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|Is it really necessary for every economist to be brain-dead apologist for the rich and powerful and predatory, in every damn breath?|
|Smith briskly takes a sledgehammer to any number of plaster saints
cluttering up the edifice of modern economics:
"assumptions that are patently ridiculous: that individuals are rational and utility-maximizing (which has become such a slippery notion as to be meaningless), that buyers and sellers have perfect information, that there are no transaction costs, that capital flows freely"
And then...papers with cooked figures, economists oblivious to speculative factors driving oil prices, travesty versions of Keynes's ideas that airbrush out its most characteristic features in the name of mathematical tractability.
And then...any number of grand-sounding theoretical constructs: the Arrow-Debreu theorem, the Dynamic Stochastic General Equilibrium model, the Black-Scholes option model, Value at Risk, CAPM, the Gaussian copula, that only work under blatantly unrealistic assumptions that go by high falutin' names - equilibrium, ergodicity, and so on.
The outcome of this pseudo-scientific botching is an imposing corpus of pretentious quackery that somehow elevates unregulated "free markets" into the sole mechanism for distribution of the spoils of economic activity. We are supposed to believe that by some alchemical process, maximum indulgence of human greed results in maximum prosperity for all. That's unfair to alchemy: compared with the threadbare scientific underpinnings of this economic dogma, alchemy is a model of rigor.
|How many others are being paid for punditry? Or has the culture of corruption
spread so far that the question is, Who isn't?
"MIT and Wharton and University of Chicago created the financial engineering instruments which, like Samson and Delilah, blinded every CEO. They didn't realize the kind of leverage they were doing and they didn't understand when they were really creating a real profit or a fictitious one."
When you see this "neoclassical" gallery of expensive intellectual prostitutes (sorry, respectable priests of a dominant religion) that pretend to be professors of economics in various prominent universities, it is difficult not to say "It's political economy stupid". Those lackeys of ruling elite are just handing microphone bought by financial oligarchy. Here is am Amazon.com review of ECONned How Unenlightened Self Interest Undermined Democracy and Corrupted Capitalism eBook Yves Smith that states this position well:
kievite:Neoclassical economics as a universal door opener for financial oligarchy
There are many good reviews of the book published already and I don't want to repeat them. But I think there is one aspect of the book that was not well covered in the published reviews and which I think is tremendously important and makes the book a class of its own: the use of neoclassical economics as a universal door opener for financial oligarchy. I hope that the term "econned" will became a new word in English language.
Neoclassical economics has become the modern religion with its own priests, sacred texts and a scheme of salvation. It was a successful attempt to legitimize the unlimited rule of financial oligarchy by using quasi-mathematical, oversimplified and detached for reality models. The net result is a new brand of theology, which proved to be pretty powerful in influencing people and capturing governments("cognitive regulatory capture"). Like Marxism, neoclassical economics is a triumph of ideology over science. It was much more profitable though: those who were the most successful in driving this Trojan horse into the gates were remunerated on the level of Wall Street traders.
Economics is essentially a political science. And politics is about perception. Neo-classical economics is all about manipulating the perception in such a way as to untie hands of banking elite to plunder the country (and get some cramps from the table for themselves). Yves contributed to our understanding how "These F#@king Guys" as Jon Steward defined them, economics professors from Chicago, Harvard, Columbia, Princeton and some other places warmed by flow of money from banks for specific services provided managed to serve as a fifth column helping Wall Street to plunder the country. The rhetorical question that a special counsel to the U.S. Army, Joseph Welch, asked Senator McCarthy: "Have you no sense of decency?" applies.
The main effect of neoclassical economics is elevating unregulated ( "free" in neoclassic economics speak) markets into the key mechanism for distribution of the results of economic activity with banks as all-powerful middlemen and sedating any opposition with pseudo-mathematical mumbo-jumbo. Complexity was used as a powerful smoke screen to conceal greed and incompetence. As a result financial giants were able to loot almost all sectors of economics with impunity and without any remorse, not unlike the brutal conquerors in Middle Ages.
The key to the success of this nationwide looting is that people should be brainwashed/indoctrinated to believe that by some alchemical process, maximum level of greed results in maximum prosperity for all. Collapse of the USSR helped in this respect driving the message home: look how the alternative ended, when in reality the USSR was a neo-feudal society. But the exquisite irony here is that Bolsheviks-style ideological brainwashing was applied very successfully to the large part of the US population (especially student population) using neo-classical economics instead of Marxism (which by-and-large was also a pseudo-religious economic theory with slightly different priests and the plan of salvation ;-). The application of badly constructed mathematical models proved to be a powerful tool for distorting reality in a certain, desirable for financial elite direction. One of the many definitions of Ponzi Scheme is "transfer liabilities to unwilling others." The use of detached from reality mathematical models fits this definition pretty well.
The key idea here is that neoclassical economists are not and never have been scientists: much like Marxist economists they always were just high priests of a dangerous cult -- neoliberalism -- and they are more then eager to stretch the truth for the benefit of the sect (and indirectly to their own benefit). All-in-all this is not unlike Lysenkoism: state support was and still is here, it is just working more subtly via ostracism, without open repressions. Look at Shiller story on p.9.
I think that one of lasting insights provided by Econned is the demonstration how the US society was taken hostage by the ideological views of the neoclassical economic school that has dominated the field at least for 30 or may be even 50 years. And that this ideological coup d'état was initiated and financed by banking establishment who was a puppeteer behind the curtain. This is not unlike the capture of Russia by Bolsheviks supported by German intelligence services (and Bolshevics rule lasted slightly longer -- 65 years). Bolsheviks were just adherents of similar wrapped in the mantle of economic theory religious cult, abeit more dangerous and destructive for the people of Russia then neoclassical economics is for the people of the USA. Quoting Marx we can say "History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce".
That also means that there is no easy way out of the current situation. Ideologies are sticky and can lead to the collapse of society rather then peaceful evolution.
So it's no surprise that there is a strong evidence that neo-classical economics is not a science, it's a political ideology of financial oligarchy masquerading as science. Or a religious cult, if you wish.
|So it's no surprise that there is a strong evidence that neo-classical economics is not a science, it's a political ideology of financial oligarchy masquerading as science. Or a religious cult, if you wish.|
The cult which served as a Trojan horse for bankers to grab power and wealth by robbing fellow Americans. In a way this is a classic story of a parasite killing the host. The powers that be in academia put their imprimatur on economic ‘theory,’ select and indoctrinate its high priests to teach it, and with a host of media players grinding out arguments pro and con this and that, provide legitimacy sufficient for cover of bankers objectives. Which control the disposition and annuity streams of pension fund assets and related financial services. In his new documentary Inside Job, filmmaker Charles Ferguson provides strong evidence of a systematic mass corruption of economic profession (Yahoo! Finance):
Ferguson points to 20 years of deregulation, rampant greed (a la Gordon Gekko) and cronyism. This cronyism is in large part due to a revolving door between not only Wall Street and Washington, but also the incestuous relationship between Wall Street, Washington and academia.The conflicts of interest that arise when academics take on roles outside of education are largely unspoken, but a very big problem. “The academic economics discipline has been very heavily penetrated by the financial services industry,” Ferguson tells Aaron in the accompanying clip. “Many prominent academics now actually make the majority of their money from the financial services industry, not from teaching or research. [This fact] has definitely compromised the research work and the policy advice that we get from academia.”
... ... ...
Feguson is astonished by the lack of regulation demanding financial disclosure of all academics and is now pushing for it. “At a minimum, federal law should require public disclosure of all outside income that is in any way related to professors’ publishing and policy advocacy,” he writes. “It may be desirable to go even further, and to limit the total size of outside income that potentially generates conflicts of interest.”
The dismantling of economic schools that favor financial oligarchy interests over real research (and prosecuting academic criminals -- many prominent professors in Chicago, Harvard, Columbia and other prominent members of neo-classical economic church) require a new funding model. As neoliberalism itself, the neoclassical economy is very sticky. Chances for success of any reform in the current environment are slim to non existent.
Here is one apt quote from Zero Hedge discussion of Gonzalo Lira article On The Identity Of The False Religion Behind The Mask Of Economic Science zero hedge
"They analyze data for Christ sakes"
Just like Mishkin analyzed Iceland for $120k? a huge proportion in US [are] on Fed payroll, or beneficiaries of corporate thinktank cash; they are coverup lipstick and makeup; hacks for hire.
Like truth-trashing mortgage pushers, credit raters, CDO CDS market manipulators and bribe-fueled fraud enablers of all stripes -- they do it for the dough -- and because everybody else is doing it.
It's now a common understanding that "These F#@king Guys" as Jon Steward defined them, professors of neoclassical economics from Chicago, Harvard and some other places are warmed by flow of money from financial services industries for specific services provided managed to serve as a fifth column helping financial oligarchy to destroy the country. This role of neo-classical economists as the fifth column of financial oligarchy is an interesting research topic. Just don't expect any grants for it ;-).As Reinhold Niebuhr aptly noted in his classic Moral Man and Immoral Society
Since inequalities of privilege are greater than could possibly be defended rationally, the intelligence of privileged groups is usually applied to the task of inventing specious proofs for the theory that universal values spring from, and that general interests are served by, the special privileges which they hold.
I would like to stress it again: they are not and never have been scientists: they are just high priests of dangerous cult -- neoliberalism -- and they are more then eager to stretch the truth for the sect (and that means their own) benefits. Fifth column of financial oligarchy. All-in-all this is not unlike Lysenkoism: at some point state support became obvious as financial oligarchy gained significant share of government power (as Glass-Steagall repeal signified). It is just more subtle working via ostracism and flow of funding, without open repressions. See also Politicization of science and The Republican War on Science
Like Russia with Bolsheviks, the US society was taken hostage by the ideological views of the Chicago economic school that has dominated the field for approximately 50 years ( as minimum over 30 years). Actually the situation not unlike the situation with Lysenkoism is the USSR. It's pretty notable that the USA suffered 30 years of this farce, actually approximately the same amount of time the USSR scientific community suffered from Lysenkoism (1934-1965)
|"Over the past 30 years, the economics profession—in economics departments, and in business,
public policy, and law schools—has become so compromised by conflicts of interest that it now
functions almost as a support group for financial services and other industries whose profits
depend heavily on government policy.
The route to the 2008 financial crisis, and the economic problems that still plague us, runs straight through the economics discipline. And it's due not just to ideology; it's also about straightforward, old-fashioned money."
Peter Dormat noticed amazing similarity between medical researchers taking money from drug companies and economists. In case of medical researchers widespread corruption can at least be partially kept in check by rules of disclosure. Universities are being called out for their failure to disclose to public agencies the other, private grants researchers are pulling in. This is not perfect policing as the universities themselves get a cut of the proceeds, so that the conflict of interest exists but at least this is theirs too.
But there is no corresponding policy for economics. So for them there are not even rules to be broken. And this is not a bug, this is feature. In a sense corruption is officially institualized and expected in economics. Being a paid shill is the typical career of many professional economists. Some foundations require an acknowledgment in the published research they support, but that's all about “thank you”, not disclaimer about the level of influence of those who pay for the music exert on the selection of the tune. Any disclosure of other, privately-interested funding sources by economists is strictly voluntary, and in practice seldom occurs. Trade researchers can be funded by foreign governments or business associations and so on and so forth.
In this atmosphere pseudo-theories have currency and are attractive to economists who want to enrich themselves. That situation is rarely reflected in mainstream press. For example, there some superficial critiques of neo-classical economics as a new form of Lysenkoism (it enjoyed the support of the state) but MSM usually frame the meltdown of neo-classical economic theory something like "To all you corrupt jerks out there: shake off the old camouflage as it became too visible and find a new way misleading the masses...". At the same time it's a real shocker, what a bunch of toxic theories and ideologies starting from Reagan have done to the US economy.
That suggests that neo-economics such as Milton Friedman (and lower level patsies like Eugene Fama ) were just paid propagandists of a superficial, uninformed, and simplistic view of the world that was convenient to the ruling elite. While this is somewhat simplistic explanation, it's by-and-large true and that was one of the factors led the USA very close to the cliff... Most of their theories is not only just nonsense for any trained Ph.D level mathematician or computer scientist, they look like nonsense to any person with a college degree, who looks at them with a fresh, unprejudiced mind. There are several economic myths, popularized by well paid propagandists over the last thirty years, that are falling hard in the recent series of financial crises: the efficient market hypothesis, the inherent benefits of globalization from the natural equilibrium of national competitive advantages, and the infallibility of unfettered greed as a ideal method of managing and organizing human social behavior and maximizing national production.
I would suggest that and economic theory has a strong political-economic dimension. The cult of markets, ideological subservience and manipulation, etc. certainly are part of neo-classical economics that was influenced by underling political agenda this pseudo-theory promotes. As pdavidsonutk wrote: July 16, 2009 16:14
Keynes noted that "classical theorists resemble Euclidean geometers in a non Euclidean world who, discovering that in experience straight lines apparently parallel often meet, rebuke the lines for not keeping straight --as the only remedy for the unfortunate collisions. Yet in truth there is no remedy except to throw over the axiom of parallels to work out a non-Euclidean geometry. SOMETHING SIMILAR IS REQUIRED IN ECONOMICS TODAY. " [Emphasis added]
As I pointed out in my 2007 book JOHN MAYNARD KEYNES (Mentioned in this ECONOMIST article as a biography "of the master") Keynes threw over three classical axioms: (1) the neutral money axiom (2) the gross substitution axiom, and (3) the ergodic axiom.
The latter is most important for understanding why modern macroeconomics is dwelling in an Euclidean economics world rather than the non-Euclidean economics Keynes set forth.
The Ergodic axiom asserts that the future is merely the statistical shadow of the past so that if one develops a probability distribution using historical data, the same probability distribution will govern all future events till the end of time!! Thus in this Euclidean economics there is no uncertainty about the future only probabilistic risk that can reduce the future to actuarial certainty! In such a world rational people and firms know (with actuarial certainty) their intertemporal budget constrains and optimize -- so that there can never be an loan defaults, insolvencies, or bankruptcies.
Keynes argued that important economic decisions involved nonergodic processes, so that the future could NOT be forecasted on the basis of past statistical probability results -- and therefore certain human institutions had to be develop0ed as part of the law of contracts to permit people to make crucial decisions regarding a future that they "knew" they could not know and still sleep at night. When the future seems very uncertain, then rational people in a nonergodic world would decide not to make any decisions to commit their real resources -- but instead save via liquid assets so they could make decisions another day when the future seemed to them less uncertain.
All this is developed and the policy implications derived in my JOHN MAYNARD KEYNES (2007) book. Furthermore this nonergodic model is applied to the current financial and economic crisis and its solution in my 2009 book THE KEYNES SOLUTION: THE PATH TO GLOBAL PROSPERITY (Palgrave/Macmillan) where I tell the reader what Keynes would have written regarding today's domestic crisis in each nation and its international aspects.
Paul Davidson ghaliban wrote:July 16, 2009 15:34
I think you could have written a shorter article to make your point about the dismal state of economics theory and practice, and saved space to think more imaginatively about ways to reform.
A bit like biology, economics must become econology - a study of real economic systems. It must give up its physics-envy. This on its own will lead its practitioners closer to the truth.
Like biological systems, economic systems are complex, and often exhibit emergent properties that cannot be predicted from the analysis of component parts. The best way to deal with this is (as in biology) to start with the basic organizational unit of analysis - the individual, and then study how the individual makes economic decisions in larger and larger groups (family/community), and how groups take economic decisions within larger and larger forms of economic organization. From this, econologists should determine whether there are any enduring patterns in how aggregate economic decisions are taken. If there are no easily discernable patterns, and aggregate decisions cannot be predicted from a knowledge of individual decision-making preferences, then the theory must rely (as it does in biology) on computer simulations with the economy replicated in as much detail as possible to limit the scope for modeling error. This path will illuminate the "physiology" of different economies.
A second area of development must look into "anatomy" - the connections between actors within the financial system, the connections between economic actors within the real economy, and the connections between the real and financial economies. What are the precise links demand and supply links between these groups, and how does money really flow through the economic system? A finer knowledge of economic anatomy will make it easier to produce better computer simulations of the economy, which will make it a bit easier to study economic physiology.
In her interview What Exactly Is Neoliberalism Wendy Brown advanced some Professor Wolin ideas to a new level and provide explanation why "neoclassical crooks" like Professor Frederic Mishkin (of Financial Stability in Iceland fame) still rule the economics departments of the USA. They are instrumental in giving legitimacy to the neoliberal rule favoured by the financial oligarchy:
"... I treat neoliberalism as a governing rationality through which everything is "economized" and in a very specific way: human beings become market actors and nothing but, every field of activity is seen as a market, and every entity (whether public or private, whether person, business, or state) is governed as a firm. Importantly, this is not simply a matter of extending commodification and monetization everywhere-that's the old Marxist depiction of capital's transformation of everyday life. Neoliberalism construes even non-wealth generating spheres-such as learning, dating, or exercising-in market terms, submits them to market metrics, and governs them with market techniques and practices. Above all, it casts people as human capital who must constantly tend to their own present and future value. ..."
"... The most common criticisms of neoliberalism, regarded solely as economic policy rather than as the broader phenomenon of a governing rationality, are that it generates and legitimates extreme inequalities of wealth and life conditions; that it leads to increasingly precarious and disposable populations; that it produces an unprecedented intimacy between capital (especially finance capital) and states, and thus permits domination of political life by capital; that it generates crass and even unethical commercialization of things rightly protected from markets, for example, babies, human organs, or endangered species or wilderness; that it privatizes public goods and thus eliminates shared and egalitarian access to them; and that it subjects states, societies, and individuals to the volatility and havoc of unregulated financial markets. ..."
"... with the neoliberal revolution that homo politicus is finally vanquished as a fundamental feature of being human and of democracy. Democracy requires that citizens be modestly oriented toward self-rule, not simply value enhancement, and that we understand our freedom as resting in such self-rule, not simply in market conduct. When this dimension of being human is extinguished, it takes with it the necessary energies, practices, and culture of democracy, as well as its very intelligibility. ..."
"... For most Marxists, neoliberalism emerges in the 1970s in response to capitalism's falling rate of profit; the shift of global economic gravity to OPEC, Asia, and other sites outside the West; and the dilution of class power generated by unions, redistributive welfare states, large and lazy corporations, and the expectations generated by educated democracies. From this perspective, neoliberalism is simply capitalism on steroids: a state and IMF-backed consolidation of class power aimed at releasing capital from regulatory and national constraints, and defanging all forms of popular solidarities, especially labor. ..."
"... The grains of truth in this analysis don't get at the fundamental transformation of social, cultural, and individual life brought about by neoliberal reason. They don't get at the ways that public institutions and services have not merely been outsourced but thoroughly recast as private goods for individual investment or consumption. And they don't get at the wholesale remaking of workplaces, schools, social life, and individuals. For that story, one has to track the dissemination of neoliberal economization through neoliberalism as a governing form of reason, not just a power grab by capital. There are many vehicles of this dissemination -- law, culture, and above all, the novel political-administrative form we have come to call governance. It is through governance practices that business models and metrics come to irrigate every crevice of society, circulating from investment banks to schools, from corporations to universities, from public agencies to the individual. It is through the replacement of democratic terms of law, participation, and justice with idioms of benchmarks, objectives, and buy-ins that governance dismantles democratic life while appearing only to instill it with "best practices." ..."
"... Progressives generally disparage Citizens United for having flooded the American electoral process with corporate money on the basis of tortured First Amendment reasoning that treats corporations as persons. However, a careful reading of the majority decision also reveals precisely the thoroughgoing economization of the terms and practices of democracy we have been talking about. In the majority opinion, electoral campaigns are cast as "political marketplaces," just as ideas are cast as freely circulating in a market where the only potential interference arises from restrictions on producers and consumers of ideas-who may speak and who may listen or judge. Thus, Justice Kennedy's insistence on the fundamental neoliberal principle that these marketplaces should be unregulated paves the way for overturning a century of campaign finance law aimed at modestly restricting the power of money in politics. Moreover, in the decision, political speech itself is rendered as a kind of capital right, functioning largely to advance the position of its bearer, whether that bearer is human capital, corporate capital, or finance capital. This understanding of political speech replaces the idea of democratic political speech as a vital (if potentially monopolizable and corruptible) medium for public deliberation and persuasion. ..."
"... My point was that democracy is really reduced to a whisper in the Euro-Atlantic nations today. Even Alan Greenspan says that elections don't much matter much because, "thanks to globalization . . . the world is governed by market forces," not elected representatives. ..."