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Fifth Column of Financial Oligarchy: Chicago School of Market Fundamentalism

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Neoclassicism is the ideology of the plutocracy which still governs the USA

Lewis L. Smith

Neoclassical economics—and especially that derived from Milton Friedman’s pen—is mad, bad, and dangerous to know.

Steve Keen

"The only thing in common between noted [Chicago school] economists is sheer incompetence"

Willem Buiter

For those who buy into fairy tale about how markets operate independently of political power, and  state’s instruments of violence (the police and the military), I have a nice piece of oceanfront property in Arizona.

Chicago neoclassical economics school is a well known pseudo-science school, one of the pillars of Economic Lysenkoism (along with  Supply Side Economics).  This is an economic cult, an ideology of financial oligarchy. So it is more proper to this school not neoclassical, but as aptly suggested by Bill Black “theoclassical”   or  Chicago Ponzinomics.  It is a neoliberal phenomenon, not neoclassical. High level of support by financial oligarchy was crucial for it break into mainstream and even (despite compete absurdness of its postulates) make it dominant during 1980-2000. 

Like in Lysenkoism, and high demand sects anybody who strays from the cult is in danger of being ostracized. As Mark Thoma observed:

Some years ago, when I first presented an empirical paper questioning some of the conventional views on trade to a high profile economics conference, a member of the audience (a very prominent economist and a former co-author of mine) shocked me with the question "why are you doing this?

There is a useful part of neoclassical economy related to thinking about an aggregate social phenomena in terms of costs and benefits of individual participants, and that can be sometimes (but not always) as a useful supplementary approach. Bastartized version of this notion which tries to imply cost-benefit motives in all human interactions is called Freakonomics. Still you can view some choices people make as tradeoffs between desired goals and social constraints (which can interpreted as costs). 

Still neoclassical economics as practiced by Chicago school  is driven by ideology and financed by financial oligarchy.

And like  Trofim Lysenko and his followers those people are as close to criminals as one can get.  Like Rabbies and Catholic Priests can be criminals, the same is true about people in academic mantles. Corruption of academics is nothing new, but corruption of economists is a very dangerous mass form of  white-collar crime as close to Madoff  and his associates as one can get. This is the way we should look at the Chicago schools: kind of incarnation of Lysenko henchmen or, if you wish, Chicago mafia in a university environment. Actually similar way of thinking can be applied to Harvard (see Harvard Mafia, Andrei Shleifer and the economic rape of Russia ).

Is neoclassical economics a mafia? Sort of, says Christopher Hayes in a very well-written and very interesting piece in The Nation. He says orthodox economists are a close-knit group and are quick to penalize those among them or from outside who overstep the boundaries. Here is an excerpt:

So extreme is the marginalization of heterodox economists, most people don't even know they exist. Despite the fact that as many as one in five professional economists belongs to a professional association that might be described as heterodox, the phrase "heterodox economics" has appeared exactly once in the New York Times since 1981. During that same period "intelligent design," a theory endorsed by not a single published, peer-reviewed piece of scholarship, has appeared 367 times.

It doesn't take much to call forth an impressive amount of bile from heterodox economists toward their mainstream brethren. John Tiemstra, president of the Association for Social Economics and a professor at Calvin College, summed up his feelings this way: "I go to the cocktail parties for my old schools, MIT and Oberlin, and people are all excited about Freakonomics. I kind of wince and go off to another corner or have another drink." After the EPI gathering, Peter Dorman, an economist at Evergreen State College with a gentle, bearded air, related an e-mail exchange he once had with Hal Varian, a well-respected Berkeley economist who's moderately liberal but firmly committed to the neoclassical approach. Varian wrote to Dorman that there was no point in presenting "both sides" of the debate about trade, because one side--the view that benefits from unfettered trade are absolute--was like astronomy, while any other view was like astrology. "So I told him I didn't buy the traditional trade theory," Dorman said. "'Was I an astrologer?' And he said yes!"

Please note that some of the most close to Lysenkoism figures at Chicago, such as Cochrane and Fama, are in the business school rather than the econ department.   And they were key enablers of  Goldman Sacks and Co. looters. Deregulation wave was promoted by right wing extremists who recruited corrupted academicians like Milton Friedman to perform specific role of Trojan horse to undermine New Deal.  He managed to made the "invisible hand" a prefect pocket picker!  And the method of spreading influence was essentially borrowed from the Lysenko book: control the economic department and those who went to college and studied those theories in the 70’s and 80’s would then go to Wall St and Government and enact them. Control the key academic magazines and conferences and any aspiring economists need either to conform or leave the field.

Here is one telling comment about corruption of those modern day Lysenkoists in the blog Crooked Timber

ogmb 09.18.09 at 12:01 pm

...Cochrane is the AQR Capital Management Professor of Finance at the University of Chicago Booth [formerly Graduate] School of Business. Which incidentally also makes his whining that Krugman ‘accuses us literally of adopting ideas for pay, selling out for “sabbaticals at the Hoover institution” and fat “Wall street paychecks”’ a bit malnourished in the introspection department, coming from someone who holds a chair sponsored by a quantitative trading firm at a school sponsored by the founder of an EMH investment firm. (Nevermind that Krugman never, literally or otherwise, accused Cochrane and his peers of selling out to Wall Street…)

In this ideology Milton Friedman has playied the role of false prophet. Surrounded by "lesser giants" of neoclassical economics,  producing continued stream of detached from reality papers and speeches. It also includes several clown who as Krugman noted have some qualities of irritable adolescents, but actually are proper heirs of Academician Trofim Lysenko:

And that same adolescent quality was evident in the reactions to the Obama administration’s attempts to deal with the crisis — as Brad DeLong points out, people like Robert Lucas and John Cochrane (not to mention Richard Posner, who isn’t a macroeconomist but gets his take from his colleagues) didn’t say that when serious scholars like Christina Romer based policy recommendations on Keynesian economics, they were wrong; the freshwater crowd declared that anyone with Keynesian views was, by definition, either a fool or intellectually dishonest. So the freshwater outrage over finding their own point of view criticized is, you might think, a classic case of people who can dish it out but can’t take it.
But it’s actually even worse than that.
When freshwater macro came in, there was an active purge of competing views: students were not exposed, at all, to any alternatives. People like Prescott boasted that Keynes was never mentioned in their graduate programs. And what has become clear in the recent debate — for example, in the assertion that Ricardian equivalence rules out any effect from government spending changes, which is just wrong — is that the freshwater side not only turned Keynes into an unperson, but systematically ignored the work being done in the New Keynesian vein. Nobody who had read, say, Obstfeld and Rogoff would have been as clueless about the logic of temporary fiscal expansion as these guys have been. Freshwater macro became totally insular.And hence the most surprising thing in the debate over fiscal stimulus: the raw ignorance that has characterized so many of the freshwater comments. Above all, we’ve seen the phenomenon of well-known economists “rediscovering” Say’s Law and the Treasury view (the view that government cannot affect the overall level of demand), not because they’ve transcended the Keynesian refutation of these views, but because they were unaware that there had ever been such a debate.It’s a sad story. And the even sadder thing is that it’s very unlikely that anything will change: freshwater macro will get even more insular, and its devotees will wonder why nobody in the real world of policy and action pays any attention to what they say.

The proper label for neo-classical economics might be "theological voluntarism", the term which has some academic aura... There are several issues here:

  1. Excessive dependence or even open prostitution to the financial oligarchy. It's deplorable but probably unavoidable as the grip of financial community of economic profession does not requires any additional commentary. Also there are always exceptions to the rule.
  2. Mathematical masturbation instead of science (Mathiness). When, for example, a paper that propose even a linear equation (or God forbid differential equation) does not provide any estimate of errors of input data such a paper in a narrow sense can be called mathematical masturbation. Classic example here would be any paper that has inflation as an input variable. In a more broad sense this occurs when research paper contains results or mathematical model which rely on idealised, with little connections to reality postulates about the structure of economic activities. Many supply/demand models belong to this category as they rely on existence of equilibrium between supply and demand and/or are ignoring Minsky instability hypothesis. Most neo-classical economics can be called a theory in a desperate search for suitable reality.
  3. Relying on discredited and openly anti-scientific assumptions or hypothesis. Examples include, but not limited to "supply side voodoo", "monetarism", "Taylor rule", "permanent equilibrium fallacy", "invisible hand" (both as a postulate about absence of manipulation of the markets and the idea that "free markets lead to efficient outcomes" disregarding the role of government and almost permanent government intervention as well as issues of economic rent and taxation of participants to support an aristocracy or oligarchy).

Chicago (or as some called it freshwater) school specializes in deification of the market (often in the form of "invisible hand" deification, see The Invisible Hand, Trumped by Darwin - NYTimes.com). 

The Measured Version of My Screaming
John Quiggin finally makes explicit What Everyone Knows: that the clusterfuck that has been made of Macroeconomics is due largely to an attempt to leverage (insufficiently robust) Microeconomic Theory:
the search for a macroeconomic theory founded on (roughly) neoclassical micro, which has been the main direction of macro research for 40 years or so, was a wrong turning, forcing us to retrace our steps and look for another route.
Think Lucas and Prescott as Mirror-Moses, leading gullible Macroites further and further from the Promised Land, themselves evermore unable to ask for directions.* Couldn't have said it better, or with so few expletives, myself. But then, that's why he has a book contract.

Read the Whole Thing.

Here are some postulates of Chicago school as described in  Economics: A Clandestine Religion Masquarading As A Science ( The American Monetary Institute):

As Wikipedia noted

...Chicago School economists are associated with Washington Consensus,[12][13] which John Williamson says is "disappointing".[14]

The history of Chicago school is complex (THE CHICAGO SCHOOL):

The "Chicago School" is perhaps one of the better known American "schools" of economics.   In its strictest sense, the "Chicago School"  refers to the approach of the members of the Department of Economics at the University of Chicago over the past century.  In a looser sense, the term "Chicago School" is associated with a particular brand of economics which adheres strictly to Neoclassical price theory in its economic analysis, "free market" libertarianism in much of its policy work and a methodology which is relatively averse to too much mathematical formalism and willing to forego careful general equilibrium reasoning in favor of more results-oriented partial equilibrium analysis.  In recent years, the "Chicago School" has  been associated with "economic imperialism", i.e. the application of economic reasoning to areas traditionally considered the prerogative of other fields such as political science, legal theory, history and sociology.  

The "Chicago School" has had various phases with quite different characteristics.  Nonetheless, the main consistent factor seems to be that it has always held a unique,distinct and influential place in the realm of economics at any time.  In the modern day, under the "Chicago School" umbrella, we can count various further schools of thought which are discussed in more detail elsewhere:  e.g. Monetarism in the 1960s, New Classical/Real Business Cycle macroeconomics from the 1970s until today, and more recently, the New Institutionalism, New Economic History and Law-and-Economics movements.

The University of Chicago was founded in 1892 by oil magnate John D. Rockefeller.   Its initial economics department, under the leadership of the American apologist, J. Laurence Laughlin, counted radical American Institutionalists such as Thorstein Veblen, Wesley Mitchell and John Maurice Clark among its faculty.  In this period, the department was like any other in the United States.

The "Chicago School" really began in the 1920s with the diumvurate of Frank H. Knight and Jacob Viner.  They were, for the most part, theoreticians (Knight more in the Jevonian-Austrian tradition, Viner leaning towards the Marshallian).  In an age when empiricism ruled most of American economics, Knight and Viner set up the economics department at Chicago as a bastion of counter-institutionalism and, as such, the department soon acquired something of a "siege" mentality.    Also at Chicago during this time were the "Mathematical Trio" --   Oskar Lange, Henry Schultz and Paul H. Douglas -- economists with a particular bent for the theoretical approach of the Lausanne School.   Younger faculty included monetary theorists Henry C. Simons and Lloyd Mints.

The characteristics of the early Chicago School of 1920-1950 differ considerably from the later Chicago School.  They were highly suspicious of "positivistic" economic methodology and denounced economic imperialism, arguing for a confined role for economic analysis (esp. Knight).  They were suspicious of the efficiency claims of laissez-faire economics, arguing for it only on a "non-consequential" basis.  They welcomed active government policies to cure recessions (esp. Viner's recommendations on "reinflating" the economy, and Simons's  "Chicago Plan" for counter-cyclical monetary policy), and counted a fully-fledged  socialist in their ranks (Lange).   Furthermore, most of the faculty was not averse to rigorous, theoretical general equilibrium reasoning, but were leading practitioners of the art (Lange, Schultz, Douglas).

However, like the later Chicago School, the early Chicago School was hostile to "alternative" economic paradigms.  For the most part, they did not welcome the Keynesian Revolution in macroeconomics and denounced the Monopolistic Competition approach in microeconomic theory.  To a good extent, the issues these "alternative" paradigms purported to solve, they felt could be handled reasonably well within the confines of Neoclassical theory. 

The economics department underwent an upheaval during the 1940s.  Schultz died with tragic suddenness, Viner left for Princeton, Lange left for political life in Poland and Douglas became a U.S. Senator.  Knight, whose interests were moving away from economic theory, went into semi-retirement, handing the reigns of the department over to Simons, Mints and Director.

There was a new injection of blood during this period as the department tried to regain its bearings.  The first lurch was towards Walrasian economics.  Several students associated with the departed Lange and Schultz remained -- such as Yntema and Mosak -- and Chicago went on to welcome Jacob Marschak, Tjalling Koopmans and the the Cowles Commission right next door.  The Walrasian period lasted until 1955, when it moved (was hounded off?) to Yale.

The 1940s also saw the appointment of development theorists H. Gregg Lewis and Bert F. Hoselitz. These appointments were accompanied by a group of agricultural economists, Theodore W. Schultz, D. Gale Johnson and Walter Nicholls, who had been left Iowa State in protest over one of the most famous violations of academic freedom. Apparently, the powers-that-be of Iowa, home of the American dairy industry, had pressured the university to force a young economist to recant a study in which he had concluded that margarine was no less nutritious than butter.

In the 1960s, the department began to congeal into a new shape, led by George J. Stigler and Milton Friedman.   This is what became the "Second" Chicago School, which is perhaps the most famous and polemical one.  Stigler and Friedman were avowed Marshallians, and eschewed the methodology of the now-departed Walrasians of the Cowles Commission.  As the contemporary ditty went:

"I read my Marshall completely through
From beginning to end and backward too
I read my Marshall so carefully
That now I am Professor at U of C". 

The Stigler-Friedman period was characterized by faithful adherence to Neoclassical economics and maintained itself dead against the concept of market failures, reinforcing the Chicago School stance against  imperfect competition and Keynesian economics. Through their influential journals -- notably, the Journal of Political Economy and the Journal of Law and Economics -- the research programme of the Chicago School was advanced and diffused.  It was the Second Chicago School that is often accused of being the modern version of  Manchester School liberalism (or, as some maintain, the more conservative tradition of  American apologism).

In microeconomics, led by George Stigler, the guiding maxim in the Chicago approach was to preserve the Neoclassical paradigm whenever possible, never to doubt it. When there is no obvious solution to a particular problem, the recommended course was to extend the Neoclassical paradigm by incorporating new concepts into it that would make the subject matter amenable to economic analysis. Examples of extensions to the Neoclassical paradigm conceived by Chicago economists are search theory (due to George Stigler), human capital theory (due to Gary Becker and T.W. Schultz) and property rights/transaction cost theory (due to Ronald H. Coase).  

The Chicago School's impulse for extension of Neoclassical price theory is largely responsible for the "imperialist" character of which it is often accused.   Business and finance, previously the prerogative of practitioners and business schools, were brought into the economic spotlight by Chicago economists such as A.W. Wallis, Harry Markowitz, Merton H. Miller and Eugene F. Fama.  Further afield, political science and institutional theory were brought into Neoclassical economics by Chicago School economists such as G.J. Stigler, R.H. Coase, James Buchanan, Armen Alchian and Harold Demsetz.  Economic history were given a Neoclassical reading by Robert W. Fogel and Douglas C. North, while the Chicago Law School (esp. Richard Posner and William M. Landes) used economics to rethink swathes of legal theory.  Perhaps most famously, sociological issues like addiction, family and even marriage were given a thoroughly economic interpretation in the hands of Gary S. Becker and Jacob Mincer.

[Naturally, not all the "Chicago School" economists are at the University of Chicago, e.g. Alchian, Mincer, North, etc., but it is not unreasonable to argue that they are part of that school of thought.]

[George P. Shultz, better known as the Secretary of Labor and subsequently of the Treasury under Richard Nixon and later Secretary of State under Ronald Reagan, Shultz was also professor of industrial relations and later dean of the Business School at Chicago during the 1960s.]

[It is revealing that the adamantly anti-imperialist Friedrich A. von Hayek,  who was at Chicago during the 1950s, was confined to an appointment on an interdisciplinary "Committee on Social Thought", rather than the economics department proper.  Walrasian theory, which has tended to be of more limited scope, has also had very little presence at Chicago over the past half-century: the only theorist to have successfully infiltrated the Chicago citadel was Hugo Sonnenschein, but then he came as president of the university.  With the exception of the work of Lester Telser, the "alternative" paradigm of game theory has also been conspicuously absent until recently.]

In macroeconomics, the most renowned phase of the Chicago School has been that of "Monetarism" under the leadership of Milton Friedman, its best-known advocate. For the longest time, Chicago was the only school in America not swept by the Keynesian Revolution (the presence of Lloyd A. Metzler  for a brief period on the faculty was exceptional). This does not mean that the old Chicago School was opposed to government intervention - indeed, Viner's policy conclusions are at times hard to distinguish from Keynes'sBut in Friedman's Monetarism, it found a theoretical and empirical means by which to begin rolling back the Keynesian revolution. Although prominent in the 1960s, Friedman has always claimed that the main tenets of Monetarism can be found in the work of early Chicago School economists such as Henry Simons.  (see our  survey of Monetarism).

Monetarism has since given way to the more mathematically rigorous "New Classical" economics of Robert E. Lucas in the 1970s and 1980s.  The quantitatively-oriented "Walrasian" flavor of New Classicism meant that the appointments of Robert Lucas, Thomas Sargent, Michael Woodford and Robert Townsend at Chicago met with quite some opposition from the older hands.  Nonetheless, in its policy conclusions and rigorous adherence to Neoclassical theory, the New Classical school remains by most accounts the natural inheritor of the Chicago School mantle in modern macroeconomics.

Despite, or perhaps as a result of, its mischievous but always unique perspective, the University of Chicago has taken in a lion's share of Nobel Prizes in economics: Milton Friedman, T.W. Schultz, G.J.Stigler, R.H. Coase, G.S. Becker, M.H. Miller, R.W. Fogel and R.E.Lucas were all on the Chicago faculty when they received their awards.  If we were to add  Chicago-trained economists, the list of Nobelists would expand to include Hebert Simon, James Buchanan, Harry Markowitz and Myron Scholes.

Early Chicago of 1892 - 1920s

The First Chicago School of 1920-1945

Post-War Chicago of the 1945-1960

The Second Chicago School of the 1960s-1970s

The Third Chicago School (1970s-Today)

Chicago Business and Finance

Resources on the Chicago School


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[Jun 28, 2018] Koch Money and the Unflappable Economist naked capitalism

Notable quotes:
"... By Philip E. Mirowski, Carl Koch Chair of Economics and the History and Philosophy of Science, University of Notre Dame. Originally published at the Institute for New Economic Thinking website ..."
"... Inside Job ..."
"... Philosophy. The neoliberal PR campaign of 'the market is the ultimate and true arbiter of all' has all the appearance of a regression to what I can only call inverted marxist dialectical-materialism as espoused by the old soviets; where anything, even scientific findings, that threatened the supremacy of the doctrine's claim of economic inevitability, was suppressed. ( No wonder the old soviet finally collapsed. ) The neoliberals substitutes a sort of libertarian dialectical-materialism that requires suppression of any theory that contradicts their claim of 'market infallibility' and inevitability. This is dogma, not science or even economics. ..."
Jun 27, 2018 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

Koch Money and the Unflappable Economist Posted on June 27, 2018 by Yves Smith By Philip E. Mirowski, Carl Koch Chair of Economics and the History and Philosophy of Science, University of Notre Dame. Originally published at the Institute for New Economic Thinking website

At the beginning of May 2018, there was a brief furor over donations from Koch family-affiliated philanthropies to fund the Mercatus Institute and the newly-named Antonin Scalia School of Law at George Mason University (GMU). Although articles concerning the admirable efforts of the GMU student organization UnKoch My Campus appeared in many of the prominent news outlets, the attention span of journalists seemed to barely outpace that of interest in one of Donald Trump's tweets, with even less consequence. But more to the point, the silence of the economics profession concerning the revelations was pretty deafening. Briefly, I would like to revisit why this was so and why it matters.

The details of the controversy can be briefly summarized: the assortment of Koch family foundations and allied charitable cutouts (which some libertarians have dubbed the "Kochtopus," but will henceforth here be shortened to 'the Kochs') have been making targeted donations to more than 300 schools since 2005, predominantly to economics departments. But George Mason University has been the most lavishly favored, garnering more than a third of the estimated $150 million bequeathed to universities from 2005-2015. The event that stirred campus resistance at GMU was a massive donation of $10 million from the Kochs tied to a $20 million donation from an anonymous benefactor to rename the Law School after Antonin Scalia, "formally" earmarked for "student scholarships." The first thing one notices was the budgetary legerdemain which obscured the relationship between faculty selection and line items in budgetary terms. Thus, the GMU Provost S. David Wu could tell his Faculty Senate in April 2016 that the bequest came with "no strings attached The entire $30M is for scholarships for students and nothing else." This narrative might have prevailed, if not for the document dump by UnKoch My Campus at the end of April, [1] a result of a FOIA suit by Transparency GMU , which detailed the series of negotiations with the Kochs (including the overwhelming role of figures from the Federalist Society as intermediaries: another Koch funded arm), including stipulations of how designated representatives would have input into GMU hiring decisions. This forced GMU President Angel Cabrera to reverse earlier statements that existing donor arrangements had not been allowed to influence internal academic matters. This, in turn, was the trigger which attracted the national press. As Inside Higher Ed put it: "academic values have long held that donors don't get to pick who holds chairs, or evaluate them."

"It's now abundantly clear that the administration of Mason, in partnership with the Mercatus Center and private donors, violated principles of academic freedom, academic control and ceded faculty governance to private donors," said Bethany Letiecq, President of GMU's chapter of the AAUP. But this reaction might underestimate the scope of the problem, reducing it to a mere matter of moral integrity. I shall argue instead that this event has more structural underpinnings, touching upon the very conception of education in relation to markets, and involve some crucial aspects of economic theory.

Broadly speaking, economists greeted this controversy with a big yawn: this sort of thing happens all the time, so don't get your panties in a twist. Indeed, the Kochs have been making similar grants to many universities for more than a decade, as have other philanthropies. The attitude was that the GMU case was nothing special.

How do economists justify the unflappable lightness of their nonchalance?

First off, many opine that the donors don't really interfere in academic matters; it is just the optics that are less than optimal. There are some crucial details which mitigate this pronouncement when it comes to the GMU case, which are dealt with in a footnote. [2] Nevertheless, in general, most economists are quick to denounce the idea that there are subtle procedural moves attached to donations that substantially alter the practices of universities, as well as the composition of what is taught and researched.

Secondly, for most economists, there are no such things as conflicts of interest, at least when it comes to economic thinking. They regularly declare with ardor that no one is compromising their pronouncements or perverting their beliefs for money. Years ago, I documented this attitude with regard to the culpability of economists for the Great Crash of 2007-8, even in the face of embarrassments such as the scathing portrayal of certain figures in the documentary Inside Job , or the prospect of a code of ethics for economists by the American Economics Association (AEA), a point to which I will return. [3] In the GMU case, the prescription for disclosure was rejected -- hence the need for FOIA requests. The economists generally argued that the people involved had long ago settled upon their personal political beliefs; they were just being selected by the donors to provide a coherent curriculum in "free market doctrine." I shall argue below that this imprecision over the criteria of which doctrines have been selected allow this sense that the ecology of knowledge persists unaltered in the face of concerted Koch intervention.

Third, the orthodox economist would be inclined point out that all potential donors, just like all fledgling academics, possess their own prior interests and convictions, which will be subject to further selection one way or another. It is not the money that makes the difference in the larger scheme of things. As the late Craufurd Goodwin of Duke University used to say, "The only tainted money is the money that t'aint [ sic ] mine." In other words, the sociology of knowledge pretty much works independently of the wishes of any funders involved, since everyone is selfishly scrambling for support. Money as such never taints the well of human inquiry, or so most economists postulate. Of course, one's appreciation for this putative conservation rule might be qualified when one learns that Goodwin had himself been a Program Officer for European and International Affairs under McGeorge Bundy at the Ford Foundation during the Cold War. [4]

Finally, although they might not say this out loud in front of journalists, many economists tend to suspect that all the complaints about the Kochs are just sour grapes, an ideological reaction deriving from the wailers' disdain for the politics of the Koch brothers and their minions. After all, what's so suspicious about wanting to "rectify the bias" of academics hostile to free markets and freedom of speech? That sounds like something most economists would voluntarily support in any event, independent of whomever was fronting the funding. But, just as in the previous cases, this ignores the actual content of the doctrines that the Koch brothers, as well as that of many of their fellow travelers and cooperating philanthropists, [5] seek to promote through their initiatives.

It will come as no surprise to realize that public education is being brutally weaned from state support across the developed world in the recent past, and that private funding has been touted as the deliverance for cash-strapped universities. In this regard, it is pivotal to realize the significance of the fact that George Mason University is a public and not a private university. Far from being a mere shifting of sources of sustenance, this trend itself constitutes one of the prime prescriptions of the political doctrine that motivates the Kochs, namely, neoliberalism. [6] Neoliberalism shouldn't be confused with actual libertarianism; it is predicated upon intervention to bring about the types of government and markets that the neoliberals believe are necessary for the success of capitalism: it just won't happen by itself. One of their central doctrines relevant to the current controversy is their belief that an efficient market is one that processes and validates information, and conveys it to the appropriate agents when and where they need it. Human knowledge is thus first and foremost a market phenomenon.

A direct consequence of this doctrine is that the state should not control public education: the purpose of education is the personal accumulation of human capital, and not the creation of the common denominator of an educated citizenry. Hence many of the major figures of the Neoliberal Thought Collective -- Milton Friedman, James Buchanan, Charles Koch -- long ago proposed that education be "privatized" in most of its various manifestations. Knowledge is paltry if not put up for sale, as they see it. This is the major consideration which dictates that the points at issue at GMU and elsewhere are not merely some symmetrical offsetting response to left wing donations to universities; rather, the whole point of the Koch brothers' intervention is to produce a different kind of university , one which renders government-run education much more responsive to market signals and market dictates. It is a world where people of means can freely buy the kinds of doctrines that they wish to be conveyed to the young, without being coy or ambagious about it. Hence the Koch's doctrines and their philanthropic behaviors are tightly bound into a single package, displaying a coherence not found in the motives of lesser philanthropists. This explains why the Kochs are willing to conduct their negotiations with universities in secret, to carry out their stipulations through cutouts and hard to trace intermediaries and foundations, to package their offers with other rich (and anonymous) donors en banc and to impose conditions upon their bequests that effectively neutralize all previous principles of academic freedom in the long run.

There is a different implication of neoliberal conceptions of knowledge, and that extends to the ideas which constitute the microeconomic orthodoxy. Once information was introduced into the standard pricing model, it was discovered there was no single correct way to formalize epistemology. Through a sequence of different models, the profession moved from the agent as capable of super-cognition, to the portrait of the agent as a flawed vessel for knowledge, offset by a neoliberal notion of the market as super-information processor. [7] Truth became a function of the skewed and arbitrary ability to pay; and consequently, economists were deemed to have possessed superior wisdom concerning whom should get to know what under which circumstances. As self-appointed Engineers of the Human Soul, this reinforced their conviction that there was no need to worry about conflicts of interest, nor indeed, about the increasing prevalence of unashamed mendacity and fake news. [8] Thus, the Koch interventions were therefore regarded as essentially harmless.

Of course, economists would be most interested in the ways this promotes the careers of other economists, but the ambitions of the neoliberal thought collective extends well beyond the social sciences, even unto the realm of the natural sciences. Neoliberalism is supremely hostile to expertise, which is the flip side of its hostility to old-school universities. Hayek denounced intellectuals as 'second-hand dealers in ideas', and modern neoliberals extrapolate that inclination to the limit. In their view, even natural scientists need to learn to subordinate their own research to "the market," and accept that tomorrow the market might devalue their own expertise in favor of the beliefs of less trained participants. "Freedom" is in this instance made manifest as the ability to insert your own 2 cents at will; let the market sort it out. This insight prompts another reconstruction of university life, this time in the direction of so-called 'open science' and 'citizen science'. [9] The literal construction of a 'marketplace of ideas' leads directly to the elevation of the market as the ultimate validator of truth in most dimensions, and the subordination of professional researchers to a less central role, surrounded by platforms that harvest the unremunerated labor of the reserve army of the undereducated. This is creative destruction with a vengeance, which further diminishes the role of the university.

Consequently, while economists tend to think they come equipped to understand all the implications of a thoroughgoing marketplace of ideas, the four conventional ideas sketched above reveal that they currently are far from having a comprehensive appreciation of the "economics of information" as it plays out in the world.

An example of this inadequate approach is a very brief code of professional conduct ratified in April 2018 by the AEA. Its actual wording is significant. It states, "Integrity demands honesty, care and transparency in conducting and presenting research; disinterested assessment of ideas; acknowledgement of the limits of expertise; and disclosure of real and perceived conflicts of interest." [10] There was nothing in the statement proposing that the AEA or any other institution should promote or enforce disclosure, nor indeed define what should be disclosed; it says absolutely nothing at all about "academic freedom." "Integrity" is apparently conceived as personal virtue, although a subsequent paragraph promotes "a professional environment with equal opportunity and fair treatment for all economists." This species of "environment" seems be more concerned with employment of economists than the preservation of academic inquiry as such.

This is why the GMU incident deserves far more scrutiny than it has received from economists, and academics in general.

[1] http://www.unkochmycampus.org/charles-koch-foundation-george-mason-mercatus-donor-influence-exposed

[2] Some sources report the document dump reveals that 'the Kochs' reserved the right of designation of members on faculty selection committees and veto rights in earlier gifts to Mercatus, but in the Scalia School case, the agreement stated that they would have no power over retention or promotion. On this, see https://www.nationalreview.com/2018/05/washington-post-koch-brothers-scoop-falls-apart/ . However, the situation at GMU was far more complex than that, because the emails independently stipulated whom among existing Koch-financed GMU faculty and the Federalist society would make such decisions for the Law School; and furthermore, the Kochs reserved the right to withdraw from the agreement without notice or just cause. Clearly, this Sword of Damocles allowed them to veto any subsequent choices, all the while asserting formally in the document that they unreservedly supported academic freedom. The Kochs, after decades of experience, have gotten good at circumventing faculty who don't understand how the takeover of universities actually works.

[3] See Philip Mirowski, Never Let a Serious Crisis Go to Waste (Verso, 2013), pp. 218-223.

[4] See, for instance, James Petras, "The Ford Foundation and the CIA," at: https://www.ratical.org/ratville/CAH/FordFandCIA.html .

[5] See, for instance, the fascinating case of BB&T: Douglas Beets, "BB&T, Atlas Shrugged, and the ethics of corporation influence on college curricula," Journal of Academic Ethics , 2015, (13):311-344.

[6] This is not the place to explicate fine points of political doctrine. However, see Mirowski, Never Let.. (op. cit.) as well as: https://www.ineteconomics.org/research/research-papers/the-political-movement-that-dared-not-speak-its-own-name-the-neoliberal-thought-collective-under-erasure .

[7] This is described in detail in: Philip Mirowski and Edward Nik-Khah, The Knowledge we Have Lost in Information , (Oxford, 2017).

[8] See, for instance, Matthew Gentzkow & Jesse Shapiro, "Competition and Truth in the Market for News," Journal of Economic Perspectives , (2008) 22:133-154. On his later work, "A reader of our study could very reasonably say, based on our set of facts, that it is unlikely that fake news swayed the election," said Gentzkow. At: https://news.stanford.edu/2017/01/18/stanford-study-examines-fake-news-2016-presidential-election .

[9] For a greater elaboration of this argument, see Philip Mirowski, "The Future(s) of Open Science," Social Studies of Science , 2018 at: http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0306312718772086

[10] https://www.aeaweb.org/about-aea/code-of-conduct


JTMcPhee , June 27, 2018 at 10:39 am

The New Golden Rule: "Them as has the gold (or money and influence) rules." (re-cast to avoid any charge that I am a Gold Bug )

I recall other actions by many sociopathic malefactors of great wealth to control the larger narrative and school curricula through history, like "supporting" the Catholic Church in all its machinations. The Reformation opened the door, along with common understandings of Darwin's notions, to Calvinism. I was bred up in the Presbyterian church, where TULIP blossomed in the young minds of the catechism classes and was reinforced in every bit of the Westminster Fellowship youth group's activities (the Total Depravity proven by all the efforts of young hormone sufferers to get into each others; pants). A pretty sick set of doctrines, http://www.auburn.edu/~allenkc/openhse/calvinism.html , when one gets on a little bit in life, and sees how humans really interact, and how "the Calvinist economics" actually work. https://marketmonetarist.com/2011/10/20/calvinist-economics-the-sin-of-our-times/

So the ho-hum economists and the media midgets are sort of right, at least in pointing out that there's nothing new in what the Kochtopus and all the other wealthy individuals and their "philanthropies" are about. Huge amounts are spent to control the content of Texas lower-grade text books, because as those go, so goes all the curricula of most of the country. http://www.nybooks.com/articles/2012/06/21/how-texas-inflicts-bad-textbooks-on-us/

"If only the people were aware of what is being done to them, they would __________________."

allan , June 27, 2018 at 11:02 am

The fact that the evergreen Glenn Hubbard interview from Inside Job didn't make Hubbard a pariah
in the economics community tells us all we need to know about
the intersectionality of integrity and academic economics.

Patrick , June 27, 2018 at 11:22 am

How ironic that economists are arguing that monetary incentives don't matter.

Larry Motuz , June 27, 2018 at 4:17 pm

Oh, they don't argue that. They know that monetary incentives work. They just don't want to agree that money isn't neutral in terms of what it 'incentivises' any more than does how money is distributed in terms of macroeconomic 'growth'.

This allows them to pretend that money is neutral.

chuck roast , June 27, 2018 at 11:34 am

Back in day, our Economics faculty used to tell us that the study of economics was "value free." What was presented was simply a reflection of real world conditions. No value judgements were to be made. These fellows, like many of our parents, were all deeply scared products of the Great Depression and committed Keynesians (public policy anyone?) to a man. Of course, all we had to do was pick up a copy of Theory of the Leisure Class, and if Veblen's prose didn't hurt our hair to badly, we knew this was a bunch of nonsense.
The worthy successors to this faculty now offer two different Bachelor of Science in Economics degrees. Indeed, the profession has gone entirely through the looking-glass. If we see the past (economic anthropology) or the future (post-capitalism), history will be destroyed. Now we all know that the Red Queen has a cock-eyed head and the royal crown would never fit her. Moreover, the Red Queen ate the stolen tart and is beyond redemption in any case. Are we to believe the Jabberwocky? Is time itself in danger? Can we recapture the Chronosphere? Can we get back through the looking-glass? And if we do, will we all wake up in mental hospitals?

Synoia , June 27, 2018 at 11:49 am

Antonin Scalia School of Law at George Mason University

Hmm.. ASSoL at George Mason University.
Can these people be that stupid?
I'm enrolled in ASSoL at GMU, or
I'm an ASSoL Graduate

One could not have chosen a better name working for Monty Python.

Secondly, for most economists, there are no such things as conflicts of interest,

Because each item, pronouncement, thesis, or work product is to ensure the Economist's Master that their view of the universe is correct, then, obviously there is no Conflict of Interest.

Moe N. DeLawn , June 27, 2018 at 4:01 pm

The internet already got to that.

They changed it to the Antonin Scalia Law School in response .

teacup , June 27, 2018 at 2:21 pm

"The Corruption of Economics" by Mason Gaffney dives deep into this. "False Education in our Colleges and Universities" by Emil O. Jorgensen referenced within this gem gives an example – ' in the 1924 Professor Richard T. Ely was the director of the Institute for Research in Land Economics and Public Utilities at the University of Wisconsin at Madison but relocated over questions of it being entirely financed by certain corporations and economic groups seeking to have privilege and monopoly taxed less and industry and consumption taxed more Although it was denied that the removal of Prof. Ely was in any way due to compulsion, it is a curious fact that no sooner had Prof. Ely gone than the Board of Regents voted that no more money "shall in the future be accepted by or in behalf of the University of Wisconsin from any incorporated educational endowments or organizations of like character." But Prof. Ely with his old-time shrewdness and skill had dodged the descending ax. Suspecting evidently that such a resolution would sooner or later be passed, the Professor began in the early part of the year to cast about for a safe place to escape and picked out as his refuge Northwestern University in Evanston – a privately endowed institution noted for its conservatism and its close affiliation with the powers that be Having definitely laid his plans Prof. Ely then added Frank O. Lowden (former governor of Illinois) and Nathan W. MacChesney (General Counsel for the National Association of Real Estate Boards as well as a trustee of Northwestern University) to his own board of trustees Very grateful for the welcome extended to him by Northwestern University, Prof. Ely commences his activities in that institution with larger plans, wider ambitions and a harder determination than ever to build up a great national machine that will promote, under the cloak of "disinterested research," not the welfare of all, but the special interests of a few '

Left in Wisconsin , June 27, 2018 at 6:23 pm

Ely had a complicated history. Business interests tried to drive him out of the Univ of Wisconsin in the 1890s not because he was a corrupt neoclassical economist but because he was argued to be a socialist. (He wasn't.) He was responsible for bringing JR Commons, one of the great institutional economists, to Wisconsin and at least partly responsible for the quality of the economics faculty at Wisconsin that developed in the 1910s many of the state programs (unemployment insurance, workers compensation) that ultimately became models for the New Deal.

But he became more right-wing as he got older. He campaigned to have Robert LaFollette removed from the Senate because LaFollette was anti-WW1 and then went off to Northwestern as a pretty conventional rightwing economist.

Interestingly, a number of pro-labor New Deal economists followed a similar trajectory. For example, Leo Wolman.

flora , June 27, 2018 at 4:38 pm

Thanks very much for this post. This has been playing out at my uni for some time now.

2 thoughts:

Money. The Kochs certainly appear to hate taxes almost as much as regulation. Public universities and colleges require adequate funding from the public(taxes) to support the mission of education – as opposed to just training.

A good education requires good teachers; professors who are paid well enough to make a career in academia – not a king's ransom but not a church mouse salary either – and the freedom to research into all areas.

So, the neoliberals get a huge tax cut passed in states and at the federal level; then claim there's not enough state/federal money to support higher ed (please, no MMT talk here, I'm making a different point); as higher ed struggles financially, pretend to be a white knight riding in with grant money to save the day. It's cheaper than taxes for the grantors, since the "white knight" controls how much and how often they give money. And, it gives them leverage over the curriculum. There are many tricks to claim a "chaired" position isn't "really in the department", so the grants are "not changing the quality of education" they will argue. It's a vicious financial circle for higher ed .

Philosophy. The neoliberal PR campaign of 'the market is the ultimate and true arbiter of all' has all the appearance of a regression to what I can only call inverted marxist dialectical-materialism as espoused by the old soviets; where anything, even scientific findings, that threatened the supremacy of the doctrine's claim of economic inevitability, was suppressed. ( No wonder the old soviet finally collapsed. )
The neoliberals substitutes a sort of libertarian dialectical-materialism that requires suppression of any theory that contradicts their claim of 'market infallibility' and inevitability. This is dogma, not science or even economics.

Just my opinion, of course.

Summer , June 27, 2018 at 5:30 pm

We're about to get to see Koch money and the unflappable Supreme Court Judges.

greg , June 27, 2018 at 11:38 pm

People who are paid to think, think what they are paid to think.

The Kochs, and those like them, seem to labor under under the delusion that reality will conform to their beliefs. Since they are powerful, they are able to inflict this delusion on society.

The return to the real world from the world of delusion is always extremely costly. We will all pay.

[Jun 06, 2018] Neoliberal Economics has a lot of similarities with Theology

Jun 06, 2018 | discussion.theguardian.com

Carlosthepossum -> innercity leftie , 3 Jun 2018 19:10

Economics has a lot of similarities with Theology.
People can believe whatever interpretation fits with their own indoctrination.
The difference being there is a truth to economics that seems to be invisible to most people, major economists included.
Your post highlights some of the stark realities that people just refuse to accept for some inexplicable reason.
Maybe the better economic managers will come to the rescue or maybe there will be a collective awakening when in a moment of clarity we start to realise how badly we have been conned.

[May 31, 2018] Meet the Economist Behind the One Percent's Stealth Takeover of America by Lynn Parramore

Highly recommended!
This looks like Ann Rand philosophy: "The people who needed protection were property owners, and their rights could only be secured though constitutional limits to prevent the majority of voters from encroaching on them, an idea Buchanan lays out in works like Property as a Guarantor of Liberty (1993). MacLean observes that Buchanan saw society as a cutthroat realm of makers (entrepreneurs) constantly under siege by takers (everybody else) His own language was often more stark, warning the alleged "prey" of "parasites" and "predators" out to fleece them."
Notable quotes:
"... By Lynn Parramore, Senior Research Analyst, Institute for New Economic Thinking. Originally published at the Institute for New Economic Thinking website ..."
"... The Limits of Liberty ..."
"... Property as a Guarantor of Liberty ..."
"... Brown v. Board of Education ..."
"... Calhoun, called the "Marx of the Master Class" by historian Richard Hofstadter, saw himself and his fellow southern oligarchs as victims of the majority. Therefore, as MacLean explains, he sought to create "constitutional gadgets" to constrict the operations of government ..."
"... She argues out that unlike even the most property-friendly founders Alexander Hamilton and James Madison, Buchanan wanted a private governing elite of corporate power that was wholly released from public accountability. ..."
"... Suppressing voting, changing legislative processes so that a normal majority could no longer prevail, sowing public distrust of government institutions -- all these were tactics toward the goal. But the Holy Grail was the Constitution: alter it and you could increase and secure the power of the wealthy in a way that no politician could ever challenge. ..."
"... MacLean observes that the Virginia school, as Buchanan's brand of economic and political thinking is known, is a kind of cousin to the better-known, market-oriented Chicago and Austrian schools -- proponents of all three were members of the Mont Pelerin Society, an international neoliberal organization which included Milton Friedman and Friedrich Hayek. But the Virginia school's focus and career missions were distinct. In an interview with the Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET), MacLean described Friedman and Buchanan as yin and yang: "Friedman was this genial, personable character who loved to be in the limelight and made a sunny case for the free market and the freedom to choose and so forth. Buchanan was the dark side of this: he thought, ok, fine, they can make a case for the free market, but everybody knows that free markets have externalities and other problems. So he wanted to keep people from believing that government could be the alternative to those problems." ..."
"... Buchanan's school focused on public choice theory, later adding constitutional economics and the new field of law and economics to its core research and advocacy. The economist saw that his vision would never come to fruition by focusing on who rules. It was much better to focus on the rules themselves , and that required a "constitutional revolution." ..."
"... MacLean describes how the economist developed a grand project to train operatives to staff institutions funded by like-minded tycoons, most significantly Charles Koch, who became interested in his work in the '70s and sought the economist's input in promoting "Austrian economics" in the U.S. and in advising the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank. ..."
"... With Koch's money and enthusiasm, Buchanan's academic school evolved into something much bigger. By the 1990s, Koch realized that Buchanan's ideas -- transmitted through stealth and deliberate deception, as MacLean amply documents -- could help take government down through incremental assaults that the media would hardly notice. The tycoon knew that the project was extremely radical, even a "revolution" in governance, but he talked like a conservative to make his plans sound more palatable. ..."
"... At the 1997 fiftieth anniversary of the Mont Pelerin Society, MacLean recounts that Buchanan and his associate Henry Manne, a founding theorist of libertarian economic approaches to law, focused on such affronts to capitalists as environmentalism and public health and welfare, expressing eagerness to dismantle Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare as well as kill public education because it tended to foster community values. Feminism had to go, too: the scholars considered it a socialist project. ..."
"... To put the success into perspective, MacLean points to the fact that Henry Manne, whom Buchanan was instrumental in hiring, created legal programs for law professors and federal judges which could boast that by 1990 two of every five sitting federal judges had participated. "40 percent of the U.S. federal judiciary," writes MacLean, "had been treated to a Koch-backed curriculum." ..."
"... Buchanan's role in the disastrous Pinochet government of Chile has been underestimated partly because unlike Milton Friedman, who advertised his activities, Buchanan had the shrewdness to keep his involvement quiet. With his guidance, the military junta deployed public choice economics in the creation of a new constitution, which required balanced budgets and thereby prevented the government from spending to meet public needs. Supermajorities would be required for any changes of substance, leaving the public little recourse to challenge programs like the privatization of social security. ..."
"... The Limits of Liberty ..."
"... MacLean is not the only scholar to sound the alarm that the country is experiencing a hostile takeover that is well on its way to radically, and perhaps permanently, altering the society. Peter Temin, former head of the MIT economics department, INET grantee, and author of The Vanishing Middle Class ..."
"... The One Percent Solution ..."
"... She observes, for example, that many liberals have missed the point of strategies like privatization. Efforts to "reform" public education and Social Security are not just about a preference for the private sector over the public sector, she argues. You can wrap your head around, even if you don't agree. Instead, MacLean contents, the goal of these strategies is to radically alter power relations, weakening pro-public forces and enhancing the lobbying power and commitment of the corporations that take over public services and resources, thus advancing the plans to dismantle democracy and make way for a return to oligarchy. The majority will be held captive so that the wealthy can finally be free to do as they please, no matter how destructive. ..."
"... MacLean argues that despite the rhetoric of Virginia school acolytes, shrinking big government is not really the point. The oligarchs require a government with tremendous new powers so that they can bypass the will of the people. This, as MacLean points out, requires greatly expanding police powers "to control the resultant popular anger." The spreading use of pre-emption by GOP-controlled state legislatures to suppress local progressive victories such as living wage ordinances is another example of the right's aggressive use of state power. ..."
"... They could, and have ..."
"... Getting it done ..."
"... Why I, Too, Am Not a Conservative ..."
May 31, 2018 | www.nakedcapitalism.com
May 31, 2018 By Lynn Parramore, Senior Research Analyst, Institute for New Economic Thinking. Originally published at the Institute for New Economic Thinking website

Nobel laureate James Buchanan is the intellectual lynchpin of the Koch-funded attack on democratic institutions, argues Duke historian Nancy MacLean

Ask people to name the key minds that have shaped America's burst of radical right-wing attacks on working conditions, consumer rights and public services, and they will typically mention figures like free market-champion Milton Friedman, libertarian guru Ayn Rand, and laissez-faire economists Friedrich Hayek and Ludwig von Mises.

James McGill Buchanan is a name you will rarely hear unless you've taken several classes in economics. And if the Tennessee-born Nobel laureate were alive today, it would suit him just fine that most well-informed journalists, liberal politicians, and even many economics students have little understanding of his work.

The reason? Duke historian Nancy MacLean contends that his philosophy is so stark that even young libertarian acolytes are only introduced to it after they have accepted the relatively sunny perspective of Ayn Rand. (Yes, you read that correctly). If Americans really knew what Buchanan thought and promoted, and how destructively his vision is manifesting under their noses, it would dawn on them how close the country is to a transformation most would not even want to imagine, much less accept.

That is a dangerous blind spot, MacLean argues in a meticulously researched book, Democracy in Chains , a finalist for the National Book Award in Nonfiction. While Americans grapple with Donald Trump's chaotic presidency, we may be missing the key to changes that are taking place far beyond the level of mere politics. Once these changes are locked into place, there may be no going back.

An Unlocked Door in Virginia

MacLean's book reads like an intellectual detective story. In 2010, she moved to North Carolina, where a Tea Party-dominated Republican Party got control of both houses of the state legislature and began pushing through a radical program to suppress voter rights, decimate public services, and slash taxes on the wealthy that shocked a state long a beacon of southern moderation. Up to this point, the figure of James Buchanan flickered in her peripheral vision, but as she began to study his work closely, the events in North Carolina and also Wisconsin, where Governor Scott Walker was leading assaults on collective bargaining rights, shifted her focus.

Could it be that this relatively obscure economist's distinctive thought was being put forcefully into action in real time?

MacLean could not gain access to Buchanan's papers to test her hypothesis until after his death in January 2013. That year, just as the government was being shut down by Ted Cruz & Co., she traveled to George Mason University in Virginia, where the economist's papers lay willy-nilly across the offices of a building now abandoned by the Koch-funded faculty to a new, fancier center in Arlington.

MacLean was stunned. The archive of the man who had sought to stay under the radar had been left totally unsorted and unguarded. The historian plunged in, and she read through boxes and drawers full of papers that included personal correspondence between Buchanan and billionaire industrialist Charles Koch. That's when she had an amazing realization: here was the intellectual lynchpin of a stealth revolution currently in progress.

A Theory of Property Supremacy

Buchanan, a 1940 graduate of Middle Tennessee State University who later attended the University of Chicago for graduate study, started out as a conventional public finance economist. But he grew frustrated by the way in which economic theorists ignored the political process.

Buchanan began working on a description of power that started out as a critique of how institutions functioned in the relatively liberal 1950s and '60s, a time when economist John Maynard Keynes's ideas about the need for government intervention in markets to protect people from flaws so clearly demonstrated in the Great Depression held sway. Buchanan, MacLean notes, was incensed at what he saw as a move toward socialism and deeply suspicious of any form of state action that channels resources to the public. Why should the increasingly powerful federal government be able to force the wealthy to pay for goods and programs that served ordinary citizens and the poor?

In thinking about how people make political decisions and choices, Buchanan concluded that you could only understand them as individuals seeking personal advantage. In interview cited by MacLean, the economist observed that in the 1950s Americans commonly assumed that elected officials wanted to act in the public interest. Buchanan vehemently disagreed -- that was a belief he wanted, as he put it, to "tear down." His ideas developed into a theory that came to be known as "public choice."

Buchanan's view of human nature was distinctly dismal. Adam Smith saw human beings as self-interested and hungry for personal power and material comfort, but he also acknowledged social instincts like compassion and fairness. Buchanan, in contrast, insisted that people were primarily driven by venal self-interest. Crediting people with altruism or a desire to serve others was "romantic" fantasy: politicians and government workers were out for themselves, and so, for that matter, were teachers, doctors, and civil rights activists. They wanted to control others and wrest away their resources: "Each person seeks mastery over a world of slaves," he wrote in his 1975 book, The Limits of Liberty .

Does that sound like your kindergarten teacher? It did to Buchanan.

The people who needed protection were property owners, and their rights could only be secured though constitutional limits to prevent the majority of voters from encroaching on them, an idea Buchanan lays out in works like Property as a Guarantor of Liberty (1993). MacLean observes that Buchanan saw society as a cutthroat realm of makers (entrepreneurs) constantly under siege by takers (everybody else) His own language was often more stark, warning the alleged "prey" of "parasites" and "predators" out to fleece them.

In 1965 the economist launched a center dedicated to his theories at the University of Virginia, which later relocated to George Mason University. MacLean describes how he trained thinkers to push back against the Brown v. Board of Education decision to desegregate America's public schools and to challenge the constitutional perspectives and federal policy that enabled it. She notes that he took care to use economic and political precepts, rather than overtly racial arguments, to make his case, which nonetheless gave cover to racists who knew that spelling out their prejudices would alienate the country.

All the while, a ghost hovered in the background -- that of John C. Calhoun of South Carolina, senator and seventh vice president of the United States.

Calhoun was an intellectual and political powerhouse in the South from the 1820s until his death in 1850, expending his formidable energy to defend slavery. Calhoun, called the "Marx of the Master Class" by historian Richard Hofstadter, saw himself and his fellow southern oligarchs as victims of the majority. Therefore, as MacLean explains, he sought to create "constitutional gadgets" to constrict the operations of government.

Economists Tyler Cowen and Alexander Tabarrok, both of George Mason University, have noted the two men's affinities, heralding Calhoun "a precursor of modern public choice theory" who "anticipates" Buchanan's thinking. MacLean observes that both focused on how democracy constrains property owners and aimed for ways to restrict the latitude of voters. She argues out that unlike even the most property-friendly founders Alexander Hamilton and James Madison, Buchanan wanted a private governing elite of corporate power that was wholly released from public accountability.

Suppressing voting, changing legislative processes so that a normal majority could no longer prevail, sowing public distrust of government institutions -- all these were tactics toward the goal. But the Holy Grail was the Constitution: alter it and you could increase and secure the power of the wealthy in a way that no politician could ever challenge.

Gravy Train to Oligarchy

MacLean explains that Virginia's white elite and the pro-corporate president of the University of Virginia, Colgate Darden, who had married into the DuPont family, found Buchanan's ideas to be spot on. In nurturing a new intelligentsia to commit to his values, Buchanan stated that he needed a "gravy train," and with backers like Charles Koch and conservative foundations like the Scaife Family Charitable Trusts, others hopped aboard. Money, Buchanan knew, can be a persuasive tool in academia. His circle of influence began to widen.

MacLean observes that the Virginia school, as Buchanan's brand of economic and political thinking is known, is a kind of cousin to the better-known, market-oriented Chicago and Austrian schools -- proponents of all three were members of the Mont Pelerin Society, an international neoliberal organization which included Milton Friedman and Friedrich Hayek. But the Virginia school's focus and career missions were distinct. In an interview with the Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET), MacLean described Friedman and Buchanan as yin and yang: "Friedman was this genial, personable character who loved to be in the limelight and made a sunny case for the free market and the freedom to choose and so forth. Buchanan was the dark side of this: he thought, ok, fine, they can make a case for the free market, but everybody knows that free markets have externalities and other problems. So he wanted to keep people from believing that government could be the alternative to those problems."

The Virginia school also differs from other economic schools in a marked reliance on abstract theory rather than mathematics or empirical evidence. That a Nobel Prize was awarded in 1986 to an economist who so determinedly bucked the academic trends of his day was nothing short of stunning, MacLean observes. But, then, it was the peak of the Reagan era, an administration several Buchanan students joined.

Buchanan's school focused on public choice theory, later adding constitutional economics and the new field of law and economics to its core research and advocacy. The economist saw that his vision would never come to fruition by focusing on who rules. It was much better to focus on the rules themselves , and that required a "constitutional revolution."

MacLean describes how the economist developed a grand project to train operatives to staff institutions funded by like-minded tycoons, most significantly Charles Koch, who became interested in his work in the '70s and sought the economist's input in promoting "Austrian economics" in the U.S. and in advising the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank.

Koch, whose mission was to save capitalists like himself from democracy, found the ultimate theoretical tool in the work of the southern economist. The historian writes that Koch preferred Buchanan to Milton Friedman and his "Chicago boys" because, she says, quoting a libertarian insider, they wanted "to make government work more efficiently when the true libertarian should be tearing it out at the root."

With Koch's money and enthusiasm, Buchanan's academic school evolved into something much bigger. By the 1990s, Koch realized that Buchanan's ideas -- transmitted through stealth and deliberate deception, as MacLean amply documents -- could help take government down through incremental assaults that the media would hardly notice. The tycoon knew that the project was extremely radical, even a "revolution" in governance, but he talked like a conservative to make his plans sound more palatable.

MacLean details how partnered with Koch, Buchanan's outpost at George Mason University was able to connect libertarian economists with right-wing political actors and supporters of corporations like Shell Oil, Exxon, Ford, IBM, Chase Manhattan Bank, and General Motors. Together they could push economic ideas to public through media, promote new curricula for economics education, and court politicians in nearby Washington, D.C.

At the 1997 fiftieth anniversary of the Mont Pelerin Society, MacLean recounts that Buchanan and his associate Henry Manne, a founding theorist of libertarian economic approaches to law, focused on such affronts to capitalists as environmentalism and public health and welfare, expressing eagerness to dismantle Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare as well as kill public education because it tended to foster community values. Feminism had to go, too: the scholars considered it a socialist project.

The Oligarchic Revolution Unfolds

Buchanan's ideas began to have huge impact, especially in America and in Britain. In his home country, the economist was deeply involved efforts to cut taxes on the wealthy in 1970s and 1980s and he advised proponents of Reagan Revolution in their quest to unleash markets and posit government as the "problem" rather than the "solution." The Koch-funded Virginia school coached scholars, lawyers, politicians, and business people to apply stark right-wing perspectives on everything from deficits to taxes to school privatization. In Britain, Buchanan's work helped to inspire the public sector reforms of Margaret Thatcher and her political progeny.

To put the success into perspective, MacLean points to the fact that Henry Manne, whom Buchanan was instrumental in hiring, created legal programs for law professors and federal judges which could boast that by 1990 two of every five sitting federal judges had participated. "40 percent of the U.S. federal judiciary," writes MacLean, "had been treated to a Koch-backed curriculum."

MacLean illustrates that in South America, Buchanan was able to first truly set his ideas in motion by helping a bare-knuckles dictatorship ensure the permanence of much of the radical transformation it inflicted on a country that had been a beacon of social progress. The historian emphasizes that Buchanan's role in the disastrous Pinochet government of Chile has been underestimated partly because unlike Milton Friedman, who advertised his activities, Buchanan had the shrewdness to keep his involvement quiet. With his guidance, the military junta deployed public choice economics in the creation of a new constitution, which required balanced budgets and thereby prevented the government from spending to meet public needs. Supermajorities would be required for any changes of substance, leaving the public little recourse to challenge programs like the privatization of social security.

The dictator's human rights abuses and pillage of the country's resources did not seem to bother Buchanan, MacLean argues, so long as the wealthy got their way. "Despotism may be the only organizational alternative to the political structure that we observe," the economist had written in The Limits of Liberty . If you have been wondering about the end result of the Virginia school philosophy, well, the economist helpfully spelled it out.

A World of Slaves

Most Americans haven't seen what's coming.

MacLean notes that when the Kochs' control of the GOP kicked into high gear after the financial crisis of 2007-08, many were so stunned by the "shock-and-awe" tactics of shutting down government, destroying labor unions, and rolling back services that meet citizens' basic necessities that few realized that many leading the charge had been trained in economics at Virginia institutions, especially George Mason University. Wasn't it just a new, particularly vicious wave of partisan politics?

It wasn't. MacLean convincingly illustrates that it was something far more disturbing.

MacLean is not the only scholar to sound the alarm that the country is experiencing a hostile takeover that is well on its way to radically, and perhaps permanently, altering the society. Peter Temin, former head of the MIT economics department, INET grantee, and author of The Vanishing Middle Class , as well as economist Gordon Lafer of the University of Oregon and author of The One Percent Solution , have provided eye-opening analyses of where America is headed and why. MacLean adds another dimension to this dystopian big picture, acquainting us with what has been overlooked in the capitalist right wing's playbook.

She observes, for example, that many liberals have missed the point of strategies like privatization. Efforts to "reform" public education and Social Security are not just about a preference for the private sector over the public sector, she argues. You can wrap your head around, even if you don't agree. Instead, MacLean contents, the goal of these strategies is to radically alter power relations, weakening pro-public forces and enhancing the lobbying power and commitment of the corporations that take over public services and resources, thus advancing the plans to dismantle democracy and make way for a return to oligarchy. The majority will be held captive so that the wealthy can finally be free to do as they please, no matter how destructive.

MacLean argues that despite the rhetoric of Virginia school acolytes, shrinking big government is not really the point. The oligarchs require a government with tremendous new powers so that they can bypass the will of the people. This, as MacLean points out, requires greatly expanding police powers "to control the resultant popular anger." The spreading use of pre-emption by GOP-controlled state legislatures to suppress local progressive victories such as living wage ordinances is another example of the right's aggressive use of state power.

Could these right-wing capitalists allow private companies to fill prisons with helpless citizens -- or, more profitable still, right-less undocumented immigrants? They could, and have . Might they engineer a retirement crisis by moving Americans to inadequate 401(k)s? Done . Take away the rights of consumers and workers to bring grievances to court by making them sign forced arbitration agreements? Check . Gut public education to the point where ordinary people have such bleak prospects that they have no energy to fight back? Getting it done .

Would they even refuse children clean water? Actually, yes.

MacLean notes that in Flint, Michigan, Americans got a taste of what the emerging oligarchy will look like -- it tastes like poisoned water. There, the Koch-funded Mackinac Center pushed for legislation that would allow the governor to take control of communities facing emergency and put unelected managers in charge. In Flint, one such manager switched the city's water supply to a polluted river, but the Mackinac Center's lobbyists ensured that the law was fortified by protections against lawsuits that poisoned inhabitants might bring. Tens of thousands of children were exposed to lead, a substance known to cause serious health problems including brain damage.

Tyler Cowen has provided an economic justification for this kind of brutality, stating that where it is difficult to get clean water, private companies should take over and make people pay for it. "This includes giving them the right to cut off people who don't -- or can't -- pay their bills," the economist explains.

To many this sounds grotesquely inhumane, but it is a way of thinking that has deep roots in America. In Why I, Too, Am Not a Conservative (2005), Buchanan considers the charge of heartlessness made against the kind of classic liberal that he took himself to be. MacLean interprets his discussion to mean that people who "failed to foresee and save money for their future needs" are to be treated, as Buchanan put it, "as subordinate members of the species, akin to animals who are dependent.'"

Do you have your education, health care, and retirement personally funded against all possible exigencies? Then that means you.

Buchanan was not a dystopian novelist. He was a Nobel Laureate whose sinister logic exerts vast influence over America's trajectory. It is no wonder that Cowen, on his popular blog Marginal Revolution, does not mention Buchanan on a list of underrated influential libertarian thinkers, though elsewhere on the blog, he expresses admiration for several of Buchanan's contributions and acknowledges that the southern economist "thought more consistently in terms of 'rules of the games' than perhaps any other economist."

The rules of the game are now clear.

Research like MacLean's provides hope that toxic ideas like Buchanan's may finally begin to face public scrutiny. Yet at this very moment, the Kochs' State Policy Network and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a group that connects corporate agents to conservative lawmakers to produce legislation, are involved in projects that the Trump-obsessed media hardly notices, like pumping money into state judicial races. Their aim is to stack the legal deck against Americans in ways that MacLean argues may have even bigger effects than Citizens United, the 2010 Supreme Court ruling which unleashed unlimited corporate spending on American politics. The goal is to create a judiciary that will interpret the Constitution in favor of corporations and the wealthy in ways that Buchanan would have heartily approved.

"The United States is now at one of those historic forks in the road whose outcome will prove as fateful as those of the 1860s, the 1930s, and the 1960s," writes MacLean. "To value liberty for the wealthy minority above all else and enshrine it in the nation's governing rules, as Calhoun and Buchanan both called for and the Koch network is achieving, play by play, is to consent to an oligarchy in all but the outer husk of representative form."

Nobody can say we weren't warned.

[May 30, 2018] How Media Amnesia Has Trapped Us in a Neoliberal Groundhog Day

Highly recommended!
Notable quotes:
"... By Laura Basu, a Marie Curie Research Fellow at Cardiff School of Journalism, Media and Culture. Originally published at openDemocracy ..."
"... This ideology spread through the media from the 1980s ..."
"... Fast-forward to April 2009, barely 6 months after the announcement of a £500 billion bank bailout. A media hysteria was nowraging around Britain's deficit . While greedy bankers were still taking some of the blame, the systemic problems in finance and the problems with the free-market model had been forgotten. Instead, public profligacy had become the dominant explanation for the deficit. The timeline of the crisis was being erased and rewritten. ..."
"... These measures were a ramped-up version of the kinds of reforms that had produced the crisis in the first place. This fact, however, was forgotten. These 'pro-business' moves were enthusiastically embraced by the media, far more so than austerity. Of the 5 outlets analysed (The BBC, Telegraph, Sun, Guardian and Mirror), only the Guardian rejected them more frequently than endorsing them. ..."
"... "One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we've been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We're no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It's simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we've been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back." ..."
"... This post is disheartening in so many ways. Start with "media hysteria" -- adding yet another glib coinage to hide a lack of explanation behind a simple but innapt analogy like the endless "addictions" from which personifications of various abstract entities suffer. ..."
"... This coinage presupposes a media sufficiently free to be possessed by hysteria. Dancing puppets might with some art appear "hysterical". And the strange non-death of Neoliberalsm isn't so strange or poorly understood in 2018 though the detailed explanation hasn't reached as many as one might have hoped, including the authors of this brief post. Consider their unhappy mashup of thoughts in a key sentence of the first paragraph: "This power has been maintained with the help of a robust ideology centred on free markets (though in reality markets are captured by corporations and are maintained by the state) and the superiority of the private sector over the public sector." The tail of this sentence obviates the rest of the post. And we ought not ignore the detail that Neoliberalism believes in the Market as a solution to all problems -- NOT the 'free market' of neoclassical economics or libertarian ideology. ..."
"... From "media hysteria" the post postulates "amnesia" of a public convinced of "greedy bankers" who need regulation. In the U.S. the propaganda was more subtle -- at least in my opinion. We were fed the "bad apples" theory mocked in a brief series of media clips presented in the documentary film "Inside Job". Those clips suggest a better explanation for the swift media transitions from banking reform to balanced budgets and austerity with more tax cuts for the wealthy than "amnesia" or "hyper-amnesia". The media Corporations are tightly controlled by the same forces that captured Corporations and -- taking the phrase "the superiority of the private sector over the public sector" in the sense that a superior directs an inferior [rather than the intended(?) sense] -- direct and essentially own our governments. ..."
"... The remarkable thing about public discourse and political and economic news reporting is how superficial it has become, so devoid of a foundation of any kind in history or theory. You can not have an effective critique of society or the economy or anything, if you do not see a system with a history and think it matters. Neoliberalism has become what people say when they think none of it really matters; it is all just noise. ..."
"... "Neoliberalism has become what people say when they think none of it really matters; it is all just noise." ..."
"... I also think that the crisis of neoliberalism echos a problem caused by capitalism, itself. I think David Harvey stated that "capitalism doesn't solve problems, it often just moves them around". ..."
"... Matt Stoller tweet from August 2017, as germane now as ever: "The political crisis we are facing is simple. American commerce, law, finance, and politics is organized around cheating people." ..."
"... George Orwell noted that the middle class Left couldn't handle dealing with real working class people, although there isn't the same huge gulf these days, I believe there is still a vestige of it due to the British class system. The Fabians set up shop in the East End around the turn of the last century & directly rubbed shoulders with the likes of Coster Mongers – a combination that led to a strike that was one of the first success stories in the attempt to get a few more crumbs than what was usually allowed to fall from the top table. ..."
"... If Neoliberalism is now being noticed I imagine that it is because of it's success in working it's way up the food chain. After all these same Middle classes for the most part did not care much for the plight of the poor during those Victorian values. Many could not wait to employ maids of all work who slaved for up to fourteen hours a day with only Sunday afternoon's off. The Suffragettes had a real problem with this as their relatively comfortable lives would soon descend into drudgery without their servants. ..."
"... Coincidentally, the NYT article on Austerity Britain is the closest I have read to an accurate picture that I have seen for a good while. ..."
"... It's also not a new thing. British media worship of neoliberalism has been growing since the 1980s, at the same time as newspapers have been closing and media sources of all kinds laying off their staff. 2008 was a temporary blip, and since the average journalist has the attention span of a hamster, it was back to usual a few months later. Once the crash stopped being "news" old patterns reasserted themselves. I wonder, incidentally, how many economics journalists in the UK actually remember the time before neoliberalism? ..."
"... Consuming corporate media is increasingly a bizarro-world experience. Even something like the Trump scandal/constitutional crisis/investigation seems like the arrogant internecine warfare of corrupt factions of the establishment. Meanwhile, Americans are increasingly living out of their cars. ..."
"... 1. Oligarchs having captured thoroughly the media, the legislatures and the judiciary, (as well as large parts of what might be construed as "liberal" political organisations e.g. the Democratic Party of the USA) ..."
May 30, 2018 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

Posted on May 29, 2018 by Yves Smith Yves here. I'm sure readers could write a US version of this timeline despite the fact that we had a second crisis and bailout, that of way more foreclosures than were warranted, thanks to lousy incentives to mortgage servicers and lack of political will to intervene, and foreclosure fraud to cover up for chain of title failures.

By Laura Basu, a Marie Curie Research Fellow at Cardiff School of Journalism, Media and Culture. Originally published at openDemocracy

It hasn't escaped many people's attention that, a decade after the biggest economic crash of a generation, the economic model producing that meltdown has not exactly been laid to rest. The crisis in the NHS and the Carillion and Capital scandals are testament to that. Sociologist Colin Crouch wrote a book in 2011 about the 'strange non-death of neoliberalism', arguing that the neoliberal model is centred on the needs of corporations and that corporate power actually intensified after the 2008 financial meltdown. This power has been maintained with the help of a robust ideology centred on free markets (though in reality markets are captured by corporations and are maintained by the state) and the superiority of the private sector over the public sector. It advocates privatisation, cuts in public spending, deregulation and tax cuts for businesses and high earners.

This ideology spread through the media from the 1980s , and the media have continued to play a key role in its persistence through a decade of political and economic turmoil since the 2008 crash. They have done this largely via an acute amnesia about the causes of the crisis, an amnesia that helped make policies like austerity, privatisation and corporate tax breaks appear as common sense responses to the problems.

This amnesia struck at dizzying speed. My research carried out at Cardiff University shows that in 2008 at the time of the banking collapse, the main explanations given for the problems were financial misconduct ('greedy bankers'), systemic problems with the financial sector, and the faulty free-market model. These explanations were given across the media spectrum, with even the Telegraph and Sun complaining about a lack of regulation . Banking reform was advocated across the board.

Fast-forward to April 2009, barely 6 months after the announcement of a £500 billion bank bailout. A media hysteria was nowraging around Britain's deficit . While greedy bankers were still taking some of the blame, the systemic problems in finance and the problems with the free-market model had been forgotten. Instead, public profligacy had become the dominant explanation for the deficit. The timeline of the crisis was being erased and rewritten.

Correspondingly, financial and corporate regulation were forgotten. Instead, austerity became the star of the show, eclipsing all other possible solutions to the crisis. As a response to the deficit, austerity was mentioned 2.5 as many times as the next most covered policy-response option, which was raising taxes on the wealthy. Austerity was mentioned 18 times more frequently than tackling tax avoidance and evasion. Although coverage of austerity was polarized, no media outlet rejected it outright, and even the left-leaning press implicitly (and sometimes explicitly) backed 'austerity lite'.

In 2010, the Conservative-Lib Dem government announced £99 billion in spending cuts and £29 billion in tax increases per year by 2014-15. Having made these 'tough choices', from 2011 the coalition wanted to focus attention away from austerity and towards growth (which was, oops, being stalled by austerity). To do this, they pursued a zealously 'pro-business' agenda, including privatisation, deregulation, cutting taxes for the highest earners, and cutting corporation tax in 2011, 2012, 2013, and in 2015 and 2016 under a Conservative government.

These measures were a ramped-up version of the kinds of reforms that had produced the crisis in the first place. This fact, however, was forgotten. These 'pro-business' moves were enthusiastically embraced by the media, far more so than austerity. Of the 5 outlets analysed (The BBC, Telegraph, Sun, Guardian and Mirror), only the Guardian rejected them more frequently than endorsing them.

The idea behind these policies is that what's good for business is good for everyone. If businesses are handed more resources, freed from regulation and handed tax breaks, they will be encouraged to invest in the economy, creating jobs and growth. The rich are therefore 'job creators' and 'wealth creators'.

This is despite the fact that these policies have an impressive fail rate. Business investment and productivity growth remain low, as corporations spend the savings not on training and innovation but on share buy-backs and shareholder dividends. According to the Financial Times, in 2014, the top 500 US companies returned 95 per cent of their profits to shareholders in dividends and buybacks. Meanwhile, inequality is spiralling and in the UK more than a million people are using food banks .

Poverty and inequality, meanwhile, attracted surprising little media attention. Of my sample of 1,133 media items, only 53 had a primary focus on living standards, poverty or inequality. This confirms other researchshowing a lack of media attention to these issues . Of these 53 items, the large majority were from the Guardian and Mirror. The coverage correctly identified austerity as a primary cause of these problems. However, deeper explanations were rare. Yet again, the link back to the 2008 bank meltdown wasn't made, let alone the long-term causes of that meltdown. Not only that, the coverage failed even to identify the role of most of the policies pursued since the onset of the crisis in producing inequality – such as the bank bailouts, quantitative easing, and those 'pro-business' measures like corporation tax cuts and privatisation.

And so it seems we are living with a hyper-amnesia , in which it is increasingly difficult to reconstruct timelines and distinguish causes from effects. This amnesia has helped trap us in a neoliberal groundhog day. The political consensus around the free market model finally seems to be breaking. If we are to find a way out, we will need to have a lot more conversations about how to organise both our media systems and our economies.


Summer , May 29, 2018 at 10:31 am

Tick-Tock.
It depends. Do you believe the worst can be avoided or do you believe the world is already knee deep in all the things we're told to be afraid will happen? There is a big difference between organizing for reform and organizing to break capture.

makedoanmend , May 29, 2018 at 10:42 am

" Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand "

W.B. Yeats

I suppose we can take some succour from the fact that WWI (and the Spanish flu) seemed to be a harbinger of worse to come but we're still here

Doug , May 29, 2018 at 11:21 am

The hyper-amnesia ground hog problem described in the post happens, in part, because the 'centre continues to hold'. It demonstrates the center can, and does, hold. We don't want the centre to hold. We want it to disappear and get replaced by policies and perspectives keen on an economy (and society) that works for all, not just some

makedoanmend , May 29, 2018 at 11:33 am

I know what you're saying and I tend to agree. But the centre to Yeats (my interpretation, anyway) is that there is a cultural centre both apart from but also part of the social centre, and when that centre goes all hell breaks loose. Meaning of events becomes very confused or impossible to understand on many levels.

Then, it's often the little people (and don't go making jokes about leprechauns) that get crushed in the confusion.

Pam of Nantucket , May 29, 2018 at 10:32 am

We should reflect about the root causes of why our information is not informing us. How can decades go by with the meme "smoking has not been conclusively proven to cause cancer" or now "the science of climate change is inconclusive", not to mention countless similar horror stories in pharma. Bullshit about the effectiveness of supply side economics is no different.

Somehow we collectively need to expect and demand more objectivity from our information sources. We fall for the fox guarding hen houses scam over and over, from TARP bailouts, to FDA approvals to WMD claims. Not sure of the answer, but I know from talking with my boomer parents, skepticism about information sources is not in the DNA of many information consumers.

Isotope_C14 , May 29, 2018 at 11:52 am

"One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we've been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We're no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It's simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we've been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back."

― Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark

One of Sagan's best, I loaned this out to a not terribly thoughtful acquaintance and I was told it was "too preachy".

I guess Sagan proves himself correct time and time again.

Off The Street , May 29, 2018 at 2:56 pm

Bamboozlers often look to bezzle. That should give anyone pause.

steelhead23 , May 29, 2018 at 12:43 pm

It is also worth noting that a number of newspapers lauded Hitler's rise to power – they overlooked violence against Jews because the trains ran on time. Nor should we ignore disinformation campaigns, led by newspapers (e.g. Hearst and cannabis). In general, each media outlet is a reflection of its owners, most of whom are rich and adverse to any suggestion that we "tax the rich."

sharonsj , May 29, 2018 at 1:59 pm

I've come to the conclusion that we don't have a media anymore. I was watching MSNBC this AM discuss the "missing" 1500 immigrant children. The agency responsible says it calls the people who now have the kids, but most of the people don't call back within the 30-day requirement period.

Now the next logical questions to ask the rep would be: What happens after 30 days? Do you keep calling them? Do send out investigators?" But are these questions asked? No. Instead we get speculation or non-answers. It's the same with every issue.

The internet is not any better. Many articles are just repeating what appears elsewhere with no one checking the facts, even on respected sites. I also got a chain email today regarding petition for a Constitutional Convention. The impetus is a list of grievances ranging from "a congressman can retire after just one term with a full pension" to "children of congressmen don't have to pay back college loans." I already knew most of the claims weren't true but the 131 recipients of the organization I belong to didn't. I did find out that this chain email has been circulating on the internet for five years and it is the work of a conservative groups whose real aim is to stop abortion and make Christianity the law of the land. I was not surprised.

I have said for years that there is no news on the news. And I have repeated this meme for just as long: There is a reason why America is called Planet Stupid.

lewis e , May 29, 2018 at 2:43 pm

On the 1500

https://twitter.com/jduffyrice/status/1000927903759110144

JBird , May 29, 2018 at 3:38 pm

Now the next logical questions to ask the rep would be: What happens after 30 days? Do you keep calling them? Do send out investigators?" But are these questions asked? No. Instead we get speculation or non-answers. It's the same with every issue.

Even competent reporting takes practice, time, and effort, even money sometimes. The same with even half way competent governing. Neither is rewarded, and are often punished, for doing nowadays; asking as a follow-up question "did you call the local police or send over a pair of ICE officers just to politely knock on the door?" Police do people checks all the time. "I haven't see so and so for a week", or "my relative hasn't returned my calls for a month, can you?" It is possible that the paperwork just got lost and asking the guardians/family some questions personally would solve.

But all that is boring bovine excrement, which is just not done.

Jeremy Grimm , May 29, 2018 at 2:41 pm

This post is disheartening in so many ways. Start with "media hysteria" -- adding yet another glib coinage to hide a lack of explanation behind a simple but innapt analogy like the endless "addictions" from which personifications of various abstract entities suffer.

This coinage presupposes a media sufficiently free to be possessed by hysteria. Dancing puppets might with some art appear "hysterical". And the strange non-death of Neoliberalsm isn't so strange or poorly understood in 2018 though the detailed explanation hasn't reached as many as one might have hoped, including the authors of this brief post. Consider their unhappy mashup of thoughts in a key sentence of the first paragraph: "This power has been maintained with the help of a robust ideology centred on free markets (though in reality markets are captured by corporations and are maintained by the state) and the superiority of the private sector over the public sector." The tail of this sentence obviates the rest of the post. And we ought not ignore the detail that Neoliberalism believes in the Market as a solution to all problems -- NOT the 'free market' of neoclassical economics or libertarian ideology.

From "media hysteria" the post postulates "amnesia" of a public convinced of "greedy bankers" who need regulation. In the U.S. the propaganda was more subtle -- at least in my opinion. We were fed the "bad apples" theory mocked in a brief series of media clips presented in the documentary film "Inside Job". Those clips suggest a better explanation for the swift media transitions from banking reform to balanced budgets and austerity with more tax cuts for the wealthy than "amnesia" or "hyper-amnesia". The media Corporations are tightly controlled by the same forces that captured Corporations and -- taking the phrase "the superiority of the private sector over the public sector" in the sense that a superior directs an inferior [rather than the intended(?) sense] -- direct and essentially own our governments.

orangecats , May 29, 2018 at 10:09 pm

"skepticism about information sources is not in the DNA of many information consumers"

This.

bruce wilder , May 29, 2018 at 11:37 am

The essayist complains that poverty and the manifest failures of neoliberalism get little critical attention, but she leads off, "It hasn't escaped many people's attention . . ."

The remarkable thing about public discourse and political and economic news reporting is how superficial it has become, so devoid of a foundation of any kind in history or theory. You can not have an effective critique of society or the economy or anything, if you do not see a system with a history and think it matters. Neoliberalism has become what people say when they think none of it really matters; it is all just noise.

Summer , May 29, 2018 at 4:48 pm

"Neoliberalism has become what people say when they think none of it really matters; it is all just noise."

There is a connection there with movies like Deadpool 2.

JohnnyGL , May 29, 2018 at 1:35 pm

Another thing to recall was how quickly talk of nationalizing banks evaporated. Even Paul Krugman, among others were supporting the idea that "real capitalists nationalize".

Once LIBOR came down, and the lending channels began to reopen, the happy talk ensued and the amnesia kicked in strongly.

I also think that the crisis of neoliberalism echos a problem caused by capitalism, itself. I think David Harvey stated that "capitalism doesn't solve problems, it often just moves them around".

The financial crisis and austerity have now manifested themselves into a media crisis of elites and elite legitimacy (BREXIT, Trump's election, etc). The ability to manufacture consent is running into increased difficulty. I don't think the financial crisis narrative shift helped very much at all. A massive crime requires an equally massive cover-up, naturally.

WheresOurTeddy , May 29, 2018 at 1:41 pm

Why, it's almost as if 90% of all media outlets are owned by 5 multibillion dollar conglomerates, controlled by the top 0.1%, for the purposes of protecting their unearned parasitic power, and the employees making six-to-low-seven figures are on the Upton Sinclair "paycheck demands I not understand it" model.

Or it's amnesia.

Matt Stoller tweet from August 2017, as germane now as ever: "The political crisis we are facing is simple. American commerce, law, finance, and politics is organized around cheating people."

maria gostrey , May 29, 2018 at 2:13 pm

this is why frank sobotka got my vote in the 2016 election:

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=T-j5XWo1fPI#

KLG , May 29, 2018 at 9:56 pm

A big thumbs up for that! Sobotka was a hero in very dark times.

As my brother-in-law puts it: The American Dream used to be "work hard in a useful job, raise a family of citizens, retire with dignity, and hand the controls to the next generation." Now? It's just "Win the lottery."

Problem is, "The Lottery" is right out of Shirley Jackson.

hemeantwell , May 29, 2018 at 3:12 pm

Or it's amnesia.

Agreed. The author is inclined to interpret at the level of cumulative effect -- apparent forgetting -- and to ignore how fear -- of editors, of owners -- plays any role. Her proposed unveiling of a coercive process becomes yet another veiling of it.

precariat , May 29, 2018 at 3:16 pm

There is not a writer or thinker I agree with more than Matt Stoller.

Avalon Sparks , May 29, 2018 at 5:33 pm

He's one I agree with too. His writings on monopoly activity are excellent.

Pamela More , May 29, 2018 at 9:57 pm

This.

It's a feature, not a bug.

Alex morfesis , May 29, 2018 at 1:54 pm

Sadly the narrative of details is lost to history The German landesbanks who had guaranteed payments in loan pools in the USA were allowed to skirt thru crash and burn by the agencies (moody s&p and your little fitch too) fake and shake ratings process But all things German are magical Having lived thru NYC Mac Corp effective bankruptcy of man hat tan..

it was amusing watching the hand wave given when the city of Berlin actually defaulted .

Ah reality I remember it welll

Eustache De Saint Pierre , May 29, 2018 at 2:23 pm

My own view for what it is worth is that the Guardian pays some lip service to the plight of the UK's " Deplorables ", but like most of it's readership does not really give a damn. A state of being exacerbated by Brexit similar to the situation in the US with Trump. It's much easier to imagine hordes of racist morons who inhabit places that you have no direct experience of, than to actually go & take a look. It's also very easy to be in favour of mass immigration if it does not effect your employment, housing & never likely to spoil your early morning dawn chorus with a call to prayer.

Unfortunately it has been left to the Right to complain about such things as the Rotherham abuse scandal, which involved a couple of thousand young girls, who I suspect are worth less to some than perhaps being mistaken as a racist. There are also various groups made up of Muslim women who protest about Sharia councils behaviour to their sex, but nobody in the media is at all interested.

George Orwell noted that the middle class Left couldn't handle dealing with real working class people, although there isn't the same huge gulf these days, I believe there is still a vestige of it due to the British class system. The Fabians set up shop in the East End around the turn of the last century & directly rubbed shoulders with the likes of Coster Mongers – a combination that led to a strike that was one of the first success stories in the attempt to get a few more crumbs than what was usually allowed to fall from the top table.

As for Mirror readers, I suspect that the majority are either the voiceless or are too busy fighting to avoid the fate of those who find themselves availing of food banks, while being labelled as lazy scroungers all having expensive holidays, twenty kids, about thirty grand a year, while being subjected to a now updated more vicious regime of that which was illustrated by " I, Daniel Blake ".

If Neoliberalism is now being noticed I imagine that it is because of it's success in working it's way up the food chain. After all these same Middle classes for the most part did not care much for the plight of the poor during those Victorian values. Many could not wait to employ maids of all work who slaved for up to fourteen hours a day with only Sunday afternoon's off. The Suffragettes had a real problem with this as their relatively comfortable lives would soon descend into drudgery without their servants.

Coincidentally, the NYT article on Austerity Britain is the closest I have read to an accurate picture that I have seen for a good while.

David , May 29, 2018 at 2:39 pm

It's also not a new thing. British media worship of neoliberalism has been growing since the 1980s, at the same time as newspapers have been closing and media sources of all kinds laying off their staff. 2008 was a temporary blip, and since the average journalist has the attention span of a hamster, it was back to usual a few months later. Once the crash stopped being "news" old patterns reasserted themselves. I wonder, incidentally, how many economics journalists in the UK actually remember the time before neoliberalism?

precariat , May 29, 2018 at 2:54 pm

"And so it seems we are living with a hyper-amnesia"

Consuming corporate media is increasingly a bizarro-world experience. Even something like the Trump scandal/constitutional crisis/investigation seems like the arrogant internecine warfare of corrupt factions of the establishment. Meanwhile, Americans are increasingly living out of their cars.

The corporate media forgets the causes of the worst economic crisis since the Depression, and it put Trump in a position to be elected. Trump was the Republican nominee because he was relentlessly promoted by the media -- because ratings, because neoliberal rigged markets.

Break up the media monopolies, roll back Citizens United, enforce the fairness doctrine.

Pamela More , May 29, 2018 at 9:55 pm

Agree.

Slight edit

" Consuming corporate media is increasingly a bizarro-world experience the Trump scandal/constitutional crisis/investigation is nothing other than internecine warfare between corrupt factions of the establishment."

JBird , May 29, 2018 at 3:24 pm

I think there are several issues here for Americans, which can partially be applied to the Europeans.

First, the American nation as whole only has short term memory. It is our curse.

Second, those with the money spend a lot of money, time and effort the late 19th century covering up, massaging, or sometimes just creating lies about the past. American and British businesses, governments, and even private organizations are masters at advertising and propaganda. Perhaps the best on Earth.

Third, the people and the institutions that would counter this somewhat, independent unions, multiple independent media, tenured professors at functioning schools, even non-neoliberalized churches, and social organizations like bowling, crocheting, or heck, the Masons would all maintain a separate continuing body of memory and knowledge.

Lastly, we are all freaking terrified somewhere inside us. Those relative few who are not are fools, and most people, whatever their faults, truly are not fools. Even if they act like one. Whatever your beliefs, position, or knowledge, the knowing of the oncoming storm is in you. Money or poverty may not save you. The current set of lies, while they are lies, gives everyone a comfortable known position of supporting or opposing in the same old, same old while avoiding thinking about whatever catastrophe(s) and radical changes we all know are coming. The lies are more relaxing than the truth.

Even if you are one of society's homeless losers, who would welcome some changes, would you be comfortable thinking about just how likely it is to be very traumatic? Hiding behind begging for change might be more comfortable.

precariat , May 29, 2018 at 4:25 pm

"Even if you are one of society's homeless losers, who would welcome some changes, would you be comfortable thinking about just how likely it is to be very traumatic? Hiding behind begging for change might be more comfortable."

On the contrary, the upheaval the "losers" have been subjected to will be turned around and used as a just cause for rectification. Trumatic consequences can be unpredictable and this is why society should have socio-economic checks and balances to prevent an economic system running amok. Commonsense that necessitates amnesia for neoliberalism to seem viable.

Peter Phillips , May 29, 2018 at 4:54 pm

Facing the current scenario in which we have:

1. Oligarchs having captured thoroughly the media, the legislatures and the judiciary, (as well as large parts of what might be construed as "liberal" political organisations e.g. the Democratic Party of the USA)

2. the seemingly inexorable trend to wealth concentration in the hands of said oligarchs

..one asks oneself.."What is one to do?"

My own response, (and I acknowledge straight off its limited impact), is to do the following:

1. support financially in the limited ways possible media channels such as Naked Capitalism that do their level best to debunk the lies and deceptions perpetrated by the oligarchs

2. support financially social organisations and structures that are genuinely citizen based and focused on a sustainable future for all

3. Do very very limited monitoring of the oligarch's "lies and deceptions" (one needs to understand one's enemies to have a chance to counter them) and try on a personal level, in one's day to day interactions, to present counter arguments

We cannot throw in the towel. We must direct our limited financial resources and personal efforts to constructive change, as, for the 99%..there are no "bunker" to run to when the "proverbial" hits the fan..as it must in the fullness of time.

Spring Texan , May 29, 2018 at 8:21 pm

Yep. One has to go ahead and do what one can. It all makes a difference. Thanks for your strategy, Peter Phillips. Limited impact is not no impact, and we don't have the luxury of despairing because there is only a bit we can do.

sgt_doom , May 29, 2018 at 8:10 pm

Yet this has been going on forever – – this past Sunday, for the first time I recall, I finally heard an accurate Real News story filed on the Bobby Kennedy assassination (50th anniversary coming this June 6, 2018) by the BBC World Service.
They actually noted that there were multiple shooters, that Sen. Kennedy was shot from behind, not the front where Sirhan was located, etc., etc.
I guess we do occasionally witness Real News – – – just that it takes 50 years or so to be reported . . .

[May 27, 2018] How Institutional Dysfunction Has Enabled Poor Economic Policy Thinking by Rob Johnson

Notable quotes:
"... Democracy in America ..."
"... American Economic Review ..."
"... Journal of Political Economy ..."
"... Quarterly Journal of Economics ..."
"... Review of Economic Studies ..."
"... There is in the US a concerted effort to praise capitalism as some sort of god-given system and to defame all other systems. ..."
"... "Stocks have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau." ..."
"... "The problem this essay addresses can be framed in terms of two quotations from Alexis de Tocqueville. The first comes from his famous speech in the French Chamber of Deputies just prior to the outbreak of the Revolution of 1848: "We are sleeping on a volcano .do you not see that the earth is beginning to tremble. The wind of revolt rises; the tempest is on the horizon." The second is from Democracy in America: "When the past no longer illuminates the future, the spirit walks in darkness." ..."
"... "These fools in Wall Street think they can go on forever! They can't!" ..."
"... "a giant suction pump had by 1929 to 1930 drawn into a few hands an increasing proportion of currently produced wealth. This served then as capital accumulations. But by taking purchasing power out of the hands of mass consumers, the savers denied themselves the kind of effective demand for their products which would justify reinvestment of the capital accumulation in new plants. In consequence as in a poker game where the chips were concentrated in fewer and fewer hands, the other fellows could stay in the game only by borrowing. When the credit ran out, the game stopped" ..."
May 27, 2018 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

... ... ...

By Rob Johnson, Institute for New Economic Thinking President,
Senior Fellow and Director, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute and Thomas Ferguson, Director of Research, Institute for New Economic Thinking. Originally published at the Institute for New Economic Thinking website

...

The problem this essay addresses can be framed in terms of two quotations from Alexis de Tocqueville. The first comes from his famous speech in the French Chamber of Deputies just prior to the outbreak of the Revolution of 1848: "We are sleeping on a volcano .do you not see that the earth is beginning to tremble. The wind of revolt rises; the tempest is on the horizon." The second is from Democracy in America : "When the past no longer illuminates the future, the spirit walks in darkness."

In 2018, the darkness is all too palpable: A chain of economic reverses that no prominent economists, central bankers, or policymakers anticipated has combined with other shocks from technology, wars, and migrations to produce the political equivalent of the perfect storm. The world financial meltdown of 2008 set the cyclone spinning. As citizens watched helplessly while their livelihoods, savings, and hopes shriveled, states and central banks stepped in to rescue the big financial institutions most responsible for the disaster. But recovery for average citizens arrived only slowly and in some places barely at all, despite a wide variety of policy experiments, especially from central banks.

The cycle of austerity and policy failure has now reached a critical point. Dramatic changes in public opinion and voting behavior are battering long entrenched political parties in many countries. In many of the world's richest countries, more and more citizens are losing faith in the very ideas of science, expertise, and dispassionate judgment -- even in medicine, as witness the battles over vaccines in Italy, the US, and elsewhere. The failure of widely heralded predictions of immediate economic disaster when the UK voted to leave the European Union and Donald Trump became President of the United States has only fanned the skepticism.

Placing entire responsibility for this set of plagues on bad economic theory or deficient policy evaluation does not make sense. Power politics, contending interests, ideologies, and other influences all shaped events. But from the earliest days of the financial collapse, reflective economists and policymakers nourished some of the same suspicions as the general public. Like the Queen of England, they asked plaintively, "Why did no one see it coming?"

Answers were not long in arriving. Critics, including more than a few Nobel laureates in economics, pointed to a series of propositions and attitudes that had crystallized in economic theory in the years before the crisis hit. [1] Economists had closed ranks as though in a phalanx, but the crisis showed how fragile these tenets were. They included:

A resolute unwillingness to recognize that fundamental uncertainty shadows economic life in the real world. Neglect of the roles played by money, credit, and financial systems in actual economies and the inherent potential for instability they create. A fixation on economic models emphasizing full or nearly complete information and tendencies for economies either to be always in equilibrium or heading there, not just in the present but far into the indefinite future. A focus on supply as the key to economic growth and, increasingly after 1980, denials that economies could even in theory suffer from a deficiency of aggregate demand. Supreme confidence in the price system as the critical ordering device in economies and the conviction that getting governments and artificial barriers to their working out of the way was the royal road to economic success both domestically and internationally.

Initially, debates over this interlocking system of beliefs mostly sparked arguments about the usefulness of particular tools and analytical simplifications that embodied the conventional wisdom: Dynamic stochastic general equilibrium models; notions of a "representative agent" in macroeconomics and the long run neutrality of money; icy silence about interactions between monetary rates of interest and ruling rates of profit, or the failure of labor markets to clear.

Increasingly, however, skeptics wondered if the real problems with economics did not run deeper than that. They began to ask if something was not radically wrong with the structure of the discipline itself that conduced to the maintenance of a narrow belief system by imposing orthodoxies and throwing up barriers to better arguments and dissenting evidence.

The empirical evidence now seems conclusive: Yes.

"Top 5" Dominance for Promotion and Tenure

Studies by James Heckman demonstrate the critical gatekeeping role of five so-called "top journals" in recruitment and promotions within economics as a field. [2] Four of the journals -- the American Economic Review , the Journal of Political Economy , the Quarterly Journal of Economics , and the Review of Economic Studies -- are Anglo-American centered and published in the US or the UK as is the fifth, Econometrica , though it is sponsored by the Econometric Society, which has long involved scholars from Scandinavia and other countries.

Heckman's research shows that the number of Top 5 (T5) articles published by candidates plays a crucial role in the evaluation of candidates for promotion and tenure. This is true not only in leading departments but more generally in the field, though the influence of the count weakens in lower ranked institutions.

The Great Disjunction

Heckman compares citations in Top 5 journals with articles frequently cited by leading specialists in various fields and with publication histories of Nobel laureates and winners of the Clark Medal. He is crystal clear that many important articles appear in non-T5 journals -- a finding supported by other studies. [3] This evidence, he argues, highlights a "fundamental contradiction" within the whole field: "Specialists who themselves publish primarily in field journals defer to generalist journals to screen quality of their colleagues in specialty fields."

Citations as Pernicious Measures of Quality in Economics

Heckman draws attention to the increase in the number of economists over time and the relative stability of the T5. He argues that his findings imply that the discipline's "reluctance to distribute gatekeeping responsibility to high quality non-T5 Journals is inefficient in the face of increasing growth of numbers of people in the profession and the stagnant number of T5 publications."

Other scholars who have scrutinized what citations actually measure underscore this conclusion. Like Heckman, they know that citation indices originated from efforts by libraries to decide what journals to buy. They agree that transforming " journal impact factors" into measures of the quality of individual articles is a grotesque mistake, if only because of quality variation within journals and overlaps in average quality among them. Counts of journal articles also typically miss or undercount books and monographs, with likely serious effects on both individual promotion cases and overall publication trends in the discipline. As Heckman observes, the notion that books are not important vehicles for communication in economics is seriously mistaken.

Analytical efforts to explain who gets cited and why are especially thought provoking. All serious studies converge on the conclusion that raw counts can hardly be taken at face value. [4] They distort because they are hopelessly affected by the size of fields (articles in bigger fields get more citations) and bounced around by self-citations, varying numbers of co-authors, "halo effects" leading to over-citation of well-known scholars, and simple failures to distinguish between approving and critical references, etc. One inventory of such problems, not surprisingly by accounting professors, tabulates more than thirty such flaws. [5]

But cleaning up raw counts only scratches the surface. Heckman's study raised pointed questions about editorial control at top journals and related cronyism issues. Editorial control of many journals turns over only very slowly and those sponsored by major university departments accept disproportionately more papers from their own graduates. [6] Interlocking boards are also fairly common, especially among leading journals. [7] Carlo D'Ippoliti's study of empirical citation patterns in Italy also indicates that social factors within academia figure importantly: economists are prone to cite other economists who are their colleagues in the same institutions, independently of the contents of their work, but they are even more likely to cite economists closer to their ideological and political positions. [8] Other research confirms that Italy is not exceptional and that, for example, the same pattern shows up in the debates over macroeconomics in the US and the UK after 1975. [9]

Other work by Jakob Kapeller, et al., and D'Ippoliti documents how counting citations triggers a broad set of pathologies that produces major distortions. [10] Investing counts with such weighty significance, for example, affects how both authors and journal editors behave. Something uncomfortably close to the blockbuster syndrome characteristic of Hollywood movies takes root: Rather than writing one major article that would be harder to assimilate, individual authors have strong incentives to slice and dice along fashionable lines. They mostly strive to produce creative variations on familiar themes. Risk-averse gatekeepers know they can safely wave these products through, while the authors run up their counts. Journal editors have equally powerful incentives: They can drive up their impact factors by snapping up guaranteed blockbusters produced by brand names and articles that embellish conventional themes. Kapeller, et al. suggest that this and several other negative feedback loops they discuss lead to a form of crowding out, which has particularly pernicious effects on potential major contributions since those are placed at a disadvantage by comparison with articles employing safer, more familiar tropes. [11] The result is a strong impetus to conformism, producing a marked convergence of views and methods.

These papers, and George Akerlof in several presentations, also show that counting schemes acutely disadvantage out-of-favor fields, heterodox scholars, and anyone interested in issues and questions that the dominant Anglo-Saxon journals are not. [12] This holds true even though, as Kapeller et al. observe, articles that reference some contrary viewpoints actually attract more attention, conditioning on appearance in the same journal -- an indication that policing the field, not simply quality control, is an important consideration in editorial judgment. One consequence of this narrowing is its weirdly skewed international impact. Reliance on the current citations system originated in the US and UK, but has now spread to the rest of Europe and even parts of Asia, including China. But T5 journals concentrate on articles that deal with problems that economists in advanced Anglo-Saxon lands perceive to be important; studies of smaller countries or those at different stages of development face higher publication hurdles. The result is a special case of the colonial mind in action: economics departments outside the US and UK that rely on "international" standards advantage scholars who focus their work on issues relevant to other countries rather than their own.


Ed Walker , , May 26, 2018 at 6:20 am

I'm just stunned that this paper doesn't mention the seminal work on the problem, Marion Fourcade's paper The Superiority of Economists. https://www.aeaweb.org/articles?id=10.1257/jep.29.1.89

Oh wait, Fourcade and her colleagues are sociologists, not economists, so no reason to consider their research and thinking. Also, and not for nothing, she and they are French, and read Pierre Bourdieu who has done a lot of work on the sociology of academics, focused on France but widely applicable.

And here's something interesting; there is no mention of the funding of economics at universities and colleges. So, no mention of the hundreds of millions the filthy rich have poured into the field. Of course, they heatedly deny that matters. A recent tweet from a Geroge Mason/Mercatus prof was livid at the very suggestion that Koch money influenced hiring decisions.

And that's before we get into the gendered nature of economics, or it's political usage by ideologically-driven politicians looking for "experts" to support their preconceptions.

There is a lot more and someone needs to say it out loud in clear, uncoded language.

The Rev Kev , May 26, 2018 at 6:42 am

Just a thought line here. I have heard and read conservatives say that "Politics is downstream from culture" and I get what they are saying. You change the culture and that predetermines the politics that you get. In reading this article, the thought struck me that perhaps the reason that economics as a profession has been corrupted so badly is that maybe conservatives consider government to be downstream of economics. Thus you control what economics theories are permitted to be discussed and that gives them the governments that they want.

Steve Ruis , May 26, 2018 at 9:27 am

I support your contention. There is in the US a concerted effort to praise capitalism as some sort of god-given system and to defame all other systems. Venezuela's current problems are due to socialism, not bad management, of course. Of course, since the wealthy are doing oh so well under the status quo, they are bound to favor it, but they are not just favoring it, they are nailing it down onto our culture.

Andrew Watts , May 26, 2018 at 9:40 am

There is in the US a concerted effort to praise capitalism as some sort of god-given system and to defame all other systems.

The Marxist economist Richard Wolff made the claim that economists are simply cheerleaders for capitalism in an interview on Chapo Trap House, He elaborated and substantiated this claim by saying that business schools had to be founded because economics departments were useless as a method of educating a cohort of business specialists.

Norb , May 26, 2018 at 9:46 am

Very succinct and thoughtful indeed. Remember Ronald Reagan's now infamous, "Government is the Problem" mantra. The real cultural warriors were the neoliberal terrorists who are hell bent on commodifying the entire planet for their own exploitation- masked in the language of "freedom" and "democracy".

This line of thought is also important in that your framing cuts to the core of the cognitive problem attempting to deal with economics, namely, it is a religion. I would define a religion as a system of faith and worship that is driven by a particular interest. All the wordy-ness and arm waiving is just an attempt to obfuscate this simple truth. Persecution of the unfaithful is also a dead giveaway.

This whole notion that the current reigning economics profession is ready, or attempting to "see the light" is somewhat amusing, or in another sense should be insulting considering the social damage they have caused, and are continuing to inflict on the broader citizenry. Burning at the stake is more appropriate, and maybe these slight rumblings of contrition are a sign that some might be getting worried that their "economic" program has gone too far.

When what goes on in the human mind looses connection to events in the real world, changes must be made in order to remain sane. The current orthodoxy is also ultimately doomed to failure in that what is the point of creating and maintaining a deluded and demoralized citizenry? That is a recipe for internal stagnation and external conquest. It would only be a successful strategy if the elite are able to move on after the broader society falters and fails. That thought is almost too cynical to contemplate. But that might explain why the .001% remains the .001%. The current economic priests are starting to feel the pressure because their flocks are beginning to realize that their everyday experience no longer matches the sermons they receive.

Time for a new sermon.

animalogic , May 27, 2018 at 12:59 am

Time to throw out the "priests" and their vicious "gods"

mle detroit , May 26, 2018 at 9:52 am

Following Rev Kev's point and Ed Walker's third paragraph, have there been any studies of the sources of gifts, underwriting, and other purchases of academic work at the most "influential" economics and business economics departments?

John Wright , May 26, 2018 at 9:22 am

In the academic side of the economics profession, it would seem to be prudent to "go with the flow."

Even the economists who recognized problems in 2008, such as Steve Keen and Dean Baker, are not celebrated.

In our society, it seems more likely that some powerful group or individual wants to do something and then proceeds to find an economist to support that action, via an editorial or media appearance, perhaps it is "free" trade, more immigration, easy money, tight money, quantitative easing, outsourcing, insourcing, charter schools, or austerity.

I suspect there are economists who attempt to accurately anticipate economic events.

But they work for hedge funds and private wealth management firms.

And what is the incentive for a prominent public economist to warn of economic problems that may have been caused by government and well-connected interests?

If someone, such as Alan Greenspan, gave early notice of sub-prime/mortgage backed security issues how would he have been better off?

It suggests a central banker career strategy that, if one observes a large economic problem brewing, retire and publish your book before the SHTF.

If the career central banker actually warned/took actions to circumvent a financial bubble and the bubble popped anyway, they could be tagged as a goat for causing the crisis.

Maybe the economics profession is functioning as one would expect?

Michael C. , May 26, 2018 at 9:41 am

One has to wonder, if the elite economists who have defined the parochial and narrow scope of what capitalism is, how it works, and who wins and loses in the system, and maybe in particular it's late 20th Century form, neroliberalism, had maybe expanded their self-serving views to include a Marxian critique and analysis of they might not had been so stupid?

That's not to say the Marx had all the answers, but is only to say that if you presuppose the outcome you want and buttress it with only the information that supports (no matter how poorly) those outcomes, you end up with crisis and the contradictions within capitalism resulting in the failures described above.

Universities and Econ departments don't allow the wide critical view needed into their schools, and no matter what you think of Marx and his ideas, they should at least be the starting point in the discussion when approaching economic policy. The right wing shift in the governments and the people's of the world is not some unexpected outcome but is directly related to a system that builds in economic disparity, short-term planning (due to emphasis on next quarters profits and stock price), and an emphasis on winner take all rather than human needs.

It's not "the economy, stupid." It"s the stupid system.

Norb , May 26, 2018 at 10:15 am

The problem with the American system is that its founding principles, that all men are created equal, and are endowed with certain, God given, unalienable rights, runs in contradiction to the chosen economic models of building society. Slavery and Capitalism are antithetical to these sentiments. Capitalism might be workable if restrained and heavily regulated, but why bother with that because human corruption will always find a way to undermine such a system; it is inherently weak and guarantees suffering will be born by the masses- Brexit will provide the perfect example as predicted by Yves.

A heavily regulated capitalism is socialism by another name.

The same, self-serving arguments are also made about war. The thought that humans could live in peace is treated as some unrealistic and insane idea. Instead of selecting from the human population for cooporation and peace-loving sensibilities, the minority sociopathic murders are allowed to run wild.

Real human "progress" will be made when the peace faction gains supremacy. But that is impossible as long as the economic system upon which all human subsistence depends remains entrenched in competition and striving to hoard against fears of scarcity.

FDR had it right, although imperfect, society was moving in the right direction. We live in a world of abundance that is being squandered. The only way to avoid ultimate destruction is to embrace this abundance as stewards and conservators instead of fearful exploiters.

Conserve the world by embracing sustainable living. Now that is a powerful political message. So powerful, it will be met with the full force of the sociopathic murders currently in charge of human societies.

What else to say, but prepare yourself.

Ed Walker , May 26, 2018 at 5:53 pm

The equality stuff is in the Declaration of Independence, not the Constitution. The latter is specifically devoted to protecting the interests of property holders, specifically including slavers. This is not surprising. The Founders were heavily influenced by John Locke. Locke was a slaver himself https://www.jstor.org/stable/2709512?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents . And remember that Lockean ideas are based on protecting private property from the random predation of absolute monarchs.

Chris , May 26, 2018 at 12:19 pm

OMG, Michael C.

"Neroliberalism"

That's an amazing slip of the keys. It explains a ton too. I love that it combines the term which the people discussed in this article usually deride with the name of the last Roman emperor who is renowned for extravagance and tyranny.

Brilliant!

animalogic , May 27, 2018 at 1:20 am

I agree with your comment whole heartedly.
But:"the name of the last Roman emperor who is renowned for extravagance and tyranny."(& please forgive my quibble) Nero was certainly not the last emperor to have had such characteristics.
(Elagabalus springs to mind)

J Sterling , May 27, 2018 at 6:41 am

It's been said that you can tell how dominated economics is by a particular minority of society, by the economists' word for phenomena where workers are paid more for their labor being "disease". As in Baumol's Disease for example.

R. BAIRD , May 26, 2018 at 9:58 am

Both sides of the political divide often go awry simply because they refuse to acknowledge the role of human nature. We mere mortals know this as we are the full recipients of the "free market," the good, the bad, and the extremely ugly. The likes of Alan Greenspan in the rarified air strata were shocked, shocked, shocked! I bring you a small excerpt from Mr. Greenspan's testimony before the Government Oversight Committee of the House of Representatives. Still clueless, he does acknowledge a flaw:

Pressed by Waxman, Greenspan conceded a more serious flaw in his own philosophy that unfettered free markets sit at the root of a superior economy.

"I made a mistake in presuming that the self-interests of organizations, specifically banks and others, were such as that they were best capable of protecting their own shareholders and their equity in the firms," Greenspan said.

Waxman pushed the former Fed chief, who left office in 2006, to clarify his explanation.

"In other words, you found that your view of the world, your ideology, was not right, it was not working," Waxman said.

"Absolutely, precisely," Greenspan replied. "You know, that's precisely the reason I was shocked, because I have been going for 40 years or more with very considerable evidence that it was working exceptionally well."

Jesper , May 26, 2018 at 10:12 am

This bit:

In many of the world's richest countries, more and more citizens are losing faith in the very ideas of science, expertise, and dispassionate judgment – even in medicine, as witness the battles over vaccines in Italy, the US, and elsewhere.

Might be believed by some, others might believe that more and more citizens are sceptical about the practioners ability to provide expertise and dispassionate judgment. From my own perspective I do believe in science, expertise and dispassionate judgment but I don't believe that many professional economists have much expertise (outside of knowledge of basic statistics and statistics software) or that they practice dispassionate judgment.

As far as being sceptical of medicine then I'll post this link again:
https://medium.com/@drjasonfung/the-corruption-of-evidence-based-medicine-killing-for-profit-41f2812b8704

Pharmaceutical companies are not in business to heal people, they are in business -> They do whatever they legally can to make money and they even put pressure on the legislative to get more opportunities to legally make more money.
The article contains this link to the Lancet relating to "the reproducibility and reliability of biomedical research":
https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736%2815%2960696-1/fulltext

The case against science is straightforward: much of the scientific literature, perhaps half, may simply be untrue. Afflicted by studies with small sample sizes, tiny effects, invalid exploratory analyses, and flagrant conflicts of interest, together with an obsession for pursuing fashionable trends of dubious importance, science has taken a turn towards darkness.

Ted , May 26, 2018 at 11:25 am

The problem is widespread, and now well recognized. Here, for example, from psychology (also a juggernaut of social science influence)

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/massive-international-project-raises-questions-about-the-validity-of-psychology-research/

If we looked and any other (social) scientific discipline, we'd get the same result.

The articles from medium and The Lancet you link highlight the problems well enough, the system is corrupt from top to bottom. Another examples of where misguided emphasis on juicing "metrics" (for personal gain) rather than taking one's time to develop expertise and do things correctly is literally killing people, or simply ruining lives (as if that is some consolation).

Ed , May 26, 2018 at 10:16 am

Were really corrupt institutions and professions ever supposed to make good decisions?

Jim Haygood , May 26, 2018 at 10:26 am

Economies are inherently cyclical. Keynesianism, in its original incarnation, envisaged surpluses during economic expansions to offset the fiscal deficits provoked by recessions. But surpluses are a distant memory -- now it's pedal to the metal all the time, just to keep a becalmed, debt-choked economy treading water.

Credit is also procyclical. It was severely rationed during and after the 2008 meltdown. Now covenant-lite bonds prevail for corporate financing, while individuals can get 3 percent down FHA loans to buy houses at prices that exceed the 2006 peak, with 33 times leverage. Prudent!

What role can academics play in this endless sisyphean tragedy? None, probably. Warning of recession invites career risk for economists, so most of them just won't do it. Like the Hazmat team, economists show up after the train wreck to help with the cleanup. Federal Reserve economists are engineering that crack-up right now, with their fruitcake bond dumping campaign.

By 2020, they'll be tanned, rested and ready for their next exciting outing. :-)

Summer , May 26, 2018 at 11:40 am

As others have stated, there are economists out there who have already seen through the current dogmas.
Michael Hudson is one and another that comes to mind is Chilean economist Manfred Max-Neef. A transcript of an interview with him from 2010:

https://www.democracynow.org/2010/9/22/chilean_economist_manfred_max_neef_us

An excerpt to perk interest:

"I worked for about ten years of my life in areas of extreme poverty in the Sierras, in the jungle, in urban areas in different parts of Latin America. And at the beginning of that period, I was one day in an Indian village in the Sierra in Peru. It was an ugly day. It had been raining all the time. And I was standing in the slum. And across me, another guy also standing in the mud -- not in the slum, in the mud. And, well, we looked at each other, and this was a short guy, thin, hungry, jobless, five kids, a wife and a grandmother. And I was the fine economist from Berkeley, teaching in Berkeley, having taught in Berkeley and so on. And we were looking at each other, and then suddenly I realized that I had nothing coherent to say to that man in those circumstances, that my whole language as an economist, you know, was absolutely useless. Should I tell him that he should be happy because the GDP had grown five percent or something? Everything was absurd.

So I discovered that I had no language in that environment and that we had to invent a new language. And that's the origin of the metaphor of barefoot economics, which concretely means that is the economics that an economist who dares to step into the mud must practice. The point is, you know, that economists study and analyze poverty in their nice offices, have all the statistics, make all the models, and are convinced that they know everything that you can know about poverty. But they don't understand poverty. And that's the big problem. And that's the big problem. And that's why poverty is still there. And that changed my life as an economist completely. I invented a language that is coherent with those situations and conditions."

It's a good interview of someone developing an alternate view.
(There are critiques and studies of wealth that I think we need more of as well, only poverty is thought of as pathological – a subject which he tackles.)

JEHR , May 26, 2018 at 11:50 am

And just maybe, human goodness and human evil have a cyclical nature too and we are just in the bad part of the cycle right now. However, it may be true also that the time period of 1950 to 1970 was an anomaly that may not recur, and that the true nature of human beings is to lie, to cheat, to steal, to commit fraud and practice multifarious corruptions and violence. When you look at the widest version of history, human nature is not so benign.

Summer , May 26, 2018 at 12:25 pm

In a nutshell, the American consumer was highly important from 1950 to 1970 until the rest of the world recovered more from 2 world wars.

Summer , May 26, 2018 at 12:10 pm

1950 to 1970 the rest of the industrial world was decimated after 2 world wars.
And more countries wanted independence from colonialism (less loot spread around, however thinly, back home – though not totally disappeared).

Scott1 , May 26, 2018 at 1:57 pm

Psychology turns into sociology. Either the system is making everyone prosperous and happy or it is making everyone desperate.
Desperation is the American way. The comfort of misery seen as pathological in the individual is a more general pathology. Too much bile in the system.
"The Sticky Floor." is the phrase my cousin invented. She is a leader in Women's Studies. It may well apply more correctly that "The Glass Ceiling". Overall the turn in the article to the dearth of women economists threw me.
As science enables engineering, economics enables financial engineering. The predominant financial engineer of our times is Meyer Lansky. Organized business, the "real" economy of General Motors and Dow & Dupont & General Dynamics & Raytheon, ITT, Apple, Google, Microsoft all now have adopted Meyer Lansky Financial Engineering.
It was made legal as economic theory and practice under Clinton Unit 1's reign.
The preeminent financial engineer is David Cay Johnston. He called Dean Baker a "real" economist as opposed to Michael Hudson. I prefer Hudson to Dean myself. Nobody knows everything. This is why all you really have to know is the goal. "You cannot go wrong if your goals are correct." is what Einstein said.
The main reason for misery is poverty, which is not having enough to operate the household without debt peonage.
The United States and the EU as run by Central Banks have it so only the selected have infinite access to currency. The States don't have enough money so the System prefers they deny their people things like education and healthcare, and sell bonds.
It is okay for the Federal Government to tax or not tax but the States must tax to fill their treasuries.
Alan Greenspan's philosophy came from Ayn Rand whose world view encouraged the exclusive access and economic security to have and do whatever they, the rich, people like Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos, envisioned as ideal for them, and them only. (They live in airport land with a pond.)
It came from Russian Dystopian Objectivism and produces Dystopia.
The American Philosophy, that which made America loved is American Eclectic Pragmatism.
The wrong goal is to make only those in Finance rich. The right goal is to make everyone as much a jet setter as the jet setters.
Until the goal of Economists is blatantly aimed at relative equality of life, the discipline is simply on the wrong track and is never going to be worth doing.
Thanks.

JBird , May 26, 2018 at 3:29 pm

Approved economics has nothing to do with actually understanding or solving anything except be a useful smokescreen for wealthy special interests. I have gotten a more accurate and functional understanding of overall economics from classes, and books in anthropology, political science, and history than in any classes labeled as "economics."

That is really sad. It is also very deliberate. Those who say modern economic studies have been stripped of anything but neoliberal/libertarian economic ideas are right. Even then, it seems that it has been either further simplified, or abstracted, to further channel any thoughts away from real life.

Let's put it this way. Philosophy can be used to actual ask and study questions or it can be used to debate how many angels can fit on the head of a pin. Guess what what modern mainstream economics does?

Sound of the Suburbs , May 26, 2018 at 4:09 pm

There are inherent flaws in neoclassical economics that have already been discovered.

The 1920s roared with debt based consumption and speculation until it all tipped over into the debt deflation of the Great Depression. No one realised the problems that were building up in the economy as they used an economics that doesn't look at private debt, neoclassical economics.

The two elements of neoclassical economics that come together to cause financial crises.

1) It doesn't consider debt
2) It holds a set of beliefs about markets where they represent the rational decisions of market participants; they reach stable equilibriums and the valuations represent real wealth.

Everyone marvels at the wealth creation of rising asset prices, no one looks at the debt that is driving it.

https://cdn.opendemocracy.net/neweconomics/wp-content/uploads/sites/5/2017/04/Screen-Shot-2017-04-21-at-13.52.41.png

The "black swan" was obvious all along and it was pretty much the same as 1929.

1929 – Inflating US stock prices with debt (margin lending)
2008 – Inflating US real estate prices with debt (mortgage lending)

"Stocks have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau." Irving Fisher 1929.

An earlier neoclassical economist believed in price discovery, stable equilibriums and the rational decisions of market participants, and what the neoclassical economist believes about the markets means they can't even imagine there could be a bubble.

The amount of real wealth stored in the markets becomes apparent once the bubble has burst.

The debt overhang (ref. graph above) is dragging the US economy down and is the cause of Janet Yellen's inflation mystery, but they don't know because they don't consider debt. It's called a balance sheet recession.

The problems that led to 2008 come from private debt in the economy and the problems now come from the overhang of private debt in the economy, but they are using an economics that doesn't consider private debt.

They don't stand a chance.

Sound of the Suburbs , May 26, 2018 at 4:24 pm

"The problem this essay addresses can be framed in terms of two quotations from Alexis de Tocqueville. The first comes from his famous speech in the French Chamber of Deputies just prior to the outbreak of the Revolution of 1848: "We are sleeping on a volcano .do you not see that the earth is beginning to tremble. The wind of revolt rises; the tempest is on the horizon." The second is from Democracy in America: "When the past no longer illuminates the future, the spirit walks in darkness."

How about this quote ..

"These fools in Wall Street think they can go on forever! They can't!" President Theodore Roosevelt 1909.

The US has just forgotten its own history; this is what it was like at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century. Capitalism was running wild, but the difference was there used to be a critical press.

Catch up on US history.

"PR! A Social History of Spin" Stuart Ewen

Finding out what the private sector uses PR for also helps you understand their motivations, it's worth reading.

JBird , May 26, 2018 at 10:58 pm

Our Esteemed Elites are mostly college educated which hopefully includes American history. But maybe it's become like modern college economics. Stripped of inconvenient information.

I agree that beyond the normal American nation's ultra short memory, there is a regular effort by some to eliminate any inconvenience ones. If history is a career or even a hobby you will likely know much about America history bad (and good too!) that goes zooop into the memory hole. It becomes a boring national hagiography. Sanitized. But that shouldn't be.

But STEM courses are so much more important than fluff like history.

Sound of the Suburbs , May 27, 2018 at 5:56 am

In history we study what the elites are up to, we don't pay much attention to what is going on with general population.

This does.

ObjectiveFunction , May 27, 2018 at 1:46 am

Fantastic piece, Yves.

As with a few other commenters here, the essay puts me in mind of historiography, to wit E.H. Carr whose 'before studying history, study the historians' became the fighting slogan for the radical history movement of the 1960s:

"The facts are really not at all like fish on the fishmonger's slab. They are like fish swimming about in a vast and sometimes inaccessible ocean; and what [facts] the historian catches will depend, partly on chance, but mainly on what part of the ocean he chooses to fish in and what tackle he chooses to use."

ObjectiveFunction , May 27, 2018 at 2:07 am

"Economists had closed ranks as though in a phalanx, but the crisis showed how fragile these tenets were. They included:
1. A resolute unwillingness to recognize that fundamental uncertainty shadows economic life in the real world."

. And for this one, do I even need to requote Upton Sinclair?!

Economists and central bankers are our modern day priest-astrologers. We *need* them to know! to appease Bel-Marduk and Istar, to ensure a fruitful harvest, the birth of worthy sons

.and also, for a small commission, to manage our tax collections/ debts/ alehouses/ brothels [hat tip to Prof Hudson].

Sound of the Suburbs , May 27, 2018 at 5:59 am

This is about the UK, but applies equally to the US as we are all doing the same neoliberal things.

Why isn't the economy growing?

We shouldn't get side tracked with productivity as productivity is GDP per hour worked and we need to grow GDP.

What is GDP?

The amount of money spent into the economy by consumers, businesses and the Government plus the income we receive from the trade balance with the rest of the world.

Now we know what GDP is we can immediately see why austerity is contractionary. The cut in Government spending comes straight off GDP (someone tell Macron).

The aim is to increase the amount of goods and services within the economy at the same rate as the demand for those goods and services, whilst increasing the money supply to allow those extra goods and services to be purchased.

Milton Freidman understood the money supply had to rise gradually to grow the economy with his "Monetarism". He thought that central bank reserves controlled the money supply and this is why it didn't work.

The economists focus on supply (neoclassical economics) or demand (Keynesian economics) until the balance of supply and demand gets out of step. The economy stagnates due to either insufficient supply (1970s stagflation) or insufficient demand (today's ultra low inflation).

Money needs to enter the economy to increase the supply of goods and services, while at the same time; the increased money supply enables the demand for those goods and services.

Banks and governments create money and this is now well understood outside the mainstream.

The banks have been creating money to lend into real estate and inflate financial asset prices. This is not what you want; they should be creating money to increase the supply of goods and services by lending into business and industry. Their lending hasn't been increasing GDP.

https://cdn.opendemocracy.net/neweconomics/wp-content/uploads/sites/5/2017/04/Screen-Shot-2017-04-21-at-13.53.09.png

It all started going wrong when with financial liberalisation and a 1979 policy decision. The UK eliminated corset controls on banking in 1979 and the banks invaded the mortgage market. This is the start of the real estate frenzy.

You can let bankers do what they want, but they have no idea how to grow the economy with bank credit.
Supply had outstripped demand by the 1920s in the US and they used bank credit to maintain demand, but this can never work in the longer term as this money needs to be paid back. Government created money has to fill the gap as it doesn't need to be paid back.

Governments can create money, jobs and wages in the public sector, building the infrastructure for the economy and looking after the health and education of the population to provide the economic framework necessary for the private sector who can't make a profit doing these things.

The magic number is GDP, we need to focus on what increasing that number means.

Our main problem is an ideological Left who think the answer always lies on the demand side and an ideological Right who always think the answer lies on the supply side.

The Left think Government is the answer and the Right think the private sector is the answer.

You need both, due to the increased productivity of the private sector that cannot create the necessary demand for those goods and services through private sector wages alone.

Sound of the Suburbs , May 27, 2018 at 6:01 am

Understanding money is critical and this is something central bankers monitor, but they don't appear to know what it means

The flow of funds within the economy.

This helps us understand why Government surpluses precede finical crises and why balanced budgets and Government surpluses push the private sector into debt

Richard Koo shows the graph central bankers use, the flow of funds within the economy, which sums to zero (32-34 mins.).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8YTyJzmiHGk

Government assets + corporate assets + household assets + transfers from/to the rest of the world = zero
They can't all be positive.

The US runs a large trade deficit and this money needs to come from somewhere.

It is the Government that should run the big deficit to fund the other three and if you clamp down on government spending your economy can't grow unless it starts running on bank debt. The corporate sector and households have to get into debt to balance this zero sum equation.

A Government surplus requires an indebted private sector unless you are Germany and run a trade surplus.

This is the US (46.30 mins.)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ba8XdDqZ-Jg

Clinton was proud of the Government surplus but he didn't realise that this meant the private sector had to go into debt. The last Government surplus occurred in 1927 – 1930, it precedes crises.

Richard Koo's video shows the Japanese Government ran a surplus just before the Japanese economy blew up.

Sound of the Suburbs , May 27, 2018 at 9:21 am

Neoclassical economics doesn't focus on GDP because it predates it. It was put together before they knew how to measure economic activity.

It lets the wealthy accumulate all the money until the economy falls over though a lack of demand.
Mariner Eccles, FED chair 1934 – 48, passes comment the last time they used neoclassical economics in the US in the 1920s.

"a giant suction pump had by 1929 to 1930 drawn into a few hands an increasing proportion of currently produced wealth. This served then as capital accumulations. But by taking purchasing power out of the hands of mass consumers, the savers denied themselves the kind of effective demand for their products which would justify reinvestment of the capital accumulation in new plants. In consequence as in a poker game where the chips were concentrated in fewer and fewer hands, the other fellows could stay in the game only by borrowing. When the credit ran out, the game stopped"

This time it's global.

2014 – "85 richest people as wealthy as poorest half of the world"
2016 – "Richest 62 people as wealthy as half of world's population"
2017 – World's eight richest people have same wealth as poorest 50%

impermanence , May 27, 2018 at 12:44 pm

Lying, cheating, and stealing is what we human beings seem to do best, so when the pot becomes big enough, the elite [those willing to do whatever it takes] do what the elite have done, lie, cheat and steal with reckless abandon.

Those who choose to live a noble life must always be grounded by the notion that the reward for doing such is in achieving good night's sleep, and little more. You truly can not have your cake and eat it too, not then, not now, not ever

[May 18, 2018] For Economic Truth Turn To Michael Hudson by Paul Craig Roberts

Notable quotes:
"... Another defect of neoliberal economics is the doctrine's denial that resources are finite and their exhaustion a heavy cost not born by those who exploit the resources. Many local and regional civilizations have collapsed from exhaustion of the surrounding resources. Entire books have been written about this, but it is not part of neoliberal economics. Supplement study of Hudson with study of ecological economists such as Herman Daly. ..."
May 09, 2018 | www.paulcraigroberts.org

Readers ask me how they can learn economics, what books to read, what university economics departments to trust. I receive so many requests that it is impossible to reply individually. Here is my answer.

There is only one way to learn economics, and that is to read Michael Hudson's books. It is not an easy task. You will need a glossary of terms. In some of Hudson's books, if memory serves, he provides a glossary, and his recent book "J Is for Junk Economics" defines the classical economic terms that he uses. You will also need patience, because Hudson sometimes forgets in his explanations that the rest of us don't know what he knows.

The economics taught today is known as neoliberal. This economics differs fundamentally from classical economics that Hudson represents. For example, classical economics stresses taxing economic rent instead of labor and real investment, while neo-liberal economics does the opposite.

An economic rent is unearned income that accrues to an owner from an increase in value that he did nothing to produce. For example, a new road is built at public expense that opens land to development and raises its value, or a transportation system is constructed in a city that raises the value of nearby properties. These increases in values are economic rents. Classical economists would tax away the increase in values in order to pay for the road or transportation system.

Neoliberal economists redefined all income as earned. This enables the financial system to capitalize economic rents into mortgages that pay interest. The higher property values created by the road or transportation system boost the mortgage value of the properties. The financialization of the economy is the process of drawing income away from the purchases of goods and services into interest and fees to financial entities such as banks. Indebtedness and debt accumulate, drawing more income into their service until there is no purchasing power left to drive the economy.

For example, formerly in the US lenders would provide a home mortgage whose service required up to 25% of the family's monthly income. That left 75% of the family's income for other purchases. Today lenders will provide mortgages that eat up half of the monthly income in mortgage service, leaving only 50% of family income for other purchases. In other words, a financialized economy is one that diverts purchasing power away from productive enterprise into debt service.

Hudson shows that international trade and foreign debt also comprise a financialization process, only this time a country's entire resources are capitalized into a mortgage. The West sells a country a development plan and a loan to pay for it. When the debt cannot be serviced, the country is forced to impose austerity on the population by cutbacks in education, health care, public support systems, and government employment and also to privatize public assets such as mineral rights, land, water systems and ports in order to raise the capital with which to pay off the loan. Effectively, the country passes into foreign ownership. This now happens even to European Community members such as Greece and Portugal.

Another defect of neoliberal economics is the doctrine's denial that resources are finite and their exhaustion a heavy cost not born by those who exploit the resources. Many local and regional civilizations have collapsed from exhaustion of the surrounding resources. Entire books have been written about this, but it is not part of neoliberal economics. Supplement study of Hudson with study of ecological economists such as Herman Daly.

The neglect of external costs is a crippling failure of neoliberal economics. An external cost is a cost imposed on a party that does not share in the income from the activity that creates the cost. I recently wrote about the external costs of real estate speculators. https://www.paulcraigroberts.org/2018/04/26/capitalism-works-capitalists/ Fracking, mining, oil and gas exploration, pipelines, industries, manufacturing, waste disposal, and so on have heavy external costs associated with the activities.

Neoliberal economists treat external costs as a non-problem, because they theorize that the costs can be compensated, but they seldom are. Oil spills result in companies having to pay cleanup costs and compensation to those who suffered economically from the oil spill, but most external costs go unaddressed. If external costs had to be compensated, in many cases the costs would exceed the value of the projects. How, for example, do you compensate for a polluted river? If you think that is hard, how would the short-sighted destroyers of the Amazon rain forest go about compensating the rest of the world for the destruction of species and for the destructive climate changes that they are setting in motion? Herman Daly has pointed out that as Gross Domestic Product accounting does not take account of external costs and resource exhaustion, we have no idea if the value of output is greater than all of the costs associated with its production. The Soviet economy collapsed, because the value of outputs was less than the value of inputs.

Supply-side economics, with which I am associated, is not an alternative theory to neoliberal economics. Supply-side economics is a successful correction to neoliberal macroeconomic management. Keynesian demand management resulted in stagflation and worsening Phillips Curve trade-offs between employment and inflation. Supply-side economics cured stagflation by reversing the economic policy mix. I have told this story many times. You can find a concise explanation in my short book, "The Failure of Laissez Faire Capitalsim." This book also offers insights into other failures of neoliberal economics and for that reason would serve as a background introduction to Hudson's books.

I can make some suggestions, but the order in which you read Michael Hudson is up to you. "J is for Junk Economics" is a way to get information in short passages that will make you familiar with the terms of classical economic analysis. "Killing the Host" and "The Bubble and Beyond" will explain how an economy run to maximize debt is an economy that is self-destructing. "Super Imperialism" and "Trade, Development and Foreign Debt" will show you how dominant countries concentrate world economic power in their hands. "Debt and Economic Renewal in the Ancient Near East" is the story of how ancient economies dying from excessive debt renewed their lease on life via debt forgiveness.

Once you learn Hudson, you will know real economics, not the junk economics marketed by Nobel prize winners in economics, university economic departments, and Wall Street economists. Neoliberal economics is a shield for financialization, resource exhaustion, external costs, and capitalist exploitation.

Neoliberal economics is the world's reigning economics. Russia is suffering much more from neoliberal economics than from Washington's economic sanctions. China herself is overrun with US trained neoliberal economists whose policy advice is almost certain to put China on the same path to failure as all other neoliberal economies.

It is probably impossible to change anything for two main reasons. One is that so many greed-driven private economic activities are protected by neoliberal economics. So many exploitative institutions and laws are in place that to overturn them would require a more thorough revolution than Lenin's. The other is that economists have their entire human capital invested in neoliberal economics. There is scant chance that they are going to start over with study of the classical economists.

Neoliberal economics is an essential part of The Matrix, the false reality in which Americans and Europeans live. Neoliberal economics permits an endless number of economic lies. For example, the US is said to be in a long economic recovery that began in June 2009, but the labor force participation rate has fallen continuously throughout the period of alleged recovery. In previous recoveries the participation rate has risen as people enter the work force to take advantage of the new jobs.

In April the unemployment rate is claimed to have fallen to 3.9 percent, but the participation rate fell also. Neoliberal economists explain away the contradiction by claiming that the falling participation rate is due to the retirement of the baby boom generation, but BLS jobs statistics indicate that those 55 and older account for a large percentage of the new jobs during the alleged recovery. This is the age class of people forced into the part time jobs available by the absence of interest income on their retirement savings. What is really happening is that the unemployment rate does not include discouraged workers, who have given up searching for jobs as there are none to be found. The true measure of the unemployment rate is the decline in the labor force participation rate, not a 3.9 percent rate concocted by not counting those millions of Americans who cannot find jobs. If the unemployment rate really was 3.9 percent, there would be labor shortages and rising wages, but wages are stagnant. These anomalies pass without comment from neoliberal economists.

The long expansion since June 2009 might simply be a statistical artifact due to the under-measurement of inflation, which inflates the GDP figure. Inflation is under-estimated, because goods and services that rise in price are taken out of the index and less costly substitutes are put in their place and because price increases are explained away as quality improvements. In other words, statistical manipulation produces the favorable picture required by The Matrix.

Since the financial collapse caused by the repeal of Glass-Steagall and by financial deregulation, the Federal Reserve has robbed tens of millions of American savers by driving real interest rates down to zero for the sole purpose of saving the "banks too big to fail" that financial deregulation created. A handful of banks has been provided with free money -- in addition to the money that the Federal Reserve created in order to take the banks' bad derivative investments off their hands -- to put on deposit with the Fed from which to collect interest payments and with which to speculate and to drive up stock prices.

In other words, for a decade the economic policy of the United States has been run for the benefit of a few highly concentrated financial interests at the expense of the American people. The economic policy of the United States has been used to create economic rents for the mega-rich.

Neoliberal economists point out that during the 1950s the labor force participation rate was much lower than today and, thereby, they imply that the higher rates prior to the current "recovery" are an anomaly. Neoliberal economists have no historical knowledge as the past is of no interest to them. They do not even know the history of economic thought. Whether from ignorance or intentional deception, neoliberal economists ignore that the lower labor force participation rates of the 1950s reflect a time when married women were at home, not in the work force. In those halcyon days, one earner was all it took to sustain a family. I remember the days when the function of a married woman was to provide household services for the family.

But capitalists were not content to exploit only one member of a family. They wanted more, and by using economic policy to suppress pay while fomenting inflation, they drove married women into the work force, imposing huge external costs on the family, child-raising, relations between spouses, and on the children themselves. The divorce rate has exploded to 50 percent and single-parent households are common in America.

In effect, unleashed Capitalism has destroyed America. Privatization is now eating away Europe. Russia is on the same track as a result of its neoliberal brainwashing by American economists. China's love of success and money could doom this rising Asian giant as well if the government opens China to foreign finance capital and privatizes public assets that end up in foreign hands.

[Apr 24, 2018] How neoliberal economics in universities achieve tenure

They achieve it by serving the financial oligarchy...
Few things are as dangerous as economists with physics envy [aeon.co].
Notable quotes:
"... "There's class warfare, all right, but it's my class, the rich class, that's making war, and we're winning. ..."
Apr 24, 2018 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

marku52 , April 20, 2018 at 3:57 pm

Stumbling and Mumbling has a good riff on this topic:
". Economics, for me, is not about armchair theorizing. It should begin with the facts, and especially the big ones. The facts are that share buy-backs do usually matter, so thought experiments that say otherwise are wrong from the off. Similarly, the fact that wage inflation has been low for years (pdf) is much more significant than any theorizing about Phillips curves."

The comments are good as well:
"That's a category error: you don't define "Economics", tenure committees define it, and they award tenure to people who have a long record of publishing "internally consistent" ("armchair theorizing") papers."
"I found myself sitting next to a very likable young middle-aged academic tenured at an elite British university, whom henceforth I will refer to as Doctor X and whose field is closely associated with this blog. Every year I publish papers in the top journals and they're pure shit." Doctor X, who by now had had a glass or two, felt bad about this, not least because "students these days are so idealistic and eager to learn; they're really wonderful." Furthermore Doctor X could and would like "to write serious papers but what would be the point?" "
http://stumblingandmumbling.typepad.com/stumbling_and_mumbling/2018/04/facts-vs-hand-waving-in-economics.html#comments

hemeantwell , April 20, 2018 at 4:59 pm

Yeah. I'm inclined to think the author needs to curb his enthusiasms and take up dejected drinking.

The nub of his presentation was a model in which consumers, due to cognitive limitations, were unable to fully examine every single product they purchased. The result was that regulations guaranteeing a certain standard of safety, quality and the like could improve competition by giving people more time to shop around instead of having to devote so much time to investigate specific products. Thus, regulation would improve markets and competition

This is Nobel-level work? It amounts to finding a way to pitch a product to anti-regulation dogmatists. I'm sure that you could find similar arguments being made during the Progressive era regulatory push. Only they would have been framed more as "people will have more time to shop around if they're not killed by previous ingestion of the product."

Ape , April 22, 2018 at 3:32 am

Dude – they aren't actually doing fancy math. Linear regression – like it's 1850!

Most of their important proofs are irrelevant crap with wholes. The math is mostly undergraduate math! The emperor has no clothes!

The problem isn't just math trickery – it's not even proper ingenuity.

Just read a Summer or Krugman paper – it's 70 pages of words, 3 graphs of imaginary numbers and stats 2 equations. That's not mathematization.

Larry Motuz , April 22, 2018 at 4:34 pm

What I mean by 'mathemagics' is the misuse of mathematics –even simple mathematics -- to create the illusion that 'utility' or 'indifference curves' actually pertain to real concepts. In reality, they 'mathematize' gobbledygook passed off as coherent concepts. There is nothing so conceptually barren as 'utility' or 'indifference curve' analytics. The notion that one can derive any coherent 'demand' analysis for any one consumer that is individual human being (or life form of any kind) for any product, or that one can aggregate these up is mathematical junk.

Sound of the Suburbs , April 22, 2018 at 9:08 am

The Classical Economists used the broader political economy rather than today's narrow economics.

The Washington Consensus dreamed of a world run by the laws of economics.

The laws of economics worked in China's favour and the Western economies got hollowed out.

Disposable income = wages – (taxes + the cost of living)

Maximising profit required minimising wages.

The minimum wage is set when disposable income equals zero.

The minimum wage = taxes + the cost of living

China had it made and the West had tilted the playing field against itself.

The US eventually woke up the geopolitical consequences of a world governed by the laws of economics that had worked in China's favour.

Trump has just made things worse with his tax cuts.

Theory:
If we reduce taxes on the wealthy they will create more jobs and wages.

Reality:
If we reduce taxes on the wealthy they will create more jobs and wages in Asia where they can make more profit. They can then ship the stuff back here increasing Western trade deficits.

Sound of the Suburbs , April 22, 2018 at 9:09 am

"There's class warfare, all right, but it's my class, the rich class, that's making war, and we're winning. " Warren Buffet, 25 May 2005

Did your class think about the geopolitics?
I don't think so.

Sound of the Suburbs , April 22, 2018 at 9:17 am

William White (BIS, OECD) is on board for the benefits of the broader political economy.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g6iXBQ33pBo&t=2485s

[Apr 24, 2018] Constant and persistent nudging generally results in an angry backlash. Somewhere around when a person realizes "This is not where I wanted to be." That's now very true for neoclassic economy courses. Many students understand the game and hate it

Notable quotes:
"... cognitive infiltration ..."
Apr 24, 2018 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

Yves Smith, April 21, 2018 at 12:26 pm

Nudge was the title of a book by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein on how to manipulate people in their supposed best interest, like in cafeteria lines, to put whole fruit before desserts made with sugar.

See here for more detail:

blennylips , April 21, 2018 at 1:49 pm

If you liked Nudge , you'll love " cognitive infiltration ":

Conspiracy Theories
Harvard Public Law Working Paper No. 08-03

Because those who hold conspiracy theories typically suffer from a crippled epistemology, in accordance with which it is rational to hold such theories, the best response consists in cognitive infiltration of extremist groups. Various policy dilemmas, such as the question whether it is better for government to rebut conspiracy theories or to ignore them, are explored in this light.
Keywords: conspiracy theories, social networks, informational cascades, group polarization
https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1084585

Is not this what discerning MIC's all do these days, via FBI FB?

Synoia , April 21, 2018 at 11:25 am

A nudge too far?

Constant and persistent nudging generally results in an angry backlash. Somewhere around when a person realizes "This is not where I wanted to be."

JTMcPhee , April 21, 2018 at 12:40 pm

And of course we mopes have been "nudged" into pretty much that blind serfdom alluded to. Back in the Cave, with not much chance of dispelling the belief in and subjection to the shadows projected on the wall we are forced to face

oaf , April 21, 2018 at 1:52 pm

manipulation is the sowing of a Karmic garden

Tom_Doak , April 21, 2018 at 6:09 pm

The classic nudge example is opting you into a 401(k) unless you opt out.

That's supposedly better for you but it is DEFINITELY better for the brokerage handling your account.

none , April 21, 2018 at 10:01 pm

I had to look it up: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nudge_theory

I hadn't heard of it before.

Tyronius , April 22, 2018 at 12:21 am

I rather detest the notion of someone or entity 'nudging' me in the direction of some behavior, especially in a paternalistic mode where the assumption is that they know better than I what I 'should' be doing or thinking.

On one level, isn't that a working definition of advertising? On another, it smacks of authoritarianism. Don't we have enough of this kind of thing already? Worse, what's the first reaction one naturally has when they realize they're being manipulated? Seems to be a strategy fraught with risk of getting exactly the wrong response.

If I'm to be encouraged to behave in a given way, show me the respect of offering a conscious, intelligent argument to do so on the merits, or kindly go (family blog) yourself!

Anti-Schmoo , April 23, 2018 at 4:18 am

In economics, the single most important thing to understand is debt.
If you understand debt; you won't have any debt.
Debt and freedom are the antithisis of each other.
Without debt; nudges have no influence.

Anti-Schmoo , April 23, 2018 at 4:24 am

A follow up:
https://www.esquire.com/lifestyle/money/a19181300/nassim-nicholas-taleb-money-advice/
A very frank discussion of debt and freedom.

[Apr 04, 2018] Elite universities are selling themselves – and look who s buying by Grif Peterson and Yarden Katz

Notable quotes:
"... Bin Salman's affair with academia isn't a fluke – it's a result of the neoliberal logic by which universities increasingly operate. As the journalist David Dickson noted in 1984, American universities and corporations have "teamed up to challenge the democratic control of knowledge" by delegating control over academic research to "the marketplace". ..."
Mar 30, 2018 | www.theguardian.com

Bin Salman's affair with academia isn't a fluke – it's a result of the neoliberal logic by which universities increasingly operate. As the journalist David Dickson noted in 1984, American universities and corporations have "teamed up to challenge the democratic control of knowledge" by delegating control over academic research to "the marketplace".

This market rationality extends even to the way research is evaluated – which the Saudi government has been gaming. To give one example, it paid highly cited mathematicians at universities around the world to list King Abdulaziz University as an affiliation, thereby making it the seventh "best" mathematics department worldwide in the 2014 US News and World Report university rankings .

Here, the Saudi government is only playing by the rules of a game designed by western elites. This is the same logic that has been used to allow corporations, nonprofits and the military to steadily buy out chunks of academia to the point where it makes little sense to presume clear boundaries exist between these entities. As a result, numerous partnerships entangle MIT researchers with Bin Salman. On his Boston tour, he also visited IBM's Cambridge research facility, which recently partnered with MIT to form an artificial intelligence research laboratory in exchange for a $240m commitment to the university. Boston Dynamics , an MIT partner that builds robots for the US military, also offered a demonstration. Such alliances ought to cast doubt on MIT's promise to understand the "societal and ethical" implications of AI and build socially beneficial technologies.

The terms of all of these partnerships are essentially opaque, while the secrecy that surrounds them denies the community the chance to deliberate and take action. The growth of unaccountable university partnerships, like other crises facing educational institutions, stems from the absence of democratic engagement. When universities decide to sell themselves to the highest bidder, they become deaf to the interests of their students and the wider societies in which they operate. Subservience to war criminals and corporate overlords tends to follow.

[Apr 04, 2018] Elite universities are selling themselves and look who's buying

Apr 04, 2018 | www.theguardian.com

Bin Salman's affair with academia isn't a fluke – it's a result of the neoliberal logic by which universities increasingly operate. As the journalist David Dickson noted in 1984, American universities and corporations have "teamed up to challenge the democratic control of knowledge" by delegating control over academic research to "the marketplace".

This market rationality extends even to the way research is evaluated – which the Saudi government has been gaming. To give one example, it paid highly cited mathematicians at universities around the world to list King Abdulaziz University as an affiliation, thereby making it the seventh "best" mathematics department worldwide in the 2014 US News and World Report university rankings .

Here, the Saudi government is only playing by the rules of a game designed by western elites. This is the same logic that has been used to allow corporations, nonprofits and the military to steadily buy out chunks of academia to the point where it makes little sense to presume clear boundaries exist between these entities. As a result, numerous partnerships entangle MIT researchers with Bin Salman. On his Boston tour, he also visited IBM's Cambridge research facility, which recently partnered with MIT to form an artificial intelligence research laboratory in exchange for a $240m commitment to the university. Boston Dynamics , an MIT partner that builds robots for the US military, also offered a demonstration. Such alliances ought to cast doubt on MIT's promise to understand the "societal and ethical" implications of AI and build socially beneficial technologies.

The terms of all of these partnerships are essentially opaque, while the secrecy that surrounds them denies the community the chance to deliberate and take action. The growth of unaccountable university partnerships, like other crises facing educational institutions, stems from the absence of democratic engagement. When universities decide to sell themselves to the highest bidder, they become deaf to the interests of their students and the wider societies in which they operate. Subservience to war criminals and corporate overlords tends to follow.

[Mar 12, 2018] There is no democracy without economic democracy by Jason Hirthler

Highly recommended!
Like many high demand cults neoliberalism is a trap, from which it is very difficult to escape...
Notable quotes:
"... A large, open-border global free market would be left, not subject to popular control but managed by a globally dispersed, transnational one percent. And the whole process of making this happen would be camouflaged beneath the altruistic stylings of a benign humanitarianism. ..."
"... Globalists, as neoliberal capitalists are often called, also understood that democracy, defined by a smattering of individual rights and a voting booth, was the ideal vehicle to usher neoliberalism into the emerging world. Namely because democracy, as commonly practiced, makes no demands in the economic sphere. Socialism does. Communism does. These models directly address ownership of the means of production. Not so democratic capitalism. This permits the globalists to continue to own the means of production while proclaiming human rights triumphant in nations where interventions are staged. ..."
"... The enduring lie is that there is no democracy without economic democracy. ..."
turcopolier.typepad.com

Part 3 - A False Promise

This 'Washington Consensus' is the false promise promoted by the West. The reality is quite different. The crux of neoliberalism is to eliminate democratic government by downsizing, privatizing, and deregulating it. Proponents of neoliberalism recognize that the state is the last bulwark of protection for the common people against the predations of capital. Remove the state and they'll be left defenseless .

Think about it. Deregulation eliminates the laws. Downsizing eliminates departments and their funding. Privatizing eliminates the very purpose of the state by having the private sector take over its traditional responsibilities.

Ultimately, nation-states would dissolve except perhaps for armies and tax systems. A large, open-border global free market would be left, not subject to popular control but managed by a globally dispersed, transnational one percent. And the whole process of making this happen would be camouflaged beneath the altruistic stylings of a benign humanitarianism.

Globalists, as neoliberal capitalists are often called, also understood that democracy, defined by a smattering of individual rights and a voting booth, was the ideal vehicle to usher neoliberalism into the emerging world. Namely because democracy, as commonly practiced, makes no demands in the economic sphere. Socialism does. Communism does. These models directly address ownership of the means of production. Not so democratic capitalism. This permits the globalists to continue to own the means of production while proclaiming human rights triumphant in nations where interventions are staged.

The enduring lie is that there is no democracy without economic democracy.

What matters to the one percent and the media conglomerates that disseminate their worldview is that the official definitions are accepted by the masses. The real effects need never be known. The neoliberal ideology (theory) thus conceals the neoliberal reality (practice). And for the masses to accept it, it must be mass produced. Then it becomes more or less invisible by virtue of its universality.

Source, links:

https://www.counterpunch.org/2018/03/02/colonizing-the-western-mind/
[ 1 ] [ 2 ]

[Mar 12, 2018] Colonizing the Western Mind using think tanks

Highly recommended!
Notable quotes:
"... In a short span of time in the 1970s, dozens of think tanks were established across the western world and billions of dollars were spent proselytizing the tenets of the Powell Memo in 1971, which galvanized a counter-revolution to the liberal upswing of the Sixties. The neoliberal economic model of deregulation, downsizing, and privatization was preached by the Reagan-Thatcher junta, liberalized by the Clinton regime, temporarily given a bad name by the unhinged Bush administration, and saved by telegenic restoration of the Obama years. ..."
"... Today think tanks like the Heritage Foundation, the Brookings Institute, Stratfor, Cato Institute, American Enterprise Institute, Council on Foreign Relations, Carnegie Endowment, the Open Society Foundation, and the Atlantic Council, among many others, funnel millions of dollars in donations into cementing neoliberal attitudes in the American mind. ..."
"... The ideological assumptions, which serve to justify what you could call neocolonial tactics, are relatively clear: the rights of the individual to be free of overreach from monolithic institutions like the state. Activist governments are inherently inefficient and lead directly to totalitarianism. Markets must be free and individuals must be free to act in those markets. People must be free to choose, both politically and commercially, in the voting booth and at the cash register. ..."
"... This conception of markets and individuals is most often formulated as "free-market democracy," a misleading conceit that conflates individual freedom with the economic freedom of capital to exploit labor. So when it comes to foreign relations, American and western aid would only be given on the condition that the borrowers accepted the tenets of an (highly manipulable) electoral system and vowed to establish the institutions and legal structures required to fully realize a western market economy. ..."
Mar 12, 2018 | www.counterpunch.org

In Christopher Nolan's captivating and visually dazzling film Inception, a practitioner of psychic corporate espionage must plant and idea inside a CEO's head. The process is called inception, and it represents the frontier of corporate influence, in which mind spies no longer just "extract" ideas from the dreams of others, but seed useful ideas in a target's subconscious.

Inception is a well-crafted piece of futuristic sci-fi drama, but some of the ideas it imparts are already deeply embedded in the American subconscious.

The notion of inception, of hatching an idea in the mind of a man or woman without his or her knowledge, is the kernel of propaganda, a black art practiced in the States since the First World War. Today we live beneath an invisible cultural hegemony, a set of ideas implanted in the mass mind by the U.S. state and its corporate media over decades. Invisibility seems to happen when something is either obscure or ubiquitous. In a propaganda system, an overarching objective is to render the messaging invisible by universalizing it within the culture. Difference is known by contrast. If there are no contrasting views in your field of vision, it's easier to accept the ubiquitous explanation. The good news is that the ideology is well-known to some who have, for one lucky reason or another, found themselves outside the hegemonic field and are thus able to contrast the dominant worldview with alternative opinions. On the left, the ruling ideology might be described as neoliberalism, a particularly vicious form of imperial capitalism that, as would be expected, is camouflaged in the lineaments of humanitarian aid and succor.

Inception 1971

In a short span of time in the 1970s, dozens of think tanks were established across the western world and billions of dollars were spent proselytizing the tenets of the Powell Memo in 1971, which galvanized a counter-revolution to the liberal upswing of the Sixties. The neoliberal economic model of deregulation, downsizing, and privatization was preached by the Reagan-Thatcher junta, liberalized by the Clinton regime, temporarily given a bad name by the unhinged Bush administration, and saved by telegenic restoration of the Obama years.

The ideology that underlay the model saturated academia, notably at the University of Chicago, and the mainstream media, principally at The New York Times. Since then it has trickled down to the general populace, to whom it now feels second nature.

Today think tanks like the Heritage Foundation, the Brookings Institute, Stratfor, Cato Institute, American Enterprise Institute, Council on Foreign Relations, Carnegie Endowment, the Open Society Foundation, and the Atlantic Council, among many others, funnel millions of dollars in donations into cementing neoliberal attitudes in the American mind.

The ideological assumptions, which serve to justify what you could call neocolonial tactics, are relatively clear: the rights of the individual to be free of overreach from monolithic institutions like the state. Activist governments are inherently inefficient and lead directly to totalitarianism. Markets must be free and individuals must be free to act in those markets. People must be free to choose, both politically and commercially, in the voting booth and at the cash register.

This conception of markets and individuals is most often formulated as "free-market democracy," a misleading conceit that conflates individual freedom with the economic freedom of capital to exploit labor. So when it comes to foreign relations, American and western aid would only be given on the condition that the borrowers accepted the tenets of an (highly manipulable) electoral system and vowed to establish the institutions and legal structures required to fully realize a western market economy.

These demands were supplemented with notions of the individual right to be free of oppression, some fine rhetoric about women and minorities, and somewhat more quietly, a judicial understanding that corporations were people, too. Together, an unshackled economy and an unfettered populace, newly equipped with individual rights, would produce the same flourishing and nourishing demos of mid-century America that had been the envy of humanity.

[Mar 03, 2018] Strange science, economics. Judging from the titles, much of it consists of neoliberal cheerleading

Neoliberal economists are a new type of clergy. As simple as this. Neoliberal God is great that's what they are preaching to students.
Notable quotes:
"... Bronze Age: Greatest Age EVAH! ..."
"... It's surprising economists feel the need to engage in happy talk, considering that markets are supposed to be natural, just, and efficient. Like clergy preaching to a perpetually backsliding laity about the one true God, Whom only a fool would doubt. If God were so great, there'd be no need to harp on it. In any case, this goes some way toward accounting for Bennet's statement. ..."
"... It takes a half-educated person to say something like that. First you get the ideas by way of a certain education, and then you don't think about them, in part because the educators discourage that kind of thing. ..."
Mar 03, 2018 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

Paul Cardan , March 2, 2018 at 3:12 pm

"[Capitalism] has been the greatest engine of, it's been the greatest anti-poverty program and engine of progress that we've seen."

I can almost smell the economics section of my local bookstore. Strange science, economics. Judging from the titles, much of it consists of cheerleading. Very different from history, anthropology, or sociology.

I never see history titles like Bronze Age: Greatest Age EVAH! It's surprising economists feel the need to engage in happy talk, considering that markets are supposed to be natural, just, and efficient. Like clergy preaching to a perpetually backsliding laity about the one true God, Whom only a fool would doubt. If God were so great, there'd be no need to harp on it. In any case, this goes some way toward accounting for Bennet's statement.

It takes a half-educated person to say something like that. First you get the ideas by way of a certain education, and then you don't think about them, in part because the educators discourage that kind of thing.

[Feb 09, 2018] Economists data and models are so unreliable that they should be viewed more of a religious studies than natural science

Feb 09, 2018 | economistsview.typepad.com

llisa2u2 , February 06, 2018 at 11:01 AM

I am posting this info. to this site, as part of personal approach as a US citizen to try to get some REAL FACTS out into the supposedly professional platforms of economists. This platforms are woefully lacking in good, factual information to communicate to anyone, even amongst themselves, and especially to Joe living on an street, or hopefully any house on any street in the US.

Now, what am I posting? The information that I am posting is an example of confusing information that is extremely invalid and should NOT be posted by so-called reliable sources, of professional, or "expertise" information. The reason I am posting an article that is confusing is because this article by Krugman is also confusing, and just as unreliable as the "confusing article" that was written by Alan Harkin at INVESTOPEDIA.


http://bit.ly/2Eof6eM

If you can't believe Investopedia's information, then who can you believe? I am posting the article as an article that the reader can NOT believe. The linked article is absolutely mis-stating IRS facts. This article is one of many that confuse the message about corporate taxation.

Personally, I think it is deliberate. The title of the article: http://bit.ly/2Eof6eM
basically leads the reader "to believe" the article is about how much US corporations such as APPLE, GOOGLE etc. "actually" bottomline- deliver to IRS. BUT, wait, when the reader "really reads" the reader then notes, that the "charts" ONLY reflect the "tax rate". Now, that's a whole different story. Tax rate is not bottomline taxes paid.

So, now if my "logic" and conclusion is "faulty", please enlighten me. The IRS data and this article don't jive in the real world of statistical data. Here is link to STATISTA that is THE data base that is used by top researchers worldwide.

This link shows the REAL data and percentage of corporate TAX PAID, AND FUTURE projections for US etc. etc. I have selected the most obvious and easy to read chart.
The following link presents reliable fact VS The article from INVESTOPEDIA as garbage.

http://bit.ly/2Eof7iQ

I am writing that the article in Investopedia by Aaron Hankin is BS. The content of the article also attempts to establish correlations to S/P action that has absolutely NO plausible fact to make any correlation about anything. I am also writing that most of the media reports about "corporate tax" is BS. I also am writing that this article by Krugman is a fluff, nonsense piece that is also BS. If Krugman were an economist that had any concern about the US economy, he would have, and would be posting this link everywhere on earth.

All that I definitely am trying to do is to get "reasonable data" out there to influence the public mindset to counter BS and try to present FACTS, just like a lot of other intelligent readers are trying to do.

llisa2u2 said in reply to llisa2u2... , February 06, 2018 at 11:08 AM
Please ignore the "typos", I did not hit preview first in this posted version on economists view.
llisa2u2 said in reply to llisa2u2... , February 06, 2018 at 11:15 AM
Basically, I am saying that the political posturing, and propaganda strategies of so many different monied groups is demanding that any "serf" needs to present any comment as if the "serf" is writing some sort of thesis. Really, all the "Talking Faces" are the ones who should be doing that as they present messages to the public"serfs". Otherwise, there should be public disclaimers as to who is paying the "Talking Faces" for delivering their "propaganda". The "sponsored message" dynamics is so convoluted, that any viewer sure can't presume anything. Basically, It just looks like a lot of "Talking Faces" are just making themselves into asses, based on their assumption, and presumptions.
mulp said in reply to llisa2u2... , February 06, 2018 at 01:26 PM
Why do you think anyone associated with investors is an economist rather than a snake oil salesman in the medicine show that is extremely boring?

What to understand economics? Pay attention to Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos.

They pay US workers to build productive assets like factories, transportation products, energy harvesting products, information you want products, all of which can be matched only by competitors paying hundreds of billions to millions of US workers just to catch up in a decade.

Or you can read Keynes.

[Dec 20, 2017] Bill Black DSGE Dilettantes v. ADM God Devotees

Notable quotes:
"... By Bill Black, the author of The Best Way to Rob a Bank is to Own One, an associate professor of economics and law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, and co-founder of Bank Whistleblowers United. Originally published at New Economic Perspectives ..."
"... A dilettante is a person who cultivates an area of interest, such as the arts, without real commitment or knowledge. The Dilettante Doctrine takes modern macro's arrogance to a new pinnacle. Only their model is legitimate, and it is illegitimate to criticize their DSGE models, even though they repeatedly fail. Instead, we must all "like" their models. We cannot make any statements about macroeconomics unless we "like [DSGE] models." The Dilettante Doctrine is a sure-fire means of winning academic disputes. You demand that your critics endorse your views, or you dismiss them as dilettantes unworthy of respect. ..."
"... Readers may recall that the scientific method works in the opposite direction of the Dilettante Doctrine. Modern macro proposes a theory (DSGE) and tests its predictive ability. The DSGE models fail recurrently, on the most important macro events, and the failures are massive. The scientific method requires the theorist of the failed model to declare it falsified. Economists who "like" repeatedly falsified DSGE models are, as Paul Romer famously declared, engaged in "pseudoscience." ..."
"... BTW, one of the best takes of macroeconomics I've encountered is Steve Keen's work, which I gratefully acknowledge I first read here on NC. Keen's critique of DSGE models is utterly spot-on and mathematically sophisticated. Part of the problem with economics is that it has been afflicted with 'math envy' since its earliest days, and the ADM results were proved with Banach Space methods, so they just *had* to be right. Google the phrase "spherical cow" for more on this mindset, not to mention one of the few really funny math jokes I know. ..."
Dec 20, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

By Bill Black, the author of The Best Way to Rob a Bank is to Own One, an associate professor of economics and law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, and co-founder of Bank Whistleblowers United. Originally published at New Economic Perspectives

The truly exceptional thing about 'modern macroeconomics' devotees is not that they are so consistently and horrifically wrong or that they persist in their errors – but their exceptional combination of arrogance and disdain for those who have dramatically better records and broader and more relevant expertise. Kartik Athreya, the Richmond Fed's Research Director, led the modern macro parade on June 17, 2010 with his blog (which he later withdrew in embarrassment) when he announced the Athreya Axiom of Absolute Arrogance.

So far, I've claimed something a bit obnoxious-sounding: that writers who have not taken a year of PhD coursework in a decent economics department (and passed their PhD qualifying exams), cannot meaningfully advance the discussion on economic policy. Taken literally, I am almost certainly wrong. Some of them have great ideas, for sure. But this is irrelevant. The real issue is that there is extremely low likelihood that the speculations of the untrained, on a topic almost pathologically riddled by dynamic considerations and feedback effects, will offer anything new. Moreover, there is a substantial likelihood that it will instead offer something incoherent or misleading.

Modern macro devotees suffered far worse substantive embarrassment than Athreya's personal embarrassment. After Athreya (briefly) published his Axiom, a flurry of the world's top economists issued devastating critiques of modern macro's foundational myths in their dynamic stochastic general equilibrium (DSGE) models. The takedowns enraged and humiliated modern macro devotees, and because they are incapable of staying embarrassed, they doubled-down on Athreya's Axiom by announcing the Dilettante Doctrine .

People who don't like dynamic stochastic general equilibrium (DSGE) models are dilettantes. By this we mean they aren't serious about policy analysis.

Lawrence J. Christiano, Martin S. Eichenbaum, and Mathias Trabandt, authored "On DSGE Models on November 9, 2017. Christiano and Eichenbaum are freshwater modern macro devotees trained largely at the University of Minnesota, and now holding prominent positions at Northwestern. Trabandt is a German modern macro devotee.

A dilettante is a person who cultivates an area of interest, such as the arts, without real commitment or knowledge. The Dilettante Doctrine takes modern macro's arrogance to a new pinnacle. Only their model is legitimate, and it is illegitimate to criticize their DSGE models, even though they repeatedly fail. Instead, we must all "like" their models. We cannot make any statements about macroeconomics unless we "like [DSGE] models." The Dilettante Doctrine is a sure-fire means of winning academic disputes. You demand that your critics endorse your views, or you dismiss them as dilettantes unworthy of respect.

Readers may recall that the scientific method works in the opposite direction of the Dilettante Doctrine. Modern macro proposes a theory (DSGE) and tests its predictive ability. The DSGE models fail recurrently, on the most important macro events, and the failures are massive. The scientific method requires the theorist of the failed model to declare it falsified. Economists who "like" repeatedly falsified DSGE models are, as Paul Romer famously declared, engaged in "pseudoscience."

Athreya then inadvertently compounded modern macro's failures by putting in writing a bit too many of modern macro's darker secrets in his 2013 book about macroeconomics. Athreya confirmed many of the most fundamental criticisms of modern macro devotees, revealed additional failures that were even more devastating, and illustrated perfectly the blindness of modern macro's devotees to their dogmas and logic. Athreya did recognize clearly one dogma that made modern macro devotees unable to spot even the world's largest bubble – but treated that failure as if it were a virtue. Modern macro devotees train macroeconomists to be unable to identify warn against, or take action to end even the most destructive bubbles. This is like training surgeons to believe that shock cannot occur and they should ignore shock in treating patients.

I will return to these errors in subsequent columns, but in this initial column, I introduce Athreya's most embarrassing and devastating admission. Athreya goes on for over 100 pages on how wondrous his fellow modern macro devotees are. They are brilliant specialists who are the world's top practitioners of ultra-rigorous logic and ultra-sophisticated mathematics skills that make it impossible for them to be anything other than transparent and scrupulously honest. In particular, Athreya tells the reader that the paramount problem in macro and microeconomics is recognizing, understanding, and countering deceit, the defining element at law of fraud. (Actually, he does that only in an exceptionally opaque manner.) On p.103, however, Athreya admits that modern macro devotees know that their vaunted DSGE models rest on a fatal premise that is so preposterous and embarrassing that they dare not state it. "A silent assumption of the ADM model" is that "the ADM God" perfectly prevents all crimes, predation, and deceit – at no cost. Note that this means that modern macro devotees (silently) designed their DSGE models to be incapable of recognizing, understanding, measuring, or countering deceit, which they admit is their paramount and fatal failure.

It is never good to be arrogant. It is always dangerous and limiting to be (proudly) ignorant of fields that are likely to have superior understanding of issues such as deceit, fraud, and predation. Athreya's book displays his pride in both of these faults.

The authors of the Dilettante Doctrine inadvertently revealed another embarrassing modern macro failure of great importance. It is the combination of repeated, devastating failure and unfailing arrogance that defines (and dooms) modern macro as pseudoscientists. In fairness to the authors, they announced their Dilettante Doctrine in the context of an article admitting catastrophic errors in modern macro. They also unintentionally admit the non-scientific nature of their enterprise. Consider this passage:

For [IMF's leader] to take DSGE model-based recommendations seriously, the economic intuition underlying those recommendations has to be made in compelling and intuitive ways.

Yes, they actually wrote that for anyone to take DSGE models "seriously" their "economic intuition" must "be made intuitive." Wow, who knew science could be so 'intuitive?' Not satisfied with announcing their new "intuitive method" as a substitute for the scientific method, the authors double-down on the concept that 'intuition' is the secret sauce of economics declaring that the super-secret is to keep that 'intuition' "simple."

To be convincing, it is critical for a DSGE modeler to understand and convey the economic intuition behind the model's implications in simple and intuitive terms.

Notice that the authors are not stating the conditions required to make the DSGE models 'correct.' They are only interested in what practices will make the models' results "convincing" to the bosses.

The bosses decide "actual policymaking." The Dilettante Doctrine authors declare policymaking to be even less scientific than relying on 'simple' 'intuition' to convey DSGE model results. It turns out that DSGE models are the 'canvas' on which modern macro devotees "see the combined effect of the different colors" of their "art."

Inevitably, actual policymaking will always be to some extent an art. But even an artist needs a canvas to see the combined effect of the different colors. A DSGE model is that canvas.

These passages are not simply embarrassing, they are revealing. DSGE is a substantive farce that repeatedly fails because modern macro devotees shaped their models from the beginning to embrace laissez faire dogmas. The 'simple' 'intuitions' underlying DSGE models are the most destructive laissez faire dogmas. Narayana Kocherlakota's sly use of the word "almost" reveals his agreement with this point.

[A]lmost coincidentally -- in these [early DSGE] models, all government interventions (including all forms of stabilization policy) are undesirable.

The authors of the Dilettante Doctrine agree with Kocherlakota's observation about the original DSGE models.

The associated policy implications are clear: there was no need for any form of government intervention. In fact, government policies aimed at stabilizing the business cycle are welfare-reducing.

Modern macro is proud that its 'freshwater' and 'saltwater' factions have achieved a grand fusion. The saltwater types agreed to use DSGE models and the freshwater types agreed that the freshwater types could add 'frictions' to the DSGE models that would allow the models to at least purport to address some of the actual macroeconomic problems. There is a misleading view that because the 'saltwater' types often call themselves "New Keynesians" they must have views sympathetic to Keynesian thought. The Dilettante Doctrine authors make the useful point that "New Keynesian" dogma is actually Milton Friedman's core laissez faire dogmas.

Prototypical pre-crisis DSGE models built upon the chassis of the RBC model to allow for nominal frictions, both in labor and goods markets. These models are often referred to as New Keynesian (NK) DSGE models. But, it would be just as appropriate to refer to them as Friedmanite DSGE models. The reason is that they embody the fundamental world view articulated in Friedman's seminal Presidential Address .

The Dilettante Doctrine authors admit that DSGE models failed at the most fundamental level – they could not even spot that the economy was becoming progressively more dangerous and harmful.

Pre-crisis DSGE models didn't predict the increasing vulnerability of the US economy to a financial crisis.

The authors go badly wrong in multiple ways when they attempt to explain the DSGE models failures and their implications for economic theory and policy.

There is still an ongoing debate about the causes of the financial crisis. Our view, shared by Bernanke (2009) and many others, is that the financial crisis was precipitated by a rollover crisis in a very large and highly levered shadow-banking sector that relied on short-term debt to fund long-term assets.19

The trigger for the rollover crisis was developments in the housing sector. U.S. housing prices had risen rapidly in the 1990's with the S&P/Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price Index rising by a factor of roughly 2.5 between 1991 and 2006. The precise role played by expectations, the subprime market, declining lending standards in mortgage markets, and overly-loose monetary policy is not critical for our purposes. What is critical is that housing prices began to decline in mid-2006, causing a fall in the value of the assets of shadow banks that had heavily invested in mortgage-backed securities. The Fed's willingness to provide a safety net for the shadow banking system was at best implicit, creating the conditions under which a roll-over crisis was possible. In fact a rollover crisis did occur and shadow banks had to sell their asset-backed securities at fire-sale prices, precipitating the Great Recession.

In sum, the pre-crisis mainstream DSGE models failed to forecast the financial crisis because they did not integrate the shadow banking system into their analysis.

I begin with the most fundamental failure – the failure to ask the right questions. Two prominent examples are why didn't the DSGE models warn us decades ago that the economy was systematically misallocating assets and creating the largest bubble in world history and what should we do to change the perverse incentives harming the economy and economic stability? Kocherlakota, in the same article from which I quoted above, emphasized that modern macro failed to warn about the coming financial crisis and the Great Recession and failed to provide effective policies to respond to them.

The dilettante article only uses the word 'bubble' once – to describe the tech bubble. It never labels the vastly larger housing bubble a 'bubble.' The dilettante article's authors claim it is not relevant for their purposes to know how the bubble arose, why it continued to inflate for over a decade, why it burst, or why it triggered the global financial crisis and the Great Recession. Only a dilettante could make or believe that claim.

Recall that Athreya emphasizes that deceit is the key factor that screws up economies – and that DSGE models "silently" assume "the ADM God" makes deceit impossible. I have explained in scores of columns why deceit, fraud, and predation were the central causes of the housing bubble hyper-inflating, the financial crisis, and the creation of the Great Recession. The dilettante authors refusal to call the housing bubble a bubble does not change the fact that they claim that the dramatic fall in housing values after 2005 was the paramount "trigger" of the financial crisis and the Great Recession.

The dilettante authors create a fiction about what "precipitat[ed] the Great Recession.

In fact a rollover crisis did occur and shadow banks had to sell their asset-backed securities at fire-sale prices, precipitating the Great Recession.

The dilettante authors then make their twin ' mea culpa ' on behalf of modern macro.

Against this background, we turn to the first of the two criticisms of DSGE models mentioned above, namely their failure to signal the increasing vulnerability of the U.S. economy to a financial crisis. This criticism is correct. The failure reflected a broader failure of the economics community.

The failure was to allow a small shadow-banking system to metastasize into a massive, poorly-regulated wild west-like sector that was not protected by deposit insurance or lender-of-last-resort backstops.

We now turn to the second criticism of DSGE models, namely that they did not sufficiently emphasize financial frictions. One reason why modelers did not emphasize financial frictions in DSGE models is that until the recent crisis, post-war recessions in the U.S. and Western Europe did not seem closely tied to disturbances in financial markets. The Savings and Loans crisis in the US was a localized affair that did not grow into anything like the Great Recession. Similarly, the stock market meltdown in the late 1980's and the bursting of the tech-bubble in 2001 only had minor effects on aggregate economic activity.

At the same time, the financial frictions that were included in DSGE models did not seem to have very big effects.

The dilettante authors have no idea how important their concessions are. Their premise is that it was government regulation, deposit insurance, and the central bank's 'lender of last resort' function that prevented prior epidemics of accounting control fraud from causing anything worse than "minor effects on aggregate economic activity." The obvious problem is that since its inception 30 years ago modern macro ideologues have claimed the opposite is true – that governmental action is unnecessary and harmful. They constructed their DSGE models to valorize their Friedmanite dogmas.

The less obvious problem is that freshwater modern macro has claimed that the lesson of the financial crisis is the opposite. Athreya and the Richmond Fed have preached for years that the federal safety net caused the housing problem, the financial crisis, and the Great Recession. The Richmond Fed claims that the key policy response to future financial crises is allowing the shadow sector to collapse in an orgy of "rollover cris[e]s."

The broader problem is why the dilettante authors are so wedded to their failed models, which at their core assume out of existence the institutions and events they say are most critical to explaining the catastrophic failures of their models. Why, for example, start with a general equilibrium model based on absurdly utopian assumptions (stated and unstated) that invariably produces equilibrium when the things we most need to study involve the failure of markets to function? It is nonsensical to make contradictory assumptions in different parts of your model about human behavior. Modern macro models keep failing and their devotees' response is to add (over time) dozens of fudges that posit that humans typically act in a manner that contradicts to the explicit and unstated assumptions of the DSGE model about human behavior. DSGE models increasingly resemble Borg constructs. The Borg also claim that there is no alternative to assimilation into their collective.

Aaron Layman , December 20, 2017 at 10:23 am

Excellent points. Helps to explain how you get a supposedly serious site covering real estate falling for ridiculous tripe about the root cause of the housing crisis (aka Great Recession). Take a careful look at the bombshell "working paper" and the new "narrative" cited, and you can see the groupstink of the Fed written all over it
https://betterdwelling.com/forget-subprime-canadian-real-estate-buyers-investors-crashed-the-us-market/

diptherio , December 20, 2017 at 11:07 am

Great article.

Modern mainstream macro is like a police detective whose model of the world states that people are nice and the body heals itself, and that therefore we will all live happily ever after. When confronted by a murder victim lying in a pool of their own blood, and that fact's apparent incompatibility with their model of the world, they respond, "My model is correct only, you see, it failed to account for sudden massive blood loss. How that loss of blood happened is beyond the scope of my investigation, the important thing is that I've now incorporated that knowledge in my new improved model, which proves that we will all live happily ever after -- except in cases of a sudden, massive loss of blood ."

Altandmain , December 20, 2017 at 12:01 pm

There has not been a big mea-culpa from neoliberal economists after the 2008 Financial Crisis. I don't think there will be. Many are essentially the equal of religious fundamentalists.

However, we should also remember that the very wealthy have backed the neoliberal economists against the general public. Neolibe3ralism provides a pseudoscientific economic excuse for what amounts to turning society into a plutocracy, which is precisely what the rich want.

shinola , December 20, 2017 at 2:10 pm

" essentially the equal of religious fundamentalists."

Yes – nailed it!

flora , December 20, 2017 at 3:26 pm

aka: The divine right of markets. /s

Skip Intro , December 20, 2017 at 3:12 pm

The GFC worked out very well for the neoliberal agenda. What you can't predict, you don't need to prevent or protect against. If the result happens to be a massive transfer of funds from states to speculators that eases the path to austerity and asset stripping, what's to apologize for?

Matthew G. Saroff , December 20, 2017 at 12:16 pm

What is ADM, aside from the agribusiness?

Robert Denne , December 20, 2017 at 12:50 pm

ADM is the Arrow-Debreu-McKenzie (ADM) model, as revealed in the blurb for the Athreya book on Amazon.

Jean , December 20, 2017 at 12:31 pm

Lack of higher math skills precludes citizen involvement in economics.
Blame it on the math card in PCs that makes doing it by hand and thus learning and understanding how numbers work.

voislav , December 20, 2017 at 1:28 pm

Most economists lack higher math skills too, but that doesn't seem to be obstacle for them. It's spherical chickens in a vacuum, models that are supposedly related to real world but are simplified beyond recognition because most economists are ignorant of even rudimentary statistics.

djrichard , December 20, 2017 at 1:31 pm

You don't need math to follow the money.

Amfortas the Hippie , December 20, 2017 at 3:59 pm

and you don't need math to discover that the holy Models rely on downright silly assumptions about Human Beings.
"rational actors with perfect information".
lol.
Most of the economic actors I know do not even remotely resemble that.
and whomever said that modern econ is akin to fundamentalist religion is right on.
I can't read "Money" or watch CNBC without thinking about Pat Robertson or Billy Graham.
It's just a different god they worship.
With this in mind, I think it's hilarious that the current hyperventilation about "cryptocurrency" could possibly be the bubble that, in popping, brings the whole mess down.
"Masters of the Universe", indeed.

Know Thy Farmer.

Synoia , December 20, 2017 at 12:48 pm

Personally I believe economic as practiced is an example of telling the boss (the King) what they want to hear.

Economist appear descended form a long line of Court Magicians, telling the futures from the entrails of an animal, consulting the spirits for guidance, or using a Chrystal ball.

Of more pointedly Bullshit, baffles brains.

Prof Black make the point that he DSGE models assume away fraud. They also assume people are "rational actors, driven only by logic," that is: we are all Vulcans from Star Trek.

A simple view of women's fashions (high heels) with regard to comfort or safety would demolish any theory of people as "rational actors." Or men's behavior over their "sports teams."

To assume away human behavior and emotion, and thus chaos or catastrophe theory, would put economists at odds with their masters, and cut their income, by the nearly always fatal, or career limiting "telling truth to power."

It's interesting to speculate what would be the scope or size of common ground in a dialog between anthropologists and economists. Null set perhaps?

PB , December 20, 2017 at 1:28 pm

Hi all,

Just a quick note for those who were initially confused by Bill Black's use of "modern macroeconomic theory" and thought "modern monetary theory". (I know I did, and was initially really confused by his take, and had to re-read the first three paragraphs a few times to re-set my mental pointers). As far as I know (and I did a year of Ph.D economics at Stanford, so I pass Arthreya's first test) I haven't heard of "modern" applied to DSGE macro but that probably reflects my choice of reading material more than anything else. In short, "modern macro" is bad, "modern monetary" is good.

BTW, one of the best takes of macroeconomics I've encountered is Steve Keen's work, which I gratefully acknowledge I first read here on NC. Keen's critique of DSGE models is utterly spot-on and mathematically sophisticated. Part of the problem with economics is that it has been afflicted with 'math envy' since its earliest days, and the ADM results were proved with Banach Space methods, so they just *had* to be right. Google the phrase "spherical cow" for more on this mindset, not to mention one of the few really funny math jokes I know.

Cheers,

P

[Dec 19, 2017] Do not Underestimate the Power of Microfoundations

Highly recommended!
Nice illustration of ideologically based ostrakism as practiced in Academia: "Larry [Summers] leaned back in his chair and offered me some advice. I had a choice. I could be an insider or I could be an outsider. Outsiders can say whatever they want. But people on the inside don't listen to them. Insiders, however, get lots of access and a chance to push their ideas. People - powerful people - listen to what they have to say. But insiders also understand one unbreakable rule: they don't criticize other insiders."
Notable quotes:
"... A more probable school of thought is that this game was created as a con and a cover for the status quo capitalist establishment to indulge themselves in their hard money and liquidity fetishes, consequences be damned. ..."
"... The arguments over internal and external consistency of models is just a convenient misdirection from what policy makers are willing to risk and whose interests they are willing to risk policy decisions for ..."
"... Mathematical masturbations are just a smoke screen used to conceal a simple fact that those "economists" are simply banking oligarchy stooges. Hired for the specific purpose to provide a theoretical foundation for revanschism of financial oligarchy after New Deal run into problems. Revanschism that occurred in a form of installing neoliberal ideology in the USA in exactly the same role which Marxism was installed in the USSR. With "iron hand in velvet gloves" type of repressive apparatus to enforce it on each and every university student and thus to ensure the continues, recurrent brainwashing much like with Marxism on the USSR universities. ..."
"... To ensure continuation of power of "nomenklatura" in the first case and banking oligarchy in the second. Connections with reality be damned. Money does not smell. ..."
"... Economic departments fifth column of neoliberal stooges is paid very good money for their service of promoting and sustaining this edifice of neoliberal propaganda. Just look at Greg Mankiw and Rubin's boys. ..."
"... "Larry [Summers] leaned back in his chair and offered me some advice. I had a choice. I could be an insider or I could be an outsider. Outsiders can say whatever they want. But people on the inside don't listen to them. Insiders, however, get lots of access and a chance to push their ideas. People - powerful people - listen to what they have to say. But insiders also understand one unbreakable rule: they don't criticize other insiders." ..."
Apr 04, 2015 | Economist's View

Darryl FKA Ron -> pgl...

At the risk of oversimplifying might it not be as simple as stronger leanings towards IS-LM and kind are indicative of a bias towards full employment and stronger leanings towards DSGE, microfoundations, and kind are indicative of a bias towards low inflation?

IN general I consider over-simplification a fault, if and only if, it is a rigidly adhered to final position. This is to say that over-simplification is always a good starting point and never a good ending point. If in the end your problem was simple to begin with, then the simplified answer would not be OVER-simplified anyway. It is just as bad to over-complicate a simple problem as it is to over-simplify a complex problem. It is easier to build complexity on top of a simple foundation than it is to extract simplicity from a complex foundation.

A lot of the Chicago School initiative into microfoundations and DSGE may have been motivated by a desire to bind Keynes in a NAIRU straight-jacket. Even though economic policy making is largely done just one step at a time then that is still one step too much if it might violate rentier interests.

Darryl FKA Ron -> Barry...

There are two possible (but unlikely) schools of (generously attributed to as) thought for which internal consistency might take precedence over external consistency. One such school wants to consider what would be best in a perfect world full of perfect people and then just assume that is best for the real world just to let the chips fall where they may according to the faults and imperfections of the real world. The second such school is the one whose eyes just glaze over mesmerized by how over their heads they are and remain affraid to ask any question lest they appear stupid.

A more probable school of thought is that this game was created as a con and a cover for the status quo capitalist establishment to indulge themselves in their hard money and liquidity fetishes, consequences be damned.

Richard H. Serlin

Consistency sounds so good, Oh, of course we want consistency, who wouldn't?! But consistent in what way? What exactly do you mean? Consistent with reality, or consistent with people all being superhumans? Which concept is usually more useful, or more useful for the task at hand?

Essentially, they want models that are consistent with only certain things, and often because this makes their preferred ideology look far better. They want models, typically, that are consistent with everyone in the world having perfect expertise in every subject there is, from finance to medicine to engineering, perfect public information, and perfect self-discipline, and usually on top, frictionless and perfectly complete markets, often perfectly competitive too.

But a big thing to note is that perfectly consistent people means a level of perfection in expertise, public information, self-discipline, and "rationality", that's extremely at odds with how people actually are. And as a result, this can make the model extremely misleading if it's interpreted very literally (as so often it is, especially by freshwater economists), or taken as The Truth, as Paul Krugman puts it.

You get things like the equity premium "puzzle", which involves why people don't invest more in stocks when the risk-adjusted return appears to usually be so abnormally good, and this "puzzle" can only be answered with "consistency", that people are all perfectly expert in finance, with perfect information, so they must have some mysterious hidden good reason. It can't be at all that it's because 65% of people answered incorrectly when asked how many reindeer would remain if Santa had to lay off 25% of his eight reindeer ( http://richardhserlin.blogspot.com/2013/12/surveys-showing-massive-ignorance-and.html ).

Yes, these perfect optimizer consistency models can give useful insights, and help to see what is best, what we can do better, and they can, in some cases, be good as approximations. But to say they should be used only, and interpreted literally, is, well, inconsistent with optimal, rational behavior -- of the economist using them.

Richard H. Serlin -> Richard H. Serlin...
Of course, unless the economist using them is doing so to mislead people into supporting his libertarian/plutocratic ideology.

dilbert dogbert

As an old broken down mech engineer, I wonder why all the pissing and moaning about micro foundations vs aggregation. In strength of materials equations that aggregate properties work quite well within the boundaries of the questions to be answered. We all know that at the level of crystals, materials have much complexity. Even within crystals there is deeper complexities down to the molecular levels. However, the addition of quantum mechanics adds no usable information about what materials to build a bridge with.

But, when working at the scale of the most advanced computer chips quantum mechanics is required. WTF! I guess in economics there is no quantum mechanics theories or even reliable aggregation theories.

Poor economists, doomed to argue, forever, over how many micro foundations can dance on the head of a pin.

RGC -> dilbert dogbert...

Endless discussions about how quantum effects aggregate to produce a material suitable for bridge building crowd out discussions about where and when to build bridges. And if plutocrats fund the endless discussions, we get the prominent economists we have today.

Darryl FKA Ron -> dilbert dogbert...

"...I guess in economics there is no quantum mechanics theories or even reliable aggregation theories..."

[I guess it depends upon what your acceptable confidence interval on reliability is. Most important difference that controls all the domain differences between physical science and economics is that underlying physical sciences there is a deterministic methodology for which probable error is merely a function of the inaccuracy in input metrics WHEREAS economics models are incomplete probabilistic estimating models with no ability to provide a complete system model in a full range of circumstances.

YOu can design and build a bridge to your load and span requirements with alternative models for various designs with confidence and highly effective accuracy repeatedly. No ecomomic theory, model, or combination of models and theories was ever intended to be used as the blueprint for building an economy from the foundation up.

With all the formal trappings of economics the only effective usage is to decide what should be done in a given set of predetermined circumstance to reach some modest desired effect. Even that modest goal is exposed to all kinds of risks inherent in assumptions, incomplete information, externalities, and so on that can produce errors of uncertain potential bounds.

Nonetheless, well done economics can greatly reduce the risks encountered in the random walk of economics policy making. So much so is this true, that the bigger questions in macro-economics policy making is what one is willing to risk and for whom.

The arguments over internal and external consistency of models is just a convenient misdirection from what policy makers are willing to risk and whose interests they are willing to risk policy decisions for.]

Darryl FKA Ron -> Peter K....

unless you have a model which maps the real world fairly closely like quantum mechanics.

[You set a bar too high. Macro models at best will tell you what to do to move the economy in the direction that you seek to go. They do not even ocme close to the notion of a theory of everything that you have in physics, even the theory of every little thing that is provided by quantum mechanics. Physics is an empty metaphor for economics. Step one is to forgo physics envy in pursuit of understanding suitable applications and domain constraints for economics models.

THe point is to reach a decision and to understand cause and effect directions. All precision is in the past and present. The future is both imprecise and all that there is that is available to change.

For the most part an ounce of common sense and some simple narrative models are all that are essential for making those policy decisions in and of themselves. HOWEVER, nation states are not ruled by economist philosopher kings and in the process of concensus decision making by (little r)republican governments then human language is a very imprecise vehicle for communicating logic and reason with respect to the management of complex systems. OTOH, mathematics has given us a universal language for communicating logic and reason that is understood the same by everyone that really understands that language at all. Hence mathematical models were born for the economists to write down their own thinking in clear precise terms and check their own work first and then share it with others so equipped to understand the language of mathematics. Krugman has said as much many times and so has any and every economist worth their salt.]

likbez -> Syaloch...

I agree with Pgl and PeterK. Certain commenters like Darryl seem convinced that the Chicago School (if not all of econ) is driven by sinister, class-based motives to come up justifications for favoring the power elite over the masses. But based on what I've read, it seems pretty obvious that the microfoundation guys just got caught up in their fancy math and their desire to produce more elegant, internally consistent models and lost sight of the fact that their models didn't track reality.

That's completely wrong line of thinking, IMHO.

Mathematical masturbations are just a smoke screen used to conceal a simple fact that those "economists" are simply banking oligarchy stooges. Hired for the specific purpose to provide a theoretical foundation for revanschism of financial oligarchy after New Deal run into problems. Revanschism that occurred in a form of installing neoliberal ideology in the USA in exactly the same role which Marxism was installed in the USSR.
With "iron hand in velvet gloves" type of repressive apparatus to enforce it on each and every university student and thus to ensure the continues, recurrent brainwashing much like with Marxism on the USSR universities.

To ensure continuation of power of "nomenklatura" in the first case and banking oligarchy in the second. Connections with reality be damned. Money does not smell.

Economic departments fifth column of neoliberal stooges is paid very good money for their service of promoting and sustaining this edifice of neoliberal propaganda. Just look at Greg Mankiw and Rubin's boys.

But the key problem with neoliberalism is that the cure is worse then disease. And here mathematical masturbations are very handy as a smoke screen to hide this simple fact.

likbez -> likbez...

Here is how Rubin's neoliberal boy Larry explained the situation to Elizabeth Warren:

"Larry [Summers] leaned back in his chair and offered me some advice. I had a choice. I could be an insider or I could be an outsider. Outsiders can say whatever they want. But people on the inside don't listen to them. Insiders, however, get lots of access and a chance to push their ideas. People - powerful people - listen to what they have to say. But insiders also understand one unbreakable rule: they don't criticize other insiders."

Elizabeth Warren, A Fighting Chance

Syaloch -> likbez...

Yeah, case in point.

[Dec 14, 2017] In defence of the labour theory of value

Actually Marx's "labor theory of value" should be properly called the "theory of surplus value".
Notable quotes:
"... For Marx, value was socially-necessary labour time: David Harvey is good on this. From this perspective, exploitation and alienation are linked. Workers are exploited because they must work longer than necessary to get their consumption bundle. And they are alienated because this work is unsatisfying and a source of unfreedom. Now, I'll concede that many people hate the labour theory of value. One reason for this is that many discussions of it quickly become obscurantist – as if "value" is some mystical entity embodied in commodities. ..."
"... This, though, certainly was not Marx's intention. Quite the opposite. He intended his theory to be a demystification. He wanted to show how what looked like relations between things – the exchange of money for goods or labour-time – were in fact relations between people. And unequal ones at that. ..."
"... I suspect that some of the animosity to Marx's use of LTV arises because of a resistance to the inference that Marx drew from it – that workers are exploited. This issue, however, is independent of the validity of not of the LTV. For example, Roemer thinks workers are exploited without believing in the LTV, and Smith believed the LTV without arguing that workers were exploited. ..."
"... * He seems to be recovering now. The vet is also expected to make a full recovery eventually. ..."
"... Further understanding, which evolved after Marx, is that the LTV is just special case of the principle that what produces a surplus of usefulness is not labour per se, but the energy used in the transformation of a larger quantity of something into a smaller quantity of something else, and muscle power is just one way, even if it was the main one for a very long time, to obtain energy to transform a large quantity of less useful commodities into a smaller quantity of more useful commodities. ..."
"... And this follows into the impression that I have derived from various authors that our high standards of living depend not on the high "productivity" of labour, but on the high "productivity" of fossil fuels, which are the product of the fertility of land ..."
"... the complex process of differentiation in the economy (aka the division of labor) obscures the relationship between the creation of the surplus (work time above that necessary to reproduce consumption bundle) and its utilization by capitalists via investment. Investment is not possible without exploitation of workers, but that relationship is occluded by the mechanics of employment, markets, and property. ..."
"... My impression is that your bearded friend Karl does not use "alienation" in that sense at all, in an economic sense, but in a humanist sense: that by being separated from the means of production proletarians are alienated from the meaning of their work, from work as a human activity, as distinct from an economic activity ..."
"... Practically every "Dilbert" strip is about "alienation". This is my favourite ..."
"... Placing a high value on the frivolous and "useless" has always been the hallmark of those most able to decide the value of anything, because they have no use for economic use (so to speak), but rather social signaling. Broad social respect is an extremely expensive thing to buy with money alone. ..."
Dec 11, 2017 | stumblingandmumbling.typepad.com

Lucius has been poorly recently, which has required some trips to the vet and therefore a bill of a size that only David Davis could negotiate*. This has made me wonder: is there more to be said for the labour theory of value than we like to think?

For a long time, I've not really cared about this theory one way or the other. This is partly because I've not bothered much with questions of value; partly because, as John Roemer has shown, we don't need (pdf) a labour theory of value to suggest workers are exploited; and partly because the main Marxian charges against capitalism – for example that it entails relationships of domination – hold true (or not!) independently of the theory.

As I approach retirement, however, I've begun to change my mind. I think of major expenses in terms of labour-time because they mean I have to work longer. A trip to the vet is an extra fortnight of work; a good guitar an extra month, a car an extra year, and so on.

When I consider my spending, I ask: what must I give up in order to get that? And the answer is my time and freedom. My labour-time is the measure of value.

This is a reasonable basis for the claim that workers are exploited. To buy a bundle of goods and services, we must work a number of hours a week. But taking all workers together, the hours we work are greater than the hours needed to produce those bundles because we must also work to provide a profit for the capitalist. As Marx put it:

We have seen that the labourer, during one portion of the labour-process, produces only the value of his labour-power, that is, the value of his means of subsistence During the second period of the labour-process, that in which his labour is no longer necessary labour, the workman, it is true, labours, expends labour-power; but his labour, being no longer necessary labour, he creates no value for himself. He creates surplus-value which, for the capitalist, has all the charms of a creation out of nothing. This portion of the working-day, I name surplus labour-time.

For Marx, value was socially-necessary labour time: David Harvey is good on this. From this perspective, exploitation and alienation are linked. Workers are exploited because they must work longer than necessary to get their consumption bundle. And they are alienated because this work is unsatisfying and a source of unfreedom. Now, I'll concede that many people hate the labour theory of value. One reason for this is that many discussions of it quickly become obscurantist – as if "value" is some mystical entity embodied in commodities.

This, though, certainly was not Marx's intention. Quite the opposite. He intended his theory to be a demystification. He wanted to show how what looked like relations between things – the exchange of money for goods or labour-time – were in fact relations between people. And unequal ones at that.

What's more, the charge of obscurantism against Marx is an especially weak one when it comes from orthodox economics. Much of this invokes unobservable concepts such as the natural rate of unemployment, marginal productivity, utility, the marginal product of capital and natural rate of interest – ideas which, in the last two cases, might not even be theoretically coherent.

In fact, the LTV is reasonably successful by the standards of conventional economics: we have empirical evidence to suggest that it does (pdf) a decent (pdf) job of explaining (pdf) relative prices – not that this was how Marx intended it to be used.

You can of course, think of counter-examples to the theory. But so what? in the social sciences, no substantial theory is 100% true.

I suspect that some of the animosity to Marx's use of LTV arises because of a resistance to the inference that Marx drew from it – that workers are exploited. This issue, however, is independent of the validity of not of the LTV. For example, Roemer thinks workers are exploited without believing in the LTV, and Smith believed the LTV without arguing that workers were exploited.

By the (low) standards of economic theories, perhaps the LTV isn't so bad.

* He seems to be recovering now. The vet is also expected to make a full recovery eventually.

December 11, 2017 Permalink

Comments

Luis Enrique , December 11, 2017 at 02:09 PM

But the LTV says more than the output of the economy is divided between the workers and the (suppliers and) owners of capital goods, doesn't it? I mean, mainstream econ says that too. And unless ownership of capital inputs to production is distributed equally across society, then some people consume things that other's labour has produced, which means workers must produce more than they consume. But again, that's basic mainstream stuff, not LVT. You end by saying you can believe in exploitation but not LVT, and vice versa, but the main body of this blog seems to be connecting the two. I am confused.

Of course if you have the ability to vary your labour supply, and labour is how you earn your money, then you ask yourself how much you need to work to purchase whatever. But again that's mainstream not LVT.

David Friedman , December 11, 2017 at 06:14 PM

Your version of the labor theory of value is one of Adam Smith's versions. I don't think it is Marx's, but I know Smith better than Marx.

And definitely not Ricardo's.

ConfusedNeoLiberal , December 11, 2017 at 08:51 PM

What about value, in terms of risk among others, that the employers put in starting a new business?

Blissex , December 12, 2017 at 12:23 AM

"Smith believed the LTV without arguing that workers were exploited."

The Marxian approach was interested in, as other commenters have said, in the specific capitalist case, where "capitalism" for him means strictly "labour for hire" by workers alienated from the means of production by their ownership by capitalists.

But the labour theory of value, as understood by what Marx called "classicals", applies also to all labour, and he used it in that sense.

My understanding of the classicals and the LTV is reduced to a minimum this:

Further understanding, which evolved after Marx, is that the LTV is just special case of the principle that what produces a surplus of usefulness is not labour per se, but the energy used in the transformation of a larger quantity of something into a smaller quantity of something else, and muscle power is just one way, even if it was the main one for a very long time, to obtain energy to transform a large quantity of less useful commodities into a smaller quantity of more useful commodities.

And this follows into the impression that I have derived from various authors that our high standards of living depend not on the high "productivity" of labour, but on the high "productivity" of fossil fuels, which are the product of the fertility of land.

Blissex , December 12, 2017 at 12:29 AM

"value, in terms of risk among others, that the employers put in starting a new business?"

If the business produces a surplus, that is value added, than the surplus is the product of the energy/labour expended by all participants

How it is accounted for is one issue, especially over multiple time periods, and how it is shared out is a social relationship.

As to risk, everybody in the business runs the risk of not getting paid at the end of the month, and the opportunity cost of not doing something else, whichever labour they put in.

How risk and opportunity cost are accounted for, especially over multiple time periods, is another issue, and how they are shared is another social relationship.

Blissex , December 12, 2017 at 01:14 AM

"the surplus is the product of the energy/labour expended by all participants"

I'll perhaps further diminish the reputation of my "contributions" this way: perhaps all social relationships of production (at least among males) map closely onto (cursorial) group hunts.

https://78.media.tumblr.com/d4db6631d383cbfc9bd135c799a06e7f/tumblr_n3u8r0eJu01sohvpko1_500.jpg

:-)

Luis Enrique , December 12, 2017 at 08:40 AM

That's a very long winded way of saying that making stuff requires labour.

Blissex , December 12, 2017 at 01:50 PM

"a very long winded way of saying that making stuff requires labour"

Well, that's obvious, but what the classicals thought of as the LTV was not entirely obvious: that "surplus" (rather than "stuff") comes from the fertility of land and the transformation achieved with labour, and that nothing else is needed to achieve "surplus". Because for example capital goods are themselves surplus from fertility or labour, again back to the first blades made from chipping lumps of obsidian.

That's quite a bit more insightful, never mind also controversial, than "making stuff requires labour".

Rich Clayton , December 12, 2017 at 03:35 PM

Love this post. But, being a fellow marxist, I can't help but to disagree with this bit: "And they are alienated because this work is unsatisfying and a source of unfreedom." This is a colloquial use of alienation, and its not wrong.

But Marx is getting at something else: the complex process of differentiation in the economy (aka the division of labor) obscures the relationship between the creation of the surplus (work time above that necessary to reproduce consumption bundle) and its utilization by capitalists via investment. Investment is not possible without exploitation of workers, but that relationship is occluded by the mechanics of employment, markets, and property.

That's the sense in which workers are alienated under capitalism. Socialism could still have boring work, but, in so far as the investment function is brought under collective democratic control, workers would not be alienated in the special sense Marx is using.

Lukas , December 12, 2017 at 03:41 PM

@Luis Enrique

"Where else could stuff come from?" Well, assuming by "stuff" we mean objects of value, nowhere. But the reasons for which we value them are not dependent upon their natural origins or the labor required for their production. I don't value a computer because it's made of plastic and silicon and so forth, nor because of the labor required to produce it. It's useful because of what it does, not what it is; it's sort of Kant's definition of art versus the general conception of tools.

As for the relationship between production functions and the LTV, that seems (at least prima facie) pretty straightforward. If there is a high olefimity ascribed to the surplus provided by the product created by X, Y, then those production functions will, themselves, be assigned greater value, i.e., be worthy of more labor-time to attain. E.g., even if I'm not very good at fishing, if I really like the flavor of fish over other protein sources, I'll spend more time increasing my labor efficiency (be a better fisherman).

Blissex , December 12, 2017 at 05:36 PM

"Everything ultimately derives from nature and the labour of humans. Where else could stuff come from? That's all there is."

Then in theory the cost (not the price) of everything can be measured in terms of physical quantities of primary inputs and of hours of work.

"What's controversial about it?"

What is controversial is that written like that you sound like a Marxist: the alternative approach is to say that *property* creates surplus.
In the standard neoclassical approach "property" is the often forgotten "initial endowments" of the single representative agent.

Anyhow the "narrative" is: as Mr. Moneybags owns the iron mine and the coal mine and the smelter and the ingot roller and spoon press, then he is entitled to the surplus because without his property it is impossible to make spoons. Labour on its own is worthless, wastes away, while property is "valuable" capital.

"And how one gets from a production function (stuff is made from X, Y and Z) to LTV"

Production functions are just not very elaborate scams to pretend that property is the factor of production, rather then the fertility of land and the energy of labour, and land does not exist (after JB Clark "disappeared" it) and labour is just an accessory. Part of the scam is that "X, Y and Z" are denominated in money, not physical quantities.

As I wrote in another answer accounting for the output of land fertility and labour energy and how it is shared are the difficult bits. Welcome to the institutional approach to the political economy. :-)

Blissex , December 12, 2017 at 05:41 PM

"the reasons for which we value them are not dependent upon their natural origins or the labor required for their production"

And here be dragons. Your old bearded acquaintance Karl has something to say about this :-).

"It's useful because of what it does, not what it is"

So cleaning floors which is very useful should have a high value, while Leonardo paintings, that are merely scarce, should have a low value :-).

I though that most people reckoned that "value" depends on scarcity: so there is a scarcity of even not very good promoters of torysm, so G Osborne is entitled to £600,000 a year to edit the "Evening Standard", but there is no scarcity of excellent cleaners, so cleaners gets minimum wage if they are lucky.

:-)

Luis Enrique , December 12, 2017 at 05:43 PM

counting hours of worked is not a measure of cost, it is a tally of hours worked. In mainstream econ, production functions describe a physical production process (to make 1 unit of Y, you combine inputs like so) and are not not denominated in money. e.g. You multiply L by w to get cost.

mulp , December 12, 2017 at 05:46 PM

Economies are zero sum. GDP must be paid for, otherwise it won't be produced. The only source of money comes from labor costs, the money paid to workers to work producing GDP. As conservatives note, all taxes fall on workers by directly taking their pay, or by hiking the prices of what workers buy.

Taxes pay workers, e.g. teachers, and doctors with Medicare and Medicaid, weapons makers and warriors, or pay people to pay workers, Social Security benefits and SNAP.

Capital has value because it is built by paying workers. It gets a cut to repay the payers of workers.

Monopoly rent seeking is unsustainable. If a monoplists takes more from workers than they pay workers, he eventually takes so much money workers can no longer pay for GDP and it falls to zero as workers produce what they consume without buying from the monopolist capital.

Tanstaafl

As Keynes put it:

"I feel sure that the demand for capital is strictly limited in the sense that it would not be difficult to increase the stock of capital up to a point where its marginal efficiency had fallen to a very low figure. This would not mean that the use of capital instruments would cost almost nothing, but only that the return from them would have to cover little more than their exhaustion by wastage and obsolescence together with some margin to cover risk and the exercise of skill and judgment. In short, the aggregate return from durable goods in the course of their life would, as in the case of short-lived goods, just cover their labour costs of production plus an allowance for risk and the costs of skill and supervision.

"Now, though this state of affairs would be quite compatible with some measure of individualism, yet it would mean the euthanasia of the rentier, and, consequently, the euthanasia of the cumulative oppressive power of the capitalist to exploit the scarcity-value of capital. Interest today rewards no genuine sacrifice, any more than does the rent of land. The owner of capital can obtain interest because capital is scarce, just as the owner of land can obtain rent because land is scarce. But whilst there may be intrinsic reasons for the scarcity of land, there are no intrinsic reasons for the scarcity of capital. An intrinsic reason for such scarcity, in the sense of a genuine sacrifice which could only be called forth by the offer of a reward in the shape of interest, would not exist, in the long run, except in the event of the individual propensity to consume proving to be of such a character that net saving in conditions of full employment comes to an end before capital has become sufficiently abundant. But even so, it will still be possible for communal saving through the agency of the State to be maintained at a level which will allow the growth of capital up to the point where it ceases to be scarce."


Economies are zero sum. The value of goods and services must equal the labor costs in the long run. Tanstaaafl

Blissex , December 12, 2017 at 06:01 PM

"Socialism could still have boring work, but, in so far as the investment function is brought under collective democratic control, workers would not be alienated in the special sense Marx is using."

My impression is that your bearded friend Karl does not use "alienation" in that sense at all, in an economic sense, but in a humanist sense: that by being separated from the means of production proletarians are alienated from the meaning of their work, from work as a human activity, as distinct from an economic activity.

Collective ownership does not change at all that kind of alienation: being a cog in the capitalist machinery is no less alienating than being a cog in the collectivist machinery.

I think that our blogger when he talks about distributing control of the production process to workers is far closer to the marxian ideal than a collectivist approach.

Practically every "Dilbert" strip is about "alienation". This is my favourite:

http://dilbert.com/strip/2002-03-09

But these are also good:

http://dilbert.com/strip/1991-12-26
http://dilbert.com/strip/1993-01-05
http://dilbert.com/strip/1993-04-26
http://dilbert.com/strip/1994-11-07
http://dilbert.com/strip/1996-03-03
http://dilbert.com/strip/1996-07-24
http://dilbert.com/strip/1996-10-10
http://dilbert.com/strip/2002-08-10

Luis Enrique , December 12, 2017 at 06:26 PM

That is not what zero sum means

Blissex , December 12, 2017 at 06:53 PM

"counting hours of worked is not a measure of cost"

For a definition of "cost" that is made-up disregarding P Sraffa's work and in general the classics.

"multiply L by w to get cost."

As J Robinson and others pointed out that "w" depends on the distribution of income, on the interest rate, etc., so is an institutional matter.
As I was saying, accounting for the surplus and how to share it is not so easily handwavable.

Luis Enrique , December 12, 2017 at 08:55 PM

sorry, I meant for a money definition of cost that is not just counting inputs, but which is inputs multiplied by their prices.

nobody is hand waving. I think the mainstream view is that 'value' and 'surplus' are not meaningful terms, only prices and profits and subjective value. A production function says nothing about prices, you have to explain them with other stuff, and as you say, institutions and all manner of things could come in the play there.

You can say that that workers produce more in money terms than than they are paid, which is trivial (the wages paid by an employer are less than its gross profits so long as there are non-zero returns to capital, interest on a loan or dividends or whatever) and to my mind it's silly to define that as exploitation because it would apply in situations where the 'capitalist' is getting a small return and workers rewarded handsomely by any standard. Better imo to define exploitation as when capitalists are earning excess returns (and I'd fudge that by differentiating between workers' wages and salaries of top execs). Otherwise you lay yourself open to "the only thing worse than being exploited by capitlists is not beingn exploited by capitalists" which is J Robinson too I believe.

Luis Enrique , December 12, 2017 at 08:57 PM

and i think you only have to look at the income distribution to infer workers are being expoloited

B.L. Zebub , December 13, 2017 at 04:02 AM

@Blissex,

This is a genuine question: what you exposed above is related to or influenced by Steve Keen's ideas, yes? If so, I'd be interested in reading about that in more detail.

Lukas , December 13, 2017 at 04:28 AM

@Blissex

I've always thought that defining value by scarcity was an absurd misdirection, in part because there is no reason that the two should correlate at all. At any point in socioeconomic development beyond subsistence, value is to some extent socially defined, not economically defined. Status ends up being the most "useful" resource, as we see among all those who've never had to worry about their material conditions.

Placing a high value on the frivolous and "useless" has always been the hallmark of those most able to decide the value of anything, because they have no use for economic use (so to speak), but rather social signaling. Broad social respect is an extremely expensive thing to buy with money alone.

@Luis Enrique

Ah, but name for me a production process that doesn't take place over time. There's an infinite amount of time for all of us, but for each of us only so much, and those who fail to value it die full of regret. Surely someone somewhere must have something to say about this.

Luis Enrique , December 13, 2017 at 08:34 AM

I don't know why I wrote the above. Surplus is also a mainstream term. See wages set by bargaing over a surplus. Presume it's based on prices of outputs compared to inputs or if in model with real quantities not prices, then in subjective values.

Lukas production functions are defined over a period of time.

Blissex , December 13, 2017 at 11:43 AM

Ahem, I am trying to explain my understanding of Marx, who wrote both as economist and a philosopher, and a politial theorist.

Alienation, exploitation and inequality are technically distinct concepts, even if in the marxist (view (and that of every business school, that are faithful to marxist political economy) capitalist control of the means of production leads to alienation which leads to exploitation which leads to inequality. In the marxian political economy inequality can exist even with exploitation, for example, and that makes it less objectionable.

"Surplus is also a mainstream term. See wages set by bargaing over a surplus."

Some Economists have not forgotten at least some terminology of political economy and some Departments of Business still have surviving "history of economic thought" courses that some postgrads may still accidentally occasionally wander into and pick up some terms from...

"are not meaningful terms, only prices and profits and subjective value."

But the mainstream focus on prices and profits etc. is the purest handwaving, because it begs the question...

"A production function says nothing about prices"

Ha! This is one of the best examples where mainstream theory handwaves furiously: mainstream production functions switch effortlessly from "capital" as phusical quantities to aggregating "capital" by reckoning it in "numeraire". That is all about prices, and even about future expected prices and future expected rates of discount. Therefore rational expectations, a grand feat of handwaving.

Blissex , December 13, 2017 at 11:51 AM

"defining value by scarcity was an absurd misdirection, in part because there is no reason that the two should correlate at all."

Ahhhhhhh but this is a very political point and not quite agreeable because:

One of the conceits of "microfoundations" is to show that there are "laws" of Economics that are precise, so everybody get exactly their just compensation, so for example demand-supply schedules are always presented, cleverly, as lines and static.

The view of political economists is that instead "everything" lies within boundaries of feasibility, which are dynamic, so for example demand-supply schedules are ribbons that change over time and circumstances, and transactions happens not at uniquely determined points of intersections, but in regions of feasibility, the precise point dependent on institutional arrangements.

So the LTV determines one boundary for "price" and desirability another boundary.

Blissex , December 13, 2017 at 12:03 PM

"exposed above is related to or influenced by Steve Keen's ideas"

Related and independently derived, but also a bit influenced. I had always suspected that the "classicals" used "labour" as a synonym for "muscle power", but various later readings persuaded me that was indeed the case. Later post will have some hopefully interesting detail. Then I looked into the literature and found that obviously this had been figured out before (centuries ago in some cases, like B de Mandeville).

Anyhow for similar approaches some references:

Luis Enrique , December 13, 2017 at 04:33 PM

Blissex if you can come up with a better way of trying to describe total quantities of highly heterogeneous things (i.e. capital) you have a Nobel awaiting. Everybody know that attempts to put a number on the real quantity of capital is always going to be a rough and ready endeavour.

I don't see how working with prices and profits is 'handwaving'. What question does it beg? Much of economics is about trying to explain these things. I would not say economics focuses on prices and profits because many economics models work with real quantities that are high abstract and in theory are made commensurate using subjective value (utility) as the unit of account.

And I don't think this lot
https://www.theguardian.com/business/2010/oct/11/nobel-prize-for-economics-three-winners
picked up the term surplus by accidentally wandering in to the wrong seminar

[Dec 04, 2017] The Phillips Curve, Again

Dec 04, 2017 | everydayecon.wordpress.com

The Phillips Curve is back. In saying so, I do not mean to imply that being "back" refers to a sudden reappearance of a stable empirical relationship between unemployment (or the output gap) and inflation. The Phillips Curve is back in the same way that conspiracy theories about the assassination of JFK are back after the recent release of government documents. In other words, the Phillips Curve is something that people desperately want to believe in, despite the lack of evidence.

The Phillips Curve is all the rage among central bankers. Since the Federal Reserve embarked on quantitative easing, they have been ensuring the public that QE would not be inflationary because of the slack in the economy. Until labor market conditions tighten, there would be little threat of inflation. Then, as the labor market tightened, the Federal Reserve warned that they might have to start raising interest rates to prevent these tightening conditions from creating inflation.

What is remarkable about this period is that the Federal Reserve has undershot its target rate of inflation throughout this entire period -- and continues to do so today. So what does this tell us about the Phillips Curve and what can we learn about monetary policy?

If one looks at the data on unemployment and inflation (or even the output gap and inflation), you could more easily draw Orion the Hunter as you could a stable Phillips Curve. Fear not, sophisticated advocates of the Phillips Curve will say. This is simply the Lucas Critique at play here. If a Phillips Curve exists, and if the central bank tries to exploit it, then it will not be evident in the data. In fact, if you take a really basic 3-equation-version of the New Keynesian model, there is a New Keynesian Phillips Curve in the model. However, when you solve for the equilibrium conditions, you find that inflation is a function of demand shocks, technology shocks, and unexpected changes in interest rates. The output gap doesn't appear in the solution. But fear not, this simply means that monetary policy is working properly. The Phillips Curve is apparently like the observer effect in quantum mechanics in that when we try to observe the Phillips Curve, we change the actual result (this is a joke, please do not leave comments about why I've misunderstood the observer effect).

... ... ...

What all of this means is that even given the fact that the New Keynesian model features an equation that resembles the Phillips curve, this does not imply that there is some predictive power that comes from thinking about this equation in isolation. In addition, it certainly does not imply that changes in the output gap cause changes in the rate of inflation. There is no direction of causation implied by this one equilibrium condition.

[Nov 29, 2017] Economics is a Belief System - and We are Ruled by Fundamentalists

Highly recommended!
Notable quotes:
"... During the two decades following the neoliberal economists' take-over of Western governments in the 1980s, many felt that the almost mystical terms of economics - such as derivatives, hedging, leverage, contangos, etc - were beyond the understanding of most ordinary people. ..."
"... They pursued them as a matter of faith in the market and its processes, despite the apparent warning signs of their imminent failure. ..."
"... as within many custom or belief systems, what economics enshrines is a social order. One where a dominant minority are able to take a small quantity of wealth from each member of the majority in order to maintain their higher status. ..."
"... idea of economics as an exploitative mechanism is echoed in the cover picture of the book, Bosch's The Conjurer ..."
"... Within its exposition of economics as a quasi-religious theory, Brian Davey's book helps us to understand why economic theory is driving us toward a global system failure - and why politics and economics are incapable of responding to the pressing ecological crisis which the pursuit of economic growth has spawned. ..."
Nov 09, 2015 | resilience.org

by Paul Mobbs, originally published by The Ecologist |

Brian Davey's new book, Credo: Economic Beliefs in a World in Crisis, is an analysis of economic theory as if it were a system of religious belief.

It's a timely book. The simplistic, perhaps 'supernatural' assumptions which underpin key parts of economic theory demand far more attention. It's a debate we've failed to have as a society.

... ... ...

During the two decades following the neoliberal economists' take-over of Western governments in the 1980s, many felt that the almost mystical terms of economics - such as derivatives, hedging, leverage, contangos, etc - were beyond the understanding of most ordinary people.

And without understanding those terms, irrespective of our gut feeling that there was something wrong, how could we challenge the political lobby those theories had put into power? In the end it took the financial crash of 2007/8 to demonstrate that those in charge of this system didn't understand the complexity and risk of those practices either.

They pursued them as a matter of faith in the market and its processes, despite the apparent warning signs of their imminent failure. Those outside 'orthodox' economics could already see where the economy was heading in the longer-term.

Question is, did economists learn anything from that failure? Or, through austerity, have they once again committed us to their dogmatic belief system, unchanged by that experience?

... ... ...

However, through simple hubris or optimism bias, the political class has been convinced that 'fracking' is a solution to our economic woes - even though there is a paucity of verifiable evidence to demonstrate those claims, and it has already lost billions of investors money.

Economics is a reflection of power

Ultimately though, as within many custom or belief systems, what economics enshrines is a social order. One where a dominant minority are able to take a small quantity of wealth from each member of the majority in order to maintain their higher status.

This idea of economics as an exploitative mechanism is echoed in the cover picture of the book, Bosch's The Conjurer - where a magician distracts the public with a sleight of hand trick so that they can be more easily robbed by his associate.

Again, in a world where we're hitting the limits to human material growth, political models of well-being based upon wealth and consumption are damaging to human society in the long-term. The evidence that we're heading for a longer-term failure is there, as was the case with the warning signs before the 2007 crash. The problem is that those in positions of power do not wish to see it.

... ... ...

Within its exposition of economics as a quasi-religious theory, Brian Davey's book helps us to understand why economic theory is driving us toward a global system failure - and why politics and economics are incapable of responding to the pressing ecological crisis which the pursuit of economic growth has spawned.

Contrary to the economic hubris of many world leaders, set alongside the reality of ecological limits humanity is not 'too big to fail'.

[Nov 29, 2017] Michael Hudson: The Wall Street Economy is Draining the Real Economy

Highly recommended!
Notable quotes:
"... An interview by Gordon T. Long of the Financial Repression Authority. Originally published at his website ..."
"... One of the most important distinctions that investors have to understand is the difference between secular and cyclical trends Let us begin with definitions from the Encarta® World English Dictionary: ..."
"... Secular – occurring only once in the course of an age or century; taking place over an extremely or indefinitely long period of time ..."
"... Cycle – a sequence of events that is repeated again and again, especially a causal sequence; a period of time between repetitions of an event or phenomenon that occurs regularly ..."
"... Secular stagnation is when the predators of finance have eaten too many sheeple. ..."
"... Real estate rents in this latest asset bubble, whether commercial or residential, appear to have been going up in many markets even if the increases are slowing. That rent inflation will likely turn into rent deflation, but that doesn't appear to have happened yet consistently. ..."
"... Barter has always existed and always will. Debt money expands and contracts the middle class, acting as a feedback signal, which never works over the long term, because the so encapsulated system can only implode, when natural resource liquidation cannot be accelerated. The whole point is to eliminate the initial requirement for capital, work. Debt fails because both sides of the same coin assume that labor can be replaced. The machines driven by dc technology are not replacing labor; neither the elites nor the middle class can fix the machines, which is why they keep accelerating debt, to replace one failed technology only to be followed by the next, netting extortion by whoever currently controls the debt machine, which the majority is always fighting over, expending more energy to avoid work, like the objective is to avoid sweating, unless you are dumb enough to run on asphalt with Nike gear. ..."
"... . . . The whole argument for privatization, for instance, is the opposite of what was taught in American business schools in the 19th century. The first professor of economics at the Wharton School of Business, which was the first business school, was Simon Patten. He said that public infrastructure is a fourth factor of production. But its role isn't to make a profit . It's to lower the cost of public services and basic inputs to lower the cost of living and lower the cost of doing business to make the economy more competitive. But privatization adds interest payments, dividends, managerial payments, stock buybacks, and merges and acquisitions . Obviously these financialized charges are factored into the price system and raise the cost of living and doing business . ..."
www.nakedcapitalism.com
April 29, 2016 by Yves Smith An interview by Gordon T. Long of the Financial Repression Authority. Originally published at his website

GORDON LONG: Thank you for joining us. I'm Gordon Long with the Financial Repression Authority. It's my pleasure to have with me today Dr. Michael Hudson Professor Hudson's very well known in terms of the FIRE economy to-I think, to a lot of our listeners, or at least he's recognized by many as fostering that concept. A well known author, he has published many, many books. Welcome, Professor Hudson.

MICHAEL HUDSON: Yes.

LONG: Let's just jump into the subject. I mentioned the FIRE economy cause I know that I have always heard it coming from yourself-or, indirectly, not directly, from yourself. Could you explain to our listeners what's meant by that terminology?

HUDSON: Well it's more than just people getting fired. FIRE is an acronym for Finance, Insurance and Real Estate. Basically that sector is about assets, not production and consumption. And most people think of the economy as being producers making goods and services and paying labor to produce them – and then, labour is going to buy these goods and services. But this production and consumption economy is surrounded by the asset economy: the web of Finance, Insurance, and Real Estate of who owns assets, and who owes the debts, and to whom.

LONG: How would you differentiate it (or would you) with what's often referred to as financialization, or the financialization of our economy? Are they one and the same?

HUDSON: Pretty much. The Finance, Insurance, and Real Estate sector is dominated by finance. 70 to 80% of bank loans in North America and Europe are mortgage loans against real estate. So instead of a landowner class owning property clean and clear, as they did in the 19 th century, now you have a democratization of real estate. 2/3 or more of the population owns their own home. But the only way to buy a home, or commercial real estate, is on credit. So the loan-to-value ratio goes up steadily. Banks lend more and more money to the real estate sector. A home or piece of real estate, or a stock or bond, is worth whatever banks are willing to lend against it

As banks loosen their credit terms, as they lower their interest rates, take lower down payments, and lower amortization rates – by making interest-only loans – they are going to lend more and more against property. So real estate is bid up on credit. All this rise in price is debt leverage. So a financialized economy is a debt-leveraged economy, whether it's real estate or insurance, or buying an education, or just living. And debt leveraging means that a larger proportion of assets are represented by debt. So debt equity ratios rise. But financialization also means that more and more of people's income and corporate and government tax revenue is paid to creditors. There's a flow of revenue from the production-and-consumption economy to the financial sector.

LONG: I don't know if you know Richard Duncan. He was with the IMF, etc, and lives in Thailand. He argues right now that capitalism is no longer functioning, and really what he refers to what we have now is "creditism." Because in capitalism we have savings that are reinvested into productive assets that create productivity, which leads to a higher level of living. We're not doing that. We have no savings and investments. Credit is high in the financial sector, but it's not being applied to productive assets. Is he valid in that thinking?

HUDSON: Not as in your statement. It's confused.

LONG: Okay.

HUDSON: There's an enormous amount of savings. Gross savings. The savings we have that are mounting up are just about as large as they've ever been – about, 18-19% of the US economy. They're counterpart is debt. Most savings are lent out to borrowers se debt. Basically, you have savers at the top of the pyramid, the 1% lending out their savings to the 99%. The overall net savings may be zero, and that's what your stupid person from the IMF meant. But gross savings are much higher. Now, the person, Mr. Duncan, obviously-I don't know what to say when I hear this nonsense. Every economy is a credit economy.

Let's start in Ancient Mesopotamia. The group that I organized out of Harvard has done a 20-study of the origins of economic structuring in the Bronze Age, even the Neolithic, and the Bronze Age economy – 3200 BC going back to about 1200 BC. Suppose you're a Babylonian in the time of Hammurabi, about 1750 BC, and you're a cultivator. How do you buy things during the year? Well, if you go to the bar, to an ale woman, what she'd do is write down the debt that you owe. It was to be paid on the threshing floor. The debts were basically paid basically once a year when the income was there, on the threshing floor when the harvest was in. If the palace or the temples would advance animals or inputs or other public services, this would be as a debt. It was all paid in grain, which was monetized for paying debts to the palace, temples and other creditors.

The IMF has this Austrian theory that pretends that money began as barter and that capitalism basically operates on barter. This always is a disinformation campaign. Nobody believed this in times past, and it is a very modern theory that basically is used to say, "Oh, debt is bad." What they really mean is that public debt is bad. The government shouldn't create money, the government shouldn't run budget deficits but should leave the economy to rely on the banks. So the banks should run and indebt the economy.

You're dealing with a public relations mythology that's used as a means of deception for most people. You can usually ignore just about everything the IMF says. If you understand money you're not going to be hired by the IMF. The precondition for being hired by the IMF is not to understand finance. If you do understand finance, you're fired and blacklisted. That's why they impose austerity programs that they call "stabilization programs" that actually are destabilization programs almost wherever they're imposed.

LONG: Is this a lack of understanding and adherence to the wrong philosophy, or how did we get into this trap?

HUDSON: We have an actively erroneous view, not just a lack of understanding. This is not by accident. When you have an error repeated year after year after year, decade after decade after decade, it's not really insanity doing the same thing thinking it'll be different. It's sanity. It's doing the same thing thinking the result will be the same again and again and again. The result will indeed be austerity programs, making budget deficits even worse, driving governments further into debt, further into reliance on the IMF. So then the IMF turns them to the knuckle breakers of the World Bank and says, "Oh, now you have to pay your debts by privatization". It's the success. The successful error of monetarism is to force countries to have such self-defeating policies that they end up having to privatize their natural resources, their public domain, their public enterprises, their communications and transportation, like you're seeing in Greece's selloffs. So when you find an error that is repeated, it's deliberate. It's not insane. It's part of the program, not a bug.

LONG: Where does this lead us? What's the roadmap ahead of us here?

HUDSON: A thousand years ago, if you were a marauding gang and you wanted to take over a country's land and its natural resources and public sector, you'd have to invade it with military troops. Now you use finance to take over countries. So it leads us into a realm where everything that the classical economists saw and argued for – public investment, bringing costs in line with the actual cost of production – that's all rejected in favor of a rentier class evolving into an oligarchy. Basically, financiers – the 1% – are going to pry away the public domain from the government. Pry away and privatize the public enterprises, land, natural resources, so that bondholders and privatizers get all of the revenue for themselves. It's all sucked up to the top of the pyramid, impoverishing the 99%.

LONG: Well I think most people, without understanding economics, would instinctively tell you they think that's what's happening right now, in some way.

HUDSON: Right. As long as you can avoid studying economics you know what's happened. Once you take an economics course you step into brainwashing. It's an Orwellian world.

LONG: I think you said it perfectly well there. Exactly. It gets you locked into the wrong way of thinking as opposed to just basic common sense. Your book is Killing the Host . What was the essence of its message? Was it describing exactly what we're talking about here?

HUDSON: Finance has taken over the industrial economy, so that instead of finance becoming what it was expected to be in the 19 th century, instead of the banks evolving from usurious organizations that leant to governments, mainly to wage war, finance was going to be industrialized. They were going to mobilize savings and recycle it to finance the means of production, starting with heavy industry. This was actually happening in Germany in the late 19 th century. You had the big banks working with government and industry in a triangular process. But that's not what's happening now. After WW1 and especially after WW2, finance reverted to its pre-industrial form. Instead of allying themselves with industry, as banks were expected to do, banks allied themselves with real estate and monopolies, realizing that they can make more money off real estate.

The bank spokesman David Ricardo argued against the landed interest in 1817, against land rent. Now the banks are all in favor of supporting land rent, knowing that today, when people buy and sell property, they need credit and pay interest for it. The banks are going to get all the rent. So you have the banks merge with real estate against industry, against the economy as a whole. The result is that they're part of the overhead process, not part of the production process.

LONG: There's a sense that there's a crisis lying ahead in the next year, two years, or three years. The mainstream economy's so disconnected from Wall Street economy. What's your view on that?

HUDSON: It's not disconnected at all. The Wall Street economy has taken over the economy and is draining it. Under what economics students are taught as Say's Law, the economy's workers are supposed to use their income to buy what they produce. That's why Henry Ford paid them $5 a day, so that they could afford to buy the automobiles they were producing.

LONG: Exactly.

HUDSON: But Wall Street is interjecting itself into the economy, so that instead of the circular flow between producers and consumers, you have more and more of the flow diverted to pay interest, insurance and rent. In other words, to pay the FIRE sector. It all ends up with the financial sector, most of which is owned by the 1%. So, their way of formulating it is to distract attention from today's debt quandary by saying it's just a cycle, or it's "secular stagnation." That removes the element of agency – active politicking by the financial interests and Wall Street lobbyists to obtain all the growth of income and wealth for themselves. That's what happened in America and Canada since the late 1970s.

LONG: What does an investor do today, or somebody who's looking for retirement, trying to save for the future, and they see some of these things occurring. What should they be thinking about? Or how should they be protecting themselves?

HUDSON: What all the billionaires and the heavy investors do is simply try to preserve their wealth. They're not trying to make money, they're not trying to speculate. If you're an investor, you're not going to outsmart Wall Street billionaires, because the markets are basically fixed. It's the George Soros principle. If you have so much money, billions of dollars, you can break the Bank of England. You don't follow the market, you don't anticipate it, you actually make the market and push it up, like the Plunge Protection Team is doing with the stock market these days. You have to be able to control the prices. Insiders make money, but small investors are not going to make money.

Since you're in Canada, I remember the beginning of the 1960s. I used to look at the Treasury Bulletin and Federal Reserve Bulletin figures on foreign investment in the US stock market. We all used to laugh at Canada especially. The Canadians don't buy stocks until they're up to the very top, and then they lose all the money by holding these stocks on the downturn. Finally, when the market's all the way at the bottom, Canadians decide to begin selling because they finally can see a trend. So they miss the upswing until they decide to buy at the top once again. It's hilarious to look at how Canada has performed in the US bond market, and they did the same in the silver market. I remember when silver was going up to $50. The Canadians said, "Yes, we can see the trend now!" and they began to buy it. They lost their shirts. So, basically, if you're a Canadian investor, move.

LONG: So the Canadian investors are a better contrarian indicator than the front page cover, you're saying.

HUDSON: I'd think so. Once they get in, you know the bubble's over.

LONG: Absolutely on that one. What are you currently writing? What is your current focus now?

HUDSON: Well, I just finished a book. You mentioned Killing the Host . My next book will be out in about three months: J is for Junk Economics . It began as a dictionary of terms, so I can provide people with a vocabulary. As we got in the argument at the beginning of your program today, our argument is about the vocabulary we're using and the words you're using. The vocabulary taught to students today in economics – and used by the mass media and by government spokesmen – is basically a set of euphemisms. If you look at the television reports on the market, they say that any loss in the stock market isn't a loss, it's "profit taking". And when they talk about money. the stock market rises – "Oh that's good news." But it's awful news for the short sellers it wipes out. Almost all the words we get are kind of euphemisms to conceal the actual dynamics that are happening. For instance, "secular stagnation" means it's all a cycle. Even the idea of "business cycles": Nobody in the 19 th century used the word "business cycle". They spoke about "crashes". They knew that things go up slowly and then they plunge very quickly. It was a crash. It's not the sine curve that you have in Josef Schumpeter's book on Business Cycles . It's a ratchet effect: slow up, quick down. A cycle is something that is automatic, and if it's a cycle and you have leading and lagging indicators as the National Bureau of Economic Research has. Then you'd think "Oh, okay, everything that goes up will come down, and everything that goes down will come up, just wait your turn." And that means governments should be passive.

Well, that is the opposite of everything that's said in classical economics and the Progressive Era, when they realized that economies don't recover by themselves. You need a-the government to step in, you need something "exogenous," as economist say. You need something from outside the system to revive it. The covert idea of this business cycle analysis is to leave out the role of government. If you look at neoliberal and Austrian theory, there's no role for government spending, and no role of public investment. The whole argument for privatization, for instance, is the opposite of what was taught in American business schools in the 19 th century. The first professor of economics at the Wharton School of Business, which was the first business school, was Simon Patten. He said that public infrastructure is a fourth factor of production. But its role isn't to make a profit. It's to lower the cost of public services and basic inputs to lower the cost of living and lower the cost of doing business to make the economy more competitive. But privatization adds interest payments, dividends, managerial payments, stock buybacks, and merges and acquisitions. Obviously these financialized charges are factored into the price system and raise the cost of living and doing business.

LONG: Well, Michael, we're-I thank you for the time, and we're up against our hard line. I know we didn't have as much time as we always like, so we have to break. Any overall comments you'd like to leave with our listeners who might be interested this school of economics?

HUDSON: Regarding the downturn we're in, we're going into a debt deflation. The key of understanding the economy is to look at debt. The economy has to spend more and more money on debt service. The reason the economy is not recovering isn't simply because this is a normal cycle. And It's not because labour is paid too much. It's because people are diverting more and more of their income to paying their debts, so they can't afford to buy goods. Markets are shrinking – and if markets are shrinking, then real estate rents are shrinking, profits are shrinking. Instead of using their earnings to reinvest and hire more labour to increase production, companies are using their earnings for stock buybacks and dividend payouts to raise the share price so that the managers can take their revenue in the form of bonuses and stocks and live in the short run. They're leaving their companies as bankrupt shells, which is pretty much what hedge funds do when they take over companies.

So the financialization of companies is the reverse of everything Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill, and everyone you think of as a classical economist was saying. Banks wrap themselves in a cloak of classical economics by dropping history of economic thought from the curriculum, which is pretty much what's happened. And Canada-I know since you're from Canada, my experience there was that the banks have a huge lobbying power over government. In 1979, I wrote for the IRPP Institute there on Canada In the New Monetary Order . At that time the provinces of Canada were borrowing money from Switzerland and Germany because they could borrow it at much lower interest rates. I said that this was going to be a disaster, and one that was completely unnecessary. If Canadian provinces borrow in Francs or any other foreign currency, this money goes into the central bank, which then creates Canadian dollars to spend. Why not have the central bank simply create these dollars without having Swiss francs, without having German marks? It's unnecessary to have an intermediary. But the more thuggish banks, like the Bank of Nova Scotia, said, "Oh, that way's the road to serfdom." It's not. Following the banks and the Austrian School of the banks' philosophy, that's the road to serfdom. That's the road to debt serfdom. It should not be taken now. It lets universities and the government be run by neoliberals. They're a travesty of what real economics is all about.

LONG: Michael, thank you very much. I learned a lot, appreciate it; certainly appreciate how important it is for us to use the right words on the right subject when we're talking about economics. Absolutely agree with you. Talk to you again?

HUDSON: Going to be here.

LONG: Thank you for the time.

Donald , April 29, 2016 at 7:33 am

Interesting, but after insulting Duncan, Hudson says the banks stopped partnering with industry and went into real estate, which sounded like what Duncan said.

I mention this because for a non- expert like myself it is sometimes difficult to tell when an expert is disagreeing with someone for good reasons or just going off half- cocked. I followed what Hudson said about the evils of the IMF, but didn't see where Duncan had defended any of that, unless it was implicit in saying that capitalism used to function better.

Alejandro , April 29, 2016 at 9:06 am

Michael Hudson from the interview;

"As we got in the argument at the beginning of your program today, our argument is about the vocabulary we're using and the words you're using. The vocabulary taught to students today in economics – and used by the mass media and by government spokesmen – is basically a set of euphemisms ."Almost all the words we get are kind of euphemisms to conceal the actual dynamics that are happening."

May consider it's about recognizing and deciphering the "doublespeak", "newspeak", "fedspeak", "greenspeak" etc, whether willing or unwitting using words for understanding and clarifying as opposed to misleading and confusing dialectic as opposed to sophistry.

Michael Hudson , April 29, 2016 at 9:54 am

What I objected to was the characterization of today's situation as "financialization." I explained that financialization is the FIRST stage - when finance WORKS. We are now in the BREAKDOWN of financialization - toward the "barter" stage.
Treating "finance" as an end stage rather than as a beginning stage overlooks the dynamics of breakdown. It is debt deflation. First profits fall, and as that occurs, rents on commercial property decline. This is already widespread here in New York, from Manhattan (8th St. near NYU is half empty) to Queens (Austin St. in Forest Hills.).

Leonard C.Tekaat , April 29, 2016 at 12:19 pm

I wrote an article you might be interested in reading. It outlines a tax policy which would help prevent what you are discussing in your article. The abuse of credit to receive rents and long term capital gains.

The title is "Congress Financialized Our Economy And Created Financial Crisis & More Poverty" Go to http://www.taxpolicyusa.wordpress.com

SomeCallMeTim , April 29, 2016 at 5:23 pm

Thank you for another eye-opening exposition. My political economy education was negative (counting a year of Monetarism and Austrian Economics around 1980), so I appreciate your interviews as correctives.

From your interview answer to the question about what we, the 99+% should do,I gathered only that we should not try to beat the market. Anything more than that?

Skippy , April 29, 2016 at 8:33 pm

From my understanding, post Plaza banking lost most of its traditional market to the shadow sector, as a result, expanded off into C/RE and increasingly to Financialization of everything sundry.

Disheveled Marsupial interesting to note Mr. Hudson's statement about barter, risk factors – ?????

Eduardo Quince , April 29, 2016 at 7:41 am

"secular stagnation" means it's all a cycle

Actually not.

One of the most important distinctions that investors have to understand is the difference between secular and cyclical trends Let us begin with definitions from the Encarta® World English Dictionary:

Secular – occurring only once in the course of an age or century; taking place over an extremely or indefinitely long period of time

Cycle – a sequence of events that is repeated again and again, especially a causal sequence; a period of time between repetitions of an event or phenomenon that occurs regularly

Excerpted from: http://contrarianinvestorsjournal.com/?p=405#

cnchal , April 29, 2016 at 8:30 am

Secular stagnation from http://lexicon.ft.com/Term?term=secular-stagnation

Secular stagnation is a condition of negligible or no economic growth in a market-based economy . When per capita income stays at relatively high levels, the percentage of savings is likely to start exceeding the percentage of longer-term investments in, for example, infrastructure and education, that are necessary to sustain future economic growth. The absence of such investments (and consequently of the economic growth) leads to declining levels of per capita income (and consequently of per capita savings). With the reduced percentage savings rate converging with the reduced investment rate, economic growth comes to a standstill – ie, it stagnates. In a free economy, consumers anticipating secular stagnation, might transfer their savings to more attractive-looking foreign countries. This would lead to a devaluation of their domestic currency, which would potentially boost their exports, assuming that the country did have goods or services that could be exported.

Persistent low growth, especially in Europe, has been attributed by some to secular stagnation initiated by stronger European economies, such as Germany, in the past few years.

Words. What they mean depends on who's talking.

Secular stagnation is when the predators of finance have eaten too many sheeple.

MikeNY , April 29, 2016 at 9:57 am

Secular stagnation is when the predators of finance have eaten too many sheeple.

This.

digi_owl , April 29, 2016 at 7:44 am

Sad to see Hudson parroting the line about banks lending out savings

Alejandro , April 29, 2016 at 9:18 am

That's not what he said. Re-read or re-listen, please.

Enquiring Mind , April 29, 2016 at 9:02 am

Hudson says

Markets are shrinking – and if markets are shrinking, then real estate rents are shrinking, profits are shrinking.

Real estate rents in this latest asset bubble, whether commercial or residential, appear to have been going up in many markets even if the increases are slowing. That rent inflation will likely turn into rent deflation, but that doesn't appear to have happened yet consistently.

Perhaps he meant to say that markets are going to shrink as the debt deflation becomes more evident?

tegnost , April 29, 2016 at 9:52 am

I think what it means is it's getting harder to squeeze the blood out of the turnip

Synoia , April 29, 2016 at 10:06 am

What Turnip? Its become a stone, fossilized..

rfdawn , April 29, 2016 at 10:52 am

Yes, I think we are into turnip country now. Figure 1 in this prior article looks clear enough – even if you don't like the analysis that went with it. Wealth inequality still climbs but income inequality has plateaued since Clinton I. Whatever the reasons for that, the 1% should be concerned – where is the ROI?

ke , April 29, 2016 at 10:22 am

Barter has always existed and always will. Debt money expands and contracts the middle class, acting as a feedback signal, which never works over the long term, because the so encapsulated system can only implode, when natural resource liquidation cannot be accelerated. The whole point is to eliminate the initial requirement for capital, work. Debt fails because both sides of the same coin assume that labor can be replaced. The machines driven by dc technology are not replacing labor; neither the elites nor the middle class can fix the machines, which is why they keep accelerating debt, to replace one failed technology only to be followed by the next, netting extortion by whoever currently controls the debt machine, which the majority is always fighting over, expending more energy to avoid work, like the objective is to avoid sweating, unless you are dumb enough to run on asphalt with Nike gear.

ke , April 29, 2016 at 12:49 pm

Labor has no problem with multiwhatever presidents, geneticists, psychologists, or economists, trying to hunt down and replace labor, in or out of turn, but none are going to be any more successful than the others. Trump is being employed to bypass the middle class and cut a deal. There is no deal. Labor is always going to pay males to work and their wives to raise children. Obviously, the majority will vote for a competing economy, and it is welcome to do so, but if debt works so well, why is the majority voting to kidnap our kids with public healthcare and education policies.

meeps , April 29, 2016 at 5:36 pm

I'm not sure I heard an answer to the question of what people, who might be trying to save for the future or plan for retirement, can do? Is the point that there isn't anything? Because I'm definitely between rocks and hard places

Robert Coutinho , April 29, 2016 at 9:29 pm

Yeah, he basically said there is no good savings plan. Big-money interests have rigged the rules and are now manipulating the market (this used to be the definition of what was NOT allowed). Thus, they use computer algorithms to squeeze small amounts out of the market millions of times. This means that the "investments" are nothing of the sort. You don't "invest" in something for milliseconds. He said that the 1% are mostly just trying to hold on to what they have. Very few trust the rigged markets.

ke , April 29, 2016 at 7:22 pm

If Big G can print to infinity, print, but then why book it as debt to future generations?

The future is already becoming the present, because the millenials aren't paying.

Russell , April 29, 2016 at 10:00 pm

Low rent & cheap energy are key to the arts & innovations. My model has to work for airports, starts at the fuel farm as the CIA & MI6 Front Page Avjet did. Well before that was Air America. I wonder if now American Airlines itself is a Front.

All of America is a Front far as I can about tell. Hadn't heard that Manhattan rents were coming down. Come in from out of town, how you going to know? Not supposed to I guess.

I got that textbook and I liked that guy John Commons. He says capitalism is great, but it always leads to Socialism because of unbridled greed.

The frenzy to find another stable cash currency showing in Bit Coin and the discussion of Future Tax Credits while the Euro is controlled by the rent takers demands change on both sides of the Atlantic.

We got shot dead protesting the war, and civil rights backlash is the gift that keeps giving to the Southerners looking up every day in every courthouse town, County seat is all about spreading fear and desperation.

How to change it all without violence is going to be really tricky.

cnchal , April 30, 2016 at 4:36 am

Many thanks for the shout out to Canada.

. . . So, basically, if you're a Canadian investor, move.

LONG: So the Canadian investors are a better contrarian indicator than the front page cover, you're saying.

HUDSON: I'd think so. Once they get in, you know the bubble's over.

When one reads the financial press in Canada, every dollar extracted by the lords of finance is a glorious taking by brilliant people at the top of the financial food chain from the stupid little people at the bottom, but when it counts, there was silence, in cooperation with Canada's one percent.

The story starts about five years ago, with smart meters. Everyone knows what they are, a method by which electrical power use can be priced depending on the time of day, and day of the week.

To make this tasty, Ontario's local utilities at first kept the price the same for all the time, and then after all the meters were installed, came the changes, phased in over time. Prices were increased substantially, but there was an out. If you changed your living arrangements to live like a nocturnal rodent and washed your clothes in the middle of the night, had supper later in the evening or waited for weekend power rates you could still get low power rates, from the three tier price structure.

The local utilities bought the power from the government of Ontario power generation utility, renamed to Hydro One, and this is where Michael Hudson's talk becomes relevant.

The successful error of monetarism is to force countries to have such self-defeating policies that they end up having to privatize their natural resources, their public domain, their public enterprises, their communications and transportation, like you're seeing in Greece's selloffs. So when you find an error that is repeated, it's deliberate. It's not insane. It's part of the program, not a bug .

LONG: Where does this lead us? What's the roadmap ahead of us here?

HUDSON: A thousand years ago, if you were a marauding gang and you wanted to take over a country's land and its natural resources and public sector, you'd have to invade it with military troops. Now you use finance to take over countries. So it leads us into a realm where everything that the classical economists saw and argued for – public investment, bringing costs in line with the actual cost of production – that's all rejected in favor of a rentier class evolving into an oligarchy. Basically, financiers – the 1% – are going to pry away the public domain from the government. Pry away and privatize the public enterprises, land, natural resources, so that bondholders and privatizers get all of the revenue for themselves. It's all sucked up to the top of the pyramid, impoverishing the 99% .

Eighteen months ago, there was an election in Ontario, and the press was on radio silence during the whole time leading up to the election about the plans to "privatize" Hydro One. I cannot recall one instance of any mention that the new Premier, Kathleen Wynne was planning on selling Hydro One to "investors".

Where did this come from? Did the little people rise up and say to the politicians "you should privatize Hydro One" for whatever reason? No. This push came from the 1% and Hydro One was sold so fast it made my head spin, and is now trading on the Toronto Stock exchange.

At first I though the premier was an economic ignoramus, because Hydro One was generating income for the province and there was no other power supplier, so one couldn't even fire them if they raised their prices too high.

One of the arguments put forward by the 1% to privatize Hydro One was a classic divide and conquer strategy. They argued that too many people at Hydro One were making too much money, and by privatizing, the employees wages would be beat down, and the resultant savings would be passed on to customers.

Back to Michael Hudson

. . . The whole argument for privatization, for instance, is the opposite of what was taught in American business schools in the 19th century. The first professor of economics at the Wharton School of Business, which was the first business school, was Simon Patten. He said that public infrastructure is a fourth factor of production. But its role isn't to make a profit . It's to lower the cost of public services and basic inputs to lower the cost of living and lower the cost of doing business to make the economy more competitive. But privatization adds interest payments, dividends, managerial payments, stock buybacks, and merges and acquisitions . Obviously these financialized charges are factored into the price system and raise the cost of living and doing business .

Power prices have increased yet again in Ontario since privatization, and Canada's 1% are "making a killing" on it. There has been another change as well. Instead of a three tier price structure, there are now two, really expensive and super expensive. There is no longer a price break to living like a nocturnal rodent. The 1% took that for themselves.

Procopius , April 30, 2016 at 8:10 am

I am so tired of seeing that old lie about Old Henry and the $5 a day. I realize it was just a tossed off reference to something most people believe for the purpose of describing a discarded policy, but the fact is very, very few of Old Henry's employees ever got that pay. See, there were strings attached.

Old Henry hired a lot of spies, too. He sent them around to the neighborhoods where his workers lived (it was convenient having them all in Detroit). If the neighbors saw your kid bringing a bucket of beer home from the corner tavern for the family, you didn't get the $5.

If your lawn wasn't mowed to their satisfaction, you didn't get the $5. If you were thought not to bathe as often as they liked, you didn't get the $5. If you didn't go to a church on Sundays, you didn't get the $5. If you were an immigrant and not taking English classes at night school, you didn't get the $5. There were quite a lot of strings attached. The whole story was a public relations stunt, and Old Henry never intended to live up to it; he hated his workers.

[Nov 16, 2017] Natural Rate Hypothesis is junk science. There is nothing natural in natural rate of employment

Notable quotes:
"... Controlling inflation solely by focusing on workers wages since 1980 but allowing monopoly power and economic rents to skyrocket since 1980 is the main reason for the extreme inequality that has developed ..."
"... Prima facie evidence of distorted labor market where buyers of labor have control. At the very least, the next democratic President should use their weekly address to point out the metrics relating economic gains, net wealth gains, productivity gains, to wage gains. The Presudent should remind employers to fairly share the gains. Once the metrics indicate distortion in the labor markets the President will then introduce corrective legislation using the public communications weight behind this free market notion of a fair labor market, using these metrics. Let us try this bully pulpit, public communications effort with the idea of building public momentum for correctives, and maybe we will return to the 1960s future when gains were more proportionally shared. Perhaps we wont need much legislation at all, afterall we had one generation comport with fairness, you know, rational expectations. ..."
"... if demand cannot be kept up by wages, then the only option is loans and we have seen in 2008 the catastrophic results of that ..."
Nov 16, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com

djb , November 16, 2017 at 01:46 AM

non accelerating inflation rate of unemployment is a better term

there is nothing "natural" about that rate

there are many factors that play a role, but the most important are

1. monopoly power is the most important, without monopoly power, in a perfectly competitive market, excessive inflation is not possible

2. factors that affect bargaining power OF workers

Controlling inflation solely by focusing on workers wages since 1980 but allowing monopoly power and economic rents to skyrocket since 1980 is the main reason for the extreme inequality that has developed

Paine -> djb... , November 16, 2017 at 05:18 AM
These are important conjectures

We may indeed have chosen to repress wage rates while allowing Firms market power over output prices and wages.

And firms share of total Economic rents and E rent rates themselves and thus total gross profits to rise.

Largely unchecked by policy moves

JF -> djb... , November 16, 2017 at 08:26 AM
Prima facie evidence of distorted labor market where buyers of labor have control.

At the very least, the next democratic President should use their weekly address to point out the metrics relating economic gains, net wealth gains, productivity gains, to wage gains. The Presudent should remind employers to fairly share the gains.

Once the metrics indicate distortion in the labor markets the President will then introduce corrective legislation using the public communications weight behind this free market notion of a fair labor market, using these metrics.

Let us try this bully pulpit, public communications effort with the idea of building public momentum for correctives, and maybe we will return to the 1960s future when gains were more proportionally shared. Perhaps we wont need much legislation at all, afterall we had one generation comport with fairness, you know, rational expectations.

We can expect to do that again, especially as all new economists will be trained on the why and on how to accomplish this metric of shared gains. One can only hope.

djb -> JF... , November 16, 2017 at 01:59 PM
I know this may not exactly fit your MMT model

if we don't allow median wages to go up to match production/productivity

and if economic rents continue to go up disproportionally then we need to do a redistribution, ideally by taxes, to get the median wage to keep pace with production/productivity

otherwise demand for products will eventually falter, making us all poorer for it

if demand cannot be kept up by wages, then the only option is loans and we have seen in 2008 the catastrophic results of that

[Nov 16, 2017] Should We Reject the Natural Rate Hypothesis

Nov 16, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com

15, 2017 Should We Reject the Natural Rate Hypothesis? Olivier Blanchard:

Should We Reject the Natural Rate Hypothesis?, by Olivier Blanchard, PIIE : Fifty years ago, Milton Friedman articulated the natural rate hypothesis. It was composed of two sub-hypotheses: First, the natural rate of unemployment is independent of monetary policy. Second, there is no long-run tradeoff between the deviation of unemployment from the natural rate and inflation. Both propositions have been challenged. Blanchard reviews the arguments and the macro and micro evidence against each and concludes that, in each case, the evidence is suggestive but not conclusive. Policymakers should keep the natural rate hypothesis as their null hypothesis but keep an open mind and put some weight on the alternatives. [ paper ]

Posted by Mark Thoma on Wednesday, November 15, 2017 at 10:22 AM in Academic Papers , Economics , Macroeconomics | Permalink Comments (9)


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Paine , November 15, 2017 at 03:44 PM

"there is a strong case, although not an overwhelming case, to allow U.S. output to exceed potential for some time, so as to reintegrate some of the workers who left the labor force during the last ten years."

Blanchard calls for exploring the unknown regions
of lower and lower unemployment

Lower UE rates
Instead of accelerating output price inflation
Or even wage inflation
Given possible productivity pick ups
We may discover
We get a return to higher and higher participation
Not an unhappy result after all

Paine -> Paine ... , November 15, 2017 at 03:49 PM
The parting of the ways with the likes of Blanchard and krugman might come
When at long last wage rates do begin to rise faster then
Say
labor productivity plus three percent

But if the acceleration of the expected rate of change
of the rate of output price change
accelerates slowly

We'll have plenty of policy means and time to moderate the expansion of demand
Given the political will

Paine -> Paine ... , November 15, 2017 at 03:51 PM
Or better consider the imposition of a mark up warrant system
On selected firms and sectors
Paine -> Paine ... , November 15, 2017 at 03:58 PM
What is completely missed by looking at the impact of a slump on long run output capacity
Is the actual lost output out of existing capacity
And the misery this inflicts now
for many too many


Ten years of sub possible output
Contain How many weeks upon weeks
of reduced Welfare for too many souls ?

Paine -> Paine ... , November 15, 2017 at 04:01 PM
If average slack is now 7%
And could
with aggressive macro nautics
be reduced to 2%

We
each of us only live in the now
and for only a single all too brief life time

anne -> Paine ... , November 15, 2017 at 03:58 PM
This is arguing well, I agree and am grateful.
Paine -> anne... , November 15, 2017 at 04:08 PM
Blanchards uses the definition of potential output
That suggests over production has to be off set by under production

I.e. Potential output is not technical maximum output by any means

PO
Is more like a rate of output and consequent rate of existing factor utilization
That does not unduly
stress
the various institutional arrangements and practices
Or overly tax
the stability of existing social norms
Considered necessary
to sustaining the good of society
thru
It's gradual development over time

Paine -> Paine ... , November 15, 2017 at 04:11 PM
There is another set of conflicting visions
One of which
That any class pov might hatch

A vision
Perhaps too Faustian for most souls of that class
That is restless
to push faster
To Venture more
Face uncertainty with boldness even audacity

anne -> Paine ... , November 15, 2017 at 04:11 PM
Nice, nice.

[Oct 27, 2017] The Rise and Fall of the Phillips Curve by Ed Walker

Notable quotes:
"... The History of the Phillips Curve: Consensus and Bifurcation ..."
"... The Fed Has a Theory. Trouble is the Proof is Patchy ..."
"... Do Phillips Curves Conditionally Help to Forecast Inflation? ..."
"... Declining Labor and Capital Shaes ..."
"... I am constantly baffled by economists trying to explain very complex non-linear system with simple two variable models. I have been dealing with a couple of engineering problems today where the publication I am using has over 50 design charts just for gravity pipe flow. Each chart has about five variables accommodated while holding a number of others constant. ..."
"... So I think we see the Philips curve predictably happening in the short-term in fields like technology where there is big demand and not enough people. However, as a general rule across the economy, I simply don't see why the relationship between inflation and unemployment should be the same today as it was in 2007, 1997, 1987, or 1977. ..."
"... Economics is infected with too much ideology and not enough scientific method. That is more the definition of a religion than a science. ..."
"... If neoliberals were intellectually honest, they wouldn't call it supply side economics, they'd call it philo-capital economics ..."
"... 80's Poly-Sci defined, "neo-feudalism" (or, as "Shock Doctrine", privatization of all "resource" + government capacity, subject financial sector capture) ..."
"... As far as I can tell, the whole idea of NAIRU is strictly an artifact of economic modeling, not something that's actually ever been observed in the wild. And doesn't it seem odd that making sure we don't drop below NAIRU is something the Fed feels like it needs to intervene to ensure rather than letting the market sort it out. Even if NAIRU was a real thing, you would assume that low unemployment –> increased wages –> increased prices –> reduced consumption –> lay-offs and higher unemployment. Which is to say, if there were such a thing as a natural rate of unemployment, wouldn't markets naturally produce it, obviating any need for the Fed to, say, jack up interest rates to keep the economy from "heating up" (I guess because people have so much money burning holes in their pockets?). It almost like, when it suits the capitalists, they stop believing in this whole "invisible hand" thing .strange ..."
"... "Neoliberalism sees competition as the defining characteristic of human relations. It redefines citizens as consumers, whose democratic choices are best exercised by buying and selling, a process that rewards merit and punishes inefficiency. It maintains that "the market" delivers benefits that could never be achieved by planning. ..."
Oct 27, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

The Rise and Fall of the Phillips Curve Posted on October 27, 2017 The Phillips Curve says that there is an inverse relation between unemployment and inflation. Low unemployment is correlated with a rise in inflation. It's an article of faith to economists of all stripes. It's listed in the popular introductory economics textbook by N. Gregory Mankiw as one of the Ten Things All Economists agree on . It's especially loved by the Fed, which raises or lowers interest rates depending in part on its predictions. Its critics point out that its predictions are poor.

In this post, I discuss the derivation of the Phillips Curve, its adaption by Samuleson and Solow to manage the economy, its breakdown in the 1970s, exploitation by neoliberals of that breakdown to replace Keynesian demand-based economics with monetarism and supply-side economics, its rejuvenation, and the evidence that it doesn't make accurate predictions.

I conclude with some observations based on an important paper by Simcha Barkai that challenges the core beliefs of neoliberalism. It suggests we can raise wages substantially without causing inflation by lowering corporate profits.

History

This part is based on Sections I-III of Robert Gordon's article, The History of the Phillips Curve: Consensus and Bifurcation , Economica (2011) 78, 10–50 (behind paywall, but you can find it online at your local library). Gordon is an economics professor at Northwestern and has worked on the Phillips Curve for decades.

William Phillips published a paper in 1958 showing a correlation between wage growth and inflation in the UK between 1861 and 1913. He fitted a curve to the data, and then compared that curve to UK data from two later periods. There was a remarkable similarity for most of the two periods, with exceptions Phillips explains away. Here is the curve Phillips derived:

1. w t = -.90 + 9.64U -1.39

Gordon says that " the inflation rate would be expected to equal the growth rate of wages minus the long-term growth rate of productivity." P. 12.

1a. p = w – k

Here p is inflation, w is wage growth, and k is productivity growth. Generally in these equations, lower case letters are rates of change and upper case letters are levels. We can substitute Equation 1a into Equation 1 to get the original Phillips Curve.

2. p = -.90 + 9.64U -1.39 – k.

Paul Samuelson and Robert Solow picked up on the Phillips paper with a paper of their own in 1960. Gordon says much of their paper is a discussion of pre-Phillips theory. They can't find data on the US economy similar to that found by Phillips for the UK economy, so they work up some of their own data and make some calculations showing a result similar to that of Phillips. Whereas Phillips does not mention the possibility that the curve might shift, Samuelson and Solow find such shifts and offer possible explanations, such as strong labor unions.

Here's a schematic drawing of the Phillips Curve from Wikipedia :

The standard curve might be the one on the left. It shows very high inflation at very low unemployment, but falls quickly as unemployment rises. That suggested to Samuelson and Solow that there is a trade-off if the economy is in specific parts of the Phillips Curve: by allowing a slightly higher level of inflation, you could get a big drop in unemployment. The US tried this idea in the 1960s. This policy was tied to Keynesianism, which was the predominate theory in the Kennedy and Johnson era, and into the Nixon Presidency.

When OPEC massively increased the price of oil in the early 70s, inflation soared far past the level suggested by the Phillips Curve. The neoliberals at the University of Chicago argued that the failure of the Phillips Curve proved that Keynesian economics was worthless, and pushed their solution: monetarism. They also had a formula to replace the Phillips Curve as a predictor of inflation.

Their explanation for the failure of the trade-off was something like this. Suppose the beginning rates of inflation and unemployment are at Point A on the above chart. The Fed lowers interest rates resulting in a small increase of inflation, so that the economy moves to Point B with lower unemployment. People believe that is unsustainable, and that the economy will revert to the natural rate of unemployment, the vertical line. As a result, the Phillips Curve shifts up and to the right over time, so that the economy moves to Point C, with the beginning unemployment rate but higher inflation.

The neoliberals won. Keynesianism lost out and was replaced by monetarism. This was probably not deserved, according to Gordon. He says that Samuelson and Solow were not talking about the situation that came about in the 70s, but rather the situation in the early 1960s. He also spends a good part of his paper showing that the formulas offered by Friedman and the neoliberals for predicting inflation were a total failure both on factual and theoretical grounds.

Gordon himself proposed a version of the Phillips Curve designed to deal with the problem of supply and demand shocks like the Oil Shock:

3. p = Ep t + b(U t – U t N ) + z t + e t

In Equation 3, the second U term is the natural rate of unemployment, z t represents cost-push pressure, and e t is apparently a constant. The natural rate of unemployment and the z term vary over time, and for some reason so does the e term. There is nothing left of the wage term. The Phillips Curve is now free from the bonds of factual data that gave Phillips his interesting result. It's a curve-fitting exercise, using economic theories put together in a way that fits the data. It's a complicated formula in which every term needs to be calculated from some other theory or data.

Gordon says that Equation 3 is the canonical version of the Phillips Curve. It is incorporated in most econometric models, modified by some other variables and terms, including levels of taxation, expectations of inflation, inflation inertia, which relates to price and wage rigidity in the short run, and a host of other terms. But as we shall see, it doesn't work as a predictor.

Criticism of the Phillips Curve

The Phillips Curve has been controversial for a long time, as Mankiw admits in his introductory textbook. Ben Leubsdorf wrote a very readable criticism for the Wall Street Journal on August 14, 2014, just before the Fed started raising interest rates. His title is The Fed Has a Theory. Trouble is the Proof is Patchy (sadly behind a paywall; it's available online at your local library).

Leubsdorf confirms that most economists believe that there is a short run trade-off between inflation and unemployment and also agree that this trade-off doesn't hold in the long term, meaning that we can't get permanently lower unemployment by accepting a bit more inflation. But the problem is that there is also no apparent connection in the short run either. Here's a chart originally in Leubsdorf's article and reprinted in a post discussing the article by Jared Bernstein .


Source: Wall Street Journal

To read this chart, select an expansion period from the list on the upper right, find the line that color, and locate the circle at one end of the line; that's the starting point. Then follow the line to see how the relationship between unemployment (x-axis) and inflation (y-axis) changes over time. As you can see there is no apparent connection in any except the first expansion. The lack of connection to theory is especially obvious in the current expansion.

The Leubsdorf article has several quotes from Very Serious People to the effect we think there's a relationship and we're going to act like there is a relationship, and we can fine-tune the economy with our gut instincts.

It doesn't look like the latest study will change minds either. That one comes from the Philadelphia Fed in August 2017, Do Phillips Curves Conditionally Help to Forecast Inflation? The conclusion is that the Phillips Curve does worse than something called a univariate model which I won't discuss.

In this September 26 New York Times article there are more Very Serious People explaining they need to follow their instincts about the economy in deciding on interest rates and they are sure inflation is coming. Meanwhile, the economy continues to add jobs with no obvious increase in inflation as shown by the blue line on the above chart. Inflation is currently running at 1.3% .

Damage From the Phillips Curve

We have already seen that the first notable failure of the Phillips Curve was used to undermine Keynesian economics in favor of monetarism. As a result, working people of all classes were doubly harmed, first by the abandonment of the Fed of any significant role in cutting unemployment, and second by the savage use of high rates to control inflation.

Here's a chart showing the labor share in gross national product on the left axis (blue line) and the prime rate on the right axis (red line).

The grey bars are recessions. This chart shows that up to 2000 every time workers start to get a bigger share of the GDP, the Fed raises interest rates. The Phillips Curve was the justification for those rate hikes. There is some evidence wages are firming up today, and maybe even rising a fraction faster than inflation. Following tradition but not evidence, the Fed is raising rates. If that hurts workers, also in accordance with tradition, that's just too bad.

Observations

Take another look at Equation 1a. If we set inflation at zero, Equation 1 says that wage growth equals productivity growth. That's not true. Here's a chart from the Economic Policy Institute .

The wage line is for production and non-supervisory personnel, which the EPI says is about 80% of employed people. The average wage for all workers has grown somewhat faster, but is still well under the rate of increase of productivity over the long term.

Money produced in the economy goes either to capital or labor. So, the excess gains from productivity must be going to capital.

Actually, it seems strange to suggest that none of the gains from increased productivity go to capital, as Equation 1a does. Consider a company like Google. It can buy a few more computer blades and serve more customers with little or no increase in total wages. The gains from the productivity of the new capital all go to the company. Or consider a company that outsources its labor. Some of the gains might be used to cut prices, I suppose, but surely most of the gain stays with the company.

The following chart shows the sudden growth in top wealth. It demonstrates that the growth began at the same time as the productivity-wages gap began, more support for the idea that the gains from productivity are going to capital.

Capital can take many forms. It could be plant and equipment, commercial or agricultural land, personal residences, art, gold, and many other things believed to store value, whether or not they are actually producing anything, or even whether they actually store value. We know that top wealth is rising, the stock market is up, and the value of residential real property in all major cities is rising. All these and more suggest that the total amount of capital is increasing. All that increase is funded by the gains from productivity.

A recent paper by Simcha Barkai, Declining Labor and Capital Shaes , provides a convincing explanation. The labor share is declining he says. But so is what he calls the "capital share", a defined term, calculated by multiplying the "required rate of return" by the capital stock deployed in the non-financial business sector. Capital stock includes plant and equipment, land, and intangibles such as patents and software, less depreciation. The required return on capital is approximately and sensibly defined as the cost of obtaining capital in the financial markets. He shows that the cost of capital has declined by 7% over the period of his study, 1984-2014. If the amount of capital deployed had increased as might be expected with this large drop in cost, the capital share might have remained the same. Instead, businesses did not deploy additional capital, and the capital share declined by some 30% over the period. During that period the labor share declined 10% from a larger starting point.

The combined losses were more than made up by increases in the profits share. Profits add to the value of the firm, and are distributed by the owners of firms as they see fit, which isn't to lowly workers. This is from Barkai's paper:

Across specifications, the profit share (equal to the ratio of profits to gross value added) has increased by more than 12 percentage points. To offer a sense of magnitude, the value of this increase in profits amounts to over $1.1 trillion in 2014, or $14 thousand for each of the approximately 81 million employees of the non-financial corporate sector. P. 3.

Barkai attributes this almost entirely to increased concentration of US industries, and most of the paper is devoted to proof of that conclusion. He links that increase in concentration to changes in anti-trust law and policy engineered by Robert Bork when he was at the University of Chicago.

Conclusion

Following Barkai, we should rewrite Equation 1a like this:

1b. p = w + γ + c t – k

where γ is the rate of growth of the profits share, c t is the rate of growth of the capital share, w is the rate of growth of wages, p is inflation, and k is productivity. Substituting the original Phillips equation, Equation 1 into Equation 1b gives us

4. p = -.90 + 9.64U -1.39 + γ + c t – k.

This equation calls attention to the role that profits play in the economy, something economists generally generally ignore. When people do discuss profits, it's always in the context of the importance of capital and the need to coddle it. That view lies at the heart of neoliberalism, and at the heart of Fed policy. It is also at the heart of the Law and Economics movement also spawned at the University of Chicago, a movement that has changed the legal system to favor capital. If neoliberals were intellectually honest, they wouldn't call it supply side economics, they'd call it philo-capital economics.

Equation 1 has been replaced by Equation 3 in the standard model of the Phillips Curve.

3. p = Ep t + b(U t – U t N ) + z t + e t

Making this work with Barkai's analysis is harder. We get a clue from Gordon's explanation of the z term: he call it cost push, meaning price shocks caused by labor unions and "bauxite barons". This is where capital growth fits in. The ability to control markets gives firms the ability to cause price shocks, as when pharmaceutical companies drive up the price of epi-pens or other drugs, but also the ability to gradually increase prices above the rate of inflation. Therefore, I'd rewrite Equation 3 this way:

5. 3. p = Ep t + b(U t – U t N ) + γ + c t + e t

Gordon doesn't explain the e term, so we'll just let that pick up anything that used to be in the z term that is somehow missed by my addition. It would, for example, include demand-pull inflation, which hasn't been a problem for some time.

In the current situation, with profits at very high levels, we can easily increase wages without increasing inflation if the rich were willing to accept lower profits, subject to the availability of sufficient resources to meet the new levels of demand substantially higher wages might cause.

Barkai says just distributing the historically high profits to workers would give every working person (other than those in the financial sector) a $14K raise. That dwarfs the make-believe $4K-9K per household the Republicans promise from their proposed tax cuts.

Unfortunately, the Phillips Curve isn't the only thing blocking action to help the average citizen.

Synoia , October 27, 2017 at 10:16 am

Economists will tell whatever story, with whatever rationale that fits their story, to please their pay-masters.

Just like court magicians or priests divining augers for their emperors

They try to predict the future of a chaotic system, which is impossible.

Telling the rich and powerful what they want to hear is both possible and profitable.

rd , October 27, 2017 at 1:21 pm

I am constantly baffled by economists trying to explain very complex non-linear system with simple two variable models. I have been dealing with a couple of engineering problems today where the publication I am using has over 50 design charts just for gravity pipe flow. Each chart has about five variables accommodated while holding a number of others constant.

So I believe the Philips curve is valid but it is in a different place in multi-variable space each decade or so based on fundamental changes in the economy. Over the past thirty years, I can think of four major changes off the top of my head that lead me to expect the Philips curve to translate in multi-variable space:

1. Free trade agreements (NAFTA etc.)
2. Technology displacing workers
3. Baby boomer demographic moving from entering peak productivity to retirement age
4. Women and minorities are becoming more widespread throughout most or all jobs.

So workers to day are now competing more with Second and Third World workers while technology is dramatically changing the workplace (e.g. secretarial positions dramatically reduced), and inexperienced 25 year old white men, women, minorities are being hired to replace experienced 60 year old white men. Why would we expect to have a nice linear relationship between unemployment and wages across this period?

So I think we see the Philips curve predictably happening in the short-term in fields like technology where there is big demand and not enough people. However, as a general rule across the economy, I simply don't see why the relationship between inflation and unemployment should be the same today as it was in 2007, 1997, 1987, or 1977.

Economics is infected with too much ideology and not enough scientific method. That is more the definition of a religion than a science.

diptherio , October 27, 2017 at 10:42 am

Good article. In my econ undergrad, I remember my intermediate macro professor pointing out that reality didn't match the theoretical Philips curve very well and then we continued assuming that it did, for the remainder of the course. {facepalm}

If neoliberals were intellectually honest, they wouldn't call it supply side economics, they'd call it philo-capital economics

Might I suggest "capitalphilic economics"? Seems to roll off the tongue a little better.

nonclassical , October 27, 2017 at 11:17 am

80's Poly-Sci defined, "neo-feudalism" (or, as "Shock Doctrine", privatization of all "resource" + government capacity, subject financial sector capture)

tegnost , October 27, 2017 at 11:22 am

I'll just leave this here along with a little deep thinking by diptherio
https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2016/05/naked-capitalisms-diptherio-discusses-flaws-in-unemployment-reporting.html

diptherio

Doncha just love how it's defined, in practice, as whatever the unemployment rate seems to settle around. If I'm not mistaken, in the 70's NAIRU was considered to be 6 or 7 %. Then unemployment fell and inflation didn't accelerate so they changed NAIRU to 5%.

What I want to know is if there has ever been a documented case where it can be shown that low unemployment levels actually led to accelerating-inflation. The inflationary periods in US history that I'm familiar with seem to have all been caused by supply shocks (i.e. oil embargo) or financial shenanigans (the housing market of the early aughties). Ditto for other countries, so far as I know.

As far as I can tell, the whole idea of NAIRU is strictly an artifact of economic modeling, not something that's actually ever been observed in the wild. And doesn't it seem odd that making sure we don't drop below NAIRU is something the Fed feels like it needs to intervene to ensure rather than letting the market sort it out. Even if NAIRU was a real thing, you would assume that low unemployment –> increased wages –> increased prices –> reduced consumption –> lay-offs and higher unemployment. Which is to say, if there were such a thing as a natural rate of unemployment, wouldn't markets naturally produce it, obviating any need for the Fed to, say, jack up interest rates to keep the economy from "heating up" (I guess because people have so much money burning holes in their pockets?). It almost like, when it suits the capitalists, they stop believing in this whole "invisible hand" thing .strange

diptherio , October 27, 2017 at 3:07 pm

*blushes* Applying simple logic to mainsteam economics is always entertaining when it's not maddening

vlade , October 27, 2017 at 10:48 am

If I remember right, Phillips published this paper because LSE was pushing him to publish something so that they could justify awarding him professorship and tenure, and he could go to tinkering with his MONIAC. I was told he just wanted to get something out, and this was the first idea he had so he wrote it up, but wasn't really persuaded..

The damage to the real world the academia demands does..

JTMcPhee , October 27, 2017 at 3:31 pm

"Real world" powers can riffle through the files of academia, hard and soft sciences or the various humanities or whatever, even languages and linguistics, and, because "freedom," can always come up with something published that "proves" whatever line of BS the looters are pushing at any given moment to increase their "take."

But then ever since humans discovered ratiocination, thus it has always been. SOMEone or SOMEthing always has to be "the authority," or at least "authoritative "

Samuel Conner , October 27, 2017 at 4:11 pm

That story puts a new spin on "publish or perish", something like "(you) publish and (a lot of other people will) perish (sooner)".

Ned , October 27, 2017 at 11:07 am

This is one reason why America is being parasitized by finance -- - Math. That and the math card in computers that allows the instantaneous creation of speculation and playing of the numbers with hypothetical money that later translates into real productivity or more likely misery.

The average American's eyes glaze over as soon as you put up a math formula. He of course, will memorize all manner of arcane sports trivia and statistics, but when it comes time to quantify his own economic doom, or to think about his or her own economic travails with numbers and curves, it's mind shutdown time.

This is why we love Yves. She has allowed us to get an insight into, become informed and learn about economics through high quality reporting. Thank you for this reminder of the hocus pocus and the witch-doctory that is casting our spell into economic hell.

nonclassical , October 27, 2017 at 11:24 am

not just "math": Rand-Friedman-libertarian ideological definition:

"Neoliberalism sees competition as the defining characteristic of human relations. It redefines citizens as consumers, whose democratic choices are best exercised by buying and selling, a process that rewards merit and punishes inefficiency. It maintains that "the market" delivers benefits that could never be achieved by planning.

Attempts to limit competition are treated as inimical to liberty. Tax and regulation should be minimised, public services should be privatised. The organisation of labour and collective bargaining by trade unions are portrayed as market distortions that impede the formation of a natural hierarchy of winners and losers. Inequality is recast as virtuous: a reward for utility and a generator of wealth, which trickles down to enrich everyone. Efforts to create a more equal society are both counterproductive and morally corrosive. The market ensures that everyone gets what they deserve.

We internalise and reproduce its creeds. The rich persuade themselves that they acquired their wealth through merit, ignoring the advantages – such as education, inheritance and class – that may have helped to secure it. The poor begin to blame themselves for their failures, even when they can do little to change their circumstances.

Never mind structural unemployment: if you don't have a job it's because you are unenterprising. Never mind the impossible costs of housing: if your credit card is maxed out, you're feckless and improvident. Never mind that your children no longer have a school playing field: if they get fat, it's your fault. In a world governed by competition, those who fall behind become defined and self-defined as losers."

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/apr/15/neoliberalism-ideology-problem-george-monbiot

Synoia , October 27, 2017 at 11:49 am

That you suffer from parasites is your fault, but God help you if you try to eradicate them.

Summer , October 27, 2017 at 2:01 pm

Your link dances around calling it out: neoliberalism is a rebranding of social darwinism.

Not much "neo" about it. But for all the alleged "progress," it seems we're trapped in a culture that really finds it hard to let go of the 19th Century. And mot just economically, but socially as well.

"natural hierarchy of winners and losers " – does not exist. They rebranded to try to get around all the artificial selection in the global economy.

Ed Walker Post author , October 27, 2017 at 1:50 pm

In an early draft of this article, I had a reference to Econned, where Yves discusses the use of the Gaussian Copula in the organization of RMBSs. So, yes, it's largely the math that Samuelson and Solow and the people who came later loved.

You'll note that I only use very simple math, mostly because it's a nice shorthand, like Equations 1a and 1b

flora , October 27, 2017 at 2:09 pm

an aside: For readers who do not 'read math' you provide understandable English translations of the equations. Thanks.

Quanka , October 27, 2017 at 11:56 am

vlade hit on a key point, IMO. I was an undergrad at prestigious Midwestern school during the period where they split the Econ department in 2 -- a econometrics-esque degree from the Math/Science school, vs. 'Economics' which they kept in the College of Arts and Letters. They've been strangling the latter department since while ensuring steady flow of grants to the math-based department, a la the Phillips story alluded to above.

Seconding diptherio – I remember the introductory statistics and econometric courses I was required to take, where we'd routinely dissect econ reporting in the press based on flawed mathematics or poor statistical methods, and yet carry as though these were meaningful and useful figures (e.g. unemployment, inflation).

So what to do -- do you try to change the way economics is practiced? Or do you try to take away the influence that neoliberalism and/or industrial capitalism have on the education fields? And how exactly do you do that (reform education) given how instrumental it is for neoliberalism to continue.

I see an analogy here, maybe I am wrong. Picture bull-fighting, an appropriate concept,I think. I see neoliberalism as the Matador, education as the cape, and the public as the bull. So the questions above might be rephrased as from the bull's perspective, do you chase the cape or gore the matador?

The stakes are high for the matador -- although as a spectator that fact is hidden in plain sight.

flora , October 27, 2017 at 11:58 am

Thanks for this very readable and important post. Demystify the Phillips Curve and other economic "truths" being used against Main Street is significant.

" This equation calls attention to the role that profits play in the economy, something economists generally generally ignore. When people do discuss profits, it's always in the context of the importance of capital and the need to coddle it. That view lies at the heart of neoliberalism, and at the heart of Fed policy."

Travis Bickle , October 27, 2017 at 12:53 pm

When you think about it, the PC supports the argument of how Supply & Demand explains pretty much everything about economics. It you need to explain economics in a nutshell to a working guy who thinks nothing is really all that complicated (were it not for intellectuals over-thinking things), it fills the bill rather nicely. A matter of rhetorical Supply & Demand, come to think of it.

Thuto , October 27, 2017 at 1:08 pm

For most people, being confronted with "scientific evidence" is enough to lay to rest any and all doubt about the claims being made in a proposition. Scientific evidence hardens claims into hard facts, and does so quickly. What better way to make something appear scientific than to riddle its academic literature with curves and formulas, and give it its own pride of place at the nobles side by side with real sciences. That real sciences have laws that are universally applicable or can at least be reconciled across levels of reality with the consistency you'd expect of something labelled a science (e.g. how quantum electrodynamics reconciles classical electrodynamics at the atomic and subatomic levels) seems to be a minor inconvenience to those with vested interests in having economics accepted by the public as a hard science (precisely, I say again, because presenting "scientific evidence" with formulas and curves disarms most people, among them the political ruling class, of their critical thinking faculties). Add living in an age of credentialism to the mix and the general ineptitude of our ruling politicians and one can see how economists can wreak so much havoc with their ex-cathedra pronouncements on what makes the economy work

Ed Walker Post author , October 27, 2017 at 1:59 pm

The material about Simcha Barkai's paper is the most interesting part of this to me. That paper strikes a serious blow at the heart of neoliberal antitrust law, but it also explains the wage-productivity gap and shows the way to social changes that would benefit most of us.

Also, the billionaires of the world now control $6 Trillion. https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/oct/26/worlds-witnessing-a-new-gilded-age-as-billionaires-wealth-swells-to-6tn

So naturally Republicans want tax cuts for the pig rich.

whateverhelps , October 27, 2017 at 2:21 pm

Phillips Curve has ever been ideological nonsense. Sad to see it alive 30 years later

EoH , October 27, 2017 at 3:49 pm

The Philips Curve exemplifies the dysfunction created by separating mathematical/quantitative descriptions of an economy from that same lived economy and its history. The PC was originally developed on British data covering a period roughly from ten years after the Crystal Palace Exhibition of 1851 to WWI, and then extended to WWII. Over the same period, literature met Oliver Twist and Alice and her rabbit hole, was jostled by Hardy and Lawrence, and jolted by Joyce, Woolf and Eliot, not least because a woman writer demanded a room of her own. The changes in social, economic and political life were comparable.

The British statistics cover a period when power shifted as dramatically as literature. A suffrage limited to propertied men became universal. The agency, the organization, persistence and determination necessary to create that change was considerable. So, too, a landowning aristocracy, once at the apex of all social, political, legal and economic life, saw its monopoly shrink, or rather found itself joined by large business owners, financiers, traders and press lords, and for a time, trades union leaders.

Parliament expressed that power shift, for example, by ending tariffs protecting domestic grain production, substituting, instead, subsidies for imported food stuffs, in order more cheaply to keep workers fed and at their machines. (A hard-fought concession to a new, competing power block of manufacturers, their financiers and traders,) A major constitutional crisis in 1910-11 presaged adoption of Bismarckian welfare programs, which America did not see until FDR and LBJ. These were a modest but viciously fought concession in order to avoid the kind of extra-constitutional change experienced by Russia a few years later.

Workers over this period witnessed the final stage of enclosures (privatizing of common lands), the end of cottage industries, and the rise, dominance and decline of heavy industry. The Crystal Palace's startling iron pillars and acres of glass yielded to curtain walls and structural steel. Technology, as today, raced headlong. Stage coaches gave way to steam railroads; the telegraph to the telephone and wireless; lances, swords and muzzle loaders to dreadnoughts, flying machines, automatic weapons and poison gas – all with vastly different supply chains, need for capital and levels of employment.

The empire added half of Africa, notably South Africa and its ores, diamonds and gold, and de facto control of Egypt and its canal at Suez. De jure imperial relations existed with India and the "white commonwealth" countries of Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa (post-Boer War). De facto imperial relations existed with much of Latin America, the Caribbean and East Asia. The pound was a global currency and the Royal Navy was admonished to "rule the waves", an aspiration that has since given way to following and buying from the stars and stripes. The ebb and flow of imperial power affected raw material prices coming in and export prices going out.

By what logic would the statistics of economic relations, of changing notions of acceptable levels of employment and inflation (capital's nemesis), not be affected by dramatic changes in social, political and economic conditions? Demonstrating sufficient continuity to establish a "law" for those relations for a single country, let alone one valid across time and national boundaries, would seem to be a sisyphean task.

Wisdom Seeker , October 27, 2017 at 5:13 pm

There's a persuasive interpretation of Phillips' original work and application to US data by John Hussman, which argues :

1) Phillips' original paper is right but most of the work since is garbage which missed the point.

2) Phillips' correct result is a relationship between unemployment and real wage growth ("wage inflation"), not consumer prices.

3) Most modern interpretations have either incompetently lost the point about real wages, or deliberately obfuscated. (Modern econ exists to serve capital more than labor, so this is not surprising.)

Hussman followed up the original piece with some others in recent years:
2013 / 11/ 04
2014 / 08 / 25

And from January 19, 2010 (emphasis added) :

"When labor is scarce (low unemployment), the price of labor tends to rise relative to the price of other things (thus we observe real wage inflation ). In contrast, when labor is plentiful (high unemployment), the price of labor tends to stagnate relative to the price of other things (real wages stagnate)."

Whether real wage inflation translates into consumer price inflation depends on the supply and demand of consumer goods, repayment of debts, workers' need to save for retirements etc.

I believe real wage growth, at the expense of corporate profits, is exactly what has been missing from the health of the economy for the past 20-40 years.

I also suspect the true reason why central banks fear low unemployment is because those increases in workers' wages will come at the expense of corporate profitability. (Especially in an economy with high corporate profit levels and inadequate price competition.)

I also suspect most modern recessions have not been caused by the low unemployment, but rather by the credit tightening applied to prevent low unemployment – to prevent workers from enjoying higher wages at the owners' expense.

[Oct 11, 2017] The elite schools, and I have taught as a visiting professor at a few of them, such as Princeton and Columbia, replicate the structure and goals of corporations

Notable quotes:
"... The elite schools, and I have taught as a visiting professor at a few of them, such as Princeton and Columbia, replicate the structure and goals of corporations. If you want to even get through a doctoral committee, much less a tenure committee, you must play it really, really safe. You must not challenge the corporate-friendly stance that permeates the institution and is imposed through corporate donations and the dictates of wealthy alumni. Half of the members of most of these trustee boards should be in prison! ..."
"... Speculation in the 17th century in Britain was a crime. Speculators were hanged. And today they run the economy and the country. They have used the capturing of wealth to destroy the intellectual, cultural and artistic life in the country and snuff out our democracy. There is a word for these people: traitors. ..."
Oct 11, 2017 | www.unz.com

Originally from: The elites "have no credibility left" by Chris Hedges

...The elite schools, and I have taught as a visiting professor at a few of them, such as Princeton and Columbia, replicate the structure and goals of corporations. If you want to even get through a doctoral committee, much less a tenure committee, you must play it really, really safe. You must not challenge the corporate-friendly stance that permeates the institution and is imposed through corporate donations and the dictates of wealthy alumni. Half of the members of most of these trustee boards should be in prison!

Speculation in the 17th century in Britain was a crime. Speculators were hanged. And today they run the economy and the country. They have used the capturing of wealth to destroy the intellectual, cultural and artistic life in the country and snuff out our democracy. There is a word for these people: traitors.

[Oct 10, 2017] The US Economy: Explaining Stagnation and Why It Will Persist by Thomas I. Palley

Highly recommended!
The paper is two years old. Looks how his prediction fared. Stagnation is still with us althouth low oil prices lifted all the boats. But this period is coming to the end.
Notable quotes:
"... The financial crisis that erupted in 2008 challenged the foundations of orthodox economic theory and policy. At its outset, orthodox economists were stunned into silence as evidenced by their inability to answer the Queen of England's simple question (November 5th, 2008) to the faculty of the London School of Economics as to why no one foresaw the crisis. ..."
"... Six years later, orthodoxy has fought back and largely succeeded in blocking change of thought and policy. The result has been economic stagnation ..."
"... Perspective # 3 is the progressive position which is rooted in Keynesian economics and can be labeled the "destruction of shared prosperity hypothesis" ..."
"... It is identified with the New Deal wing of the Democratic Party and the labor movement, but it has no standing within major economics departments owing to their suppression of alternatives to economic orthodoxy. ..."
"... However, financial excess is just an element of the crisis and the full explanation is far deeper than just financial market regulatory failure According to the Keynesian destruction of shared prosperity hypothesis, the deep cause is generalized economic policy failure rooted in the flawed neoliberal economic paradigm that was adopted in the late 1970s and early 1980s. ..."
"... globalization reconfigured global production by transferring manufacturing from the U.S. and Europe to emerging market economies. This new global division of labor was then supported by having U.S. consumers serve as the global economy's buyer of first and last resort, which explains the U.S. trade deficit and the global imbalances problem. ..."
"... This new global division of labor inevitably created large trade deficits that also contributed to weakening the aggregate demand (AD)generation process by causing a hemorrhage of spending on imports (Palley, 2015) ..."
"... Finance does this through three channels. First, financial markets have captured control of corporations via enforcement of the shareholder value maximization paradigm of corporate governance. Consequently, corporations now serve financial market interests along with the interests of top management. Second, financial markets in combination with corporations lobby politically for the neoliberal policy mix. ..."
"... Third, financial innovation has facilitated and promoted financial market control of corporations via hostile take-overs, leveraged buyouts and reverse capital distributions. Financial innovation has therefore been key for enforcing Wall Street's construction of the shareholder value maximization paradigm. ..."
"... The second vital role of finance is the support of AD. The neoliberal model gradually undermined the income and demand generation process, creating a growing structural demand gap. The role of finance was to fill that gap. Thus, within the U.S., deregulation, financial innovation, speculation, and mortgage lending fraud enabled finance to fill the demand gap by lending to consumers and by spurring asset price inflation ..."
"... this AD generation role of finance was an unintended consequence and not part of a grand plan. Neoliberal economists and policymakers did not realize they were creating a demand gap, but their laissez-faire economic ideology triggered financial market developments that coincidentally filled the demand gap. ..."
"... the financial process they unleashed was inevitably unstable and was always destined to hit the wall. There are limits to borrowing and limits to asset price inflation and all Ponzi schemes eventually fall apart. ..."
"... the long duration of financial excess made the collapse far deeper when it eventually happened. It has also made escaping the after-effects of the financial crisis far more difficult as the economy is now burdened by debts and destroyed credit worthiness. That has deepened the proclivity to economic stagnation. ..."
"... The neoliberal labor market flexibility agenda explicitly attacks unions and works to shift income to wealthier households. ..."
"... That model inevitably produces stagnation because it produces a structural demand shortage via (i) its impact on income distribution, and (ii) via its design of globalization which generates massive trade deficits, wage competition and off-shoring of jobs and investment. In terms of the three-way contest between the government failure hypothesis, the market failure hypothesis and the destruction of shared prosperity hypothesis, the economic policy debate during the Great Recession was cast as exclusively between government failure and market failure. ..."
"... This attitude to fiscal policy reflects the dominance within the Democratic Party of "Rubinomics", the Wall Street view associated with former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, that government spending and budget deficits raise real interest rates and thereby lower growth. According to that view, the US needs long-term fiscal austerity to offset Social Security and Medicare Side-by-side with the attempt to reflate the economy, the Obama administration also pushed for major overhaul and tightening of financial sector regulation via the Dodd- Frank Act (2010). ..."
"... The Obama administration's softcore neoliberalism would have likely generated stagnation by itself, but the prospect has been further strengthened by Republicans. ..."
"... The Obama administration was to provide fiscal stimulus to jump start the economy; the Fed would use QE to blow air back into the asset price bubble; the Dodd-Frank Act (2010) would stabilize financial markets; and globalization would be deepened by further NAFTA-styled international agreements. This is a near-identical model to that which failed so disastrously. Consequently, stagnation is the logical prognosis. ..."
"... Consequently, the economy is destined to repeat the patterns of the 1990s and 2000s. However, the US economy has also experienced almost twenty more years of neoliberalism which has left its economic body in worse health than the 1990s. That means the likelihood of delivering another bubble-based boom is low and stagnation tendencies will likely reassert themselves after a shorter and weaker period of expansion ..."
Apr 10, 2015 | www.thomaspalley.com

Abstract

This paper examines the major competing interpretations of the economic crisis in the US and explains the rebound of neoliberal orthodoxy. It shows how US policymakers acted to stabilize and save the economy, but failed to change the underlying neoliberal economic policy model. That failure explains the emergence of stagnation, which is likely to endure

Current economic conditions in the US smack of the mid-1990s. The 1990s expansion proved unsustainable and so will the current modest expansion. However, this time it is unlikely to be followed by financial crisis because of the balance sheet cleaning that took place during the last crisis

Revised 1: This paper has been prepared for inclusion in Gallas, Herr, Hoffer and Scherrer (eds.), Combatting Inequality: The Global North and South , Rouledge, forthcoming in 2015.

The crisis and the resilience of neoliberal economic orthodoxy

The financial crisis that erupted in 2008 challenged the foundations of orthodox economic theory and policy. At its outset, orthodox economists were stunned into silence as evidenced by their inability to answer the Queen of England's simple question (November 5th, 2008) to the faculty of the London School of Economics as to why no one foresaw the crisis.

Six years later, orthodoxy has fought back and largely succeeded in blocking change of thought and policy. The result has been economic stagnation

This paper examines the major competing interpretations of the economic crisis in the US and explains the rebound of neoliberal orthodoxy. It shows how US policymakers acted to stabilize and save the economy, but failed to change the underlying neoliberal economic policy model.

That failure explains the emergence of stagnation in the US economy and stagnation is likely to endure.

Current economic conditions in the US smack of the mid-1990s. The 1990s expansion proved unsustainable and so will the current modest expansion. However, this time it is unlikely to be followed by financial crisis because of the balance sheet cleaning that took place during the last crisis.

Competing explanations of the crisis

The Great Recession, which began in December 2007 and includes the financial crisis of 2008, is the deepest economic downturn in the US since the World War II. The depth of the downturn is captured in Table 1 which shows the decline in GDP and the peak unemployment rate. The recession has the longest duration and the decline in GDP is the largest. The peak unemployment rate was slightly below the peak rate of the recession of 1981-82. However, this ignores the fact that the labor force participation rate fell in the Great Recession (i.e. people left the labor force and were not counted as unemployed) whereas it increased in the recession of 1981-82 (i.e. people entered the labor force and were counted as unemployed).

Table 1. Alternative measures of the depth of US recessions.

... ... ...

Table 2 provides data on the percent change in private sector employment from business cycle peak to trough. The 7.6 percent loss of private sector jobs in the Great Recession dwarfs other recessions, providing another measure of its depth and confirming it extreme nature. 2 Over the course of the 1981-82 labor force participation rose from 63.8 percent to 64.2 percent, thereby likely increasing the unemployment rate. In contrast, over the course of the Great Recession the labor force participation rate fell from 66.0 percent to 65.7 percent, thereby likely decreasing the unemployment. The decrease in the labor force participation rate was even sharper for prime age (25 – 54 years old) workers, indicating that the decrease in the overall participation rate was not due to demographic factors such as an aging population. Instead, it was due to lack of job opportunities, which supports the claim that labor force exit lowered the unemployment rate. Table 2. U.S. private employment cycles, peak to trough. Source: Bureau of labor statistics and author's calculations.

... ... ...

Broadly speaking there exist three competing perspectives on the crisis (Palley, 2012).

For the period 1945 - 1975 the U.S. economy was characterized by a "virtuous circle" Keynesian growth model built on full employment and wage growth tied to productivity growth. This model is illustrated in Figure 1 and its logic was as follows. Productivity growth drove wage growth, which in turn fuelled demand growth and created full employment. That provided an incentive for investment, which drove further productivity growth and supported higher wages. This model held in the U.S. and, subject to local modifications, it also held throughout the global economy - in Western Europe, Canada, Japan, Mexico, Brazil and Argentina.

Figure 1. The 1945 – 75 virtuous circle Keynesian growth model. Wage growth Demand growth Full employment Productivity growth Investment

After 1980 the virtuous circle Keynesian growth model was replaced by a neoliberal growth model. The reasons for the change are a complex mix of economic, political and sociological reasons that are beyond the scope of the current paper. The key changes wrought by the new model were:

  1. Abandonment of the commitment to full employment and the adoption of commitment to very low inflation;
  2. Severing of the link between wages and productivity growth.

Together, these changes created a new economic dynamic. Before 1980, wages were the engine of U.S. demand growth. After 1980, debt and asset price inflation became the engine The new economic model was rooted in neoliberal economic thought. Its principal effects were to weaken the position of workers; strengthen the position of corporations; and unleash financial markets to serve the interests of financial and business elites.

As illustrated in figure 2, the new model can be described as a neoliberal policy box that fences workers in and pressures them from all sides. On the left hand side, the corporate model of globalization put workers in international competition via global production networks that are supported by free trade agreements and capital mobility.

On the right hand side, the "small" government agenda attacked the legitimacy of government and pushed persistently for deregulation regardless of dangers. From below, the labor market flexibility agenda attacked unions and labor market supports such as the minimum wage, unemployment benefits, employment protections, and employee rights. From above, policymakers abandoned the commitment of full employment, a development that was reflected in the rise of inflation targeting and the move toward independent central banks influenced by financial interests.

Figure 2. The neoliberal policy box. Globalization WORKERS Abandonment of full employment Small Government Labor Market Flexibility

Corporate globalization is an especially key feature. Not only did it exert downward inward pressures on economies via import competition and the threat of job off-shoring, it also provided the architecture binding economies together. Thus, globalization reconfigured global production by transferring manufacturing from the U.S. and Europe to emerging market economies. This new global division of labor was then supported by having U.S. consumers serve as the global economy's buyer of first and last resort, which explains the U.S. trade deficit and the global imbalances problem.

This new global division of labor inevitably created large trade deficits that also contributed to weakening the aggregate demand (AD)generation process by causing a hemorrhage of spending on imports (Palley, 2015)

An important feature of the Keynesian hypothesis is that the neoliberal policy box was implemented on a global basis, in both the North and the South. As in the U.S., there was also a structural break in policy regime in both Europe and Latin America. In Latin America , the International Monetary Fund and World Bank played an important role as they used the economic distress created by the 1980s debt crisis to push neoliberal policy

They did so by making financial assistance conditional on adopting such policies. This global diffusion multiplied the impact of the turn to neoliberal economic policy and it explains why the Washington Consensus enforced by the International Monetary Fund and World Bank has been so significant. It also explains why stagnation has taken on a global dimension.

III The role of finance in the neoliberal model

Owing to the extraordinarily deep and damaging nature of the financial crisis of 2008, financial market excess has been a dominant focus of explanations of the Great Recession. Within the neoliberal government failure hypothesis the excess is attributed to ill-advised government intervention and Federal Reserve interest rate policy. Within the neoliberal market failure hypothesis it is attributed to ill-advised deregulation and failure to modernize regulation.

According to the Keynesian destruction of shared prosperity hypothesis neither of those interpretations grasps the true significance of finance. The government failure hypothesis is empirically unsupportable (Palley, 2012a, chapter 6), while the market failure hypothesis has some truth but also misses the true role of finance That role is illustrated in Figure 3 which shows that finance performed two roles in the neoliberal model. The first was to structurally support the neoliberal policy box. The second was to support the AD generation process. These dual roles are central to the process of increasing financial domination of the economy which has been termed financialization (Epstein, 2004, p.3; Krippner, 2004, 2005; Palley, 2013). Figure 3. The role of finance in the neoliberal model. The role of finance: "financialization" Supporting the neoliberal policy box Aggregate demand generation Corporate behavior Economic policy Financial innovation The policy box shown in Figure 2 has four sides.

A true box has six sides and a four sided structure would be prone to structural weakness.

Metaphorically speaking, one role of finance is to provide support on two sides of the neoliberal policy box, as illustrated in Figure 4.

Finance does this through three channels. First, financial markets have captured control of corporations via enforcement of the shareholder value maximization paradigm of corporate governance. Consequently, corporations now serve financial market interests along with the interests of top management. Second, financial markets in combination with corporations lobby politically for the neoliberal policy mix.

The combination of changed corporate behavior and economic policy produces an economic matrix that puts wages under continuous pressure and raises income inequality.

Third, financial innovation has facilitated and promoted financial market control of corporations via hostile take-overs, leveraged buyouts and reverse capital distributions. Financial innovation has therefore been key for enforcing Wall Street's construction of the shareholder value maximization paradigm.

Figure 4. Lifting the lid on the neoliberal policy box. The neoliberal box Corporations Financial markets

The second vital role of finance is the support of AD. The neoliberal model gradually undermined the income and demand generation process, creating a growing structural demand gap. The role of finance was to fill that gap. Thus, within the U.S., deregulation, financial innovation, speculation, and mortgage lending fraud enabled finance to fill the demand gap by lending to consumers and by spurring asset price inflation

Financialization assisted with this process by changing credit market practices and introducing new credit instruments that made credit more easily and widely available to corporations and households. U.S. consumers in turn filled the global demand gap, along with help from U.S. and European corporations who were shifting manufacturing facilities and investment to the emerging market economies.

Three things should be emphasized.

  1. First, this AD generation role of finance was an unintended consequence and not part of a grand plan. Neoliberal economists and policymakers did not realize they were creating a demand gap, but their laissez-faire economic ideology triggered financial market developments that coincidentally filled the demand gap.
  2. Second, the financial process they unleashed was inevitably unstable and was always destined to hit the wall. There are limits to borrowing and limits to asset price inflation and all Ponzi schemes eventually fall apart. The problem is it is impossible to predict when they will fail. All that can be known with confidence is that it will eventually fail.
  3. Third, the process went on far longer than anyone expected, which explains why critics of neoliberalism sounded like Cassandras (Palley, 1998, Chapter 12). However, the long duration of financial excess made the collapse far deeper when it eventually happened. It has also made escaping the after-effects of the financial crisis far more difficult as the economy is now burdened by debts and destroyed credit worthiness. That has deepened the proclivity to economic stagnation.
IV Evidence

Evidence regarding the economic effects of the neoliberal model is plentiful and clear Figure 5 shows productivity and average hourly compensation of non-supervisory workers (that is non-managerial employees who are about 80 percent of the workforce). The link with productivity growth was severed almost 40 years ago and hourly compensation has been essentially stagnant since then.

Figure 5.

... ... ...

Table 3 shows data on the distribution of income growth by business cycle expansion across the wealthiest top 10 percent and bottom 90 percent of households. Over the past sixty years there has been a persistent decline in the share of income gains going to the bottom 90 percent of households ranked by wealth. However, in the period 1948 – 1979 the decline was gradual. After 1980 there is a massive structural break and the share of income gains going to the bottom 90 percent collapses. Before 1980, on average the bottom 90 percent received 66 percent of business cycle expansion income gains. After 1980, on average they receive just 8 percent.

Table 3. Distribution of income growth by business cycle expansion across the wealthiest top 10 percent and bottom 90 percent of households. Source: Tcherneva (2014), published in The New York Times , September 26, 2014. '49- '53 '54- '57 '59- '60 '61- '69 '70- '73 '75- '79 '82- '90 '91- '00 '01- '07 '09- '12 Average Pre-1908 Average Post-1980 Top 10% 20% 28 32 33 43 45 80 73 98 116 34% 92% Bottom 90% 80% 72 68 67 57 55 20 27 2 -16 66% 8%

Figure 6 shows the share of total pre-tax income of the top one percent of households ranked by wealth. From the mid-1930s, with the implementation of the New Deal social contract, that share fell from a high of 23.94 percent in 1928 to a low of 8.95 percent in 1978. Thereafter it has steadily risen, reaching 23.5 percent in 2007 which marked the beginning of the Great Recession. It then fell during the Great Recession owing to a recession-induced fall in profits, but has since recovered most of that decline as income distribution has worsened again during the economic recovery. In effect, during the neoliberal era the US economy has retraced its steps, reversing the improvements achieved by the New Deal and post-World War II prosperity, so that the top one percent's share of pre-tax income has returned to pre-Great Depression levels.

Figure 6. US pre-tax income share of top 1 percent. Source: http://inequality.org/income-inequality/. Original source: Thomas Piketty and Emanuel Saez (2003), updated at http://emlab.edu/users/saez.

As argued in Palley (2012a, p. 150-151) there is close relationship between union membership density (i.e. percent of employed workers that are unionized) and income distribution. This is clearly shown in Figure 7 which shows union density and the share of pre-tax income going to the top ten percent of wealthiest households. The neoliberal labor market flexibility agenda explicitly attacks unions and works to shift income to wealthier households.

Share of income going to the top 10 percent 2013: 47.0% Union membership density 11.2% 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 1917 1923 1929 1935 1941 1947 1953 1959 1965 1971 1977 1983 1989 1995 2001 2007 2013 Source: Data on union density follows the composite series found in Historical Statistics of the United States; updated to 2013 from unionstats.com. Income inequality (share of income to top 10%) from Piketty and Saez,

"Income Inequality in the United States, 1913-1998, Quarterly Journal of Economics , 118(1), 2003, 1-39. Updated Figure 7. Union membership and the share of income going to the top ten percent of wealthiest households, 1917 – 2013. Source: Mishel, Gould and Bivens (2015). Table 4 provides data on the evolution of the U.S. goods and services trade balance as a share of GDP by business cycle peak. Comparison across peaks controls for the effect of the business cycle. The data show through to the late 1970s U.S. trade was roughly in balance, but after 1980 it swung to massive deficit and the deficits increased each business cycle. These deficits were the inevitable product of the neoliberal model of globalization (Palley, 2015) and they undermined the AD generation process in accordance with the Keynesian hypothesis.

Table 4. The U.S. goods & services trade deficit/surplus by business cycle peaks, 1960 – 2007. Sources: Economic Report of the President, 2009 and author's calculations. Business cycle peak year Trade balance ($ millions) GDP ($ billions) Trade balance/ GDP (%) 1960 3,508 526.4 0.7 1969 91 984.6 0.0 1973 1,900 1,382.7 0.1 1980 -25,500 2,789.5 -0.9 1981 -28,023 3,128.4 -0.9 1990 -111,037 5,803.1 -1.9 2001 -429,519 10,128.0 -4.2 2007 -819,373 13,807.5 -5.9

Finally, Figure 8 shows total domestic debt relative to GDP and growth. This Figure is highly supportive of the Keynesian interpretation of the role of finance. During the neoliberal era real GDP growth has actually slowed but debt growth has exploded. The reason is the neoliberal model did nothing to increase growth, but it needed faster debt growth to fill the demand gap created by the model's worsening of income distribution and creation of large trade deficits. Debt growth supported debt-financed consumer spending and it supported asset price inflation that enabled borrowing which filled the demand gap caused by the neoliberal model. Figure 8. Total domestic debt and growth (1952-2007). Source: Grantham, 2010.

V The debate about the causes of the crisis: why it matters

The importance of the debate about the causes of the crisis is that each perspective recommends its own different policy response. For hardcore neoliberal government failure proponents the recommended policy response is to double-down on the policies described by the neoliberal policy box and further deregulate markets; to deepen central bank independence and the commitment to low inflation via strict rules based monetary policy; and to further shrink government and impose fiscal austerity to deal with increased government debt produced by the crisis For softcore neoliberal market failure proponents the recommended policy response is to tighten financial regulation but continue with all other aspects of the existing neoliberal policy paradigm. That means continued support for corporate globalization, socalled labor market flexibility, low inflation targeting, and fiscal austerity in the long term. Additionally, there is need for temporary large-scale fiscal and monetary stimulus to combat the deep recession caused by the financial crisis.

However, once the economy has recovered, policy should continue with the neoliberal model For proponents of the destruction of shared prosperity hypothesis the policy response is fundamentally different. The fundamental need is to overthrow the neoliberal paradigm and replace it with a "structural Keynesian" paradigm. That involves repacking the policy box as illustrated in Figure 9.

The critical step is to take workers out of the box and put corporations and financial markets in so that they are made to serve a broader public interest. The key elements are to replace corporate globalization with managed globalization that blocks race to the bottom trade dynamics and stabilizes global financial markets; restore a commitment to full employment; replace the neoliberal anti-government agenda with a social democratic government agenda; and replace the neoliberal labor market flexibility with a solidarity based labor market agenda.

The goals are restoration of full employment and restoration of a solid link between wage and productivity growth.

Figure 9. The structural Keynesian box Corporations & Managed Financial Markets Globalization Full Employment Social Democratic Government Solidarity Labor Markets

Lastly, since the neoliberal model was adopted as part of a new global economic order, there is also need to recalibrate the global economy. This is where the issue of "global rebalancing" enters and emerging market economies need to shift away from export-led growth strategies to domestic demand-led strategies. That poses huge challenges for many emerging market economies because they have configured their growth strategies around export-led growth whereby they sell to U.S. consumers.

VI From crisis to stagnation: the failure to change

Massive policy interventions, unequalled in the post-war era, stopped the Great Recession from spiraling into a second Great Depression. The domestic economic interventions included the 2008 Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) that bailed out the financial sector via government purchases of assets and equity from financial institutions; the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) that provided approximately $800 billion of fiscal stimulus, consisting of approximately $550 billion of government spending and $250 billion of tax cuts; the Federal Reserve lowering its interest target to near-zero (0 - 0.25 percent); and the Federal Reserve engaging in quantitative easing (QE) transactions that involve it purchasing government and private sector securities. At the international level, in 2008 the Federal Reserve established a temporary $620 billion foreign exchange (FX) swap facility with foreign central banks.

That facility provided the global economy with dollar balances, thereby preventing a dollar liquidity shortage from triggering a wave of global default on short-term dollar loans that the financial system was unwilling to roll-over because of panic.3

Additionally, there was unprecedented globally coordinated fiscal stimulus arranged via the G-20 mechanism. 3

The FX swaps with foreign central banks have been criticized as being a bail-out for foreign economies. In fact, they saved the US financial system which would have been pulled down by financial collapse outside

Despite their scale, these interventions did not stop the recession from being the deepest since 1945, and nor did they stop the onset of stagnation. Table 5 shows how GDP growth has failed to recover since the end of the Great Recession, averaging just 2.1 percent for the five year period from 2010 – 2014. Furthermore, that period includes the rebound year of 2010 when the economy rebounded from its massive slump owing to the extraordinary fiscal and monetary stimulus measures that were put in place

Table 5. U.S. GDP growth. Source: Statistical Annex of the European Union, Autumn 2014 and author's calculations.

The growth rate for 2014 is that estimated in October 2014.

1961 - 1970 1971 - 1980 1981 - 1990 1991 - 2000 2001 - 2007 2008 - 2009 2010 - 2014

4.2% 3.2% 3.3% 3.5% 2.5% -1.6% 2.1%

Table 6 shows employment creation in the five years after the end of recessions, which provides another window on stagnation. The job creation numbers show that the neoliberal model was already slowing in the 1990s with the first episode of "jobless the US.

Many foreign banks operating in the US had acquired US assets financed with short-term dollar borrowings. When the US money market froze in 2008 they could not roll-over these loans in accordance with normal practice. That threatened massive default by these banks within the US financial system, which would have pulled down the entire global financial system.

The Federal Reserve could not lend directly to these foreign banks and their governing central banks lacked adequate dollar liquidity to fill the financing gap. The solution was to lend dollars to foreign central banks, which then made dollar loans to foreign banks in need of dollar roll-over short-term financing. recovery".

It actually ground to stagnation in the 2001 – 2007 period, but this was masked by the house price bubble and the false prosperity it created. Stagnation has persisted after the Great Recession, but the economic distress caused by the recession has finally triggered awareness of stagnation among elites economists. In a sense, the Great Recession called out the obvious, just as did the little boy in the Hans Anderson story about the emperor's new suit

Table 6. U.S. private sector employment creation in the five year period after the end of recessions for six business cycles with extended expansions. Source: Bureau of labor statistics and author's calculations. * = January 1980 the beginning of the next recession Recession end date Employment at recession end date (millions) Employment five years later (millions) Percent growth in employment Feb 1961 45.0 52.2 16.0% Mar 1975 61.9 74.6* 20.5% Nov 1982 72.8 86.1 18.3% March 1991 90.1 99.5 10.4% Nov 2001 109.8 115.0 4.7% June 2009 108.4 117.1 8.0% The persistence of stagnation after the Great Recession raises the question "why"? The answer is policy has done nothing to change the structure of the underlying neoliberal economic model.

That model inevitably produces stagnation because it produces a structural demand shortage via (i) its impact on income distribution, and (ii) via its design of globalization which generates massive trade deficits, wage competition and off-shoring of jobs and investment. In terms of the three-way contest between the government failure hypothesis, the market failure hypothesis and the destruction of shared prosperity hypothesis, the economic policy debate during the Great Recession was cast as exclusively between government failure and market failure.

With the Democrats controlling the Congress and Presidency after the 2008 election, the market failure hypothesis won out and has framed policy since then. According to the hypothesis, the financial crisis caused an exceptionally deep recession that required exceptionally large monetary and fiscal stimulus to counter it and restore normalcy. Additionally, the market failure hypothesis recommends restoring and renovating financial regulation, but other than that the neoliberal paradigm is appropriate and should be deepened In accordance with this thinking, the in-coming Obama administration affirmed existing efforts to save the system and prevent a downward spiral by supporting the Bush administration's TARP, the Federal Reserve's first round of QE (November/December 2008) that provided market liquidity, and the Federal Reserve's FX swap agreement with foreign central banks

Thereafter, the Obama administration worked to reflate the economy via passage of the ARRA (2009) which provided significant fiscal stimulus. With the failure to deliver a V-shaped recovery, candidate Obama became even more vocal about fiscal stimulus However, reflecting its softcore neoliberal inclinations, the Obama administration then became much less so when it took office. Thus, the winners of the internal debate about fiscal policy in the first days of the Obama administration were those wanting more modest fiscal stimulus.4 Furthermore, its analytical frame was one of temporary stimulus with the 4 Since 2009 there has been some evolution of policy positions characterized by a shift to stronger support for fiscal stimulus. This has been especially marked in Larry Summers, who was the Obama administration's goal of long-term fiscal consolidation, which is softcore neoliberal speak for fiscal austerity Seen in the above light, after the passage of ARRA (2009), the fiscal policy divide between the Obama administration and hardcore neoliberal Republicans was about the speed and conditions under which fiscal austerity should be restored.

This attitude to fiscal policy reflects the dominance within the Democratic Party of "Rubinomics", the Wall Street view associated with former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, that government spending and budget deficits raise real interest rates and thereby lower growth. According to that view, the US needs long-term fiscal austerity to offset Social Security and Medicare Side-by-side with the attempt to reflate the economy, the Obama administration also pushed for major overhaul and tightening of financial sector regulation via the Dodd- Frank Act (2010).

That accorded with the market failure hypothesis's claim about the economic crisis and Great Recession being caused by financial excess permitted by the combination of excessive deregulation, lax regulation and failure to modernize regulation Finally, and again in accordance with the logic of the market failure hypothesis, the Obama administration has pushed ahead with doubling-down and further entrenching the neoliberal policy box. This is most visible in its approach to globalization. In 2010, free trade agreements modelled after NAFTA were signed with South Korea, Colombia and Panama. The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), two mega-agreements negotiated in secrecy and apparently bearing chief economic adviser when it took office. This shift has become a way of rewriting history by erasing the memory of initial positions. That is also true of the IMF which in 2010-2011 was a robust supporter of fiscal consolidation in Europe. similar hallmarks to prior trade agreements, are also being pushed by the Obama administration

The Obama administration's softcore neoliberalism would have likely generated stagnation by itself, but the prospect has been further strengthened by Republicans.

Thus, in accordance with their point of view, Republicans have persistently pushed the government failure hypothesis by directing the policy conversation to excessive regulation and easy monetary policy as the causes of the crisis. Consequently, they have consistently opposed strengthened financial regulation and demands for fiscal stimulus.

At the same time, they have joined with softcore neoliberal Democrats regarding doubling-down on neoliberal box policies, particularly as regards trade and globalization Paradoxically, the failure to change the overall economic model becomes most visible by analyzing the policies of the Federal Reserve, which have changed the most dramatically via the introduction of QE. The initial round of QE (QE1) was followed by QE2 in November 2010 and QE3 in September 2012, with the Fed shifting from providing short-term emergency liquidity to buying private sector financial assets.

The goal was to bid up prices of longer term bonds and other securities, thereby lowering interest rates on longer-term financing and encouraging investors to buy equities and other riskier financial assets. The Fed's reasoning was lower long-term rates would stimulate the economy, and higher financial asset prices would trigger a positive wealth effect on consumption spending. This makes clear the architecture of policy.

The Obama administration was to provide fiscal stimulus to jump start the economy; the Fed would use QE to blow air back into the asset price bubble; the Dodd-Frank Act (2010) would stabilize financial markets; and globalization would be deepened by further NAFTA-styled international agreements. This is a near-identical model to that which failed so disastrously. Consequently, stagnation is the logical prognosis.

VII Déjà vu all over again: back to the 1990s but with a weaker economy

The exclusion of the destruction of shared prosperity hypothesis, combined with the joint triumph of the market failure and government failure hypotheses, means the underlying economic model that produced the Great Recession remains essentially unchanged. That failure to change explains stagnation. It also explains why current conditions smack of "déjà vu all over again" with the US economy in 2014-15 appearing to have returned to conditions reminiscent of the mid-1990s.

Just as the 1990s failed to deliver durable prosperity, so too current optimistic conditions will prove unsustainable absent deeper change The déjà vu similarities are evident

All of these features mean both policy context and policy design look a lot like the mid-1990s. The Obama administration saved the system but did not change it

Consequently, the economy is destined to repeat the patterns of the 1990s and 2000s. However, the US economy has also experienced almost twenty more years of neoliberalism which has left its economic body in worse health than the 1990s. That means the likelihood of delivering another bubble-based boom is low and stagnation tendencies will likely reassert themselves after a shorter and weaker period of expansion

This structurally weakened state of the US economy is evident in the further worsening of income inequality that has occurred during the Great Recession and subsequent slow recovery.

... ... ...

Thomas I. Palley, Senior Economic Policy Advisor, AFL-CIO Washington, D.C. mail@thomaspalley.com

[Oct 09, 2017] Instead of drawing the best and the brightest, or being a place where scholarship was valued, where students were taught critical thinking skills, the University I attended was nothing more than an expensive diploma mill for the children of the wealthy

Chris Hedges published this book eight years ago and the things he predicted have sadly been realized
Notable quotes:
"... his screed is a liberating tonic against the crazy-making double-speak and the lies Americans are sold by our country's elite in order to distract us from the true threat and nature of the Corporate State, from the cult of celebrity, to how our nation's Universities have been hijacked to serve the interests, not of the public, but of our corporate overlords. It explains the self-same conditions in all aspects of our society and culture that we now must face, the ever-shrinking flame of enlightenment being exchanged for the illusory shadows on a cave wall. ..."
"... He fearlessly and incisively calls us out on the obvious farce our democracy has become, how we got here, and highlights the rapidly closing window in which we have to do something to correct it. It is a revelation, and yet he merely states the obvious. The empire has no clothes. ..."
"... One of the most powerful aspects of this book was in regard to how our Universities are run these days. I may be in the minority, but I experienced a life-changing disillusionment when I gained entrance to a prestigious "elite" University. Instead of drawing the best and the brightest, or being a place where scholarship was valued, where students were taught critical thinking skills, the University I attended was nothing more than an expensive diploma mill for the children of the wealthy. In the eyes of the University, students were not minds to be empowered and developed, but walking dollar signs. ..."
"... Instead of critical thinking, students were taught to OBEY, not to question authority, and then handed a piece of paper admitting them to the ruling class that is destroying America without a moral compass. Selfishness, deceit, disregard for the common good, and a win-at-all-costs attitude were rewarded. Empathy, curiosity, dissent, and an honest, intellectually rigorous evaluation of ourselves and our world were punished. Obviously I am not the only one to whom this was cause to fear for the future of our country. ..."
Oct 09, 2017 | www.amazon.com

H. I. on May 13, 2011

This Book Explains EVERYTHING!!!!!

Hedges cogently and systematically dismantles the most pernicious cultural delusions of our era and lays bare the pitiful truths that they attempt to mask. This book is a deprogramming manual that trims away the folly and noise from our troubled society so that the reader can focus on the most pressing matters of our time.

Despite the dark reality Hedges excavates, his screed is a liberating tonic against the crazy-making double-speak and the lies Americans are sold by our country's elite in order to distract us from the true threat and nature of the Corporate State, from the cult of celebrity, to how our nation's Universities have been hijacked to serve the interests, not of the public, but of our corporate overlords. It explains the self-same conditions in all aspects of our society and culture that we now must face, the ever-shrinking flame of enlightenment being exchanged for the illusory shadows on a cave wall.

As a twenty-something caught in the death-throes of American Empire and culture, I have struggled to anticipate where our country and our world are heading, why, and what sort of life I can expect to build for myself. Hedges presents the reader with the depressing, yet undeniable truth of the forces that have coalesced to shape the world in which we now find ourselves. The light he casts is searing and relentless. He fearlessly and incisively calls us out on the obvious farce our democracy has become, how we got here, and highlights the rapidly closing window in which we have to do something to correct it. It is a revelation, and yet he merely states the obvious. The empire has no clothes.

One of the most powerful aspects of this book was in regard to how our Universities are run these days. I may be in the minority, but I experienced a life-changing disillusionment when I gained entrance to a prestigious "elite" University. Instead of drawing the best and the brightest, or being a place where scholarship was valued, where students were taught critical thinking skills, the University I attended was nothing more than an expensive diploma mill for the children of the wealthy. In the eyes of the University, students were not minds to be empowered and developed, but walking dollar signs.

Instead of critical thinking, students were taught to OBEY, not to question authority, and then handed a piece of paper admitting them to the ruling class that is destroying America without a moral compass. Selfishness, deceit, disregard for the common good, and a win-at-all-costs attitude were rewarded. Empathy, curiosity, dissent, and an honest, intellectually rigorous evaluation of ourselves and our world were punished. Obviously I am not the only one to whom this was cause to fear for the future of our country.

Five stars is not enough. Ever since I began reading Empire of Illusion, I have insisted friends and family pick up a copy, too. Everyone in America should read this incredibly important book.

The truth shall set us free.

[Oct 06, 2017] Prof. Philip Mirowski keynote for Life and Debt conference

Highly recommended!
Among interesting ideas that Mirkowski presented in this lecture are "privatization of science" -- when well paid intellectual prostitutes produce the reuslt which are expected by their handlers. the other is his thought on the difference between neoclassical economics and neoliberalism. Neoliberalism believes in state intervention and this intervention should take the form of enforcing market on all spheres of human society.
Another interesting idea that neoliberalism in many cases doe not need the success of its ideas. The failure can also be exploited for enforcing "more market" on the society.
In other words market fundamentalism has all features of civil religion and like in Middle Ages it is enforced from above. heretics are not burned at the stake but simply ostracized.
Notable quotes:
"... how it is that science came to be subordinate to economics and the very future of nature to be contingent upon the market. ..."
"... As a leading exponent of the Institutional school, he has published formal treatments of financial markets that update Minsky's 'financial instability hypothesis' for the world of computerised derivative trading. ..."
Aug 18, 2013 | www.youtube.com

Life and Debt: Living through the Financialisation of the Biosphere

How can it be that the climate crisis, the biodiversity crisis and the deepest financial crisis since 1930s have done so little to undermine the supremacy of orthodox economics?

The lecture will preview material from Mirowski's new book: Never Lt a Serious Crisis Go to Waste: How Neoliberalism Survived the Financial Meltdown (Verso, 2013).

In this lecture, Professor Mirowski responds to the question of how it is that science came to be subordinate to economics and the very future of nature to be contingent upon the market. Charting the contradictions of the contemporary political landscape, he notes that science denialism, markets for pollution permits and proposals for geo-engineering can all be understood as political strategies designed to neutralize the impact of environmentalism, as they all originated in the network of corporate-sponsored think-tanks that have made neoliberal accounts of society, politics and the economy so prevalent that even the most profound crises are unable to shake their grip on the political imagination.

For those of us who are still paying attention, the task of constructing an alternative politics of science and markets is a vital one.

Philip Mirowski is Carl E. Koch Professor at the University of Notre Dame, Indiana. His most famous book, More Heat Than Light: Economics as Social Physics (1989) established his reputation as a formidable critic of the scientific status of neoclassical economics. His Machine Dreams: Economics becomes a Cyborg Science (2002) presents a history of the Cold War consolidation of American economic orthodoxy in the same intellectual milieu that produced systems theory, the digital computer, the atomic bomb, the strategy of Mutually Assured Destruction, and the 'think tank'. The Road from Mont Pelerin: the Making of the Neoliberal Thought Collective (with Dieter Plewhe, 2009), drawn from the archives of the Mont Pelerin Society and the Chicago School, presents a scholarly history of neoliberalism: the political movement initiated by Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman in the 1940s, which has since become the world's dominant philosophy of government.

As a leading exponent of the Institutional school, he has published formal treatments of financial markets that update Minsky's 'financial instability hypothesis' for the world of computerised derivative trading.

This lecture is presented by the UTS Cosmopolitan Civil Societies Research Centre and the Australian Working Group on Financialisation at the University of Sydney.

[Oct 06, 2017] How Economists Turned Corporations into Predators

Highly recommended!
The idea the a scientist can be a gangster was probably first presented by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in his famous Sherlock Holmes detective stories. Neoliberalism just made this a reality. Mass production of "scientific gangsters" is an immanent feature of neoliberalism.
Notable quotes:
"... By Lynn Parramore, Senior Research Analyst at the Institute for New Economic Thinking. Originally published at the Institute for New Economic Thinking website ..."
"... The Idea That Businesses Exist Solely to Enrich Shareholders Is Harmful Nonsense ..."
"... Neil Fligstein wrote a good book awhile back called The Transformation of Corporate Control that shows how most large manufacturing companies were initially run by engineers, then sales people, then finance people (as corporations came to be seen as bundles of assets as opposed to businesses). I think this transformation paralleled the rise of neoclassical economics. So, not so much "chicken-and-egg" as "class war." In Germany, at least until recently, I believe CEO's of manufacturing firms were still disproportionately engineers. ..."
"... a group of hedge fund activists can suck the value that you've created right out, driving your company down and making you worse off and the company financially fragile ..."
"... That means transforming business education, including the replacement of agency theory with innovation theory ..."
"... since gigantism is the norm, rather than family run farms in a mostly agrarian economy such failures are catastrophic. The linkage between these elephants tends to create systemic risk. Previously, failure was small and isolated. ..."
"... Welcome to our wonderful new world of infinite mutual vulnerability! Risk On! Nuclear weapons, Equifax, Googleamazon, NSApanopticon, FIRE, hacking, crapification The Soviet Union vanished as an entity, many starved, but the mopes there at least still knew how to raise up edible crops and live on "less" and maybe do better collective response to that sharp peak on the entropy curve. Wonder how things might play out exceptionally, here in the Empire? ..."
"... It should be noted that Michael Jensen of HBS, one of the originators of the `maximize shareholder value' of corporate governance, is on some short lists for this year's not-exactly-the-Nobel Prize in Economics. ..."
Oct 06, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

By Lynn Parramore, Senior Research Analyst at the Institute for New Economic Thinking. Originally published at the Institute for New Economic Thinking website

The Idea That Businesses Exist Solely to Enrich Shareholders Is Harmful Nonsense

In a new INET paper featured in the Financial Times , economist William Lazonick lays out a theory about how corporations can work for everyone – not just a few executives and Wall Streeters. He challenges a set of controversial ideas that became gospel in business schools and the mainstream media starting in the 1980s. He sat down with INET's Lynn Parramore to discuss.

Lynn Parramore: Since the 1980s, business schools have touted "agency theory," a controversial set of ideas meant to explain how corporations best operate. Proponents say that you run a business with the goal of channeling money to shareholders instead of, say, creating great products or making any efforts at socially responsible actions such as taking account of climate change. Many now take this view as gospel, even though no less a business titan than Jack Welch, former CEO of GE, called the notion that a company should be run to maximize shareholder value "the dumbest idea in the world." Why did Welch say that?

William Lazonick: Welch made that statement in a 2009 interview , just ahead of the news that GE had lost its S&P Triple-A rating in the midst of the financial crisis. He explained that, "shareholder value is a result, not a strategy" and that a company's "main constituencies are your employees, your customers and your products." During his tenure as GE CEO from 1981 to 2001, Welch had an obsession with increasing the company's stock price and hitting quarterly earnings-per-share targets, but he also understood that revenues come when your company generates innovative products. He knew that the employees' skills and efforts enable the company to develop those products and sell them.

If a publicly-listed corporation succeeds in creating innovative goods or services, then shareholders stand to gain from dividend payments if they hold shares or if they sell at a higher price. But where does the company's value actually come from? It comes from employees who use their collective and cumulative learning to satisfy customers with great products. It follows that these employees are the ones who should be rewarded when the business is a success. We've become blinded to this simple, obvious logic.

LP: What have these academic theorists missed about how companies really operate and perform? How have their views impacted our economy and society?

WL: As I show in my new INET paper " Innovative Enterprise Solves the Agency Problem ," agency theorists don't have a theory of innovative enterprise. That's strange, since they are talking about how companies succeed.

They believe that to be efficient, business corporations should be run to "maximize shareholder value." But as I have argued in another recent INET paper , public shareholders at a company like GE are not investors in the company's productive capabilities.

LP: Wait, as a stockholder I'm not an investor in the company's capabilities?

WL: When you buy shares of a stock, you are not creating value for the company -- you're just a saver who buys shares outstanding on the stock market for the sake of a yield on your financial portfolio. Public shareholders are value extractors , not value creators.

By touting public shareholders as a corporation's value creators, agency theorists lay the groundwork for some very harmful activities. They legitimize "hedge fund activists," for example. These are aggressive corporate predators who buy shares of a company on the stock market and then use the power bestowed upon them by the ill-conceived U.S. proxy voting system, endorsed by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), to demand that the corporation inflate profits by cutting costs. That often means mass layoffs and depressed incomes for anybody who remains. In an industry like pharmaceuticals , the activists also press for extortionate product price increases. The higher profits tend to boost stock prices for the activists and other shareholders if they sell their shares on the market.

LP: So the hedge fund activists are extracting value from a corporation instead of creating it, and yet they are the ones who get enriched.

WL: Right. Agency theory aids and abets this value extraction by advocating, in the name of "maximizing shareholder value," massive distributions to shareholders in the form of dividends for holding shares as well as stock buybacks that you hear about, which give manipulative boosts to stock prices. Activists get rich when they sell the shares. The people who created the value -- the employees -- often get poorer.

###p"downsize-and-distribute" -- something that corporations have been doing since the 1980s, which has resulted in extreme concentration of income among the richest households and the erosion of middle-class employment opportunities.

LP: You've called stock buybacks -- what happens when a company buys back its own shares from the marketplace, often to manipulate the stock price upwards -- the "legalized looting of the U.S. business corporation." What's the problem with this practice?

WL: If you buy shares in Apple, for example, you can get a dividend for holding shares and, possibly, a capital gain when you sell the shares. Since 2012, when Apple made its first dividend payment since 1996, the company has shelled out $57.4 billion as dividends, equivalent to over 22 percent of net income. That's fine. But the company has also spent $157.9 billion on stock buybacks, equal to 62 percent of net income.

Yet the only time in its history that Apple ever raised funds on the public stock market was in 1980, when it collected $97 million in its initial public offering. How can a corporation return capital to parties that never supplied it with capital? It's a very misleading concept.

The vast majority of people who hold Apple's publicly-listed shares have simply bought outstanding shares on the stock market. They have contributed nothing to Apple's value-creating capabilities. That includes veteran corporate raider Carl Icahn, who raked in $2 billion by holding $3.6 billion in Apple shares for about 32 months, while using his influence to encourage Apple to do $80.3 billion in buybacks in 2014-2015, the largest repurchases ever. Over this period, Apple, the most cash-rich company in history, increased its debt by $47.6 billion to do buybacks so that it would not have to repatriate its offshore profits, sheltered from U.S. corporate taxes.

There are many ways in which the company could have returned its profits to employees and taxpayers -- the real value creators -- that are consistent with an innovative business model. Instead, in doing massive buybacks, Apple's board (which includes former Vice President Al Gore) has endorsed legalized looting. The SEC bears a lot of blame. It's supposed to protect investors and make sure financial markets are free of manipulation. But back in 1982, the SEC bought into agency theory under Reagan and came up with a rule that gives corporate executives a "safe harbor" against charges of stock-price manipulation when they do billions of dollars of buybacks for the sole purpose of manipulating their company's stock price.

LP: But don't shareholders deserve some of the profits as part owners of the corporation?

WL: Let's say you buy stock in General Motors. You are just buying a share that is outstanding on the market. You are contributing nothing to the company. And you will only buy the shares because the stock market is highly liquid, enabling you to easily sell some or all of the shares at any moment that you so choose.

In contrast, people who work for General Motors supply skill and effort to generate the company's innovative products. They are making productive contributions with expectations that, if the innovative strategy is successful, they will share in the gains -- a bigger paycheck, employment security, a promotion. In providing their labor services, these employees are the real value creators whose economic futures are at risk.

LP: This is really different from what a lot of us have been taught to believe. An employee gets a paycheck for showing up at work -- there's your reward. When we take a job, we probably don't expect management to see us as risk-takers entitled to share in the profits unless we're pretty high up.

WL: If you work for a company, even if its innovative strategy is a big success, you run a big risk because under the current regime of "maximizing shareholder value" a group of hedge fund activists can suck the value that you've created right out, driving your company down and making you worse off and the company financially fragile. And they are not the only predators you have to deal with. Incentivized with huge amounts of stock-based pay, senior corporate executives will, and often do, extract value from the company for their own personal gain -- at your expense. As Professor Jang-Sup Shin and I argue in a forthcoming book, senior executives often become value-extracting insiders. And they open the corporate coffers to hedge fund activists, the value-extracting outsiders. Large institutional investors can use their proxy votes to support corporate raids, acting as value-extracting enablers.

You put in your ideas, knowledge, time, and effort to make the company a huge success, and still you may get laid off or find your paycheck shrinking. The losers are not only the mass of corporate employees -- if you're a taxpayer, your money provides the business corporation with physical infrastructure, like roads and bridges, and human knowledge, like scientific discoveries, that it needs to innovate and profit. Senior corporate executives are constantly complaining that they need lower corporate taxes in order to compete, when what they really want is more cash to distribute to shareholders and boost stock prices. In that system, they win but the rest of us lose .

LP: Some academics say that hedge fund activism is great because it makes a company run better and produce higher profits. Others say, "No, Wall Streeters shouldn't have more say than executives who know better how to run the company." You say that both of these camps have got it wrong. How so?

WL: A company has to be run by executive insiders, and in order to produce innovation these executives have got to do three things:

First you need a resource-allocation strategy that, in the face of uncertainty, seeks to generate high-quality, low-cost products. Second, you need to implement that strategy through training, retaining, motivating, and rewarding employees, upon whom the development and utilization of the organization's productive capabilities depend. Third, you have to mobilize and leverage the company's cash flow to support the innovative strategy. But under the sway of the "maximizing shareholder value" idea, many senior corporate executives have been unwilling, and often unable, to perform these value-creating functions. Agency theorists have got it so backwards that they actually celebrate the virtues of " the value extracting CEO ." How strange is that?

Massive stock buybacks is where the incentives of corporate executives who extract value align with the interests of hedge fund activists who also want to suck value from a corporation. When they promote this kind of alliance, agency theorists have in effect served as academic agents of activist aggression. Lacking a theory of the value-creating firm, or what I call a "theory of innovative enterprise," agency theorists cannot imagine what an executive who creates value actually does. They don't see that it's crucial to align executives' interests with the value-creating investment requirements of the organizations over which they exercise strategic control. This intellectual deficit is not unique to agency theorists; it is inherent in their training in neoclassical economics .

LP: So if shareholders and executives are too often just looting companies to enrich themselves – "value extraction," as you put it – and not caring about long-term success, who is in a better position to decide how to run them, where to allocate resources and so on?

WL: We need to redesign corporate-governance institutions to promote the interests of American households as workers and taxpayers. Because of technological, market, or competitive uncertainties, workers take the risk that the application of their skills and the expenditure of their efforts will be in vain. In financing investments in infrastructure and knowledge, taxpayers make productive capabilities available to business enterprises, but with no guaranteed return on those investments.

These stakeholders need to have representation on corporate boards of directors. Predators, including self-serving corporate executives and greed-driven shareholder activists, should certainly not have representation on corporate boards.

LP: Sounds like we've lost sight of what a business needs to do to be successful in the long run, and it's costing everybody except a handful of senior executives, hedge fund managers, and Wall Street bankers. How would your "innovation theory" help companies run better and make for a healthier economy and society?

WL: Major corporations are key to the operation and performance of the economy. So we need a revolution in corporate governance to get us back on track to stable and equitable economic growth. Besides changing board representation, I would change the incentives for top executives so that they are rewarded for allocating corporate resources to value creation. Senior executives should gain along with the rest of the organization when the corporation is successful in generating competitive products while sharing the gains with workers and taxpayers.

Innovation theory calls for changing the mindsets and skill sets of senior executives. That means transforming business education, including the replacement of agency theory with innovation theory. That also means changing the career paths through which corporate personnel can rise to positions of strategic control, so that leaders who create value get rewarded and those who extract it are disfavored. At the institutional level, it would be great to see the SEC, as the regulator of financial markets, take a giant step in supporting value creation by banning stock buybacks whose purpose it is to manipulate stock prices.

To get from here to there, we have to replace nonsense with common sense in our understanding of how business enterprises operate and perform.

Enquiring Mind , October 6, 2017 at 10:44 am

Owners come first!
That was the slogan of our former board chair. He didn't disclose to the employees that his compensation was influenced mightily by how big the net income was. He did tell the employees that they were well down the hierarchy, after Owners (capital O) and then vendors and then customers. His former employees deserted in droves.

RepubAnon , October 6, 2017 at 12:14 pm

I'd say that maximizing long-term shareholder value is a great idea the problem is, as is so often the case these days, short-term thinking.

Driving away a company's best employees makes that quarter's numbers look better, but destroys long-term value. Same thing for so many other short-term, "I'll be gone, you'll be gone" strategies.

One step to fixing things – change the definition of long-term capital gains from the current 1 year to, say, 5 years. This "one simple trick" would fix everything from the carried interest loophole to the abuses inherent in the current Wall Street gambling mentality.

It won't happen, of course, but it'd be nice.

Tim , October 6, 2017 at 2:21 pm

We can talk about what is best in theory, but reality is just that, shareholders come first.

They control the board and the CEO and the CEO institutes the will of the shareholders down into the business entities, determining the level of reinvestment in the business units and the level of employee compensation. That will continue to be the case until the company goes bankrupt at which point shareholders are entitled to nothing.

I agree with others that Jack Welch is saying what he is saying after the fact. Way too easy to do.

a different chris , October 6, 2017 at 10:47 am

>Welch had an obsession with increasing the company's stock price and hitting quarterly earnings-per-share targets, but he also understood

Yeah so he talks a good game but when he had the reins – one of the most powerful men in the world meekly (ok, that's a hilarious adjective when applied to Jack Welsh) followed the herd. Or more accurately, found out where the herd was heading and got out in front of it. The true sign of modern "leadership".

RepubAnon , October 6, 2017 at 12:20 pm

Folks at GE back in the day nicknamed him "Neutron Jack" – if he visited a site, all the employees disappeared, leaving only the buildings standing

digi_owl , October 6, 2017 at 1:06 pm

Or more accurately, found out where the herd was heading and got out in front of it. The true sign of modern "leadership".

Reminds me of something i have read, supposedly a quite from some politician or other, going to the tune of "i need to find out where the mob is going, so i can lead them there".

Left in Wisconsin , October 6, 2017 at 1:06 pm

Welch's primary business strategy at GE was to exit every product market in which GE's market share was not in the top two in the industry (selling them off or closing them down) and reallocate resources to industries where GE was market dominant, often buying up the competition rather than truly investing in innovation. A truly awful human being.

Synoia , October 6, 2017 at 11:18 am

As I personally have always believed, Employees have more invested in their employers than shareholders. Shareholders can sell quickly and have no loyalty. Employees do not enjoy such a liquid "jobs market."

There also seems to be a turning point in companies, where they change the perception of the customers form a group to be treasured, to a group who are to b exploited – change the relationship so the customers become "marks."

I also believe there should be an almost automatic "break -up" provision for companies who reach a certain market share.

Finally there should be one definition of income, and it should include Wages, Dividends, and Capital Gains.

Vatch , October 6, 2017 at 11:27 am

there should be an almost automatic "break -up" provision for companies who reach a certain market share.

Yes, anti-trust enforcement would be nice. Hypothetical President Sanders might actually do that. Real and hypothetical Presidents Bush, Obama, Romney, B. Clinton, H. Clinton, and Trump have other priorities.

readerOfTeaLeaves , October 6, 2017 at 12:15 pm

Sen Bernie Sanders sees right through the neoclassical fetters, blinders, and bullshit. He recognizes how intellectually and economically stagnant and dangerous it is. He has the most powerful conceptual, articulate grasp of economics that I've seen the past 40 years. He also, IIRC, had MMTer Stephanie Kelton as an advisor, and had her advise the Senate Finance Committee. Also notable: Sen Elizabeth Warren.

The other political operators that you mention are still in thrall to neoclassical assumptions. They mistake 'takers' for 'makers' and are economically bamboozled. And it has worked out well for all of them, on a personal basis, so it is not surprising that they don't see the problems.

Anyone actually trying to build an innovative business, OTOH, has to see through the bamboozlement or else you're out of business pronto.

JTMcPhee , October 6, 2017 at 12:05 pm

Chicken and egg question:

The class of humans that by inclination and opportunity become C-Suite and VC looters and "owners:" did they precede the imprimatur of "economists" with their notions of price, value, and crossing of curves, or did the "economists" do a Martin Luther, nail up a bunch of theses, and preach fire and brimstone to turn the greedheads loose?

And was/is any other outcome for the species and the planet even possible?

Left in Wisconsin , October 6, 2017 at 1:14 pm

Neil Fligstein wrote a good book awhile back called The Transformation of Corporate Control that shows how most large manufacturing companies were initially run by engineers, then sales people, then finance people (as corporations came to be seen as bundles of assets as opposed to businesses). I think this transformation paralleled the rise of neoclassical economics. So, not so much "chicken-and-egg" as "class war." In Germany, at least until recently, I believe CEO's of manufacturing firms were still disproportionately engineers.

Carla , October 6, 2017 at 3:05 pm

"most large manufacturing companies were initially run by engineers, then sales people, then finance people"

The Lincoln Electric Company, which became famous for its "Incentive Management" program of compensating employees, was a client of mine. Over three decades I saw it progress through precisely those stages, and gradually lose every characteristic that had made the company unique.

readerOfTeaLeaves , October 6, 2017 at 12:30 pm

This post was a genuine pleasure to read. Especially:

If you work for a company, even if its innovative strategy is a big success, you run a big risk because under the current regime of "maximizing shareholder value" a group of hedge fund activists can suck the value that you've created right out, driving your company down and making you worse off and the company financially fragile .

And we've had a government by and for hedge fund managers for about the same amount of time that we've had economic woes. One problem is that hedge funders like Romney, who actually don't think about consumer product development, actually don't have to test and deploy products, bring their bean-counter assumptions to business and make a hash of things. I mention Romney specifically, because he presents himself to the world as a paragon of economic wisdom.

Romney has a prestigious business school background. Which makes me want to highlight this:

Innovation theory calls for changing the mindsets and skill sets of senior executives. That means transforming business education, including the replacement of agency theory with innovation theory .

JTMcPhee , October 6, 2017 at 12:59 pm

Just a thought: "innovation theory," like MMT, is maybe just a tool set? "Innovation" includes "autonomous combat devices," and CRSP-R, and nuclear weapons, and the F-35, and fracking, and derivatives, and plastics, and charter schools, stuff and ideas that for some of us constitute "value" are corporations as the category has grown to be, any more likely to "innovate" in the areas of social improvements and possibilities, or stewardship of the planet, or close down the toll stations and all the other rent collection scams and extortions they have "innovated" to date? Or release their chokehold on "policy?"

Says the proponent: "Major corporations are key to the operation and performance of the economy. So we need a revolution in corporate governance to get us back on track to stable and equitable economic growth. Besides changing board representation, I would change the incentives for top executives so they are rewarded for allocating corporate resources to value creation. Senior executives should gain along with the rest of the organization when the corporation is successful in generating competitive products while sharing the gains with workers and taxpayers." There seems to be so much wrong and just more Biz-babble about this, one hardly knows where to start unpacking.

"Major corporations are key?" Really? Monsanto? GM? Bechtel? The Big Banks? And "back on track": When has the political economy, writ small or large, ever been "on track to stability and equitable growth," said "growth' itself seemingly one of the pathologies that's killing us? And who's going to write the entries for the corporate senior executives' dance cards that will measure their "success," in those feel-good categories?

But it's a good conversation piece, and maybe an opening into Something Better, however us inherently mostly self-interested, self-pleasing omnivorous predators might define "better "

Disturbed Voter , October 6, 2017 at 12:36 pm

Badly run companies, naturally extinguish themselves. Unfortunately they take down their customers, owners, vendors and employees in the process. But the government can step in and either save a company that otherwise would die, or act as a crony corruption partner on behalf of a well connected company. Same as it always was.

But since gigantism is the norm, rather than family run farms in a mostly agrarian economy such failures are catastrophic. The linkage between these elephants tends to create systemic risk. Previously, failure was small and isolated.

JTMcPhee , October 6, 2017 at 1:06 pm

Welcome to our wonderful new world of infinite mutual vulnerability! Risk On! Nuclear weapons, Equifax, Googleamazon, NSApanopticon, FIRE, hacking, crapification The Soviet Union vanished as an entity, many starved, but the mopes there at least still knew how to raise up edible crops and live on "less" and maybe do better collective response to that sharp peak on the entropy curve. Wonder how things might play out exceptionally, here in the Empire?

allan , October 6, 2017 at 12:48 pm

It should be noted that Michael Jensen of HBS, one of the originators of the `maximize shareholder value' of corporate governance, is on some short lists for this year's not-exactly-the-Nobel Prize in Economics.

[Oct 01, 2017] Bulletproof Neoliberalism by Paul Heideman

Highly recommended!
Notable quotes:
"... Mirowski identifies three basic aspects of neoliberalism that the Left has failed to understand: the movement's intellectual history, the way it has transformed everyday life, and what constitutes opposition to it. Until we come to terms with them, Mirowski suggests, right-wing movements such as the Tea Party (a prominent player in the book) will continue to reign triumphant. ..."
"... Joining a long line of thinkers, most famously Karl Polanyi, Mirowski insists that a key error of the Left has been its failure to see that markets are always embedded in other social institutions. Neoliberals, by contrast, grasp this point with both hands -- and therefore seek to reshape all of the institutions of society, including and especially the state, to promote markets. Neoliberal ascendancy has meant not the retreat of the state so much as its remaking. ..."
"... he also recognizes that the neoliberals themselves have been canny about keeping the real nature of their project hidden through a variety of means. Neoliberal institutions tend to have what he calls a "Russian doll" structure, with the most central ones well hidden from public eyes. Mirowski coins an ironic expression, "the Neoliberal Thought Collective," for the innermost entities that formulate the movement's doctrine. The venerable Mont Pelerin Society is an NTC institution. Its ideas are frequently disseminated through venues which, formally at least, are unconnected to the center, such as academic economics departments. Thus, neoclassical economists spread the gospel of the free market while the grand project of remaking the state falls to others. ..."
"... At the same time as neoliberal commonsense trickles down from above, Mirowski argues that it also wells up from below, reinforced by our daily patterns of life. Social networking sites like Facebook encourage people to view themselves as perpetual cultural entrepreneurs, striving to offer a newer and better version of themselves to the world. Sites like LinkedIn prod their users to present themselves as a fungible basket of skills, adjustable to the needs of any employer, without any essential characteristics beyond a requisite subservience. Classical liberalism always assumes the coherent individual self as its basic unit. Neoliberalism, by contrast, sees people as little more than variable bundles of human capital, with no permanent interests or even attributes that cannot be remade through the market. For Mirowski, the proliferation of these forms of everyday neoliberalism constitute a "major reason the neoliberals have emerged from the crisis triumphant." ..."
"... Finally, Mirowski argues that the Left has too often been sucked in by neoliberalism's loyal opposition. Figures like Joseph Stiglitz or Paul Krugman, while critical of austerity and supportive of the welfare state, accept the fundamental neoclassical economic precepts at the heart of neoliberal policy. Mirowski argues that we must ditch this tradition in its entirety. Even attempts to render its assumptions more realistic -- as in the case of behavioral economics, for example, which takes account of the ways real people diverge from the hyperrationality of homo economicus -- provide little succor for those seeking to overturn the neoliberals. ..."
"... Mirowski's insistence on the centrality of the state to the neoliberal project helps correct the unfortunate tendency of many leftists over the past decade to assent to neoliberal nostrums about the obsolescence of the state. Indeed, Mirowski goes further than many other critics who have challenged the supposed retreat of the state under neoliberalism. ..."
"... Loïc Wacquant, for instance, has described the "centaur state" of neoliberalism, in which a humanist liberalism reigns for the upper classes, while the lower classes face the punitive state apparatus in all its bestiality. ..."
"... Mirowski shows us that the world of the rich under neoliberalism in no way corresponds to the laissez-faire of classical liberalism. The state does not so much leave the rich alone as actively work to reshape the world in their interests, helping to create markets for the derivatives and securities that made (and then destroyed) so many of the fortunes of the recent past. The neoliberal state is an eminently interventionist one, and those mistaking it for the austere nightwatchman of libertarian utopianism have little hope of combating it. ..."
"... Mirowski's concern to disabuse his readers of the notion that the wing of neoliberal doctrine disseminated by neoclassical economists could ever be reformed produces some of the best sections of the book. His portrait of an economics profession in haggard disarray in the aftermath of the crisis is both comic and tragic, as the amusement value of the buffoonery on display diminishes quickly when one realizes the prestige still accorded to these figures. Reading his comprehensive examination of the discipline's response to the crisis, one is reminded of Freud's famous broken kettle. The professional economists' account of their role in the crisis went something like (a) there was no bubble and (b) bubbles are impossible to predict but (c) we knew it was a bubble all along. ..."
"... Though Krugman and Stiglitz have attacked concepts like the efficient markets hypothesis (which holds that prices in a competitive financial market reflect all relevant economic information), Mirowski argues that their attempt to do so while retaining the basic theoretical architecture of neoclassicism has rendered them doubly ineffective. ..."
"... First, their adoption of the battery of assumptions that accompany most neoclassical theorizing -- about representative agents, treating information like any other commodity, and so on -- make it nearly impossible to conclusively rebut arguments like the efficient markets hypothesis. ..."
Oct 01, 2017 | www.jacobinmag.com

To understand how a body of thought became an era of capitalism requires more than intellectual history.

"What is going to come after neoliberalism?" It was the question on many radicals' lips, present writer included, after the financial crisis hit in 2008. Though few were so sanguine about our prospects as to repeat the suicidal optimism of previous radical movements ("After Hitler, Our Turn!"), the feeling of the day was that the era of unfettered marketization was coming to a close. A new period of what was loosely referred to as Keynesianism would be the inevitable result of a crisis caused by markets run amok.

Five years later, little has changed. What comes after neoliberalism? More neoliberalism, apparently. The prospects for a revived Left capable of confronting it appear grim.

Enter Philip Mirowski's Never Let a Serious Crisis Go to Waste: How Neoliberalism Survived the Financial Meltdown . Mirowski maintains that the true nature of neoliberalism has gone unrecognized by its would-be critics, allowing the doctrine to flourish even in conditions, such as a massive financial crisis, that would seem to be inimical to its survival. Leftists keep busy tilting at the windmill of deregulation as the giants of neoliberalism go on pillaging unmolested.

Mirowski identifies three basic aspects of neoliberalism that the Left has failed to understand: the movement's intellectual history, the way it has transformed everyday life, and what constitutes opposition to it. Until we come to terms with them, Mirowski suggests, right-wing movements such as the Tea Party (a prominent player in the book) will continue to reign triumphant.

The book begins with the war of ideas -- a conflict in which, Mirowski argues, the Left has been far too generous in taking neoliberals at their word, or at least their best-publicized word. We have, in effect, been suckered by kindly old Milton Friedman telling us how much better off we'd all be if the government simply left us "free to choose." But neoliberals have at times been forthright about their appreciation for the uses of state power. Markets, after all, do not simply create themselves. Joining a long line of thinkers, most famously Karl Polanyi, Mirowski insists that a key error of the Left has been its failure to see that markets are always embedded in other social institutions. Neoliberals, by contrast, grasp this point with both hands -- and therefore seek to reshape all of the institutions of society, including and especially the state, to promote markets. Neoliberal ascendancy has meant not the retreat of the state so much as its remaking.

If Mirowski is often acidic about the Left's failure to understand this point, he also recognizes that the neoliberals themselves have been canny about keeping the real nature of their project hidden through a variety of means. Neoliberal institutions tend to have what he calls a "Russian doll" structure, with the most central ones well hidden from public eyes. Mirowski coins an ironic expression, "the Neoliberal Thought Collective," for the innermost entities that formulate the movement's doctrine. The venerable Mont Pelerin Society is an NTC institution. Its ideas are frequently disseminated through venues which, formally at least, are unconnected to the center, such as academic economics departments. Thus, neoclassical economists spread the gospel of the free market while the grand project of remaking the state falls to others.

At the same time as neoliberal commonsense trickles down from above, Mirowski argues that it also wells up from below, reinforced by our daily patterns of life. Social networking sites like Facebook encourage people to view themselves as perpetual cultural entrepreneurs, striving to offer a newer and better version of themselves to the world. Sites like LinkedIn prod their users to present themselves as a fungible basket of skills, adjustable to the needs of any employer, without any essential characteristics beyond a requisite subservience. Classical liberalism always assumes the coherent individual self as its basic unit. Neoliberalism, by contrast, sees people as little more than variable bundles of human capital, with no permanent interests or even attributes that cannot be remade through the market. For Mirowski, the proliferation of these forms of everyday neoliberalism constitute a "major reason the neoliberals have emerged from the crisis triumphant."

Finally, Mirowski argues that the Left has too often been sucked in by neoliberalism's loyal opposition. Figures like Joseph Stiglitz or Paul Krugman, while critical of austerity and supportive of the welfare state, accept the fundamental neoclassical economic precepts at the heart of neoliberal policy. Mirowski argues that we must ditch this tradition in its entirety. Even attempts to render its assumptions more realistic -- as in the case of behavioral economics, for example, which takes account of the ways real people diverge from the hyperrationality of homo economicus -- provide little succor for those seeking to overturn the neoliberals.

For Mirowski, these three failures of the Left go a long way toward explaining how neoliberals have largely escaped blame for a crisis they created. The Left persistently goes after phantoms like deregulation or smaller government, which neoliberals easily parry by pointing out that the regulatory apparatus has never been bigger. At the same time, we ignore the deep roots of neoliberal ideology in everyday life, deceiving ourselves as to the scale of the task in front of us.

Whatever criticisms of Mirowski's analysis are in order, much of it is compelling, particularly in regard to the intellectual history of the NTC. Mirowski's insistence on the centrality of the state to the neoliberal project helps correct the unfortunate tendency of many leftists over the past decade to assent to neoliberal nostrums about the obsolescence of the state. Indeed, Mirowski goes further than many other critics who have challenged the supposed retreat of the state under neoliberalism.

Loïc Wacquant, for instance, has described the "centaur state" of neoliberalism, in which a humanist liberalism reigns for the upper classes, while the lower classes face the punitive state apparatus in all its bestiality. But Mirowski shows us that the world of the rich under neoliberalism in no way corresponds to the laissez-faire of classical liberalism. The state does not so much leave the rich alone as actively work to reshape the world in their interests, helping to create markets for the derivatives and securities that made (and then destroyed) so many of the fortunes of the recent past. The neoliberal state is an eminently interventionist one, and those mistaking it for the austere nightwatchman of libertarian utopianism have little hope of combating it.

It's here that we begin to see the strategic genius of neoliberal infrastructure, with its teams of college economics professors teaching the wondrous efficacy of supply and demand on the one hand, and the think tanks and policy shops engaged in the relentless pursuit of state power on the other. The Left too often sees inconsistency where in fact there is a division of labor.

Mirowski's concern to disabuse his readers of the notion that the wing of neoliberal doctrine disseminated by neoclassical economists could ever be reformed produces some of the best sections of the book. His portrait of an economics profession in haggard disarray in the aftermath of the crisis is both comic and tragic, as the amusement value of the buffoonery on display diminishes quickly when one realizes the prestige still accorded to these figures. Reading his comprehensive examination of the discipline's response to the crisis, one is reminded of Freud's famous broken kettle. The professional economists' account of their role in the crisis went something like (a) there was no bubble and (b) bubbles are impossible to predict but (c) we knew it was a bubble all along.

Incoherence notwithstanding, however, little in the discipline has changed in the wake of the crisis. Mirowski thinks that this is at least in part a result of the impotence of the loyal opposition -- those economists such as Joseph Stiglitz or Paul Krugman who attempt to oppose the more viciously neoliberal articulations of economic theory from within the camp of neoclassical economics. Though Krugman and Stiglitz have attacked concepts like the efficient markets hypothesis (which holds that prices in a competitive financial market reflect all relevant economic information), Mirowski argues that their attempt to do so while retaining the basic theoretical architecture of neoclassicism has rendered them doubly ineffective.

First, their adoption of the battery of assumptions that accompany most neoclassical theorizing -- about representative agents, treating information like any other commodity, and so on -- make it nearly impossible to conclusively rebut arguments like the efficient markets hypothesis. Instead, they end up tinkering with it, introducing a nuance here or a qualification there. This tinkering causes their arguments to be more or less ignored in neoclassical pedagogy, as economists more favorably inclined toward hard neoliberal arguments can easily ignore such revisions and hold that the basic thrust of the theory is still correct. Stiglitz's and Krugman's arguments, while receiving circulation through the popular press, utterly fail to transform the discipline.

Mirowski also heaps scorn on the suggestion, sometimes made in leftist circles, that the problem at the heart of neoclassical economics is its assumption of a hyperrational homo economicus , relentlessly comparing equilibrium states and maximizing utility. Though such a revision may be appealing to a certain radical romanticism, Mirowski shows that a good deal of work going on under the label of behavioral economics has performed just this revision, and has come up with results that don't differ substantively from those of the mainstream. The main problem with neoclassicism isn't its theory of the human agent but rather its the theory of the market -- which is precisely what behavioral economics isn't interested in contesting.

In all, Mirowski's indictment of the state of economic theory and its imbrication with the neoliberal project is devastating. Unfortunately, he proves much less successful in explaining why things have turned out as they have. The book ascribes tremendous power to the Neoliberal Thought Collective, which somehow manages to do everything from controlling the economics profession to reshaping the state to forging a new sense of the human self. The reader is left wondering how the NTC came to acquire such power. This leads to the book's central flaw: a lack of any theory of the structure of modern capitalism. Indeed, the NTC seems to operate in something of a vacuum, without ever confronting other institutions or groups, such as the state or popular movements, with interests and agendas of their own.

To be fair, Mirowski does offer an explanation for the failure of popular movements to challenge neoliberalism, largely through his account of "everyday" neoliberalism. At its strongest, the book identifies important strategic failures, such as Occupy's embrace of "a mimicry of media technologies as opposed to concerted political mobilization." However, Mirowski extends the argument well beyond a specific failure of the Occupy movement to propose a general thesis that developments like Facebook and reality TV have transmitted neoliberal ideology to people who have never read Friedman and Hayek. In claiming that this embodied or embedded ideology plays an important role in the failure of the Left, he places far more explanatory weight on the concept of everyday neoliberalism than it is capable of bearing.

At the simplest level, it's just not clear that everyday neoliberalism constitutes the kind of block to political action that Mirowski thinks it does. No doubt, many people reading this article right now simultaneously have another browser tab open to monster.com or LinkedIn, where they are striving to present themselves as a fungible basket of skills to any employer that will have them. In this economy, everyone has to hustle, and that means using all available means. That many of these same readers have probably also done things like organize against foreclosures should give pause to any blurring of the distinction between using various media technologies and embracing the ideology Mirowski sees embodied in them.

Indeed, the ubiquity of participation in such technologies by people who support, oppose, or are apathetic about neoliberalism points to a larger phenomenon on which Mirowski is silent: the labor market. Put bluntly, it is difficult to imagine anyone engaging in the painfully strained self-advertisement facilitated by LinkedIn in a labor market with, say, 2-percent unemployment. In such a market, in which employers were competing for comparatively scarce workers, there would be very little need for those workers to go through the self-abasing ritual of converting themselves into fungible baskets of skills. In our current situation, by contrast, where secure and remunerative employment is comparatively scarce, it is no surprise that people turn to whatever technologies are available to attempt to sell themselves. As Joan Robinson put it, the only thing worse than being exploited by capitalism is not being exploited by it.

In evaluating the role of everyday neoliberalism, it is also helpful to move, for the moment, beyond the perspective of the United States, where the NTC has clearly had great success, and adopt that of countries where resistance is significantly more developed, such as Venezuela or South Africa. Especially in the former, popular movements have been notably successful in combating neoliberal efforts to take over the state and reshape the economy, and have instead pushed the country in the opposite direction. Is it really plausible that a main reason for this difference is that everyday neoliberalism is more intense in the United States? I doubt it. For one thing, the strength of Venezuela's radical movements, in comparison with the US, clearly antedates the developments (social media, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo , and so on) that Mirowski discusses.

Moreover, it is just as plausible that the entrepreneurial culture he describes is even more extensive in the slums of the global South, where neoliberal devastation has forced many poor households to rely on at least one family member engaging in semi-legal arbitrage in goods salvaged from garbage or made at home. Surely such activities provide a firmer foundation for commercial subjectivity than having a 401(k). That resistance has grown in such circumstances suggests that looking to malignant subjectivities to explain popular passivity is an analytic dead-end.

If everyday neoliberalism doesn't explain the comparative weakness of the US left, what does? This is, of course, the key question, and I can do no more than gesture at an answer here. But I would suggest that the specific histories of the institutions of the American left, from the Communist Party to Students for a Democratic Society to labor unions, and the histories of the situations they confronted, provide us with a more solid foundation for understanding our current weakness than the hegemony of neoliberal culture does. Moreover, with a theory of capitalism that emphasizes the way the structure of the system makes it both necessary and very difficult for most people to organize to advance their interests, it becomes very easy to explain the persistence of a low level of popular mobilization against neoliberalism in the context of a weakened left.

If Mirowski's account doesn't give us a good basis for explaining why popular resistance has been so lacking in the US, it nonetheless suggests why he is so concerned with explaining the supposed dominance of neoliberal ideology among the general population. From the beginning, he raises the specter of right-wing resurgence, whether in the form of Scott Walker surviving the recall campaign in Wisconsin, the Tea Party mania of 2010, or the success of right-wing parties in Europe. However, much of this seems overstated, especially from a contemporary perspective. The Tea Party has, for all intents and purposes, disappeared from the front lines of American politics, and the Republican Party, while capable of enacting all kinds of sadistic policies on the state level, has remained in a state of disarray on the national level since the 2006 congressional elections.

More fundamentally, the argument that the voting public embraces neoliberalism doesn't square well with recent research by political scientists like Larry Bartels and Martin Gilens emphasizing the profound disconnect between the policy preferences of the poor and what transpires in Washington. What appears to be happening is less the general populace's incorporation into neoliberalism than their exclusion from any institutions that would allow them to change it. Importantly, this alternative explanation does not rely on the Left conceit that rebellion lurks perpetually just below the placid social surface, ready to explode into radical insurgency at any moment. It simply contends that the political passivity of neoliberalism's victims reflects a real diminution of their political options.

Mirowski's failure to address these larger institutional and structural dynamics vitiates much of the explanatory power of his book. On a purely descriptive level, the sections on the intellectual history of neoliberalism and the non-crisis of neoclassical economics illuminate many of the hidden corners of neoliberal ideology. However, if Mirowski is right to suggest that we need to understand neoliberalism better to be successful in fighting it -- and he surely is -- then much more is needed to explain neoliberal success and Left failure.

To understand how a body of thought became an era of capitalism requires more than intellectual history. It demands an account of how capitalism actually works in the period in question, and how the ideas of a small group of intellectuals came to be the policy preferences of the rich. Mirowski has given us an excellent foundation for understanding the doctrine, but it will remain for others to explain its actual development.

https://staticxx.facebook.com/connect/xd_arbiter/r/Z2duorNoYeF.js?version=42#channel=f1c0e2812ec10f6&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.jacobinmag.com

[Sep 25, 2017] Free market as a neoliberal myth, the cornerstone of neoliberalism as a secular religion

Highly recommended!
Notable quotes:
"... Two of my criticisms about Krugman/Friedman, etc is that is 'free markets' are supposed to substitute for policy in the government sphere. Except very telling except when we're talking about funding the security state. ..."
"... The other is that the real power of markets is that in a real free market (not a Potemkin one) decisions are made often at the point where needs, information, incentives, and economic power come together. But where the large scale decisions the governments have to make, markets fail. Policy though doesn't. But Neoliberals hate policy. ..."
"... Well, duh. "Policy" and "Capitalism" don't go together and never have. When you enact policy, you destroy the ability to make profit and you get the 1970's. ..."
"... Free market is a neoliberal myth, the cornerstone of neoliberalism as a secular religion. Somewhat similar to "Immaculate Conception" in Catholicism. ..."
"... In reality market almost by definition is controlled by government, who enforces the rules and punish for the transgressions. ..."
"... Also note interesting Orwellian "corruption of the language" trick neoliberals use: neoliberals talk about "free market, not "fair market". ..."
"... After 2008 few are buying this fairy tale about how markets can operate and can solve society problems independently of political power, and state's instruments of violence (the police and the military). This myths is essentially dead. ..."
"... Friedmanism is this sense a flavor of economic Lysenkoism. Note that Lysenko like Friedman was not a complete charlatan. Some of his ideas were pretty sound and withstood the test of time. But that does not make his less evil. ..."
Jan 06, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com
anne -> Paul Mathis... , December 31, 2016 at 07:09 PM
Krugman's refusal to endorse fiscal stimulus unless the economy is at zero lower bound. That is not only anti-Keynesian, it plays directly into the hands of the debt fear mongers. (Krugman is also worried about the debt.)

[ Only correct to a degree, economic weakness is recognized. ]

Gibbon1 -> anne... , December 31, 2016 at 10:21 PM
Two of my criticisms about Krugman/Friedman, etc is that is 'free markets' are supposed to substitute for policy in the government sphere. Except very telling except when we're talking about funding the security state.

The other is that the real power of markets is that in a real free market (not a Potemkin one) decisions are made often at the point where needs, information, incentives, and economic power come together. But where the large scale decisions the governments have to make, markets fail. Policy though doesn't. But Neoliberals hate policy.

AngloSaxon -> Gibbon1... , January 01, 2017 at 06:08 PM
Well, duh. "Policy" and "Capitalism" don't go together and never have. When you enact policy, you destroy the ability to make profit and you get the 1970's.
likbez -> Gibbon1... , -1
Free market is a neoliberal myth, the cornerstone of neoliberalism as a secular religion. Somewhat similar to "Immaculate Conception" in Catholicism.

In reality market almost by definition is controlled by government, who enforces the rules and punish for the transgressions.

Also note interesting Orwellian "corruption of the language" trick neoliberals use: neoliberals talk about "free market, not "fair market".

After 2008 few are buying this fairy tale about how markets can operate and can solve society problems independently of political power, and state's instruments of violence (the police and the military). This myths is essentially dead.

But like Adventists did not disappear when the Second Coming of Christ did not occurred in predicted timeframe, neoliberals did not did not disappeared after 2008 either. And neither did neoliberalism, it just entered into zombie, more bloodthirsty stage.

The fact that even the term "neoliberalism" is prohibited in the US MSM also helped. It is king of stealth ideology, unlike say, Marxists, neoliberals do not like to identify themselves as such. The behave more like members of some secret society, free market masons.

Friedmanism is this sense a flavor of economic Lysenkoism. Note that Lysenko like Friedman was not a complete charlatan. Some of his ideas were pretty sound and withstood the test of time. But that does not make his less evil.

And for those who try to embellish this person, I would remind his role in 1973 Chilean coup d'état ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1973_Chilean_coup_d%27%C3%A9tat ) and bringing Pinochet to power. His "Chicago boys" played a vital role in the events. This man did has blood on his hands.

http://www.bidstrup.com/economics.htm

Of course, bringing a reign of terror to Chile was not why the CIA had sponsored him. The reason he was there was to reverse the gains of the Allende social democracy and return control of the country's economic and political assets to the oligarchy. Pinochet was convinced, through supporters among the academics in the elite Chilean universities, to try a new series of economic policies, called "neoliberal" by their founders, the economists of the University of Chicago, led by an economist by the name of Milton Friedman, who three years later would go on to win a Nobel Prize in Economics for what he was about to unleash upon Chile.

Friedman and his colleagues were referred to by the Chileans as "the Chicago Boys." The term originally meant the economists from the University of Chicago, but as time went on, as their policies began to disliquidate the middle class and poor, it took on a perjorative meaning. That was because as the reforms were implemented, and began to take hold, the results were not what Friedman and company had been predicting. But what were the reforms?

The reforms were what has come to be called "neoliberalism." To understand what "neoliberal" economics is, one must first understand what "liberal" economics are, and so we'll digress briefly from our look at Chile for a quick

[Sep 19, 2017] Neoliberalism: the idea that swallowed the world by Stephen Metcalf

Highly recommended!
Notable quotes:
"... The word ["neoliberalism"] has become a rhetorical weapon, but it properly names the reigning ideology of our era – one that venerates the logic of the market and strips away the things that make us human. ..."
"... Last summer, researchers at the International Monetary Fund settled a long and bitter debate over "neoliberalism": they admitted it exists. Three senior economists at the IMF, an organisation not known for its incaution, published a paper questioning the benefits of neoliberalism ..."
"... The paper gently called out a "neoliberal agenda" for pushing deregulation on economies around the world, for forcing open national markets to trade and capital, and for demanding that governments shrink themselves via austerity or privatisation. The authors cited statistical evidence for the spread of neoliberal policies since 1980, and their correlation with anaemic growth, boom-and-bust cycles and inequality. ..."
"... In the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, it was a way of assigning responsibility for the debacle, not to a political party per se, but to an establishment that had conceded its authority to the market. For the Democrats in the US and Labour in the UK, this concession was depicted as a grotesque betrayal of principle. Bill Clinton and Tony Blair, it was said, had abandoned the left's traditional commitments, especially to workers, in favour of a global financial elite and the self-serving policies that enriched them; and in doing so, had enabled a sickening rise in inequality. ..."
"... Peer through the lens of neoliberalism and you see more clearly how the political thinkers most admired by Thatcher and Reagan helped shape the ideal of society as a kind of universal market ..."
"... Of course the goal was to weaken the welfare state and any commitment to full employment, and – always – to cut taxes and deregulate. But "neoliberalism" indicates something more than a standard rightwing wish list. It was a way of reordering social reality, and of rethinking our status as individuals. ..."
"... In short, "neoliberalism" is not simply a name for pro-market policies, or for the compromises with finance capitalism made by failing social democratic parties. It is a name for a premise that, quietly, has come to regulate all we practise and believe: that competition is the only legitimate organising principle for human activity. ..."
"... No sooner had neoliberalism been certified as real, and no sooner had it made clear the universal hypocrisy of the market, than the populists and authoritarians came to power ..."
"... Against the forces of global integration, national identity is being reasserted, and in the crudest possible terms. What could the militant parochialism of Brexit Britain and Trumpist America have to do with neoliberal rationality? ..."
"... It isn't only that the free market produces a tiny cadre of winners and an enormous army of losers – and the losers, looking for revenge, have turned to Brexit and Trump. There was, from the beginning, an inevitable relationship between the utopian ideal of the free market and the dystopian present in which we find ourselves; ..."
"... That Hayek is considered the grandfather of neoliberalism – a style of thought that reduces everything to economics – is a little ironic given that he was such a mediocre economist. ..."
"... This last is what makes neoliberalism "neo". It is a crucial modification of the older belief in a free market and a minimal state, known as "classical liberalism". In classical liberalism, merchants simply asked the state to "leave us alone" – to laissez-nous faire. Neoliberalism recognised that the state must be active in the organisation of a market economy. The conditions allowing for a free market must be won politically, and the state must be re-engineered to support the free market on an ongoing basis. ..."
"... Hayek had only his idea to console him; an idea so grand it would one day dissolve the ground beneath the feet of Keynes and every other intellectual. Left to its own devices, the price system functions as a kind of mind. And not just any mind, but an omniscient one: the market computes what individuals cannot grasp. Reaching out to him as an intellectual comrade-in-arms, the American journalist Walter Lippmann wrote to Hayek, saying: "No human mind has ever understood the whole scheme of a society At best a mind can understand its own version of the scheme, something much thinner, which bears to reality some such relation as a silhouette to a man." ..."
"... The only social end is the maintenance of the market itself. In its omniscience, the market constitutes the only legitimate form of knowledge, next to which all other modes of reflection are partial, in both senses of the word: they comprehend only a fragment of a whole and they plead on behalf of a special interest. Individually, our values are personal ones, or mere opinions; collectively, the market converts them into prices, or objective facts. ..."
"... According to the logic of Hayek's Big Idea, these expressions of human subjectivity are meaningless without ratification by the market ..."
"... ociety reconceived as a giant market leads to a public life lost to bickering over mere opinions; until the public turns, finally, in frustration to a strongman as a last resort for solving its otherwise intractable problems. ..."
"... What began as a new form of intellectual authority, rooted in a devoutly apolitical worldview, nudged easily into an ultra-reactionary politics ..."
Aug 18, 2017 | www.theguardian.com

The word ["neoliberalism"] has become a rhetorical weapon, but it properly names the reigning ideology of our era – one that venerates the logic of the market and strips away the things that make us human.

Last summer, researchers at the International Monetary Fund settled a long and bitter debate over "neoliberalism": they admitted it exists. Three senior economists at the IMF, an organisation not known for its incaution, published a paper questioning the benefits of neoliberalism . In so doing, they helped put to rest the idea that the word is nothing more than a political slur, or a term without any analytic power. The paper gently called out a "neoliberal agenda" for pushing deregulation on economies around the world, for forcing open national markets to trade and capital, and for demanding that governments shrink themselves via austerity or privatisation. The authors cited statistical evidence for the spread of neoliberal policies since 1980, and their correlation with anaemic growth, boom-and-bust cycles and inequality.

Neoliberalism is an old term, dating back to the 1930s, but it has been revived as a way of describing our current politics – or more precisely, the range of thought allowed by our politics . In the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, it was a way of assigning responsibility for the debacle, not to a political party per se, but to an establishment that had conceded its authority to the market. For the Democrats in the US and Labour in the UK, this concession was depicted as a grotesque betrayal of principle. Bill Clinton and Tony Blair, it was said, had abandoned the left's traditional commitments, especially to workers, in favour of a global financial elite and the self-serving policies that enriched them; and in doing so, had enabled a sickening rise in inequality.

Neoliberalism: the idea that swallowed the world – podcast

Over the past few years, as debates have turned uglier, the word has become a rhetorical weapon, a way for anyone left of centre to incriminate those even an inch to their right. (No wonder centrists say it's a meaningless insult: they're the ones most meaningfully insulted by it.) But "neoliberalism" is more than a gratifyingly righteous jibe. It is also, in its way, a pair of eyeglasses.

Peer through the lens of neoliberalism and you see more clearly how the political thinkers most admired by Thatcher and Reagan helped shape the ideal of society as a kind of universal market (and not, for example, a polis, a civil sphere or a kind of family) and of human beings as profit-and-loss calculators (and not bearers of grace, or of inalienable rights and duties). Of course the goal was to weaken the welfare state and any commitment to full employment, and – always – to cut taxes and deregulate. But "neoliberalism" indicates something more than a standard rightwing wish list. It was a way of reordering social reality, and of rethinking our status as individuals.

Still peering through the lens, you see how, no less than the welfare state, the free market is a human invention. You see how pervasively we are now urged to think of ourselves as proprietors of our own talents and initiative, how glibly we are told to compete and adapt. You see the extent to which a language formerly confined to chalkboard simplifications describing commodity markets (competition, perfect information, rational behaviour) has been applied to all of society, until it has invaded the grit of our personal lives, and how the attitude of the salesman has become enmeshed in all modes of self-expression.

In short, "neoliberalism" is not simply a name for pro-market policies, or for the compromises with finance capitalism made by failing social democratic parties. It is a name for a premise that, quietly, has come to regulate all we practise and believe: that competition is the only legitimate organising principle for human activity.

No sooner had neoliberalism been certified as real, and no sooner had it made clear the universal hypocrisy of the market, than the populists and authoritarians came to power. In the US, Hillary Clinton, the neoliberal arch-villain, lost – and to a man who knew just enough to pretend he hated free trade . So are the eyeglasses now useless? Can they do anything to help us understand what is broken about British and American politics? Against the forces of global integration, national identity is being reasserted, and in the crudest possible terms. What could the militant parochialism of Brexit Britain and Trumpist America have to do with neoliberal rationality? What possible connection is there between the president – a freewheeling boob – and the bloodless paragon of efficiency known as the free market?

It isn't only that the free market produces a tiny cadre of winners and an enormous army of losers – and the losers, looking for revenge, have turned to Brexit and Trump. There was, from the beginning, an inevitable relationship between the utopian ideal of the free market and the dystopian present in which we find ourselves; between the market as unique discloser of value and guardian of liberty, and our current descent into post-truth and illiberalism.

Moving the stale debate about neoliberalism forward begins, I think, with taking seriously the measure of its cumulative effect on all of us, regardless of affiliation. And this requires returning to its origins, which have nothing to do with Bill or Hillary Clinton. There once was a group of people who did call themselves neoliberals, and did so proudly, and their ambition was a total revolution in thought. The most prominent among them, Friedrich Hayek, did not think he was staking out a position on the political spectrum, or making excuses for the fatuous rich, or tinkering along the edges of microeconomics.

He thought he was solving the problem of modernity: the problem of objective knowledge. For Hayek, the market didn't just facilitate trade in goods and services; it revealed truth. How did his ambition collapse into its opposite – the mind-bending possibility that, thanks to our thoughtless veneration of the free market, truth might be driven from public life altogether?


When the idea occurred to Friedrich Hayek in 1936, he knew, with the conviction of a "sudden illumination", that he had struck upon something new. "How can the combination of fragments of knowledge existing in different minds," he wrote, "bring about results which, if they were to be brought about deliberately, would require a knowledge on the part of the directing mind which no single person can possess?"

This was not a technical point about interest rates or deflationary slumps. This was not a reactionary polemic against collectivism or the welfare state. This was a way of birthing a new world. To his mounting excitement, Hayek understood that the market could be thought of as a kind of mind.

Adam Smith's "invisible hand" had already given us the modern conception of the market: as an autonomous sphere of human activity and therefore, potentially, a valid object of scientific knowledge. But Smith was, until the end of his life, an 18th-century moralist. He thought the market could be justified only in light of individual virtue, and he was anxious that a society governed by nothing but transactional self-interest was no society at all. Neoliberalism is Adam Smith without the anxiety.

That Hayek is considered the grandfather of neoliberalism – a style of thought that reduces everything to economics – is a little ironic given that he was such a mediocre economist. He was just a young, obscure Viennese technocrat when he was recruited to the London School of Economics to compete with, or possibly even dim, the rising star of John Maynard Keynes at Cambridge.

The plan backfired, and Hayek lost out to Keynes in a rout. Keynes's General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, published in 1936, was greeted as a masterpiece. It dominated the public discussion, especially among young English economists in training, for whom the brilliant, dashing, socially connected Keynes was a beau idéal . By the end of the second world war, many prominent free-marketers had come around to Keynes's way of thinking, conceding that government might play a role in managing a modern economy. The initial excitement over Hayek had dissipated. His peculiar notion that doing nothing could cure an economic depression had been discredited in theory and practice. He later admitted that he wished his work criticising Keynes would simply be forgotten.

... Hayek built into neoliberalism the assumption that the market provides all necessary protection against the one real political danger: totalitarianism. To prevent this, the state need only keep the market free.

This last is what makes neoliberalism "neo". It is a crucial modification of the older belief in a free market and a minimal state, known as "classical liberalism". In classical liberalism, merchants simply asked the state to "leave us alone" – to laissez-nous faire. Neoliberalism recognised that the state must be active in the organisation of a market economy. The conditions allowing for a free market must be won politically, and the state must be re-engineered to support the free market on an ongoing basis.

That isn't all: every aspect of democratic politics, from the choices of voters to the decisions of politicians, must be submitted to a purely economic analysis. The lawmaker is obliged to leave well enough alone – to not distort the natural actions of the marketplace – and so, ideally, the state provides a fixed, neutral, universal legal framework within which market forces operate spontaneously. The conscious direction of government is never preferable to the "automatic mechanism of adjustment" – ie the price system, which is not only efficient but maximises liberty, or the opportunity for men and women to make free choices about their own lives.

As Keynes jetted between London and Washington, creating the postwar order, Hayek sat pouting in Cambridge. He had been sent there during the wartime evacuations; and he complained that he was surrounded by "foreigners" and "no lack of orientals of all kinds" and "Europeans of practically all nationalities, but very few of real intelligence".

Stuck in England, without influence or respect, Hayek had only his idea to console him; an idea so grand it would one day dissolve the ground beneath the feet of Keynes and every other intellectual. Left to its own devices, the price system functions as a kind of mind. And not just any mind, but an omniscient one: the market computes what individuals cannot grasp. Reaching out to him as an intellectual comrade-in-arms, the American journalist Walter Lippmann wrote to Hayek, saying: "No human mind has ever understood the whole scheme of a society At best a mind can understand its own version of the scheme, something much thinner, which bears to reality some such relation as a silhouette to a man."

It is a grand epistemological claim – that the market is a way of knowing, one that radically exceeds the capacity of any individual mind. Such a market is less a human contrivance, to be manipulated like any other, than a force to be studied and placated. Economics ceases to be a technique – as Keynes believed it to be – for achieving desirable social ends, such as growth or stable money. The only social end is the maintenance of the market itself. In its omniscience, the market constitutes the only legitimate form of knowledge, next to which all other modes of reflection are partial, in both senses of the word: they comprehend only a fragment of a whole and they plead on behalf of a special interest. Individually, our values are personal ones, or mere opinions; collectively, the market converts them into prices, or objective facts.

... ... ...

The more Hayek's idea expands, the more reactionary it gets, the more it hides behind its pretence of scientific neutrality – and the more it allows economics to link up with the major intellectual trend of the west since the 17th century. The rise of modern science generated a problem: if the world is universally obedient to natural laws, what does it mean to be human? Is a human being simply an object in the world, like any other? There appears to be no way to assimilate the subjective, interior human experience into nature as science conceives it – as something objective whose rules we discover by observation.

... ... ...

More than anyone, even Hayek himself, it was the great postwar Chicago economist Milton Friedman who helped convert governments and politicians to the power of Hayek's Big Idea. But first he broke with two centuries of precedent and declared that economics is "in principle independent of any particular ethical position or normative judgments" and is "an 'objective' science, in precisely the same sense as any of the physical sciences". Values of the old, mental, normative kind were defective, they were "differences about which men can ultimately only fight". There is the market, in other words, and there is relativism.

Markets may be human facsimiles of natural systems, and like the universe itself, they may be authorless and valueless. But the application of Hayek's Big Idea to every aspect of our lives negates what is most distinctive about us. That is, it assigns what is most human about human beings – our minds and our volition – to algorithms and markets, leaving us to mimic, zombie-like, the shrunken idealisations of economic models. Supersizing Hayek's idea and radically upgrading the price system into a kind of social omniscience means radically downgrading the importance of our individual capacity to reason – our ability to provide and evaluate justifications for our actions and beliefs.

As a result, the public sphere – the space where we offer up reasons, and contest the reasons of others – ceases to be a space for deliberation, and becomes a market in clicks, likes and retweets. The internet is personal preference magnified by algorithm; a pseudo-public space that echoes the voice already inside our head. Rather than a space of debate in which we make our way, as a society, toward consensus, now there is a mutual-affirmation apparatus banally referred to as a "marketplace of ideas". What looks like something public and lucid is only an extension of our own pre-existing opinions, prejudices and beliefs, while the authority of institutions and experts has been displaced by the aggregative logic of big data. When we access the world through a search engine, its results are ranked, as the founder of Google puts it, "recursively" – by an infinity of individual users functioning as a market, continuously and in real time.

... ... ...

According to the logic of Hayek's Big Idea, these expressions of human subjectivity are meaningless without ratification by the market – as Friedman said, they are nothing but relativism, each as good as any other. When the only objective truth is determined by the market, all other values have the status of mere opinions; everything else is relativist hot air. But Friedman's "relativism" is a charge that can be thrown at any claim based on human reason. It is a nonsense insult, as all humanistic pursuits are "relative" in a way the sciences are not. They are relative to the (private) condition of having a mind, and the (public) need to reason and understand even when we can't expect scientific proof. When our debates are no longer resolved by deliberation over reasons, then the whimsies of power will determine the outcome.

This is where the triumph of neoliberalism meets the political nightmare we are living through now. "You had one job," the old joke goes, and Hayek's grand project, as originally conceived in 30s and 40s, was explicitly designed to prevent a backslide into political chaos and fascism. But the Big Idea was always this abomination waiting to happen. It was, from the beginning, pregnant with the thing it was said to protect against. Society reconceived as a giant market leads to a public life lost to bickering over mere opinions; until the public turns, finally, in frustration to a strongman as a last resort for solving its otherwise intractable problems.

... ... ...

What began as a new form of intellectual authority, rooted in a devoutly apolitical worldview, nudged easily into an ultra-reactionary politics. What can't be quantified must not be real, says the economist, and how do you measure the benefits of the core faiths of the enlightenment – namely, critical reasoning, personal autonomy and democratic self-government? When we abandoned, for its embarrassing residue of subjectivity, reason as a form of truth, and made science the sole arbiter of both the real and the true, we created a void that pseudo-science was happy to fill.

... ... ...

[Sep 19, 2017] Neoliberalism: the deep story that lies beneath Donald Trumps triumph: How a ruthless network of super-rich ideologues killed choice and destroyed people's faith in politics by George Monbiot

Highly recommended!
Notable quotes:
"... The book was The Constitution of Liberty by Frederick Hayek . Its publication, in 1960, marked the transition from an honest, if extreme, philosophy to an outright racket. The philosophy was called neoliberalism . It saw competition as the defining characteristic of human relations. The market would discover a natural hierarchy of winners and losers, creating a more efficient system than could ever be devised through planning or by design. Anything that impeded this process, such as significant tax, regulation, trade union activity or state provision, was counter-productive. Unrestricted entrepreneurs would create the wealth that would trickle down to everyone. ..."
"... But by the time Hayek came to write The Constitution of Liberty, the network of lobbyists and thinkers he had founded was being lavishly funded by multimillionaires who saw the doctrine as a means of defending themselves against democracy. Not every aspect of the neoliberal programme advanced their interests. Hayek, it seems, set out to close the gap. ..."
"... He begins the book by advancing the narrowest possible conception of liberty: an absence of coercion. He rejects such notions as political freedom, universal rights, human equality and the distribution of wealth, all of which, by restricting the behaviour of the wealthy and powerful, intrude on the absolute freedom from coercion he demands. ..."
"... The general thrust is about the gradual hollowing out of the middle class (or more affluent working class, depending on the analytical terms being used), about insecurity, stress, casualisation, rising wage inequality. ..."
"... So Hayek, I feel, is like many theoreticians, in that he seems to want a pure world that will function according to a simple and universal law. The world never was, and never will be that simple, and current economics simply continues to have a blindspot for externalities that overwhelm the logic of an unfettered so-called free market. ..."
"... "Neoliberalism" is entirely compatible with "growth of the state". Reagan greatly enlarged the state. He privatized several functions and it actually had the effect of increasing spending. ..."
"... As for the rest, it's the usual practice of gathering every positive metric available and somehow attributing it to neoliberalism, no matter how tenuous the threads, and as always with zero rigour. Supposedly capitalism alone doubled life expectancy, supports billions of extra lives, invented the railways, and provides the drugs and equipment that keep us alive. As though public education, vaccines, antibiotics, and massive availability of energy has nothing to do with those things. ..."
"... I think the damage was done when the liberal left co-opted neo-liberalism. What happened under Bill Clinton was the development of crony capitalism where for example the US banks were told to lower their credit standards to lend to people who couldn't really afford to service the loans. ..."
Nov 16, 2017 | www.theguardian.com
he events that led to Donald Trump's election started in England in 1975. At a meeting a few months after Margaret Thatcher became leader of the Conservative party, one of her colleagues, or so the story goes, was explaining what he saw as the core beliefs of conservatism. She snapped open her handbag, pulled out a dog-eared book, and slammed it on the table . "This is what we believe," she said. A political revolution that would sweep the world had begun.

The book was The Constitution of Liberty by Frederick Hayek . Its publication, in 1960, marked the transition from an honest, if extreme, philosophy to an outright racket. The philosophy was called neoliberalism . It saw competition as the defining characteristic of human relations. The market would discover a natural hierarchy of winners and losers, creating a more efficient system than could ever be devised through planning or by design. Anything that impeded this process, such as significant tax, regulation, trade union activity or state provision, was counter-productive. Unrestricted entrepreneurs would create the wealth that would trickle down to everyone.

This, at any rate, is how it was originally conceived. But by the time Hayek came to write The Constitution of Liberty, the network of lobbyists and thinkers he had founded was being lavishly funded by multimillionaires who saw the doctrine as a means of defending themselves against democracy. Not every aspect of the neoliberal programme advanced their interests. Hayek, it seems, set out to close the gap.

He begins the book by advancing the narrowest possible conception of liberty: an absence of coercion. He rejects such notions as political freedom, universal rights, human equality and the distribution of wealth, all of which, by restricting the behaviour of the wealthy and powerful, intrude on the absolute freedom from coercion he demands.

Democracy, by contrast, "is not an ultimate or absolute value". In fact, liberty depends on preventing the majority from exercising choice over the direction that politics and society might take.

He justifies this position by creating a heroic narrative of extreme wealth. He conflates the economic elite, spending their money in new ways, with philosophical and scientific pioneers. Just as the political philosopher should be free to think the unthinkable, so the very rich should be free to do the undoable, without constraint by public interest or public opinion.

The ultra rich are "scouts", "experimenting with new styles of living", who blaze the trails that the rest of society will follow. The progress of society depends on the liberty of these "independents" to gain as much money as they want and spend it how they wish. All that is good and useful, therefore, arises from inequality. There should be no connection between merit and reward, no distinction made between earned and unearned income, and no limit to the rents they can charge.

Inherited wealth is more socially useful than earned wealth: "the idle rich", who don't have to work for their money, can devote themselves to influencing "fields of thought and opinion, of tastes and beliefs". Even when they seem to be spending money on nothing but "aimless display", they are in fact acting as society's vanguard.

Hayek softened his opposition to monopolies and hardened his opposition to trade unions. He lambasted progressive taxation and attempts by the state to raise the general welfare of citizens. He insisted that there is "an overwhelming case against a free health service for all" and dismissed the conservation of natural resources. It should come as no surprise to those who follow such matters that he was awarded the Nobel prize for economics .

By the time Thatcher slammed his book on the table, a lively network of thinktanks, lobbyists and academics promoting Hayek's doctrines had been established on both sides of the Atlantic, abundantly financed by some of the world's richest people and businesses , including DuPont, General Electric, the Coors brewing company, Charles Koch, Richard Mellon Scaife, Lawrence Fertig, the William Volker Fund and the Earhart Foundation. Using psychology and linguistics to brilliant effect, the thinkers these people sponsored found the words and arguments required to turn Hayek's anthem to the elite into a plausible political programme.

Thatcherism and Reaganism were not ideologies in their own right: they were just two faces of neoliberalism. Their massive tax cuts for the rich, crushing of trade unions, reduction in public housing, deregulation, privatisation, outsourcing and competition in public services were all proposed by Hayek and his disciples. But the real triumph of this network was not its capture of the right, but its colonisation of parties that once stood for everything Hayek detested.

Bill Clinton and Tony Blair did not possess a narrative of their own. Rather than develop a new political story, they thought it was sufficient to triangulate . In other words, they extracted a few elements of what their parties had once believed, mixed them with elements of what their opponents believed, and developed from this unlikely combination a "third way".

It was inevitable that the blazing, insurrectionary confidence of neoliberalism would exert a stronger gravitational pull than the dying star of social democracy. Hayek's triumph could be witnessed everywhere from Blair's expansion of the private finance initiative to Clinton's repeal of the Glass-Steagal Act , which had regulated the financial sector. For all his grace and touch, Barack Obama, who didn't possess a narrative either (except "hope"), was slowly reeled in by those who owned the means of persuasion.

As I warned in April, the result is first disempowerment then disenfranchisement. If the dominant ideology stops governments from changing social outcomes, they can no longer respond to the needs of the electorate. Politics becomes irrelevant to people's lives; debate is reduced to the jabber of a remote elite. The disenfranchised turn instead to a virulent anti-politics in which facts and arguments are replaced by slogans, symbols and sensation. The man who sank Hillary Clinton's bid for the presidency was not Donald Trump. It was her husband.

The paradoxical result is that the backlash against neoliberalism's crushing of political choice has elevated just the kind of man that Hayek worshipped. Trump, who has no coherent politics, is not a classic neoliberal. But he is the perfect representation of Hayek's "independent"; the beneficiary of inherited wealth, unconstrained by common morality, whose gross predilections strike a new path that others may follow. The neoliberal thinktankers are now swarming round this hollow man, this empty vessel waiting to be filled by those who know what they want. The likely result is the demolition of our remaining decencies, beginning with the agreement to limit global warming .

Those who tell the stories run the world. Politics has failed through a lack of competing narratives. The key task now is to tell a new story of what it is to be a human in the 21st century. It must be as appealing to some who have voted for Trump and Ukip as it is to the supporters of Clinton, Bernie Sanders or Jeremy Corbyn.

A few of us have been working on this, and can discern what may be the beginning of a story. It's too early to say much yet, but at its core is the recognition that – as modern psychology and neuroscience make abundantly clear – human beings, by comparison with any other animals, are both remarkably social and remarkably unselfish . The atomisation and self-interested behaviour neoliberalism promotes run counter to much of what comprises human nature.

Hayek told us who we are, and he was wrong. Our first step is to reclaim our humanity.

justamug -> Skytree 16 Nov 2016 18:17

Thanks for the chuckle. On a more serious note - defining neoliberalism is not that easy since it is not a laid out philosophy like liberalism, or socialism, or communism or facism. Since 2008 the use of the word neoliberalism has increased in frequency and has come to mean different things to different people.

A common theme appears to be the negative effects of the market on the human condition.

Having read David Harvey's book, and Phillip Mirowski's book (both had a go at defining neoliberalism and tracing its history) it is clear that neoliberalism is not really coherent set of ideas.

ianfraser3 16 Nov 2016 17:54

EF Schumacher quoted "seek first the kingdom of God" in his epilogue of "Small Is Beautiful: a study of economics as if people mattered". This was written in the early 1970s before the neoliberal project bit in the USA and the UK. The book is laced with warnings about the effects of the imposition of neoliberalism on society, people and the planet. The predictions have largely come true. New politics and economics needed, by leaders who place at the heart of their approach the premise, and fact, that humans are "by comparison with any other animals, are both remarkably social and remarkably unselfish". It is about reclaiming our humanity from a project that treats people as just another commodity.


Filipio -> YouDidntBuildThat 16 Nov 2016 17:42

Whoa there, slow down.

Your last post was questioning the reality of neoliberalism as a general policy direction that had become hegemonic across many governments (and most in the west) over recent decades. Now you seem to be agreeing that the notion does have salience, but that neoliberalism delivered positive rather than negative consequences.

Well, its an ill wind that blows nobody any good, huh?

Doubtless there were some positive outcomes for particular groups. But recall that the context for this thread is not whether, on balance, more people benefited from neoliberal policies than were harmed -- an argument that would be most powerful only in very utilitarian style frameworks of thought (most good for the many, or most harm for only the few). The thread is about the significance of the impacts of neoliberalism in the rise of Trump. And in specific relation to privatisation (just one dimension of neoliberalism) one key impact was downsizing (or 'rightsizing'; restructuring). There is a plethora of material, including sociological and psychological, on the harm caused by shrinking and restructured work-forces as a consequence of privatisation. Books have been written, even in the business management sector, about how poorly such 'change' was handled and the multiple deleterious outcomes experienced by employees.

And we're still only talking about one dimension of neoliberalism! Havn't even touched on deregulation yet (notably, labour market and financial sector).

The general thrust is about the gradual hollowing out of the middle class (or more affluent working class, depending on the analytical terms being used), about insecurity, stress, casualisation, rising wage inequality.

You want evidence? I'm not doing your research for you. The internet can be a great resource, or merely an echo chamber. The problem with so many of the alt-right (and this applies on the extreme left as well) is that they only look to confirm their views, not read widely. Open your eyes, and use your search engine of choice. There is plenty out there. Be open to having your preconceptions challenged.

RichardErskine -> LECKJ3000 16 Nov 2016 15:38

LECKJ3000 - I am not an economist, but surely the theoretical idealised mechanisms of the market are never realised in practice. US subsidizing their farmers, in EU too, etc. And for problems that are not only externalities but transnational ones, the idea that some Hayek mechanism will protect thr ozone layer or limit carbon emissions, without some regulation or tax.

Lord Stern called global warming the greatest market failure in history, but no market, however sophisticated, can deal with it without some price put on the effluent of product (the excessive CO2 we put into the atmosphere).

As with Montreal and subsequent agreements, there is a way to maintain a level playing field; to promote different substances for use as refrigerants; and to address the hole in ozone layer; without abandoning the market altogether. Simple is good, because it avoids over-engineering the interventions (and the unintended consequences you mention).

The same could/ should be true of global warming, but we have left it so late we cannot wait for the (inevitable) fall of fossil fuels and supremacy of renewables. We need a price on carbon, which is a graduated and fast rising tax essentially on its production and/or consumption, which has already started to happen ( http://www.worldbank.org/content/dam/Worldbank/document/SDN/background-note_carbon-tax.pdf ), albeit not deep / fast / extensive enough, or international in character, but that will come, if not before the impacts really bite then soon after.

So Hayek, I feel, is like many theoreticians, in that he seems to want a pure world that will function according to a simple and universal law. The world never was, and never will be that simple, and current economics simply continues to have a blindspot for externalities that overwhelm the logic of an unfettered so-called free market.

LionelKent -> greven 16 Nov 2016 14:59

And persistent. J.K. Galbraith viewed the rightwing mind as predominantly concerned with figuring out a way to justify the shift of wealth from the immense majority to an elite at the top. I for one regret acutely that he did not (as far as I know) write a volume on his belief in progressive taxation.

RandomLibertarian -> JVRTRL 16 Nov 2016 09:19

Not bad points.

When it comes to social safety net programs, e.g. in health care and education -- those programs almost always tend to be more expensive and more complicated when privatized. If the goal was to actually save taxpayer money, in the U.S. at least, it would have made a lot more sense to have a universal Medicare system, rather than a massive patch-work like the ACA and our hybrid market.

Do not forget that the USG, in WW2, took the deliberate step of allowing employers to provide health insurance as a tax-free benefit - which it still is, being free even from SS and Medicare taxes. In the post-war boom years this resulted in the development of a system with private rooms, almost on-demand access to specialists, and competitive pay for all involved (while the NHS, by contrast, increasingly drew on immigrant populations for nurses and below). Next, the large sums of money in the system and a generous court system empowered a vast malpractice industry. So to call our system in any way a consequence of a free market is a misnomer.

Entirely state controlled health care systems tend to be even more cost-effective.

Read Megan McArdle's work in this area. The US has had similar cost growth since the 1970s to the rest of the world. The problem was that it started from a higher base.

Part of the issue is that privatization tends to create feedback mechanism that increase the size of spending in programs. Even Eisenhower's noted "military industrial complex" is an illustration of what happens when privatization really takes hold.

When government becomes involved in business, business gets involved in government!

Todd Smekens 16 Nov 2016 08:40

Albert Einstein said, "capitalism is evil" in his famous dictum called, "Why Socialism" in 1949. He also called communism, "evil", so don't jump to conclusions, comrades. ;)

His reasoning was it distorts a human beings longing for the social aspect. I believe George references this in his statement about people being "unselfish". This is noted by both science and philosophy.

Einstein noted that historically, the conqueror would establish the new order, and since 1949, Western Imperialism has continued on with the predatory phase of acquiring and implementing democracy/capitalism. This needs to end. As we've learned rapidly, capitalism isn't sustainable. We are literally overheating the earth which sustains us. Very unwise.

Einstein wrote, "Man is, at one and the same time, a solitary being and a social being. As a solitary being, he attempts to protect his own existence and that of those who are closest to him, to satisfy his personal desires, and to develop his innate abilities. As a social being, he seeks to gain the recognition and affection of his fellow human beings, to share in their pleasures, to comfort them in their sorrows, and to improve their conditions of life. Only the existence of these varied, frequently conflicting, strivings accounts for the special character of a man, and their specific combination determines the extent to which an individual can achieve an inner equilibrium and can contribute to the well-being of society."

Personally, I'm glad George and others are working on a new economic and social construct for us "human beings". It's time we leave the predatory phase of "us versus them", and construct a new society which works for the good of our now, global society.

zavaell -> LECKJ3000 16 Nov 2016 06:28

The problem is that both you and Monbiot fail to mention that your "the spontaneous order of the market" does not recognize externalities and climate change is outside Hayek's thinking - he never wrote about sustainability or the limits on resources, let alone the consequences of burning fossil fuels. There is no beauty in what he wrote - it was a cold, mechanical model that assumed certain human behaviour but not others. Look at today's money-makers - they are nearly all climate change deniers and we have to have government to reign them in.

aLERNO 16 Nov 2016 04:52

Good, short and concise article. But the FIRST NEOLIBERAL MILESTONE WAS THE 1973 COUP D'ETAT IN CHILE, which not surprisingly also deposed the first democratically-elected socialist government.

accipiter15 16 Nov 2016 02:34

A great article and explanation of the influence of Hayek on Thatcher. Unfortunately this country is still suffering the consequences of her tenure and Osborne was also a proponent of her policies and look where we are as a consequence. The referendum gave the people the opportunity to vent their anger and if we had PR I suspect we would have a greater turn-out and nearly always have some sort of coalition where nothing gets done that is too hurtful to the population. As for Trump, again his election is an expression of anger and desperation. However, the American voting system is as unfair as our own - again this has probably been the cause of the low turn-out. Why should people vote when they do not get fair representation - it is a waste of time and not democratic. I doubt that Trump is Keynsian I suspect he doesn't have an economic theory at all. I just hope that the current economic thinking prevailing currently in this country, which is still overshadowed by Thatcher and the free market, with no controls over the city casino soon collapses and we can start from a fairer and more inclusive base!

JVRTRL -> Keypointist 16 Nov 2016 02:15

The system that Clinton developed was an inheritance from George H.W. Bush, Reagan (to a large degree), Carter, with another large assist from Nixon and the Powell Memo.

Bill Clinton didn't do it by himself. The GOP did it with him hand-in-hand, with the only resistance coming from a minority within the Democratic party.

Trump's victory was due to many factors. A large part of it was Hillary Clinton's campaign and the candidate. Part of it was the effectiveness of the GOP massive resistance strategy during the Obama years, wherein they pursued a course of obstruction in an effort to slow the rate of the economic recovery (e.g. as evidence of the bad faith, they are resurrecting a $1 trillion infrastructure bill that Obama originally proposed in 2012, and now that they have full control, all the talk about "deficits" goes out the window).

Obama and the Democratic party also bear responsibility for not recognizing the full scope of the financial collapse in 2008-2009, passing a stimulus package that was about $1 trillion short of spending needed to accelerate the recovery by the 2010 mid-terms, combined with a weak financial regulation law (which the GOP is going to destroy), an overly complicated health care law -- classic technocratic, neoliberal incremental policy -- and the failure of the Obama administration to hold Wall Street accountable for criminal misconduct relating to the financial crisis. Obama's decision to push unpopular trade agreements didn't help either. As part of the post-mortem, the decision to continuing pushing the TPP may have cost Clinton in the rust belt states that went for Trump. The agreement was unpopular, and her shift on the policy didn't come across as credible. People noticed as well that Obama was trying to pass the measure through the lame-duck session of Congress post-election. With Trump's election, the TPP is done too.

JVRTRL daltonknox67 16 Nov 2016 02:00

There is no iron law that says a country has to run large trade deficits. The existence of large trade deficits is usually a result of policy choices.

Growth also hasn't gone into the tank. What's changed is the distribution of the gains in GDP growth -- that is in no small part a direct consequence of changes in policy since the 1970s. It isn't some "market place magic". We have made major changes to tax laws since that time. We have weakened collective bargaining, which obviously has a negative impact on wages. We have shifted the economy towards financial services, which has the tendency of increasing inequality.

The idea too that people will be "poorer" than in the 1920s and 1930s is just plain ignorant. It has no basis in any of the data. Wages in the bottom quartile have actually decreased slightly since the 1970s in real terms, but those wages in the 1970s were still exponentially higher than wages in the 1920s in real terms.

Wages aren't stagnating because people are working less. Wages have stagnated because of dumb policy choices that have tended to incentives looting by those at the top of the income distribution from workers in the lower parts of the economy. The 2008 bailouts were a clear illustration of this reality. People in industries rigged rules to benefit themselves. They misallocated resources. Then they went to representatives and taxpayers and asked for a large no-strings attached handout that was effectively worth trillions of dollars (e.g. hundreds of billions through TARP, trillions more through other programs). As these players become wealthier, they have an easier time buying politicians to rig rules further to their advantage.


JVRTRL YinxxXing 16 Nov 2016 01:50

Part of the problem is a quirk of the U.S. system. We have an electoral college system, which was originally adopted over 200 years ago, in part, in order to help to preserve slavery. If the presidential election was based on a national vote, I suspect we would have higher participation rates, because every vote in every state would carry equal weight.

As things stand now, in 35-40 states in any election cycle, there usually isn't much doubt about the result of the presidential race.

On top of this, there are all kind of obstacles that tend to make voting more difficult. e.g. voting on a weekday, voter IDs, voter suppression efforts.

JVRTRL -> RandomLibertarian 16 Nov 2016 01:44

"The tyranny of the 51 per cent is the oldest and most solid argument against a pure democracy."

"Tyranny of the majority" is always a little bizarre, given that the dynamics of majority rule are unlike the governmental structures of an actual tyranny. Even in the context of the U.S. we had minority rule due to voting restrictions for well over a century that was effectively a tyranny for anyone who was denied the ability to participation in the elections process. Pure majorities can go out of control, especially in a country with massive wealth disparities and with weak civic institutions.

On the other hand, this is part of the reason to construct a system of checks and balances. It's also part of the argument for representative democracy.

"Neoliberalism" is entirely compatible with "growth of the state". Reagan greatly enlarged the state. He privatized several functions and it actually had the effect of increasing spending.

When it comes to social safety net programs, e.g. in health care and education -- those programs almost always tend to be more expensive and more complicated when privatized. If the goal was to actually save taxpayer money, in the U.S. at least, it would have made a lot more sense to have a universal Medicare system, rather than a massive patch-work like the ACA and our hybrid market.

Entirely state controlled health care systems tend to be even more cost-effective. Part of the issue is that privatization tends to create feedback mechanism that increase the size of spending in programs. Even Eisenhower's noted "military industrial complex" is an illustration of what happens when privatization really takes hold.

daltonknox67 15 Nov 2016 21:46

After WWII most of the industrialised world had been bombed or fought over with destruction of infrastructure and manufacturing. The US alone was undamaged. It enjoyed a manufacturing boom that lasted until the 70's when competition from Germany and Japan, and later Taiwan, Korea and China finally brought it to an end.

As a result Americans born after 1950 will be poorer than the generation born in the 20's and 30's.

This is not a conspiracy or government malfunction. It is a quirk of history. Get over it and try working.

Arma Geddon 15 Nov 2016 21:11

Another nasty neoliberal policy of Reagan and Thatcher, was to close all the mental hospitals, and to sweeten the pill to sell to the voters, they called it Care in the Community, except by the time those hospitals closed and the people who had to relay on those institutions, they found out and are still finding out that there is very little care in the community left any more, thanks to Thatcher's disintegration of the ethos community spirit.

In their neoliberal mantra of thinking, you are on your own now, tough, move on, because you are hopeless and non productive, hence you are a burden to taxpayers.

Its been that way of thinking for over thirty years, and now the latest group targeted, are the sick and disabled, victims of the neoliberal made banking crash and its neoliberal inspired austerity, imposed of those least able to fight back or defend themselves i.e. vulnerable people again!

AlfredHerring GimmeHendrix 15 Nov 2016 20:23

It was in reference to Maggie slapping a copy of Hayek's Constitution of Liberty on the table and saying this is what we believe. As soon as you introduce the concept of belief you're talking about religion hence completeness while Hayek was writing about economics which demands consistency. i.e. St. Maggie was just as bad as any Stalinist: economics and religion must be kept separate or you get a bunch of dead peasants for no reason other than your own vanity.

Ok, religion based on a sky god who made us all is problematic but at least there's always the possibility of supplication and miracles. Base a religion on economic theory and you're just making sausage of your neighbors kids.

TanTan -> crystaltips2 15 Nov 2016 20:10

If you claim that the only benefit of private enterprise is its taxability, as you did, then why not cut out the middle man and argue for full state-directed capitalism?

Because it is plainly obvious that private enterprise is not directed toward the public good (and by definition). As we have both agreed, it needs to have the right regulations and framework to give it some direction in that regard. What "the radical left" are pointing out is that the idea of private enterprise is now completely out of control, to the point where voters are disenfranchised because private enterprise has more say over what the government does than the people. Which is clearly a problem.

As for the rest, it's the usual practice of gathering every positive metric available and somehow attributing it to neoliberalism, no matter how tenuous the threads, and as always with zero rigour. Supposedly capitalism alone doubled life expectancy, supports billions of extra lives, invented the railways, and provides the drugs and equipment that keep us alive. As though public education, vaccines, antibiotics, and massive availability of energy has nothing to do with those things.

As for this computer being the invention of capitalism, who knows, but I suppose if one were to believe that everything was invented and created by capitalism and monetary motives then one might believe that. Energy allotments referred to the limit of our usage of readily available fossil fuels which you remain blissfully unaware of.

Children have already been educated to agree with you, in no small part due to a fear of the communist regimes at the time, but at the expense of critical thinking. Questioning the system even when it has plainly been undermined to its core is quickly labelled "radical" regardless of the normalcy of the query. I don't know what you could possibly think left-wing motives could be, but your own motives are plain to see when you immediately lump people who care about the planet in with communist idealogues. If rampant capitalism was going to solve our problems I'm all for it, but it will take a miracle to reverse the damage it has already done, and only a fool would trust it any further.

YouDidntBuildThat -> Filipio 15 Nov 2016 20:06

Filipo

You argue that a great many government functions have been privatized. I agree. Yet strangely you present zero evidence of any downsides of that happening. Most of the academic research shows a net benefit, not just on budgets but on employee and customer satisfaction. See for example.

And despite these privitazation cost savings and alleged neoliberal "austerity" government keeps taking a larger share of our money, like a malignant cancer. No worries....We're from the government, and we're here to help.

Keypointist 15 Nov 2016 20:04

I think the damage was done when the liberal left co-opted neo-liberalism. What happened under Bill Clinton was the development of crony capitalism where for example the US banks were told to lower their credit standards to lend to people who couldn't really afford to service the loans.

It was this that created too big to fail and the financial crisis of 2008. Conservative neo-liberals believe passionately in competition and hate monopolies. The liberal left removed was was productive about neo-liberalism and replaced it with a kind of soft state capitalism where big business was protected by the state and the tax payer was called on to bail out these businesses. THIS more than anything else led to Trump's victory.

[Sep 18, 2017] Critical Realism: Mathematics versus Mythematics in Economics

Highly recommended!
Notable quotes:
"... I argue here that it's the abuse of mathematics by Neoclassical economists -- who practice what I have dubbed "Mythematics" rather than Mathematics--and that some phenomena are uncovered by mathematical logic that can't be discovered by verbal logic alone. ..."
"... A lady in the audi­ence named Barb Jacobson suggested that using the name Neo-Classical gives it a cer­tain degree of cache and wants you guys to start call­ing it for what it is: "Scorched Earth Economics." What a great name to use and doesn't it ring true? ..."
Oct 02, 2015 | www.debtdeflation.com

This is the brief talk I gave at a conference celebrating 25 years of the Critical Realist seminar series at Cambridge University. Critical realists argue against the use of mathematics in economics; I argue here that it's the abuse of mathematics by Neoclassical economists -- who practice what I have dubbed "Mythematics" rather than Mathematics--and that some phenomena are uncovered by mathematical logic that can't be discovered by verbal logic alone.

I give the example of my own model of Minsky's Financial Instability Hypothesis, which revealed the possibility of a "Great Moderation" preceding a "Great Recession" before either event had happened.

David Milburn, September 12, 2015 at 9:38 am

Steve,

Last week Prof Bill Mitchell was in London where he gave a talk on re-framing the language used in the media that carried on the myth of the main­stream groupthink. A lady in the audi­ence named Barb Jacobson suggested that using the name Neo-Classical gives it a cer­tain degree of cache and wants you guys to start call­ing it for what it is: "Scorched Earth Economics." What a great name to use and doesn't it ring true? Barb Jacobson is spot on!

Sue Madden, September 13, 2015 at 8:28 am

Hi Steve,
I was really amused to see an inter­view a while back in the New Sci­en­tist, with the "research chief" (!!) at the B of E. If you haven't seen it, you really must:

Opinion Interview with Andy Haldane: "Sackcloth and Ashes on Thread needle Street" New Scientist 25 March 2015

Corbyn was elected leader!!!! Now the sparks will fly. At least a pub­lic debate wor­thy of the name might at last be heard in our sad country.

Thanks for your work in trying to enlighten us!!
Sue.

[Sep 11, 2017] Neo-classical economics as a new flat earth cult

Highly recommended!
Notable quotes:
"... Comparative advantage is an absurdity. Protectionism is the only way to wealth, yet economists brainwashed generations of 17 and 18 year olds to believe that up was down and free trade would help the US. ..."
"... This is a new "flat earth" cult. And pretty well paid one: academic economists recently became something like lackeys of financial oligarchy and get some crump from the financial oligarchy table in return to promoting neo-classical economics, as a valuable for neoliberals pseudo-science. ..."
"... People who "do not fit" are filtered at early stages, much like in political parties. Nepotism is another factor. Having relatives in high positions (like is the case with Summers), being member of the dominant ethnic clan, or being a friend of an influential economist (like academic Mafiosi Andrei Shleifer) greatly helps... ..."
"... The most interesting part about this pseudoscience is how well it fits together (reminding me Marxism, to which it was a reaction). ..."
Apr 11, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com

Will US Economists apologize for destroying the US? Free trade ruined America, April 11, 2017 at 03:28 PM

Will the American Economic Association ever apologize to the American people for helping to destroy the country with their absurd, simple-minded free trade preaching?

Comparative advantage is an absurdity. Protectionism is the only way to wealth, yet economists brainwashed generations of 17 and 18 year olds to believe that up was down and free trade would help the US.

AEA should toast itself in the ruins of Ohio, North Carolina or Iowa - pick any one of the thousands of ruined cities to gloat over.

libezkova -> Will US Economists apologize for destroying the US? Free trade ruined America, April 11, 2017 at 04:48 PM
You are simply naïve.

This is a new "flat earth" cult. And pretty well paid one: academic economists recently became something like lackeys of financial oligarchy and get some crump from the financial oligarchy table in return to promoting neo-classical economics, as a valuable for neoliberals pseudo-science.

Tremendous value of neoclassical economics for neoliberals is that they can use mathiness (trying to imitate physics) to obscure the promotions of neoliberal thinking. In fact, neoclassical economics is the major tool of indoctrination into "free market" nonsense of university students.

People who "do not fit" are filtered at early stages, much like in political parties. Nepotism is another factor. Having relatives in high positions (like is the case with Summers), being member of the dominant ethnic clan, or being a friend of an influential economist (like academic Mafiosi Andrei Shleifer) greatly helps...

People who do not fit but have tremendous talent are often suppressed. Like was the case with Hyman Minsky (and he was lucky that his career was at late stages during the full triumph of neoliberalism -- he managed to get a tenured professor position in 1965 when he was 46)

The most interesting part about this pseudoscience is how well it fits together (reminding me Marxism, to which it was a reaction).

Set of neoclassical myths such as "efficient market hypothesis", "rational expectations", "generalized stochastic equilibrium", "invisible hand", comprise a pretty coherent "secular religion". It may even have some minor value as a mathematical theory of some fictitious economic space (almost like in a computer game like Civilization) that never existed and will never exist.

But it is sold differently and tends to produce predictions and prescriptions (highly politicized in their nature) in line with neoliberal thinking. That's why it is maintained and promoted.

So expecting them to apologize is nonsense.

You can benefit from re-reading recent discussion of Karl Polanyi famous book "The Great Transformation" in this blog

http://economistsview.typepad.com/economistsview/2017/03/a-foreword-to-kari-polanyi-levitt.html#comment-6a00d83451b33869e201b7c8de5388970b

Another interesting question is how neoliberalism and neo-classical economics survived the financial meltdown. Here Professor Phillip Mirowski has some interesting insights:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zsiT9P87J4g

>

[Jul 17, 2017] It Takes a Theory to Beat a Theory The Adaptive Markets Hypothesis naked capitalism

Notable quotes:
"... This piece sounds like the survival of the fittest in vogue during GE's CEO Jack Welch days. I always add something to the nietzschean sentence. What does not kill you will make you stronger or will physically and mentally disable you for life. What is the what? The what can be the being pushed to play the most distasteful and absurd capitalist games. A hierarchical screwing! ..."
"... We rely on groups to support each other, because individually it is very hard to survive through chaos. That's the reason we are herd or pack animals, and our associations are know as society. ..."
"... When Maggott Thatcher stated 'there is no such thing as society." she was denying our basic survival mechanism to promote her own narrow, neoliberal, selfish ends. ..."
"... The Master and His Emissary ..."
"... The Minimalist Program ..."
"... brain functions across time and under myriad circumstances to generate behaviors ..."
"... i was disappointed to find he simply dove deeper into the proposition that our behavior is determined by our genes. Homo sapiens's prime adaptation is culture, which allows learned behaviors in individuals to be tranformed into adaptations. Our genes do not determine our behavior. We do. And we determine the behavior of the next generation by our choices of what cultural norms to propagate. ..."
"... As Bill Black has pointed out numerous times, the people who brought on the financial collapse were acting completely rationally. They crashed their own corporations not out of irrationality. They did it because they were trying to make themselves rich, and they didn't give a damn about the corporations they were looting in the process. ..."
"... The writer himself should have spent more time focusing on that great white shark because he's failed to notice he's given renewed life to social darwinism. These "highly evolved" institutions he talks about – like banks and hedge funds – are, in fact, keenly honed predators. Which is odd. An advanced social species like ours isn't supposed to prey on other members. His competition model involves people essentially eating other people. He's failed to note any distinction between inter-species and intra-species competition. ..."
Jul 17, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

diptherio , July 12, 2017 at 12:09 pm

All that, and not one mention of fraud how convenient.

No Way Out , July 12, 2017 at 12:32 pm

Fraud? They're professionals.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DYa6FNKSgbk

JEHR , July 12, 2017 at 12:57 pm

diptherio, that was my thought also as I read more and more rapidly down the article. Fraud seems to have disappeared from financial discussions altogether.

grizziz , July 12, 2017 at 1:00 pm

I believe fraud is covered under #5 as 'innovation.'

hemeantwell , July 12, 2017 at 2:02 pm

Convenient is putting it mildly. About 2/3 of the way through I was waiting for a reference to Keynes, or Minsky, or Marx or -- and this is from my reading of Geoffrey Ingham's "The Nature of Money" -- Weber but instead found him coasting into some general behavioral precepts before landing without reference to anyone. It's like we're witnessing Spinoza concoct a system, rather than an economist talk about the importance of dropping models that have been under attack, and via arguments that are much more specific, for decades.

ChrisPacific , July 12, 2017 at 9:57 pm

I think this model handles fraud a lot better than the EMT does. If you accept that individuals make decisions based on a collection of subjective heuristics unique to that individual (which may not bear more than an indirect relationship to rationality) then you need to consider the possibility that those heuristics might be manipulated by an outside party for the purpose of separating said individual from their cash. Which would cover a wide range of behaviours, from fraud to lesser examples like marketing (which is also not modeled by the EMT).

On a first impression it seems to be at least approximately consistent with reality and how people behave, which puts it ahead of EMT and most modern economic theory right off the bat, but it looks like more work is needed to get it to a point where it becomes a developed model capable of making falsifiable predictions.

ChrisPacific , July 12, 2017 at 11:56 pm

I also take exception to the definition of 'rationality' as the solution to an optimization problem based on a universal utility function in which everything can be measured by a single number and is directly comparable to everything else. To the extent this article uses the term, it seems to be adopting the standard utility maximization definition, which means it's more of a minor heresy than a completely new theory.

paul , July 12, 2017 at 12:13 pm

So adaptive markets are pretty much the same as rational ones, just taking a slightly more roundabout route to those optimal outcomes? Never been taken with the invocation of evolution outside biology. A lot of bacteria get killed before they find a way round a decent antibiotic.

Evolution at the speed of thought has me quite baffled.

Sue , July 12, 2017 at 2:21 pm

This piece sounds like the survival of the fittest in vogue during GE's CEO Jack Welch days. I always add something to the nietzschean sentence. What does not kill you will make you stronger or will physically and mentally disable you for life. What is the what? The what can be the being pushed to play the most distasteful and absurd capitalist games. A hierarchical screwing!

Terry Flynn , July 12, 2017 at 12:36 pm

OK I lay my cards on the table as someone who came from economics and ended up following the psychologists but this sounds like a belated attempt to reconcile a bunch of findings from experimental economics that were long known in psychology And which lay out an unduly long list of assumptions in an attempt to keep some links with economics when the psychologists recognised back in 1960 that just two assumptions were needed – giving the flexibility required to explain all sorts of heuristics.

Synoia , July 12, 2017 at 12:41 pm

Close, but no cigar:

We've seen how biofeedback measurements can be used to study behavior, We know that human behavior, both the rational and the seemingly irrational ,

Nonlinear Feedback generates Chaos .

As a result of this feedback As long as those challenges remain stable over time, their heuristics will eventually adapt to yield approximately optimal solutions to those challenges.

Nonlinear feedback – Chaos

Assumption = As long as these challenges remain stable .

Chaos removes any possibility of stability.

Good article, but the conclusion is hopeless, because the author is seeking some assurance of stability where there is none.

Now to the social part of the thought experiment:

We rely on groups to support each other, because individually it is very hard to survive through chaos. That's the reason we are herd or pack animals, and our associations are know as society.

When Maggott Thatcher stated 'there is no such thing as society." she was denying our basic survival mechanism to promote her own narrow, neoliberal, selfish ends.

Ultrapope , July 12, 2017 at 4:01 pm

I agree with your comment Synoia but I do have a small quibble with where you say Chaos removes any possibility of stability. Chaos in markets can lead to financial ruin, which is a form of stability. Think bank runs. Sudden, unpredictable changes in the market could cause investors to get cold feet and pull out there money en masse. Once my bank runs out of money I can predict with reasonable certainty that if I didn't get my money out in time, I ain't getting it back (well ok, maybe if I was too big to fail things would be different ). Regardless, you are right, the author isn't doing his theory any justice in assuming "challenges remain stable over time".

Synoia , July 12, 2017 at 5:49 pm

Sudden, unpredictable changes in the market could cause investors to get cold feet and pull out there money en masse.

That's the embodiment of Chaos.

jsn , July 13, 2017 at 6:40 am

I can only guess that "depression" is the stability Ultrapope is referring to.

animalogic , July 13, 2017 at 12:29 am

Maybe.
But, as with many things, there are varying quantities/qualities of "chaos". Differences count.

Carolinian , July 12, 2017 at 12:58 pm

Great article.

Financial markets are a product of human evolution, and follow biological laws instead. The same basic principles of mutation, competition, and natural selection that determine the life history of a herd of antelope also apply to the banking industry, albeit with somewhat different population dynamics.

It's time Lefties admit that the conservatives are right about one thing: there is such a thing as "human nature." Traditional humanism with its roots in religion prefers to see us as moral beings who must choose between good and evil using our "free will." But it's possible that what is really happening is that our sometimes overpowering instincts are warring with our reason. Where the conservatives get it wrong is by putting all the emphasis on the former–the latter not so much.

I have a friend who dislikes dogs and complains about people anthropomorphizing their pets. My reply is that what motivates animal lovers is not so much that they are like us but that we are like them. This recognition–that we are a part of nature–may be a way out of the planet's looming disaster. Good to see economists taking up a theory that admits reality.

Grebo , July 12, 2017 at 11:11 pm

there is such a thing as "human nature."

My stock response to this is "no, there is animal nature and there is human culture ". The point of the latter is largely to control the former.

jsn , July 13, 2017 at 6:46 am

This is a much deeper comment than it first appears. Thanks!

Tomonthebeach , July 12, 2017 at 1:00 pm

As a psychologist, when I look at economics (which is often), I see a few dangerous linear assumptions elaborated in complex calculus trying to apply LISREL or some other tool to make sense of past economic behavior which is then projected forward just in time to be proven incorrect – much of the time.

A theory is no use if it cannot be shown to predict better than what we have already. We have theories in behavioral science like chaos and complexity which seem to capture irrationality to some extent. We also have analytic strategies that do not depend on linear equations – dynamical models. Such dynamic models have been shown to predict all sorts of behaviors in the animal world, and work by folks like Josh Epstein has shown it works for people too.

Maybe thinking more dynamically is key to better understanding – like why Bitcoins are worth anything more than a bag of Legos – at least Legos are tangible.

edr , July 12, 2017 at 1:04 pm

Homo sapiens isn't Homo economicus. Humans have a full set of values, some of which conflict with straight up monetary gains.

There is some level of honest behavior that is most profitable to a society. Brazil and the U.S. have had similar level of land and natural resources but very different outcomes. Corruption is the indicator that determines which society did better.

Stephen Gardner , July 12, 2017 at 2:39 pm

Your statement: "Homo sapiens isn't Homo economicus" is the crux of the issue. This is why so much of modern economic theory is bunk. The main hypothesis is incorrect. My training is in physics so what we used to say to denigrate a theory that was based on bad assumptions was "assume a spherical cow". The economics profession has been harming the common people with their "spherical cows" for decades but it's all good because the people Carlin called the real owners have done nicely. At least until now. I think I'm beginning to here the distant sound of tumbrils rolling toward the homes of the real owners.

Jeremy Grimm , July 12, 2017 at 3:00 pm

Isn't "Assume a can-opener" or something like that the punch line for the joke about some guys starving on a desert island when a can of stew washes up on the beach.

Found it!:
[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Assume_a_can_opener]
"There is a story that has been going around about a physicist, a chemist, and an economist who were stranded on a desert island with no implements and a can of food. The physicist and the chemist each devised an ingenious mechanism for getting the can open; the economist merely said, "Assume we have a can opener"

Terry Flynn , July 12, 2017 at 3:17 pm

yeah I always loved that joke. It ties in with the comments above made by Tomonthebeach and edr. The psychological stuff I deal with is careful to stay within the confines of the problem we are trying to solve, rather than assume some global utility function underpinned by homo economicus (and which therefore borders on religion).

Synoia also made a great comment regarding dynamics . if I'd stayed in academia the next project I'd have been trying to address was using choice model parameters as "starting values" to implement agent based models alas that's something I never got to investigate and that I hope others will.

Jeremy Grimm , July 12, 2017 at 3:58 pm

Reminds me of another joke -- mechanical engineering has made great progress elaborating the mathematics for a chair with zero legs and for chairs with one and two legs. There is a lot of excitement in recent developments in the study of chairs with three legs but deep mysteries remain in efforts to understand the mathematics of chairs with more than three legs.

Terry Flynn , July 12, 2017 at 4:26 pm

lol hadn't heard that one, thanks!

Byron the Light Bulb , July 12, 2017 at 1:10 pm

Ayn Rand's Objectivism was just a mating strategy in that it provided justification for her to poach husbands from heiresses and slap the buns on dreamboat Alan Greenspan. [Have you read my book? Let's erect that skyscraper.–Ayn] The economy is just a vehicle for the human genomes of economists to replicate.

David Barrera , July 12, 2017 at 1:41 pm

Survival to what? For the most part to a second nature world which is a cultural construction.
Adaptation to environment, as if the latter had been thrown to us by the gods of nature or, to give you a more scientific tang, it had been formed by natural evolutionary forces. Undoubtedly, the most powerful agents through the institutions they shape and control have a lot to do on how thick is the air we breath and how heavy is the weight of the world we carry on our backs. This is not to say that they are not to some degree obliged to their inheritance and creations or that others can not have any saying, influence or acquiescence to them.
Adaptations to changes, as if the changes were the inevitable product of autopiloted supra-objective structures for agents without agents and such changes-now indeed- brought about the corollary of adaptation.

Mel , July 12, 2017 at 2:10 pm

I still prefer Iain McGilchrist's The Master and His Emissary , for its neurological detail. It covers the same scope as this post, yet also says some things.

jCandlish , July 12, 2017 at 2:46 pm

Noam Chomsky was careful to label his latest linguistic approach The Minimalist Program , because it is not testable by hypotheses. It is a shame that this point of rigor was lost on his MIT colleges at the Sloan School.

Whatever. Adaptive Market? Fine. Never admit to the command economy.

Jeremy Grimm , July 12, 2017 at 3:51 pm

Thank you for the reference to Chomsky's recent books on linguistics. But a quibble -- did Chomsky label his linguistic approach as a 'Program' because it doesn't generate testable hypotheses? I haven't read "The Minimalist Program" yet but would think he used the label 'Program' to indicate he was proposing a broad framework for new research in linguistics and its implications for human cognition. I believe Chomsky is presenting the case for his life's work and proposing paths for its continuation.

jCandlish , July 12, 2017 at 4:58 pm

Quibble noted.

The MP is an approach to the subject of linguistics and language. While it encapsulates theoretical elements, an approach isn't provable. Linguistics is goofy because it is within the intersection of mathematics and biology, fields which expose themselves to different levels of rigor.

The sloppy five key principles of the singular Adaptive Market Hypothesis are teasing my brain functions across time and under myriad circumstances to generate behaviors other than to retch. They read like a sell sheet.

MP, in Chomsky's own words
https://youtu.be/Rgd8BnZ2-iw?list=PLGp2jSK7C8hC8zNdENTa3Y__VGQbcUK1D&t=2618

Jeremy Grimm , July 13, 2017 at 2:28 am

Thank you very much! it's too late at night to follow Chomsky's video but I put it on my list for tomorrow afternoon. I was surprised by how the price for Chomsky's book "The Minimalist Program" cost. The video will help me decide whether to spring for the book now or watch for a used copy..

As for the post -- I am not sure why we were presented with it. It seems like some warmed over rancid tripe.

Jeremy Grimm , July 13, 2017 at 2:44 am

Did you mean to reference https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oq5lMTKJiqE
This is titled "The minimalist program and language acqusition". I have a copy of "What kind of Creatures are We?" and I've watched several of his videos derivative from his Dewey Lectures.

Ignacio , July 12, 2017 at 3:44 pm

5. Survival is the ultimate force driving competition, innovation, and adaptation.

Nope.
This is an old view of evolution. Evolution has evolved more than that. Survival is just one of the forces. I would argue that randomness is a very powerful force.

Left in Wisconsin , July 12, 2017 at 4:17 pm

This seems a transparent effort by (some) economists to substitute one ridiculous paradigm with another. I guess the title says it all.

This was the most hilarious part:

On one side of the divide were the free market economists, who believe that we are all economically rational adults, governed by the law of supply and demand. On the other side were the behavioral economists, who believe that we are all irrational animals, driven by fear and greed like so many other species of mammals.

So not only is the neoclassical paradigm NOT driven by greed but apparently it (rational maximization) is the exact opposite! Who knew?

Terry Flynn , July 12, 2017 at 4:41 pm

yeah it's why people like me are regarded as traitors . if you disagree with both sides you simply double your enemies (there is a Terry Pratchett point in there) ..

it's simply a case of horses for courses in certain circumstances yes a traditional individual maximisation function works in others the maximand is some societal one. You can use the same simple psychological theory of prediction but you have to recognise what the intrinsic "underlying scale of value" is. The psychologists have known since 1927 that choices can be "irrational" according to neoclassical economics. By understanding how people make errors they have been streets ahead (e.g. proving something in 1960 that an economist published in 1974 and got a "nobel" prize for)

Jeremy Grimm , July 12, 2017 at 5:02 pm

Is this post representative of the deep thought available from the Sloan School? Drag in some evolution and discussions of our origins as troglodytes -- make a quick review of behavioral theories of the market -- throw in some Darwin and voilà -- "adaptive markets". If I give up on trying to derive a theory for how the market operates from a theory for how the individuals in that market operate why do I care about the rational economic man or the adaptive man evolving in the jungles of the market. Perhaps I might question some of the other assumptions used to construct my model of the market and look more closely at some of the fraud and some of the smarmy trading practices[as many other commenters noted].

Does the new book by the author of this post explain how to develop the heuristics which will eventually adapt to yield approximately optimal solutions -- so some quants can program my adaptive trader computer program?

[Footnote: "adaptive" is cool also for sounding like "adaptive systems" a systems approach for solving problems like noise cancellation.]

meeps , July 12, 2017 at 6:44 pm

If it takes a theory to beat a theory, this author needs to look under more rocks. This theory isn't new. Its former iteration was faith healing (to pray harder). The Adaptive Markets Hypothesis iteration is to flail and suffocate on the beach longer. I'll give it points though for cleverly tucking old articles of faith into a pocket protector.

bdy , July 12, 2017 at 7:18 pm

Nice when you don't even have to revise the textbooks to accommodate the new paradigm. I can already hear the calls for deregulation so that markets can better adapt.

Steven , July 12, 2017 at 8:03 pm

About a third through I thought I knew where he was going: economic behavior is predicated on cultural norms, it appears to give rise to laws where those norms are stable across time, but recent rapid shifts in norms have created behaviors which are not anticipated by the laws, exposing the fallacy of calling them laws. Example: short term profit seeking to the exclusion of all else was not culturally allowed before, but now it is. This leads to different market behavior. Prior observers were not wrong about the laws they pronounced. The laws simply relied on moral restraints that were as ubiquitous, and thus as hidden, as water is to a fish.

Instead, i was disappointed to find he simply dove deeper into the proposition that our behavior is determined by our genes. Homo sapiens's prime adaptation is culture, which allows learned behaviors in individuals to be tranformed into adaptations. Our genes do not determine our behavior. We do. And we determine the behavior of the next generation by our choices of what cultural norms to propagate.

Oh well.

blennylips , July 12, 2017 at 9:27 pm

If you got the time, I'd recommend "sitting" in on Robert Sapolsky's 2010 Stanford course " Human Behavioral Biology ".

Its very good. Genes are not the dictator of behavior, just one of several players. The environment comes in through epigenetics. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dutch_famine_of_1944%E2%80%9345#Legacy for example.

H. Alexander Ivey , July 13, 2017 at 12:20 am

economic behavior is predicated on cultural norms

Yeah, if he had specified culture to be what most would call sub-cultures, like the 1%, the professional class, the blue-collar group, etc., then he would have a broad based, but consistent actions, division of an economy. But that idea is high heresy; there is not a 'society', there is only lone individuals acting alone. Quite the crock of BS.

PS. in the interest of 'efficiency' (instead of creating a second posting, I'll piggyback here), let me say these replys are one reason why I support this site: After reading the first 3 paragraphs and skimming his section headers, I recognized the storyline. So I dived into the replies and learned what was worth learning. Thanks guys, you saved my blood pressure.

craazyman , July 12, 2017 at 8:44 pm

This post could be a Thomas Friedman writing contest winner!

"We've travelled millions of years into our past, looked deep inside the human brain, and explored the cutting edge of current scientific theories. , , , We're neither entirely rational nor entirely irrational, hence neither the rationalists nor the behavioralists are completely convincing. We need a new narrative for how markets work, and now have enough pieces of the puzzle to start putting it all together."

That's not quite at Mr. Friedman's level of mixed metaphorical mayhem . . . But it's close!

It makes me think of FANTASTIC VOYAGE with Racquel Welch and Donald Pleasance, when scientists were shrunk to microscopic size and then rode around inside a human body's ciruclatory system in incredibly small submarine that lookd like a space ship. Then there was trouble and Donald Pleasance was sucked up head first into the white blood cell. I'm not making this up! You can Youtube it and see.

It may be that there's white blood cell like things we don't have the scientific equipment to see that actually cause booms and busts, but if we could see them through things like telescopes or time machine space ships like the Post sort of says, then you could see how they suck people up into them. This really is cutting edge financial science.

Also, if somebody has never been an animal, then how do they know animals are driven by fear and greed, That made me stop and think, just at the end of the first paragraph! That seems like an extraordinary claim to make. Maybe somebody can be injected with Zebra genes and let loose in Tanzania in some national park for a few weeks until the genes wash out of their system. Then they can report back. But until that time, it's only speculation.

H. Alexander Ivey , July 13, 2017 at 12:25 am

Dang craazyman. I wish I had said that. I stand in awe of your analytical insights of paragraph 1.

And there's no need for me to youtube, I saw the original big screen version. Ha!

Wisdom Seeker , July 13, 2017 at 1:48 pm

Did either of you read the actual book (Isaac Asimov)? Book usually beats movie.

Steven Greenberg , July 13, 2017 at 10:26 am

As Bill Black has pointed out numerous times, the people who brought on the financial collapse were acting completely rationally. They crashed their own corporations not out of irrationality. They did it because they were trying to make themselves rich, and they didn't give a damn about the corporations they were looting in the process.

Wade Riddick , July 14, 2017 at 12:41 am

As others have noted, the absence of fraud in this model is telling.

The writer himself should have spent more time focusing on that great white shark because he's failed to notice he's given renewed life to social darwinism. These "highly evolved" institutions he talks about – like banks and hedge funds – are, in fact, keenly honed predators. Which is odd. An advanced social species like ours isn't supposed to prey on other members. His competition model involves people essentially eating other people. He's failed to note any distinction between inter-species and intra-species competition.

The gene selection he invokes is far more complicated. We live in societies whose rules determines winners and losers. What, in essense, is this competition best optimizing? Does "survival" in this system mean optimizing each individual's potential? What is it we want "economic survival" to mean? He talks about environmental adaptation but leaves out the fact we define our own environment. There's no way to efface politics.

[Jul 13, 2017] How economics became a religion John Rapley

Notable quotes:
"... Main image: Maxian/Getty/iStockphoto/Guardian Design ..."
"... This is an edited extract from Twilight of the Money Gods: Economics as a Religion and How it all Went Wrong by John Rapley, published by Simon & Schuster on 13 July at £20. To order a copy for £17, go to ..."
"... bookshop.theguardian.com ..."
"... or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p&p over £10, online orders only. Phone orders min p&p of £1.99. ..."
Jul 13, 2017 | www.theguardian.com
--> Its moral code promises salvation, its high priests uphold their orthodoxy. But perhaps too many of its doctrines are taken on faith. By John Rapley Its moral code promises salvation, its high priests uphold their orthodoxy. But perhaps too many of its doctrines are taken on faith. By John Rapley How economics became a religion Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share via Email View more sharing options Share on LinkedIn Share on Pinterest Share on Google+ Share on WhatsApp Share on Messenger Close

Tuesday 11 July 2017 01.00 EDT Last modified on Tuesday 11 July 2017 11.20 EDT A lthough Britain has an established church, few of us today pay it much mind. We follow an even more powerful religion, around which we have oriented our lives: economics. Think about it. Economics offers a comprehensive doctrine with a moral code promising adherents salvation in this world; an ideology so compelling that the faithful remake whole societies to conform to its demands. It has its gnostics, mystics and magicians who conjure money out of thin air, using spells such as "derivative" or "structured investment vehicle". And, like the old religions it has displaced, it has its prophets, reformists, moralists and above all, its high priests who uphold orthodoxy in the face of heresy.

Over time, successive economists slid into the role we had removed from the churchmen: giving us guidance on how to reach a promised land of material abundance and endless contentment. For a long time, they seemed to deliver on that promise, succeeding in a way few other religions had ever done, our incomes rising thousands of times over and delivering a cornucopia bursting with new inventions, cures and delights.

This was our heaven, and richly did we reward the economic priesthood, with status, wealth and power to shape our societies according to their vision. At the end of the 20th century, amid an economic boom that saw the western economies become richer than humanity had ever known, economics seemed to have conquered the globe. With nearly every country on the planet adhering to the same free-market playbook, and with university students flocking to do degrees in the subject, economics seemed to be attaining the goal that had eluded every other religious doctrine in history: converting the entire planet to its creed.

Yet if history teaches anything, it's that whenever economists feel certain that they have found the holy grail of endless peace and prosperity, the end of the present regime is nigh. On the eve of the 1929 Wall Street crash , the American economist Irving Fisher advised people to go out and buy shares; in the 1960s, Keynesian economists said there would never be another recession because they had perfected the tools of demand management.

The 2008 crash was no different. Five years earlier, on 4 January 2003, the Nobel laureate Robert Lucas had delivered a triumphal presidential address to the American Economics Association. Reminding his colleagues that macroeconomics had been born in the depression precisely to try to prevent another such disaster ever recurring, he declared that he and his colleagues had reached their own end of history: "Macroeconomics in this original sense has succeeded," he instructed the conclave. "Its central problem of depression prevention has been solved."

No sooner do we persuade ourselves that the economic priesthood has finally broken the old curse than it comes back to haunt us all: pride always goes before a fall. Since the crash of 2008, most of us have watched our living standards decline. Meanwhile, the priesthood seemed to withdraw to the cloisters, bickering over who got it wrong. Not surprisingly, our faith in the "experts" has dissipated.

Hubris, never a particularly good thing, can be especially dangerous in economics, because its scholars don't just observe the laws of nature; they help make them. If the government, guided by its priesthood, changes the incentive-structure of society to align with the assumption that people behave selfishly, for instance, then lo and behold, people will start to do just that. They are rewarded for doing so and penalised for doing otherwise. If you are educated to believe greed is good, then you will be more likely to live accordingly.

The hubris in economics came not from a moral failing among economists, but from a false conviction: the belief that theirs was a science. It neither is nor can be one, and has always operated more like a church. You just have to look at its history to realise that.


T he American Economic Association, to which Robert Lucas gave his address, was created in 1885, just when economics was starting to define itself as a distinct discipline. At its first meeting, the association's founders proposed a platform that declared: "The conflict of labour and capital has brought to the front a vast number of social problems whose solution is impossible without the united efforts of church, state and science." It would be a long path from that beginning to the market evangelism of recent decades.

Yet even at that time, such social activism provoked controversy. One of the AEA's founders, Henry Carter Adams, subsequently delivered an address at Cornell University in which he defended free speech for radicals and accused industrialists of stoking xenophobia to distract workers from their mistreatment. Unknown to him, the New York lumber king and Cornell benefactor Henry Sage was in the audience. As soon as the lecture was done, Sage stormed into the university president's office and insisted: "This man must go; he is sapping the foundations of our society." When Adams's tenure was subsequently blocked, he agreed to moderate his views. Accordingly, the final draft of the AEA platform expunged the reference to laissez-faire economics as being "unsafe in politics and unsound in morals".

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'Economics has always operated more like a church' Trinity Church seen from Wall Street. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

So was set a pattern that has persisted to this day. Powerful political interests – which historically have included not only rich industrialists, but electorates as well – helped to shape the canon of economics, which was then enforced by its scholarly community.

Once a principle is established as orthodox, its observance is enforced in much the same way that a religious doctrine maintains its integrity: by repressing or simply eschewing heresies. In Purity and Danger, the anthropologist Mary Douglas observed the way taboos functioned to help humans impose order on a seemingly disordered, chaotic world. The premises of conventional economics haven't functioned all that differently. Robert Lucas once noted approvingly that by the late 20th century, economics had so effectively purged itself of Keynesianism that "the audience start(ed) to whisper and giggle to one another" when anyone expressed a Keynesian idea at a seminar. Such responses served to remind practitioners of the taboos of economics: a gentle nudge to a young academic that such shibboleths might not sound so good before a tenure committee. This preoccupation with order and coherence may be less a function of the method than of its practitioners. Studies of personality traits common to various disciplines have discovered that economics, like engineering, tends to attract people with an unusually strong preference for order, and a distaste for ambiguity.

The irony is that, in its determination to make itself a science that can reach hard and fast conclusions, economics has had to dispense with scientific method at times. For starters, it rests on a set of premises about the world not as it is, but as economists would like it to be. Just as any religious service includes a profession of faith, membership in the priesthood of economics entails certain core convictions about human nature. Among other things, most economists believe that we humans are self-interested, rational, essentially individualistic, and prefer more money to less. These articles of faith are taken as self-evident. Back in the 1930s, the great economist Lionel Robbins described his profession in a way that has stood ever since as a cardinal rule for millions of economists. The field's basic premises came from "deduction from simple assumptions reflecting very elementary facts of general experience" and as such were "as universal as the laws of mathematics or mechanics, and as little capable of 'suspension'".

Deducing laws from premises deemed eternal and beyond question is a time-honoured method. For thousands of years, monks in medieval monasteries built a vast corpus of scholarship doing just that, using a method perfected by Thomas Aquinas known as scholasticism. However, this is not the method used by scientists, who tend to require assumptions to be tested empirically before a theory can be built out of them.

But, economists will maintain, this is precisely what they themselves do – what sets them apart from the monks is that they must still test their hypotheses against the evidence. Well, yes, but this statement is actually more problematic than many mainstream economists may realise. Physicists resolve their debates by looking at the data, upon which they by and large agree. The data used by economists, however, is much more disputed. When, for example, Robert Lucas insisted that Eugene Fama's efficient-markets hypothesis – which maintains that since a free market collates all available information to traders, the prices it yields can never be wrong – held true despite "a flood of criticism", he did so with as much conviction and supporting evidence as his fellow economist Robert Shiller had mustered in rejecting the hypothesis. When the Swedish central bank had to decide who would win the 2013 Nobel prize in economics, it was torn between Shiller's claim that markets frequently got the price wrong and Fama's insistence that markets always got the price right. Thus it opted to split the difference and gave both men the medal – a bit of Solomonic wisdom that would have elicited howls of laughter had it been a science prize. In economic theory, very often, you believe what you want to believe – and as with any act of faith, your choice of heads or tails will as likely reflect sentimental predisposition as scientific assessment.

It's no mystery why the data used by economists and other social scientists so rarely throws up incontestable answers: it is human data. Unlike people, subatomic particles don't lie on opinion surveys or change their minds about things. Mindful of that difference, at his own presidential address to the American Economic Association nearly a half-century ago, another Nobel laureate, Wassily Leontief, struck a modest tone. He reminded his audience that the data used by economists differed greatly from that used by physicists or biologists. For the latter, he cautioned, "the magnitude of most parameters is practically constant", whereas the observations in economics were constantly changing. Data sets had to be regularly updated to remain useful. Some data was just simply bad. Collecting and analysing the data requires civil servants with a high degree of skill and a good deal of time, which less economically developed countries may not have in abundance. So, for example, in 2010 alone, Ghana's government – which probably has one of the better data-gathering capacities in Africa – recalculated its economic output by 60% . Testing your hypothesis before and after that kind of revision would lead to entirely different results.

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'The data used by economists rarely throws up incontestable answers' traders at the New York Stock Exchange in October 2008. Photograph: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Leontief wanted economists to spend more time getting to know their data, and less time in mathematical modelling. However, as he ruefully admitted, the trend was already going in the opposite direction. Today, the economist who wanders into a village to get a deeper sense of what the data reveals is a rare creature. Once an economic model is ready to be tested, number-crunching ends up being done largely at computers plugged into large databases. It's not a method that fully satisfies a sceptic. For, just as you can find a quotation in the Bible that will justify almost any behaviour, you can find human data to support almost any statement you want to make about the way the world works.

That's why ideas in economics can go in and out of fashion. The progress of science is generally linear. As new research confirms or replaces existing theories, one generation builds upon the next. Economics, however, moves in cycles. A given doctrine can rise, fall and then later rise again. That's because economists don't confirm their theories in quite the same way physicists do, by just looking at the evidence. Instead, much as happens with preachers who gather a congregation, a school rises by building a following – among both politicians and the wider public.

For example, Milton Friedman was one of the most influential economists of the late 20th century. But he had been around for decades before he got much of a hearing. He might well have remained a marginal figure had it not been that politicians such as Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan were sold on his belief in the virtue of a free market. They sold that idea to the public, got elected, then remade society according to those designs. An economist who gets a following gets a pulpit. Although scientists, in contrast, might appeal to public opinion to boost their careers or attract research funds, outside of pseudo-sciences, they don't win support for their theories in this way.

However, if you think describing economics as a religion debunks it, you're wrong. We need economics. It can be – it has been – a force for tremendous good. But only if we keep its purpose in mind, and always remember what it can and can't do.


T he Irish have been known to describe their notionally Catholic land as one where a thin Christian veneer was painted over an ancient paganism. The same might be said of our own adherence to today's neoliberal orthodoxy, which stresses individual liberty, limited government and the free market. Despite outward observance of a well-entrenched doctrine, we haven't fully transformed into the economic animals we are meant to be. Like the Christian who attends church but doesn't always keep the commandments, we behave as economic theory predicts only when it suits us. Contrary to the tenets of orthodox economists, contemporary research suggests that, rather than seeking always to maximise our personal gain, humans still remain reasonably altruistic and selfless. Nor is it clear that the endless accumulation of wealth always makes us happier. And when we do make decisions, especially those to do with matters of principle, we seem not to engage in the sort of rational "utility-maximizing" calculus that orthodox economic models take as a given. The truth is, in much of our daily life we don't fit the model all that well.

For decades, neoliberal evangelists replied to such objections by saying it was incumbent on us all to adapt to the model, which was held to be immutable – one recalls Bill Clinton's depiction of neoliberal globalisation, for instance, as a "force of nature" . And yet, in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis and the consequent recession, there has been a turn against globalisation across much of the west. More broadly, there has been a wide repudiation of the "experts" , most notably in the 2016 US election and Brexit referendum.

It would be tempting for anyone who belongs to the "expert" class, and to the priesthood of economics, to dismiss such behaviour as a clash between faith and facts, in which the facts are bound to win in the end. In truth, the clash was between two rival faiths – in effect, two distinct moral tales. So enamoured had the so-called experts become with their scientific authority that they blinded themselves to the fact that their own narrative of scientific progress was embedded in a moral tale. It happened to be a narrative that had a happy ending for those who told it, for it perpetuated the story of their own relatively comfortable position as the reward of life in a meritocratic society that blessed people for their skills and flexibility. That narrative made no room for the losers of this order, whose resentments were derided as being a reflection of their boorish and retrograde character – which is to say, their fundamental vice. The best this moral tale could offer everyone else was incremental adaptation to an order whose caste system had become calcified. For an audience yearning for a happy ending, this was bound to be a tale of woe.

The failure of this grand narrative is not, however, a reason for students of economics to dispense with narratives altogether. Narratives will remain an inescapable part of the human sciences for the simple reason that they are inescapable for humans. It's funny that so few economists get this, because businesses do. As the Nobel laureates George Akerlof and Robert Shiller write in their recent book, Phishing for Phools , marketers use them all the time, weaving stories in the hopes that we will place ourselves in them and be persuaded to buy what they are selling. Akerlof and Shiller contend that the idea that free markets work perfectly, and the idea that big government is the cause of so many of our problems, are part of a story that is actually misleading people into adjusting their behaviour in order to fit the plot. They thus believe storytelling is a "new variable" for economics, since "the mental frames that underlie people's decisions" are shaped by the stories they tell themselves.

Economists arguably do their best work when they take the stories we have given them, and advise us on how we can help them to come true. Such agnosticism demands a humility that was lacking in economic orthodoxy in recent years. Nevertheless, economists don't have to abandon their traditions if they are to overcome the failings of a narrative that has been rejected. Rather they can look within their own history to find a method that avoids the evangelical certainty of orthodoxy.

In his 1971 presidential address to the American Economic Association, Wassily Leontief counselled against the dangers of self-satisfaction. He noted that although economics was starting to ride "the crest of intellectual respectability an uneasy feeling about the present state of our discipline has been growing in some of us who have watched its unprecedented development over the last three decades".

Noting that pure theory was making economics more remote from day-to-day reality, he said the problem lay in "the palpable inadequacy of the scientific means" of using mathematical approaches to address mundane concerns. So much time went into model-construction that the assumptions on which the models were based became an afterthought. "But," he warned – a warning that the sub-prime boom's fascination with mathematical models, and the bust's subsequent revelation of their flaws, now reveals to have been prophetic – "it is precisely the empirical validity of these assumptions on which the usefulness of the entire exercise depends."

Leontief thought that economics departments were increasingly hiring and promoting young economists who wanted to build pure models with little empirical relevance. Even when they did empirical analysis, Leontief said economists seldom took any interest in the meaning or value of their data. He thus called for economists to explore their assumptions and data by conducting social, demographic and anthropological work, and said economics needed to work more closely with other disciplines.

Leontief's call for humility some 40 years ago stands as a reminder that the same religions that can speak up for human freedom and dignity when in opposition, can become obsessed with their rightness and the need to purge others of their wickedness once they attain power. When the church retains its distance from power, and a modest expectation about what it can achieve, it can stir our minds to envision new possibilities and even new worlds. Once economists apply this kind of sceptical scientific method to a human realm in which ultimate reality may never be fully discernible, they will probably find themselves retreating from dogmatism in their claims.

Paradoxically, therefore, as economics becomes more truly scientific, it will become less of a science. Acknowledging these limitations will free it to serve us once more.

Main image: Maxian/Getty/iStockphoto/Guardian Design

This is an edited extract from Twilight of the Money Gods: Economics as a Religion and How it all Went Wrong by John Rapley, published by Simon & Schuster on 13 July at £20. To order a copy for £17, go to bookshop.theguardian.com or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p&p over £10, online orders only. Phone orders min p&p of £1.99.

• Follow the Long Read on Twitter at @gdnlongread , or sign up to the long read weekly email here . Topics The long read

[Jul 04, 2017] Summers as a defender of Flat Earth theory

Highly recommended!
Apr 12, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com

libezkova said in reply to T... April 12, 2017 at 06:05 AM

"Yes, adding more epicycles will do the trick."

http://personal.lse.ac.uk/reisr/papers/17-wrong.pdf

This guy is funny (and actually rather clueless, Summers is much better ) defender of "Flat Earth" theory:

== quote ==

A related criticism of macroeconomics is that it ignores financial factors. Macroeconomists supposedly failed to anticipate the crisis because they were enamored by models where financial markets and institutions were absent, as all financing was assumed to be efficient (De Grawe, 2009, Skidelsky, 2009). The field would be in denial if it continued to ignore these macro-financial links.

One area where macroeconomists have perhaps more of an influence is in monetary policy. Central banks hire more PhD economists than any other policy institution, and in the United States, the current and past chair of the Federal Reserve are distinguished academic macroeconomists, as have been several members of the FOMC over the years. In any given week, there are at least one conference and dozens of seminars hosted at central banks all over the world where the latest academic research is discussed. The speeches of central bank governors refer to academic papers in macroeconomics more than those by any other policymaker.

... ... ...

A separate criticism of macroeconomic policy advice accuses it of being politically biased. Since the early days of the field, with Keynes and the Great Depression, macroeconomics was associated with aggressive and controversial policies and with researchers that wore other hats as public intellectuals. Even more recently, during the rational expectations microfoundations revolution of the 1970s, early papers had radical policy recommendations, like the result that all systematic aggregate-demand policy is ineffective, and some leading researchers had strong political views. Romer (2016) criticizes modern macroeconomics for raising questions about what should be obvious truths, like the effect of monetary policy on output. He lays blame on the influence that Edward Prescott, Robert Lucas and Thomas Sargent had on field. Krugman (2009) in turn, claims the problem of macroeconomics is ideology, and in particular points to the fierce battles between different types of macroeconomists in the 1970s and 1980s, described by Hall (1976) in terms of saltwater versus freshwater camps.

...Macroeconomists, instead, are asked to routinely produce forecasts to guide fiscal and monetary policy, and are perhaps too eager to comply.

Reply Wednesday, April 12, 2017 at 08:26 AM

djb said...

"Is something really wrong with macroeconomics? - Ricardo Reis"

I appreciate that the author thinks the solution is to have young people look at economics with fresh eyes to bring up new approaches this is a quote when describing how they pick fresh young economists to go on a tour and present their findings:

"the choices are arguably not biased in the direction of a particular field, although they are most likely all in the mainstream tradition"

unfortunately the mainstream tradition is full of biase and restrictions about what is allow to be considered and what is not so if all you allow are people who are expanding on the "mainstream tradition" I think you are severely restricting yourself further a lot of good ideas from the past have been discarded, not allowed, ridiculed, not really analyzed or expanded upon.... presented or taught or represented by people who have never studied the ideas directly got them third hand or 5th hand , from people who misrepresent the ideas in the first place

want fresh new ideas? go back to the beginning of economics, understand over and over what the founds say , go read Adam Smith directly, read the generally theory by Keynes directly don't just assume the verion samuelson gave us of Keynes represents what he actually said, or Hansen or hicks, or what ever nonsense they are passing along today as "what Keynes said" reevaluation the who field over and over

And yea, study over and over the current teachings so you really understand it intuitively don't allow magical thinking to let you "pretend" you got it don't accept that its impossible to really understand it and "that's just what the equations show" understand the limitations, figure out when our fearless leaders and "great minds" and elder statesman of economics are "overplaying their hand" and concluding more than they can this is hard work and it takes dedication and don't assume that econometrics is the only real economics and that theory is "unprovable" or "always subjective" because without theory there is no econometrics, there is just a bunch of meaningless numbers

so yea we can use fresh young minds taking a new look at things but we will nowhere if all we allow is that "they are most likely all in the mainstream tradition"

[Jul 04, 2017] Almost every time I see a "Phillips Curve", I'm reminded how badly understood it is and how poorly economics performs as a scientific discipline

Jul 04, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

Wisdom Seeker , July 3, 2017 at 2:23 pm

I'm not a professional economist, but almost every time I see a "Phillips Curve", I'm reminded how badly understood it is and how poorly economics performs as a scientific discipline. This area needs a complete rethink. This article above is not that rethink, though I great appreciated the discussion about the perilous state of workers' rights prior to the 20th century.

There is a Phillips Curve but it's probably not what you think. For the U.S. at least, there's empirical evidence that the true relationship is between unemployment and subsequent REAL wage inflation (not nominal). Even here one must be careful, for the link is not that strong. And real wage growth could also be productivity-related… but productivity growth itself might also be a function of labor scarcity. When a population desires to get more work done with fewer hands, innovation favors productivity.

For some charts showing various examples of valid and invalid "Phillips Curves", including a persuasive graph of the unemployment/real wage inflation curve, see these links:

http://www.hussmanfunds.com/wmc/wmc110404.htm

http://www.hussman.net/wmc/wmc131104.htm

Darn , July 4, 2017 at 8:08 am

Also of interest I hope, "Why NAIRU is zOMG hyperinflation" https://www.concertedaction.com/2017/02/19/why-nairu-is-zomg-hyperinflation/

[Jul 04, 2017] Critical Realism: Mathematics versus Mythematics in Economics

Notable quotes:
"... I argue here that it's the abuse of mathematics by Neoclassical economists -- who practice what I have dubbed "Mythematics" rather than Mathematics--and that some phenomena are uncovered by mathematical logic that can't be discovered by verbal logic alone. ..."
"... A lady in the audi­ence named Barb Jacobson suggested that using the name Neo-Classical gives it a cer­tain degree of cache and wants you guys to start call­ing it for what it is: "Scorched Earth Economics." What a great name to use and doesn't it ring true? ..."
Oct 02, 2015 | www.debtdeflation.com

This is the brief talk I gave at a conference celebrating 25 years of the Critical Realist seminar series at Cambridge University. Critical realists argue against the use of mathematics in economics; I argue here that it's the abuse of mathematics by Neoclassical economists -- who practice what I have dubbed "Mythematics" rather than Mathematics--and that some phenomena are uncovered by mathematical logic that can't be discovered by verbal logic alone.

I give the example of my own model of Minsky's Financial Instability Hypothesis, which revealed the possibility of a "Great Moderation" preceding a "Great Recession" before either event had happened.

David Milburn, September 12, 2015 at 9:38 am

Steve,

Last week Prof Bill Mitchell was in London where he gave a talk on re-framing the language used in the media that carried on the myth of the main­stream groupthink. A lady in the audi­ence named Barb Jacobson suggested that using the name Neo-Classical gives it a cer­tain degree of cache and wants you guys to start call­ing it for what it is: "Scorched Earth Economics." What a great name to use and doesn't it ring true? Barb Jacobson is spot on!

Sue Madden, September 13, 2015 at 8:28 am

Hi Steve,
I was really amused to see an inter­view a while back in the New Sci­en­tist, with the "research chief" (!!) at the B of E. If you haven't seen it, you really must:

Opinion Interview with Andy Haldane: "Sackcloth and Ashes on Thread needle Street" New Scientist 25 March 2015

Corbyn was elected leader!!!! Now the sparks will fly. At least a pub­lic debate wor­thy of the name might at last be heard in our sad country.

Thanks for your work in trying to enlighten us!!
Sue.

[Jul 04, 2017] We should reject masked by mathiness typical neoclassical junk that is mainstream now.

Notable quotes:
"... That is exactly what makes macro a pseudoscience (as Cassidy called it "Utopian economics".) You can't talk about economics ignoring existence of finance, because finance is an elephant in the room. A church of efficient stochastic equilibrium and an invisible hand that drives economics to it (the hand of God) is junk science, and always was. ..."
Mar 03, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com
libezkova : March 02, 2017 at 07:14 PM , 2017 at 07:14 PM
"macro rightly got a lot of stick by largely ignoring the role of finance,"

That is exactly what makes macro a pseudoscience (as Cassidy called it "Utopian economics".) You can't talk about economics ignoring existence of finance, because finance is an elephant in the room. A church of efficient stochastic equilibrium and an invisible hand that drives economics to it (the hand of God) is junk science, and always was.

As much as I admire the mathematics, its use in macro is perverted and unscientific because it relies on unrealistic assumptions. Its all pure mathiness.

Most of terminology that neoclassical economy introduced smells "fraud" or at least is detached from reality. "Output gap" and related notion "potential output" can serve as an example. Look at WWII production. For example, even potential output of a single plant (let's say three shift work and full utilization of equipment) is pretty convoluted notion as there is a high level of dependence on suppliers and somewhere typically "bottleneck" exists that prevent the factory achieving this input. Still Hjalmar Schacht achieved wonders during WWII by just ordering German factories to continue producing without waiting for orders to come.

Also it looks like Simon Wren-Lewis equalizes Keynes with Paul Samuelson simplification (or perversion if you wish) of Keynes thoughts ( http://econ.bus.utk.edu/department/emeritus/samuelson'sarrogance100%20final.pdf )

== quote ==
Moreover, Keynes [1936, p. 177, 179] had denounced Walras's approach as wrong when he wrote "Now the analysis of the previous chapters [of The General Theory] made it plain that this account [in Walras] of the matter must be erroneous .this [Walrasian system] is a nonsense theory".
== end of quote ==

And even worse, like most neoliberal economists, he tends to ignore Hyman Minsky important contribution to understanding of source of instability in capitalist economics.

That fact alone IMHO makes his lectures junk science.

libezkova -> libezkova... , March 02, 2017 at 07:14 PM
I remember that during 2008 events somebody called Bernanke not a specialist on Great Depression, but a charlatan, who tried to explain Great Depression using neoclassic economics.

I think that was an apt definition.

Mr. Bill : , March 02, 2017 at 10:21 PM
"I acknowledge that macro rightly got a lot of stick by largely ignoring the role of finance, but I also point out that the poor recovery has involved a vindication of the core macro model: austerity is a bad idea at the ZLB, QE was not inflationary and interest rates on government debt did not rise but fell."

No shit Dick Tracy. Look at the devastation of the US of O (The United States of Oligarchy). Let's join the Military in defending the shipping lanes, 3 hots and a cot.

I'm glad the core macro-model has been vindicated.

Sanjait : , March 02, 2017 at 11:29 PM
Is it my imagination or are the crazies around here getting crazier, and becoming increasingly unable to even begin talking about macro in a serious way.

I mean, I don't mind a bit of vituperation or even limited amounts of incoherence and insanity, if it is accompanied by at least earnest attempts to have substantive discussions. But it just feels like the essential substance has become increasingly rare.

libezkova -> Sanjait... , -1
"Is it my imagination or are the crazies around here getting crazier, and becoming increasingly unable to even begin talking about macro in a serious way."

If you think that neoliberal economists and their low-level supporters like some members of this blog are crazy you are wrong. They are corrupt the same way as Mafia members are corrupt. That's why they are unable to discuss economics in a serious way. Only "religious dogma" based way is permitted.

Neoliberal Jesuits will defend their "flat earth" theory and ostracize heretics as long as financial oligarchy is in power, because their well being is dependent on it, and they are paid by financial oligarchy to do the job.

When neoliberalism was hatched it deliberately emulated methods of influence used by Communists (and Austrians were intimately aware of them, because the country experienced communist revolution, which failed) in trying to expand their influence at university departments and by creating think tanks. Those subversive methods proved way too successful and they are now really entrenched: neoclassic economic thinking permeates the society to the same or higher degree as Marx political economy in the USSR.

See LSE discussion "Masters of the Universe: Hayek, Friedman, and the Birth of Neoliberal Politics "

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ehrjP2_ffPc

libezkova : , March 03, 2017 at 08:48 AM
I think that that one of the few better and more productive pathway of discussing economic events is the one that stems from Hyman Minsky work with its idea of positive feedback loops in economics with one from financial system that periodically destabilizes the capitalist economy and create a financial crisis.

The neoclassical concept of equilibrium is way too primitive and attempts to build economics as branch of physics. It should be discarded for good, as the way it is used now is close to pure charlatanism.

We also have an uncertainty principle here as even the suggestion of the intervention can change the dynamics of the system (look at "Fed talk" )

The role of the state now is so huge that any talk about the economy achieving equilibrium by itself is fraud outside few special cases. And actually the introduction of neoliberalism was the "revolution from above" -- a coup d'état, if you wish.

== quote ==

In microeconomic theory, cost-minimization by consumers and by firms implies the existence of supply and demand correspondences for which market clearing equilibrium prices exist, if there are large numbers of consumers and producers. Under convexity assumptions or under some marginal-cost pricing rules, each equilibrium will be Pareto efficient: In large economies, non-convexity also leads to quasi-equilibria that are nearly efficient.

However, the concept of market equilibrium has been criticized by Austrians, post-Keynesians and others, who object to applications of microeconomic theory to real-world markets, when such markets are not usefully approximated by microeconomic models. Heterodox economists assert that micro-economic models rarely capture reality.
== end of quote ==

Steve Keen in one who uses and try to develop further Minsky concepts and he was one of the few who predicted the financial crash on 2008. IMHO he should get more respect and coverage at the expense of neoliberal stooges like Krugman.

Ha-Joon Chang, Philip Mirowski, Joseph Stiglitz, Richard Koo, Yanis Varoufakis, Noam Chomsky all have interesting and IMHO more realistic ideas about how the modern economy really function and what can be more appropriate ways to model it.

We should reject masked by mathiness typical neoclassical junk that is mainstream now.

[Jun 26, 2017] Dangerous debt level increases: these obvious tidbits never saw the light of day because they did not fit the fantasies of FIRE executives

Notable quotes:
"... Most of the debt before the crisis was taken on by the 45+. They are 10 years older now and not about to re-leverage themselves. The growth will have to come from the younger group but they are full of student and car debt. Will they be able to buy houses for which prices have returned to pre-crisis levels? ..."
"... This leverage game depends on housing but it looks like we will be forced into a change of paradigm. ..."
"... Very well put. The ' leverage game ' comprises the whole neo-liberal paradigm which as you say depends on housing . ..."
"... Here in the UK until the last fifteen years or so, apart from a small number of very top end residential properties there was a ' property ladder ' we used to say . The meaning was that you could start at the bottom and if you chose to, could move up, and even though property prices moved up your wages were likely to increase, but your debt was being eroded bit by bit by inflation which kept the whole thing in sync. ..."
"... In a recession, a debt-burdened corporate sector behaves much as households do, cutting back particularly on capital investment. Government goes the opposite way, hiking debt during a recession to fund automatic stabilizers. But heavy gov't debt, like household debt, is a drag on consumption after a lag of several years. ..."
"... Focusing on household debt alone is of questionable value, when much broader debt aggregates are available. What's clear from the chart comparing household debt in six countries is that Canada and Australia are up to their necks in debt, largely owing to mortgage debt supported by their housing bubbles. ..."
"... When these housing bubbles burst - as bubbles invariably do - these two resource-oriented economies are going to be sucking wind. Unfortunately, in 2014 USgov started applying US income taxation to Canadians who stay 182 days a year or more in the US. Refugees from the Great White North who flee south will face a whole new level of pain when the US IRS works them over with a rubber hose. ..."
Jun 26, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com
Moneta , June 26, 2017 at 7:29 am

For some reason, many economists still don't see it!

Now the general meme is that after 10 years, balance sheets have slowly been repaired as if these household would be about to remake the same debt mistakes.

Most of the debt before the crisis was taken on by the 45+. They are 10 years older now and not about to re-leverage themselves. The growth will have to come from the younger group but they are full of student and car debt. Will they be able to buy houses for which prices have returned to pre-crisis levels?

This leverage game depends on housing but it looks like we will be forced into a change of paradigm.

skippy , June 26, 2017 at 8:02 am

Wages and productivity divergence, crapifiction of long term credit risk, concentration of wealth and assets .

disheveled and the sound track chorus – because markets – all sung by Milton, Rubin, Greenspan, et al but yeah the debt sigh

templar555510 , June 26, 2017 at 8:35 am

Very well put. The ' leverage game ' comprises the whole neo-liberal paradigm which as you say depends on housing .

Here in the UK until the last fifteen years or so, apart from a small number of very top end residential properties there was a ' property ladder ' we used to say . The meaning was that you could start at the bottom and if you chose to, could move up, and even though property prices moved up your wages were likely to increase, but your debt was being eroded bit by bit by inflation which kept the whole thing in sync.

Those days are long gone and I think it is dawning on a lot of us that the game is finally up for this paradigm and there is no going back. Hence the certain air of melancholy which pervades the atmosphere.

I went to a little drinks party on Saturday evening and it was interesting how the room of twenty or so people divided between those stuck in the status quo and those beginning to perceive of a future beyond the status quo .

Jim Haygood , June 26, 2017 at 12:10 pm

Globally, household debt is the smallest of the four commonly used categories of Household, Corporate [non-financial], Government, and Financial. Chart:

http://tinyurl.com/zwqah7t

In a recession, a debt-burdened corporate sector behaves much as households do, cutting back particularly on capital investment. Government goes the opposite way, hiking debt during a recession to fund automatic stabilizers. But heavy gov't debt, like household debt, is a drag on consumption after a lag of several years.

Focusing on household debt alone is of questionable value, when much broader debt aggregates are available. What's clear from the chart comparing household debt in six countries is that Canada and Australia are up to their necks in debt, largely owing to mortgage debt supported by their housing bubbles.

When these housing bubbles burst - as bubbles invariably do - these two resource-oriented economies are going to be sucking wind. Unfortunately, in 2014 USgov started applying US income taxation to Canadians who stay 182 days a year or more in the US. Refugees from the Great White North who flee south will face a whole new level of pain when the US IRS works them over with a rubber hose.

[Jun 26, 2017] From a class conflict perspective, the economics field is responsive to its constituency: the 1%. As Marx and others have pointed out, the ideological necessity of making what is unjust appear as "There Is No Alternative" is the unstated core mandate of the economists

Notable quotes:
"... Ann Pettifor has become so disgusted with all of this "gee, we didn't know" and other incompetencies that she has written a piece demanding that the government take a hard look at the economics profession in a first step to making it responsive and responsible to the people. This is the UK, and we should definitely do it here, US, too. ..."
Jun 26, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com
Susan the other , June 26, 2017 at 11:45 am

Ann Pettifor has become so disgusted with all of this "gee, we didn't know" and other incompetencies that she has written a piece demanding that the government take a hard look at the economics profession in a first step to making it responsive and responsible to the people. This is the UK, and we should definitely do it here, US, too.

DanB , June 26, 2017 at 12:42 pm

From a class conflict perspective, the economics field is responsive to its constituency: the 1%. As Marx and others have pointed out, the ideological necessity of making what is unjust appear as "There Is No Alternative" is the unstated core mandate of the economists. Therefore, despite the ludicrousness of this analysis, I find it another chink in the armor of the dominant ideology that the obvious is now being so gingerly discussed by mainstream economists, the chief ideological propagandists of the 1%.

cocomaan , June 26, 2017 at 5:40 am

When households take on long-term debt, they increase current spending power but commit to a pre-specified path of future debt service (interest payments and amortisations).

How much are these people paid to come up with these thrilling and original conclusions?

[Jun 18, 2017] Economic bungee jumping without cord: Comment on Simon Wren-Lewis on 'Raising the inflation target'

Notable quotes:
"... The argument for a higher inflation target is NOT straightforward, once you understand two things. First interest theory is axiomatically false.#1 Because of this monetary policy never had sound scientific foundations. Second the same holds for fiscal policy.#2 ..."
"... The argument AGAINST higher inflation is that it REDUCES employment. Given the overall situation, the ONLY sensible policy is to increase the average wage rate, such that the rate of change of the wage rate is greater than the rate of change of productivity, because this increases employment. This is a SYSTEMIC necessity and has NOTHING to do with social policy. Employment is co-determined by the relationship between average wage rate, price and productivity. This relationship should automatically produce full employment but does not. ..."
Jun 18, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com

Egmont Kakarot-Handtke, June 17, 2017 at 08:31 AM

Economic bungee jumping without cord: Comment on Simon Wren-Lewis on 'Raising the inflation target'

You say: "The argument for a higher inflation target is straightforward, once you understand two things. First the most effective and reliable monetary policy instrument is to influence the real interest rate in the economy, which is the nominal interest rate less expected inflation. Second nominal short term interest rates have a floor near zero (the Zero Lower Bound, or ZLB)."

The argument for a higher inflation target is NOT straightforward, once you understand two things. First interest theory is axiomatically false.#1 Because of this monetary policy never had sound scientific foundations. Second the same holds for fiscal policy.#2

Let us assume for a moment that, for whatever reasons, neither monetary nor fiscal policy is applicable. So, given investment expenditures of the business sector and the expenditure ratio of the household sector, the only alternative left is to directly influence the macroeconomic price mechanism.#3

The argument AGAINST higher inflation is that it REDUCES employment. Given the overall situation, the ONLY sensible policy is to increase the average wage rate, such that the rate of change of the wage rate is greater than the rate of change of productivity, because this increases employment. This is a SYSTEMIC necessity and has NOTHING to do with social policy. Employment is co-determined by the relationship between average wage rate, price and productivity. This relationship should automatically produce full employment but does not.

Standard employment theory is false.#4 The proposal to get the economy going by increasing price inflation is the direct result of the complete lack of understanding how the market economy works.

Egmont Kakarot-Handtke

#1 See 'The Emergence of Profit and Interest in the Monetary Circuit'
https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1973952

#2 See 'Austerity and the utter scientific ignorance of economists'
http://axecorg.blogspot.de/2015/12/austerity-and-utter-scientific.html

#3 For more details see 'Think deeper'
http://axecorg.blogspot.de/2017/06/think-deeper.html

#4 For details of the bigger picture see cross-references Employment
http://axecorg.blogspot.de/2015/08/employmentphillips-curve-cross.html

[Jun 17, 2017] Varoufakis explains why economics is not science

Notable quotes:
"... Russell Brand discusses with Yanis Varoufakis what happens when you take on the political, financial and media elite, and how radical reform can occur. Through accounts of his confrontations with the IMF, European institutions and the German government they examine where true power lies and how it is wielded. ..."
"... The 'gurus' of the dominant economic system 'teach' us how economy should be treated, based on mathematical models that assume standard conditions that, essentially, do not exist in the real world. This kind of peculiar 'determinism' in economics is already considered obsolete in other scientific fields. ..."
"... Mainstream economics, dominated by the neoliberal perception, is full of assumptions that are not applicable in the real world, yet being used to justify the satisfaction of the interests of the elites. ..."
"... Almost everywhere, neoliberal policies imposed through IMF have brought unprecedented disaster. Despite the obvious failure, financial technocrats assume that all cases are similar, imposing the same recipe in every region. Their models are full of assumptions in every level and that's why the fail miserably. Yet, despite the obvious disaster, the neoliberal priesthood demands from societies to adopt its models through simple faith. ..."
Jun 17, 2017 | failedevolution.blogspot.gr
globinfo freexchange

Russell Brand discusses with Yanis Varoufakis what happens when you take on the political, financial and media elite, and how radical reform can occur. Through accounts of his confrontations with the IMF, European institutions and the German government they examine where true power lies and how it is wielded.

In a particular part of the interview, Varoufakis explains simply why economics is not science:

I call it organized religion with equations, superstition. The only way to become free of superstition is through overcoming. But you need to study. I've always pissed off my academic colleagues and other economists who actually believe that is real science what they are doing.

Our mathematical models of the weather can be judged by objective reality. If I am a meteorologist and come up with a prediction that tomorrow there is going to be a heatwave in Leicester square, all we have to do is to wait until tomorrow to see if I'm right or wrong. The weather will either confirm or junk my theories about it.

And by the way, this is exactly the process of how real science progres