers.

  • 2. Koen  |  7 August 2010 at 11:39 am

    Gans also edited a book about the publication process in economics that is well worth reading it includes the essay you mention

    Btw, this bit from that essay is hilarious:

    “Responses from several journal editors seek to hearten authors by noting that an article’s rejection may constitute neither a personal rebuke nor disparagement of the article’s ideas. However, the following rejection letter from a Chinese economics journal inflicts the same damage as a blunt, two-sentence refusal: “We have read your manuscript with boundless delight. If we were to publish your paper, it would be impossible for us to publish any work of lower standard. And as it is unthinkable that in the next thousand years we shall see its equal, we are, to our regret, compelled to return your divine composition, and to beg you a thousand times to overlook our short sight and timidity (Bernard, 1990: 44)”

  • 3. C Srinivas  |  8 August 2010 at 12:39 pm

    Black-Scholes option pricing paper too was initially rejected!

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