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Upon reflection, I realized that Why is there a cap on 401k contributions? is ultimately a question about politics rather than personal finances. Any answer is going to boil down to identifying the motivations of the lawmakers who wrote and passed the relevant laws, rather than any useful personal financial reasoning. As such it is off topic here, as this Meta answer also establishes.

When I went to flag it, I couldn't identify a good flag to use. I considered and rejected the following:

  • "Questions on economics are off-topic unless they relate directly to personal finance." It's not about economics. It's about the motivations of law makers.
  • "Blatantly off-topic (this question has nothing to do with money or personal finance)" The question being related to 401ks, it does have some tangential relevance to personal finance. So this didn't seem appropriate either.
  • "This question belongs on another site in the Stack Exchange network" Migrating to Politics would actually be ideal, but it's not an option for migration.
  • "primarily opinion-based" This seems inappropriate as well, as it's likely that advocates of the policy articulated their thoughts at the time it was written, debated, and passed.

I didn't think any of the other reasons had relevant meanings, either.

So I flagged the post with a custom flag using the message,

This is a political question, not a personal finance one.

The flag was declined with the message:

Using standard flags helps us prioritize problems and resolve them faster. Please familiarize yourself with the list of standard flags: see What is Flagging?

I'm not clear on what standard flag would have been appropriate. Am I misunderstanding one of the reasons I rejected? Is one of the ones I didn't consider relevant actually relevant? Should I have included a more detailed description?

  • I am thoroughly confused by the downvote. I've looked through Meta, confirmed as much of my understanding as I could, and have been unable to locate any further advice. I am seeking to understand how I could handled this better and have clarified as much as I could think to. If there's something in the question you disagree with or believe is wrong, or if you believe I should have read or researched something more, I'd appreciate if you could point out what. – jpmc26 May 8 at 4:31
  • One of the things (feature/bug, name it what you will) of SE, is that votes are anonymous. I've seen my own answers written in haste, voted up, and others, painstakingly researched for accuracy and use of official citations, with a few downvotes. Hopefully the three answers are thoughtful enough to acknowledge the validity of the question you posed. – JoeTaxpayer May 8 at 18:24
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    @JoeTaxpayer I really hate that "new contributor" badge. =) Yes, I'm very familiar with how Meta works (being an established user on a few SE sites, SO in particular), but given the immediate downvote, I was hoping to encourage readers to explain the problem if they saw one, rather than refrain from the discussion entirely. Thank you, though. – jpmc26 May 12 at 3:32
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I declined the flag. The option I was thinking of that I thought you should have used was "Other (leave a comment to explain what is wrong)". But I hadn't realised (or at least had forgotten) that you don't get that option until you have enough reputation to cast a proper close vote rather than just flagging. So apologies, if I had realised that I would have marked it as helpful, but still not done anything.

The main reason I wanted to see a standard flag was that it didn't feel clear-cut to me, and didn't have any close votes yet even though it had been fairly visible for a while. So I would have preferred it went through the review queues so several members could decide whether to close it rather than it be my binding decision.

I've now taken a closer look at the question and the meta question you linked to, and my personal view is to leave the question open. As Ben Miller said in his answer, quite a similar question has been seen as on-topic in the past. While it is veering into politics, specific features of the existing tax system can generally be explained with a reasonable degree of objectivity, and I think those explanations are reasonably relevant to personal finance. Wide-ranging questions about why things aren't completely different are too much about politics and too little about personal finance.

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Ganesh has explained the specific reason for this case. However, in general...

For users who have enough reputations to cast close votes, they're forced to use the custom close reason that will post the "I'm voting to close this question because ..." comment.

However, for users who don't have the close vote privilege, if they think a question needs to be closed but there is no suitable flag, then the most recommended way is to use "blatantly off-topic" reason because it means the question is off-topic according to the site's scope. Also, it's very recommended to post a comment and explain why they think it's off-topic (just as when users with close vote privilege choose the custom close reason).

Doing this gives the advantage of getting the question reviewed by the community.


Using custom moderator flag is not recommended because it bypasses the community and directly goes to the mods, as has been explained by Ganesh. However, if you're trying to get it migrated instead, then a clearer message with the actionable request would be appreciated. Instead of

This is a political question, not a personal finance one.

try

This looks like a political question, can it be migrated to Politics.SE?

When seeing the first message, mods would probably be confused if you're trying to get it closed, migrated, or... something else. But reading the second message, mods would understand it better that there's no migration path to there and could consider if it's more suitable on there. (Whether the flag would be rejected or accepted is a different story though)

But in the end, if you're trying very hard to find a reason for a question to get it closed, then perhaps the question shouldn't really be closed? (Or, "don't close a question just for the sake of getting it closed"?)

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Keep in mind, gray. If a question is spam, I mean NSFW spam, by all means, flag it. Or so off topic, that there's no way it should stay here.

The issue as I saw it was that by flagging, it needed to be addressed by a mod. The question, along with those Ben Miller cited, are in that gray area. Say it was 6 years ago, and the first question we got of the form "Why is this bit of tax code the way it is....?" resulted in an instant flood of political answers, nothing one could really call remotely related to PF. In that case, we'd have a different history, and would have reacted to your flag as most welcome, with a fast delete (of the question).

Had we closed this question, members would see a question that was closed as off topic, by a single mod, and not by member consensus. In theory, members should be voting to close, and our names should show up relatively infrequently.

Your gut on the matter was good, such question have the potential to be answered the 'wrong' way, and result in an argument and/or closure, but our history shows that this type of question is ok, even if in the gray area. (I don't visit thinking "hey, I hope we have a few more questions on why congress wrote XYZ into the tax code", nor would I jump to close such questions).

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