There is nothing more frustrating to an academic than the long wait that one typically experiences after submitting a paper to a journal and before a response comes back from the editors. A new paper on this topic, discussed in Econospeak, disects the economics behind the waiting times. As Barkley Rosser notes in is comment on the paper,
what has happened is that a bad social norm has evolved in economics where referees simply assume that they can sit on papers from economics journals for a long time and just put them aside, fearing that if they get their reports back quickly, they will simply be punished by having more papers sent to them to referee.
Over at REStat, which I co-edit, we have been using an "early reject" system to counteract this bad equilibrium. Every paper is screened by one of the four editors, and we reject a relatively high share of submissions without sending the paper to referees if the paper is, in the editor's judgement, very unlikely to make it.
When I first started using the system, I worried that I would be getting a lot of hate mail from irate authors. This has not been the case. I remember only one complaint--from an author who had two papers early-rejected--and who in fact subsequently apologized. Instead, I have received many thank you's.
What I think this shows is the great distress that the long waits cause. Most authors prefer an editor's quick "no" to the refereeing process, if the latter has small probability of success.