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Science, PseudoScience and Society

Advance of Zombie ideas in XX and XXI centuries

News Recommended books Recommended Links Financial_skeptic Political skeptic Groupthink Neoliberalism as a New Form of Corporatism
Lysenkoism and politization of science Harvard Mafia Cargo Cult Science Cargo cult programming IT offshoring Skeptic Deception Deception as an art form
Obscurantism and Mayberry Machiavelli Mayberry Machiavellians Leo Strauss and the Neocons Pseudoscience and Scientific Press Pollyanna creep Belief coercion within religious groups  
Casino Capitalism Corruption of Regulators Neoclassical Pseudo Theories and Crooked and Bought Economists as Fifth Column of Financial Oligarchy Rational Fools vs. Efficient Crooks: The efficient markets hypothesis Friedman --founder of Chicago school of deification of market Supply Side or Trickle down economics Invisible Hand Hypothesys: The Theory of Self-regulation of the Markets
Neoliberal Brainwashing -- Journalism in the Service of the Powerful Few In Foreign Events Coverage The Guardian Presstitutes Slip Beyond the Reach of Embarrassment Neo-theocracy as a False Drive to a Simpler Society Dumbing down america Information Technology Wonderland Pseudoscience and Scientific Press Scientific Fraud
Skeptical view on Programmers Health Secular Humanism Anti-intellectualism Skeptical quotes Humor Financial Humor Etc
  Programmers have a very precise understanding of truth. You can’t lie to a compiler. Try it sometime. Garbage in, garbage out. Booleans, the ones and zeros, trues and falses, make up the world programmers live in. That’s all there is! I think programming is deep, it teaches us about the non-cyber universe we live in. There’s something spiritual about computers, and I want to understand it.

Nick Geoghegan

Science has been misused for political purposes many times in history. However, the most glaring examples of politically motivated pseudoscience happened just recently, in XX century. That means that it is useful to review historic examples of "Zombie ideas" used for political purposes and the pattern that defines that abuse.

The important lesson of XX century is that discredited economic and political ideas, no matter how absurd,  don't die as long as they serve well power that be.  In a way they are real living dead, sucking blood from humans.  Those ideas that should have died long ago, still shamble forward, like Zombies. Usage of such ideas is one of the most dangerous deception schemes practiced  by modern elites

It's not easy to write about pseudo science. The problem has to do with the fluid nature of the concept. It has no single, precise meaning and there is little agreement about its constituent elements. But first and foremost it involved subjugation of scientific aims to political goals and deliberate attempt in deception and subsequent cover up. But recently almost all social and economic science became political and all politics involved deception: to say that a politician is not lying is the same as to say that an alcoholic is not drinking. Still there are different degrees of lies and different level of density of the "cloud of deception".

Discredited ideas with political support or "Zombies" can be extremely dangerous for people who oppose them.  Lysenkoism probably represents classic early example when an set of obvious lies was supported by repressive apparatus of state and dissenters were prosecuted and sentenced to Gulag.  For nearly 45 years, the Soviet government used propaganda to foster unproven theories of agriculture promoted by Trofim Lysenko. Scientists seeking favor with the Soviet hierarchy produced fake experimental data in support of Lysenko’s false claims. Contradicting scientific evidence from the fields of biology and genetics was simply banned. University programs taught only Lysenkoism . This state supported attempt to suppress generics  continued for over forty years, until 1964, and even managed to spread to other communist countries, such as  China.

What we saw it as a tragedy in Stalin's Russia genetics, we now see it as a farce in USA economics with neo-classical economics flourishing with the supportive guidance of neoliberal state and financial oligarchy.

The whole neoclassical economics is essentially a set of zombie ideas which are kept in the forefront by financial oligarchy. The financial crisis of 2008 buried key ideas of  'free market liberalism' (aka neoliberalism), such as the 'Efficient Markets Hypothesis', yet these zombie ideas still were dug our, dressed and continue to be sold via major newspapers and journals. Much like Lysenkoism in the USSR by CPSU. See

This is  a real Faustian bargain for academic scholars. One can trade the independence for political influence, good salary and other perks. It is also helps in the power grab. And despite popular image of scientists, they proved to be as corruptible, if not more corruptible, as anybody else. Historically the scientific community is generally held together and all its affairs are peacefully managed through its joint acceptance of the same fundamental scientific beliefs. Science is best practiced in a voluntary, peaceful and free atmosphere.

But that idyllic arrangement firmly belongs to  the past. Now we can talk only about the level of political pressure on scientists via research grants, not so much about presence or absence of such a pressure.  What really matters as far as politics and science is concerned is what type of environment the individual scientists have to work in and what degree of freedom they can enjoy.

Historically the situation changed irrevocably since early XX contrary, which signified discovery of atomic particles.  It should be understood that the modern scientist, built in the modern "neoliberal" democracies, is at the same time - and it is possible that even in the first place - a political agent, a manipulator. For the unwashed masses a public scientist represent the ultimate carrier of truth for a given discipline, so his opinion have a distinct political weight. And the architects of these systems use this values of scientists to the fullest extent possible. Like we can see with neoclassical economics, scientists have turned into an instrument of cognitive manipulation, when  under the guise of science financial oligarchy promote beneficial to itself a false and simplistic picture of the world, which brainwash the masses into "correct" thinking.

In this sense one can say that Lysenkoism represented a natural side effect of  shrinking of freedom of the scientific community and growing influence of political power on science. As by Frederick Seitz noted in his The Present Danger To Science and Society

Everyone knows that the scientific community faces financial problems at the present time. If that were its only problem, some form of restructuring and allocation of funds, perhaps along lines well tested in Europe and modified in characteristic American ways, might provide solutions that would lead to stability and balance well into the next century. Unfortunately, the situation is more complex, made so by the fact that the scientific establishment has become the object of controversy from both outside and inside its special domain. The most important aspects of the controversy are of a new kind and direct attention away from matters that are sufficiently urgent to be the focus of a great deal of the community's attention.

The assaults on science from the outside arise from such movements as the ugly form of "political correctness" that has taken root in important portions of our academic community. There are to be found, in addition, certain tendencies toward a home-grown variant of the anti-intellectual Lysenkoism that afflicted science in the Stalinist Soviet Union. So-called fraud cases are being dealt with in new, bureaucratic ways that cut across the traditional methods of arriving at truth in science. From inside the scientific community, meanwhile, there are challenges that go far beyond those that arise from the intense competition for the limited funds that are available to nourish the country's scientific endeavor.

The critical issue of arriving at a balanced approach to funding for science is being subordinated to issues made to seem urgent by unhealthy alliances of scientists and bureaucrats. Science and the integrity of its practitioners are under attack and, increasingly, legislators and bureaucrats shape the decisions that determine which paths scientific research should take. There is, in addition, a sinister tendency, especially in environmental affairs, toward considering the undertaking of expensive projects that are proposed by some scientists to remedy worst-case formulations of problems before the radical and expensive remedies are proven to be needed. They are viewed seriously though they are based on the advice of opportunistic alarmists in science who leap ahead of what is learned from solid research to encourage support for the expensive remedies they perceive to be necessary. The potential for very great damage to science and society is real.

Of course, the rise of 'Lysenkoism' in the Soviet Union in the late 40th of the twentieth century is one of the most tragic pages of the history of science.  Trofim Lysenko, a Soviet agronomist, came to prominence as the proponent of a theory of heredity that stood in direct opposition to Mendelianism. The details of this theory need not concern us, except to note that it was 'Larmarckist' in its contention that it is possible for organisms to inherit acquired characteristics.  This was wrong and the principles of Mendelianism - the theory of heredity - were well understood by then. But Lysenko theory fitted nicely with the Soviet ideology. Particularly, the idea that acquired characteristics could be inherited held out the promise of the perfectibility of mankind which as strange as it may sound was the necessary precondition to irreversible victory of socialism/communism (later when nationalistic forces  tore apart the USSR  it became clear that such hopes are completely misplaced). 

So the Stalinist state intervened in the pre-exiting scientific struggle by declaring the victor and the consequences, certainly for many of the scientists involved and arguably also for the USSR agriculture, were disastrous.  The essence of Lysenkoism is that pseudo-scientific theory became a pseudo-religious cult and the power of state was used to suppress dissidents. Many scientists were exiled; some killed. Unfortunately we cannot dismiss the obviously pernicious use of ideology by Lysenko and his supporters simply as an aberration of the era that is often brushed aside as 'the cult of personality' (with or without naming the personality in question). This proved to be much more dangerous and at the same time remarkably resilient phenomenon that survived the dissolution of the USSR. Actually the situation repeated with the USA economics when anything that was not neo-classic was suppressed was by-and-large similar although this time this time it happened without any killings.

Do not fool yourself that Lysenkoism is irrevocably connected with communist ideology. The link was poorly accidental. In reality Lysenkoism emerged more like a cult which was extremely convenient for the control freaks in high position in government. It's not a secret that a lot of high-level administrators in academic institutions belong to the category of micromanagers and as such they are naturally predisposed to Lysenkoism.  

In general "Lysenkovisation of  science" occurs when the state tries to control both the methodologies and goals of scientific activity and that happens all over the world, although to different degree.

In the USSR huge bureaucratic institutions such as VASKhNIL and VIEM had been set up with the specific goal to control resources and, especially, scientific press.  Part of the reason that Lysenkoism gained official support in the Soviet Union was because the Mendelian approach to genetics contradicted official ideology, in particular, Engels's dialectical materialism. In early 50th, just before his death Stalin began to sense that Lysenkoism can hinder practical science by interfering with the academic atmosphere of toleration of dissent most conducive to scientific accomplishment. He even went as far as to declare that

“no science can develop and proper without the clash of opinions, without freedom of criticism.”

But it was too late...

Other governments are also far from being immune from this kind of tendency to select between scientific theories on the basis of ideology rather than the balance of evidence.

More benign variant of Lysenkoism that does not rely on the power of the state is usually called Cargo Cult ScienceAnother related term is "Mayberry Machiavellis". A long time ago -- well, actually it was just a year, but it seems like a lot longer than that -- a former Bush advisor John DiIulio got into quite a bit of trouble for revealing to Esquire that the White House did not possess, in any conventional definition of the term, a policy-making process:

...on social policy and related issues, the lack of even basic policy knowledge, and the only casual interest in knowing more, was somewhat breathtaking—discussions by fairly senior people who meant Medicaid but were talking Medicare; near-instant shifts from discussing any actual policy pros and cons to discussing political communications, media strategy, et cetera. Even quite junior staff would sometimes hear quite senior staff pooh-pooh any need to dig deeper for pertinent information on a given issue...

This gave rise to what you might call Mayberry Machiavellis—staff, senior and junior, who consistently talked and acted as if the height of political sophistication consisted in reducing every issue to its simplest, black-and-white terms for public consumption, then steering legislative initiatives or policy proposals as far right as possible.

Dan Gardner - Senior Writer for The Ottawa Citizen writes: "Cabinet meetings were scripted, Mr. O'Neill discovered, by White House staffers who sent advance notes to cabinet secretaries telling them when they were 'supposed to speak, about what, and for how long.'" Is this the shadow of Politburo or what?

There are also strong analogies between Reaganomics and Lysenkoism. Useful discussion is at  "The Financial Crisis and the Systemic Failure of Academic Economics"

The Financial Crisis and the Systemic Failure of Academic Economics, by David Colander, Hans Föllmer, Armin Haas, Michael Goldberg, Katarina Juselius, Alan Kirman, and Thomas Lux: [From the conclusion] ..."We believe that economics has been trapped in a sub-optimal equilibrium in which much of its research efforts are not directed towards the most prevalent needs of society. Paradoxically self-reinforcing feedback effects within the profession may have led to the dominance of a paradigm that has no solid methodological basis and whose empirical performance is, to say the least, modest. Defining away the most prevalent economic problems of modern economies and failing to communicate the limitations and assumptions of its popular models, the economics profession bears some responsibility for the current crisis. It has failed in its duty to society to provide as much insight as possible into the workings of the economy and in providing warnings about the tools it created. It has also been reluctant to emphasize the limitations of its analysis. We believe that the failure to even envisage the current problems of the worldwide financial system and the inability of standard macro and finance models to provide any insight into ongoing events make a strong case for a major reorientation in these areas and a reconsideration of their basic premises."

While at the surface it looks like rent-seeking behavior of dishonest economists the analogy is pretty strong. A broad critique of Neoclassical economics has been put forward in the book Debunking Economics by Steve Keen  See, for example:

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If history repeats itself...how incapable must Man be of learning from experience

George Bernard Shaw

"No science is immune to the infection of politics and the corruption of power."

Jacob Bronowski (1908-1974),
British scientist, author.
Encounter (London, July 1971).

[Aug 20, 2017] These days, with the internet, it is far easier for a smaller fraction to gravitate to an echo chamber, reinforce group think, and believe their numbers are much larger than what, in reality, exists.

Notable quotes:
"... Reminds me of the 60's and the SDS and their ilk. A large part of the under 30 crowd idolized Mao's Little Red Book and convinced themselves the "revolution" was imminent. So many times I heard the phrase "Up Against the Wall, MFs." Stupid fools. Back then people found each other by "teach-ins" and the so called "underground press." In those days it took a larger fraction to be able to blow in each other's ear and convince themselves they were the future "vanguard." ..."
Aug 20, 2017 | turcopolier.typepad.com

doug -> Tyler... , 18 August 2017 at 10:40 AM

-"Trump isnt our last chance. Its your last chance."

Reminds me of the 60's and the SDS and their ilk. A large part of the under 30 crowd idolized Mao's Little Red Book and convinced themselves the "revolution" was imminent. So many times I heard the phrase "Up Against the Wall, MFs." Stupid fools. Back then people found each other by "teach-ins" and the so called "underground press." In those days it took a larger fraction to be able to blow in each other's ear and convince themselves they were the future "vanguard."

These days, with the internet, it is far easier for a smaller fraction to gravitate to an echo chamber, reinforce group think, and believe their numbers are much larger than what, in reality, exists. This happens across the board. It's a rabbit hole Tyler. Don't go down it.

[Aug 10, 2017] The aspiration toward such objective knowledge belongs to the highest of which man is capable

Aug 10, 2017 | www.moonofalabama.org

V. Arnold | Aug 6, 2017 6:59:29 AM | 93

Probably my last post on this;

For the scientific method can teach us nothing else beyond how facts are related to, and conditioned by, each other. The aspiration toward such objective knowledge belongs to the highest of which man is capable, and you will certainly not suspect me of wishing to belittle the achievements and the heroic efforts of man in this sphere. Yet is equally clear that knowledge of what is does not open the door directly to what should be. One can have the clearest and most complete knowledge of what is , and yet not be able to deduct from that what should be the goal of our human aspirations.

Objective knowledge provides us with powerful instruments for the achievements of certain ends, but the ultimate goal itself and the longing to reach it must come from another source. And it is hardly necessary to argue for the view that our existence and our activity acquire meaning only by the setting up of such a goal and of corresponding values. (Albert Einstein, 1939)

I thought it dealt with thinking in general, just swell. ;-)

[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 05, 2017] Replication crisis

Notable quotes:
"... already been disproved ..."
"... there is no crisis ..."
"... Epistemic virtue issues ..."
"... This wasn't enough! ..."
"... failing to find something ..."
"... Mentorship/community issues ..."
"... in this particular domain ..."
"... much more than we thought ..."
Jul 05, 2017 | meaningness.com

Rob MacLachlan, 2017-01-03

I agree that the replication crisis is more than just a normal scientific self-correction. For one thing, it is about widespread methods problems, rather than refining or replacing a particular theory. But I don't agree that "they should have known" based on statistics education. First, I came away from three semesters of statistics with a vague impression that multiple comparisons correction and conditional stopping were "picky" theoretical considerations. There was just no discussion of how wrong you can be if you break "the rules".

The more subtle and fascinating part of the replication crisis is how fields evolved standards of practice that seem "designed" to satisfy the institutional incentives for maximum publishable results per unit effort. This is evolution in action.

Some people like Meehl in psychology noticed the problem decades ago, but everyone was too busy writing papers to pay attention to these party poopers.

More broadly, it isn't obvious what the right level of rigor and the strictness standards for evidence should be. The skeptical position is always strong. Formal statistical procedures for confident knowledge are only about 100 years old. Somehow we got along before then, and succeeded in socially constructing functional systems. Social psychology is an example of just such a functional system; it just wasn't optimizing what we thought it was.

Rob

Rob MacLachlan, 2017-01-03

To put it another way, the current replication crisis narrative is level 5, comparing systems. To say it is just about bad methods is level 4. The level 5 understanding is that the system structure and incentives must change.

Jayarava, 2017-01-03

Historians

Citing when you can't remember the author or title is bad method. Yes? If you're saying that its a fact you ought to be able to back it up. I'm not familiar with the claim you make, though it is not central to my own work, so I might have missed it. Still...

Getting things completely wrong used to be a lot more common than it is today. Which is a testament to progress.

I agree that the problem goes deeper. But my story about what has gone wrong is different - I've tried to make this comment stand-alone, but it may rely on terminology I've been developing this year on my blog. It's hard to get across my point without the jargon.

The field of psychology tried to move from non-science to science by ostensibly adopting scientific methods. The trouble is that at this level of the science stack, the methods of reductive materialism are very difficult to apply or simply don't apply. That difficulty was never really acknowledged or accounted for. Methods for studying systems, or even the acknowledgement that human beings are social animals, seemed to get lost in the rush to find results that would make the physicists pay attention.

This is really a failure of metaphysical reductionism, because it did not allow those working at the upper levels of the stack the proper freedom to chose methods appropriate to their level. Reductionists who dominate science only recognise the lowest levels as real, thus psychology had try too hard to make their results fit that skewed paradigm. Psychology was never going to be very amenable to analysis because systems dominate at that level of the stack. The havoc already wrecked by the Romantics following Freud meant that psychology had been so decontextualised from its social milieu that once reductionists got involved it was always going to be a disaster.

Many biologists are antireductive in outlook, because once you take your organism apart it ceases do anything interesting. Even so the gold standard for knowledge and method is reductionism, even when it is entirely inappropriate to the scale and level.

Since you are right about hindsight here is some foresight:

Biology is currently dominated by Neoliberal political ideology and Utilitarian philosophy that is going to have to change at some point. Compare Richard Dawkins to the late Lynn Margulis or Frans de Waal and you realise that Dawkins perpetuates some completely ludicrous myths about people and evolution.

The role of symbiosis, hybridisation, cooperation, communities, and other systemic features of living systems are almost completely written out of history. Witness the extent of hybridisation amongst human species that makes a mockery of the "tree" metaphor for evolution. Similarly our nature as social animals, which requires that we operate on the basis of in-group empathy and reciprocity as all social animals do, is still being nudged out of the mainstream by the (literally) insane assumptions of Nash and game theory.

A time will come when we have a paradigm shift in biology that will expose wrong-headed methods that obscured knowledge and obstructed progress after the discovery of DNA. This will be on the same scale as the psychology debacle, but it might not get the same level of press as psych because people respect biology and psych has always been suspect.

The unfolding debacle in psychology is nothing compared to the fantasy island that is economics. In economics many of the major tenets still taught up to graduate level have already been disproved , but that has not changed anything. For example in the 1970s (!) Sonnenschein, Mantel, and Debreu proved that a demand curve need not be a simple curve with a downward slope - in practice a demand curve can be any polynomial, i.e. any wavy line (Steve Keen Debunking Economics ).

The equivalent is teaching the planetary model of an atom to PhD level. And then noting that an atom is nothing like a solar system, but continuing to model it as a solar system because anything else is too hard! The failure of the vast majority of professional economists to predict either the Great Crash of 1929 and the subsequent Depression or the Great Recession of 2008 and the subsequent stagnation is an indictment that goes far deeper than what is happening in psychology. Neoclassical Economics is no better than a hoax. No amount of failure to replicate seems to have any effect on the economics hegemony.

Finally, here's a weird thing about the replication crisis in psychology. The very same bloggers and tweeters who promote the "replication crisis" narrative, still routinely blog and tweet about one-off, non-replicated studies recently published in psych journals as if there is no crisis .

Gary Basin, 2017-01-03

Virtue and method may be insufficient; unflattering anecdata

This helped clarify some thoughts I've had floating around in my mind for a while, thanks.

Around 2012, in the context of algorithmic trading, I tasked myself (with the help of a team) with finding a way to predict price movements of a certain set of securities at a certain frequency (or lower). The details of the problem aren't that important but one critical side effect was a limited data set.

Methodological issues

I myself had no more than undergrad statistics knowledge although some members of the team had grad-level training and experience working on applied problems (most relevant being in physics).

Nevertheless, we fell into the trap of bad statistics -- fooling ourselves to make methodological exceptions due to small expected effect sizes (sounds like psych, eh?), data snooping, etc

For one thing, it is about widespread methods problems, rather than refining or replacing a particular theory. But I don't agree that "they should have known" based on statistics education. First, I came away from three semesters of statistics with a vague impression that multiple comparisons correction and conditional stopping were "picky" theoretical considerations. There was just no discussion of how wrong you can be if you break "the rules".

My guess is more time spent learning to not break the rules would have not helped...

Epistemic virtue issues

If we fooled ourselves into seeing something that wasn't there, we would waste money doing further research on it, and then directly lose money by trying to make real-world, real money predictions with it. This wasn't enough! In this case, I think it was the mindset that failing to find something wasn't an option because of the plan I had created (for various reasons) to find a way along this path.

Skin in the game isn't sufficient if you are hamstrung to play the game anyway. You need a way to surrender a path and look for alternatives

In economics many of the major tenets still taught up to graduate level have already been disproved, but that has not changed anything. For example in the 1970s (!) Sonnenschein, Mantel, and Debreu proved that a demand curve need not be a simple curve with a downward slope - in practice a demand curve can be any polynomial, i.e. any wavy line (Steve Keen Debunking Economics).

They are forced to play the game -- the path cannot be abandoned until an alternative exists. But it will be tough to find until the path is abandoned...

Mentorship/community issues

I think this could have saved my endeavor. Unfortunately I was in a position where there was no one around me to learn how to do the science in this particular domain , and there was team-wide skepticism of how much knowledge on how to do the science was transferable cross-domain . In hindsight, the answer is much more than we thought .

This is both discouraging and encouraging for the future of social sciences. The discouraging aspect is there may be very few, or no one, left in them that is capable of doing the science properly. From whom will they be mentored and how will the community guide itself, then? On top of this, you have the problem of cultural momentum. The encouraging aspect is the surprising amount of transferability of science-skill between fields. Maybe some physicists will be able to move into psych and revitalize it? This leaves out the issues of applying reductive positivism to "higher domain" fields raised by Jayarava, however.

This is really a failure of metaphysical reductionism, because it did not allow those working at the upper levels of the stack the proper freedom to chose methods appropriate to their level. Reductionists who dominate science only recognise the lowest levels as real, thus psychology had try too hard to make their results fit that skewed paradigm. Psychology was never going to be very amenable to analysis because systems dominate at that level of the stack.

Do you have a sense of what these more appropriate methods are? More exploratory science being labeled as such?

floodmouse, 2017-01-03

Looking for your keys in the light

You've added much analysis & detail, but this strangely reminds of something I was taught as a child: If you lose your keys, you won't find them by staying under the street lamp. You have to go back out there in the dark, where it's cold and scary.

(The person who taught me this was a Sunday school teacher. I've noticed that mentioning anything to do with Christianity gets up the backs of most scientists, but as was so rightly pointed out, there is cargo-cult science just as there is cargo-cult religion, but there are still a few people in both fields who are trying to get it right. )

Duckland, 2017-01-08

Bounded internet communities, Ericsson, podcast questions

Both Kevin Kelly, and you, make the key point that productive scenes need boundaries. My thesis will be that in the "atomized era," the internet and other forces have made boundary-maintenance much more difficult-so scenes are less prevalent, to the culture's detriment.

My (Millenial) friend and (Millenial) I were speculating about this just the other day -- specifically how much more exclusive and comfy online communities used to feel. Funny that the growth of the Internet has caused this boundary-removing effect even on itself. Looking forward to this thesis!

The situated learning stuff is fascinating. Are you familiar with Ericsson's work on expertise? I wonder what the hybrid theory between situated learning and deliberate practice is. Are there contradictions?

I have some questions pertaining to your recent Imperfect Buddha podcast. Sorry if this is the wrong place.

You sounded nonchalant when saying that you don't know how to account for people's frequent comments that they only developed some of the aspects (cognitive, ethical, social, etc) of a particular stage, or even developed stages out of order. Why so nonchalant? Why not more suspicion for Kegan's experimental methodology?

I have a specific (apparent) contradiction in mind about Stage 4. You've written that STEM people are more likely to develop Stage 4 cognitive skills. But also there's a (reasonable) stereotype of STEM people being disdainful for (what appear to them as) arbitrary rules/systems/bureaucracy/etc. How do you square this?

Croulebarbe, 2017-01-08

Screw the rules I have better rules

@Duckland "Ugh, this is so byzantine, why can't this bureaucracy act logically and efficiently? All we have is a slow and illegible mess of incentives with no rhyme or reason to it. They really need to optimize this. If only they had the right system."

Sounds like stage 4 to me.

David Chapman, 2017-01-08

Many topics

Duckland, Croulebarbe - thank you for comments!

how much more exclusive and comfy online communities used to feel.

Yes... partly (many have observed) this is due to the rise of centralized social networks. There used to be zillions of little communities here and there; now a handful of platforms dominate, and commercial reasons dictate discouraging boundaries around subcultures.

Are you familiar with Ericsson's work on expertise?

From secondary sources only. I know the gist; haven't read him.

I wonder what the hybrid theory between situated learning and deliberate practice is. Are there contradictions?

Hmm, interesting questions. Offhand: the situated learning people are anthropologists, and their prototype cases come from traditional, non-systematic communities. (Mayan midwives are their favorite.) So Lave & Wenger have an arguably-stage-5 theory of a stage 3 phenomenon. All lower-stage phenomena persist when you transition into later stages, so we do all learn in part through participation in a community of practice; but in modern societies, we also learn through stage 4 explicit systems of instruction and practice. Those coexist and interact in complicated ways. Offhand, I don't recall research on the details of those interactions, but I'd bet people have done substantial work on that.

even developed stages out of order

Have people said that? I don't recall it. Some geeky people feel they skipped stage 3, but I think they're probably wrong. They just aren't particularly good at emotions and relationships. But this would be hard to test.

Unless you have a very large dataset, or do very careful longitudinal studies, all you can say empirically is that "statistically, most people develop through the stages in order and roughly in sync." I'm pretty sure that's true. There may be exceptions, or not.

I think the uses I am putting the framework to don't depend on whether or not there are rare exceptions.

Now it could also be that the whole story is completely bogus. A lot of psychological work has recently disintegrated in the face of more rigorous experimental replication. (Kegan's framework, and especially Kohlberg's work, have been replicated many times by independent researchers; but they might all be making the same mistakes.) This stuff might also fail a more rigorous test. My guess is not; but unless/until the test is done, one can't know. In academia, this research area seems to have gone out of fashion, so I would guess we're not going to see a strong test anytime soon.

Croulebarbe 's answer to your last questions seems right. That is: "right system vs wrong system" is stage 4.

Also, although a bureaucratic system is justified on a stage 4 basis, sloppy ones operate largely on a stage 3 basis: the rules are interpreted relationally/communally rather than logically. I suspect that's what STEM people particularly loathe.

Sergiu Tamas, 2017-01-18

From a young researcher

When I enrolled the PhD programme It was clear to me that it's high time someone should be able to predict or at least understand which are the key success factors for LGBT healthy relationships in adult life.

While reading your essay I could but think of all my fears as a young and inexperienced researcher. It hurt when reading "the guy who figured out the problem was ignored and never cited" and I figured sincerely one of my deepest stupid motivations for doing this research – Ego satisfaction?

Do I really care about the phenomena I am supposed to study? What is the link than with my engagement, with the time and effort I dedicate to it?

I believe I do have a lust for understanding, I do hope to figure out what is actually going on. But that seems nothing compared to what I should know. The how. The methodology, the ability to study what's relevant, to extract from literature the important issues and to be able to create a research from a methodological point of view that is helpful and that will eventually pinpoint my questions.

Thank you for stating I could be wrong and that's ok, it gives some sort of empowerment to a young researcher like me. I will reflect more on what you call methods of technical rationality, especially publishing negative results and abandoning the famously flawed p<0.05 significance that used to scare the curiosity in me.

And yes, the mythical "scientific method"! I thought I was here to predict and measure. And that there are clear ways for me to be able to control and predict my thesis.
So what I'm taking with me from your essay is firstly becoming a cargo cultist and go towards a meta-systematic approach while looking to master at least some of the methods.

Georgiana, 2017-01-19

Curiosity and progress

Tackling "cargo cult" ​phenomenon is something I ​began to ask myself since I started to teach.​ How can I help the students create something original? ​ How long is it acceptable to imitate and after what stage ​are they ​ expected to produce something original? What context could benefit ​them​? This are legitimate questions in any field. ​I see the phenomenon of imitation as an early stage of learning process or skill acquisition. ​I enjoyed reading your article, ​first because it validated some of my intuitions :) and secondly ​because it underlined the prerequisite for ​overcoming the imitation​ phase - to overpass the form without substance phase.

One of them was curiosity. You've identified curiosity as a source of honesty: "Honesty comes out of curiosity, mostly, I think. If you really do want to know, there's much less motivation to promote a wrong answer-arrived at either through deliberate fraud or sloppy, inadequately-controlled experimentation."​

​As an European working in the Middle East as an aid worker I had many friends ​(nationals) who were looking for ways to immigrate to Europe, Australia or north America for a better life​. I was wondering ​ why aren't they interested to improve things in their own country?

What could change their minds? Reflecting more upon these issues, I understood that among different options to understand the phenomenon, going back to school is the best step towards finding some good leads. I ended up looking at the entire phenomenon of migration. Curiosity was the nudge that led me towards pursuing a phd in the field of migration.

Your analysis about legitimate peripheral participation helped me better understand why some people thrive and some are failing. ​I also had in mind something related to imprinting. Who are the ones that have a major impact on you in an early stage as a junior researcher? How much is the context influencing one's pursue of innovation and how much are other factors influencing its success?

[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] Summers is much better ) defender of Flat Earth theory

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] 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] In cyberpunk, there are no more grand narratives about progress and triumph. Humans have nowhere to go and decay is globalized by Robert Mariani

Jun 01, 2017 | theamericanconservative.com

The most tantalizing predictions of cyberpunk never came true. There are no gangs of cyborgs ruling shantytowns in New York City and there are no corporations larger than the federal government. But the sci-fi subgenre envisions such dystopias being underpinned by something subtler: the state of man's soul when there are no longer limits.

The 1980s provided fertile ground for the piercing new vision of science fiction pioneered by William Gibson and his contemporaries. The global capitalism of Reagan and Thatcher ceded agency from nation-states to nation-agnostic corporations. Less obvious but just as important was the fact that the space race was over and Star Trek 's naivety was laid bare. Computers, not spaceships, would become the measure of progression towards the future. The sleek, utopian vision of the mid-century futurism was further discredited by soaring crime in urban centers.

Modernity that was once expected to bring matching space unitards instead brought radical self-expression. The overabundance of choice, these authors suggested, leads to decadence, decay and a society where people can't see clearly without losing their humanity.

And so the heroes of cyberpunk are outsiders -- the punks to which the genre owes half its name. In cyberpunk, there are no more grand narratives about progress and triumph. Humans have nowhere to go and decay is globalized; this is sci-fi without the comforting thought of alien life. Readers experience an Earth where the concept of "place" has passed its expiration date. Protagonists, like the megacorporations they tangle with, exist across borders, anywhere being as familiar or foreign as anywhere else. Neon Japanese syllabary studs skyscrapers that loom over the crowded downtowns of American cities. Virtual reality is at once a catalyst and a coping mechanism for social breakdown.

What is an individual to do in the face of such brutal atomization? Why, he takes individualism to its perverse conclusions, William Gibson's Neuromancer suggests. Take the following passage:

His face was a simple graft grown on collagen and shark-cartilage polysaccharides, smooth and hideous.

The novel implies that the character might appear a little later with a completely different face. Self was another uncertainty that had been sloughed off by ceaseless momentum. Even the author's jargon serves to impart a feeling of unfamiliarity.

We're starting to live in a time when such terrible and wondrous things are not only technically possible but socially acceptable. Headlines were made last month over a fetal lamb being grown in an artificial uterus. The creature, invaded with tubes, suckles and kicks inside its bulging, rippling enclosure. The juxtaposition of twitching organism and sterile, utilitarian plastic is simply cyberpunk. Gender is going the way of that thug's cartilage-grown face. Male and female is looking more like Coke and Pepsi, with some opting to make their own artisanal cola blends. As rootlessness moves from exception to rule, obligations to others begin to look like hindrances. It isn't difficult to see how three-parent babies in polycarbonate wombs fit into all of this.

Change is fast these days. We can feel acceleration that was once only perceptible between generations. At the same time, the past is more crystallized than it's ever been before. Today's everyman, immersed in a data-sphere orders of magnitude more efficient than any library, can see more clearly than ever that things were different in an ever-familiar past. A world with meaning resolves ever sharper as we speed away from it.

But the left-liberal ethic that was once a vantage point from which the genre's founders saw so far is now fogging their sight, restricting them to toiling within the status quo. Cyberpunk has come true in ways that makes progressives uncomfortable if they are unpacked. The genre's founders married a criticism of corporations to the dreary aesthetic of rootlessness, but progressivism only offers a critique of the former on its own merits. Take away the violence and grit and you get Brave New World , a world that the gender ideologue can't levy an argument against. Consumerization of the body, reproduction and social relations lost their conspicuous ugliness when they were rebranded as "liberation." (Outside of sci-fi, the only major literary figure who tackles these issues , Michel Houellebecq, is painted as a reactionary.)

Gibson's upcoming book, Agency , has a plot one would expect from a lesser author: the future is awful because Trump was elected president. This might seem like a perplexing lack of creativity, but consider the intervening third of a century. Gibson was in the business of scrutinizing Frankensteinization when it was a distant flight of fancy. But becoming a Frankenstein monster of hormones and surgery is here and celebration is mandatory. Dialing down one's own ability to notice things to the level of a Daily Kos commenter becomes a matter of survival. This new subject matter reflects the aesthetics of culture that snapped his leash: lifeless and brutal in its insipid repetition.

Stories motivated by political disappointment are doomed to be forgotten as the election cycle resets. Cyberpunk, on the other hand, is more popular now than even during its literary heyday of the 80s. The blockbuster Ghost in the Shell hit theaters earlier this year and will be followed by a sequel to the seminal Blade Runner in October. Their combined budget probably exceeds that of every cyberpunk film that came before (there aren't many.) Cyberpunk 2077 is set to cost around $100 million, making it the most expensive role-playing video game ever made. If we put on our cyberpunk goggles, all of this means something. Capitalism is a computer that processes desire.

Cyberpunk is not becoming marketable because it offers a solution for society. The message is clear that, in face of inexorable rot, the individual loses his sanity or loses his soul. What the genre does offer is a third choice: to view breakneck dehumanization as a roller coaster ride. There is grim exhilaration in the acceptance that an awesome decline cannot be stopped. A future that was once dark and hopeless is now dark and beautiful when one dives headlong into it. Ugliness becomes thrilling and alienation becomes adventure. The homogenous, numbing light of Brave New World's dystopia is replaced by the dreamy atmosphere of neon-lit alleys. Sisyphus can't change his fate, but he can refuse to nod and clap, blank-eyed, at the world's loss of meaning.

Robert Mariani is the opinion editor at The Daily Caller and the co-founder of Jacobite , a magazine of the post-political right. Follow him on Twitter @robert_mariani

[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 progress. Try – fail - come with an improved idea, and so on. Real scientists abolish old theories even if they work well with new ones that explain better the nature, the world, etc.

Varoufakis continues:

Let's say that I have the same kind of computer model and actual machine and data mining that the meteorologist does, but instead of using it to predict the weather I use it to predict the stock exchange. And suppose that I was somebody very highly respected as a predictor of stock exchange changes and let's say that today, I were to predict that tomorrow is going to be a major crash in the stock exchange. There might be because I predicted it! In society and in the economy, our beliefs about the phenomenon under study are part of the phenomenon under study.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/BX7JDLkYMWc

The last paragraph above depicts soundly why mainstream economics are far from the concept of modern science. 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.

In Quantum Mechanics, for example, Heisenberg's uncertainty principle not only acknowledges that the observer affects the final situation of a physical system but also embeds this interference mathematically. As a consequence, the final situation of a physical system can be determined only in statistical terms.

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.

Which shows that the only and real target of the mainstream economics, is simply retain the domination of a small elite on the top of the economic hierarchy, at the expense of the majority of the people.

[Jun 14, 2017] Krugman as a less then necessary additional singer in the shrill liberal chorus

Jun 14, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com

anne, June 13, 2017 at 12:18 PM

https://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2017/06/12/macroeconomics-the-simple-and-the-fancy/

June 12, 2017

Macroeconomics: The Simple and the Fancy

By Paul Krugman

Noah Smith has a nice summation * of his critique of macroeconomics, which mainly comes down, as I read it, as an appeal for researchers to stay close to the ground. That's definitely good advice for young researchers.

But what about economists trying to provide useful advice, directly or indirectly, to policy makers, who need to make decisions based on educated guesses about the whole system? Smith says, "go slow, allow central bankers to use judgment and simple models in the meantime." That would be better than a lot of what academic macroeconomists do in practice, which is to castigate central bankers and other policymakers for not using elaborate models that don't work. But is there really no role for smart academics to help out in this process? And if so, what does this say about the utility of what the profession does?

The thing is, those simple models have done pretty darn well since 2008 - and central bankers who used them, like Ben Bernanke, did a lot better than central bankers like Jean-Claude Trichet who based their judgements on something else. So surely at least part of the training of macroeconomists should prepare them to be helpful in applying simple models, maybe even in making those simple models better.

Reading Smith, I found myself remembering an old line ** from Robert Solow in defense of "fancy" economic theorizing:

"In economics I like a man to have mastered the fancy theory before I trust him with simple theory because high-powered economics seems to be such an excellent school for the skillful use of low-powered economics."

OK, can anyone make that case about modern macroeconomics? With a straight face? In practice, it has often seemed that expertise in high-powered macroeconomics - mainly meaning dynamic stochastic general equilibrium - positively incapacitates its possessors from the use of low-powered macroeconomics, largely IS-LM and its derivatives.

I don't want to make a crude functional argument here: research that advances knowledge doesn't have to provide an immediate practical payoff. But the experience since 2008 has strongly suggested that the research program that dominated macro for the previous generation actually impaired the ability of economists to provide useful advice in the moment. Mastering the fancy stuff made economists useless at the simple stuff.

A more modest program would, in part, help diminish this harm. But it would also be really helpful if macroeconomists relearned the idea that simple aggregate models can, in fact, be useful.

* http://noahpinionblog.blogspot.fr/2017/06/summing-up-my-thoughts-on-macroeconomics.html

** https://books.google.com/books?id=7ABgM8-ExXsC&pg=PA44&lpg=PA44&dq=solow+simple+fancy+economics+trust&source=bl&ots=XflZaM5HLV&sig=vsqDgLLShG5gBda-NBTxyjmclI0&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjSxZ6ShLnUAhVMNT4KHW9VBIUQ6AEIOjAE#v=onepage&q=solow%20simple%20fancy%20economics%20trust&f=false

Christopher H. - , June 13, 2017 at 12:20 PM
I don't understand why you feel the need to put a link from today's link list into a comment, without any comment from you.
Paine - , June 13, 2017 at 02:05 PM
Often we can't activate the articles because we don't have a NYT sub
Or have used up our free monthly quota

Besides this blog post on macro
Is a gem !

Worth a thousand copies

Christopher H. - , June 13, 2017 at 02:58 PM
fair enough.
$mart $$$$ Behind The Curve - , June 14, 2017 at 04:37 AM
https://www.leg.state.nv.us/Session/79th2017/Bills/AB/AB374_EN.pdf
anne - , June 13, 2017 at 12:50 PM
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dynamic_stochastic_general_equilibrium

Dynamic stochastic general equilibrium modeling is a branch of applied general equilibrium theory that is influential in contemporary macroeconomics. The DSGE methodology attempts to explain aggregate economic phenomena, such as economic growth, business cycles, and the effects of monetary and fiscal policy, on the basis of macroeconomic models derived from microeconomic principles.

Paine - , June 13, 2017 at 02:11 PM
Too general

some variants include different assumptions
But common assumptions include

No banks
No nominal prices
Micro founding with a single representative agent
An infinite time horizon
A fixed inter temporal fiscal budget
Continuous market clearance
No private debt

On and on one must go

anne - , June 13, 2017 at 04:15 PM
DGSE:

Too general

some variants include different assumptions
But common assumptions include

No banks
No nominal prices
Micro founding with a single representative agent
An infinite time horizon
A fixed inter temporal fiscal budget
Continuous market clearance
No private debt

[ Perfect. ]

anne - , June 13, 2017 at 12:51 PM
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IS%E2%80%93LM_model

The IS–LM model, or Hicks–Hansen model, is a macroeconomic tool that demonstrates the relationship between interest rates and real output, in the goods and services market and the money market (also known as the assets market). The intersection of the "investment–saving" (IS) and "liquidity preference–money supply" (LM) curves is the "general equilibrium" where there is simultaneous equilibrium in both markets. Two equivalent interpretations are possible: first, the IS–LM model explains changes in national income when the price level is fixed in the short-run; second, the IS–LM model shows why the aggregate demand curve shifts. Hence, this tool is sometimes used not only to analyse the fluctuations of the economy but also to find appropriate stabilisation policies.

The model was developed by John Hicks in 1937, and later extended by Alvin Hansen, as a mathematical representation of Keynesian macroeconomic theory. Between the 1940s and mid-1970s, it was the leading framework of macroeconomic analysis. While it has been largely absent from macroeconomic research ever since, it is still the backbone of many introductory macroeconomics textbooks.

anne - , June 13, 2017 at 02:00 PM
http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/10/09/is-lmentary/

October 9, 2011

IS-LMentary
By Paul Krugman

A number of readers, both at this blog and other places, have been asking for an explanation of what IS-LM is all about. Fair enough – this blogosphere conversation has been an exchange among insiders, and probably a bit baffling to normal human beings (which is why I have been labeling my posts "wonkish").

[IS-LM stands for investment-savings, liquidity-money -- which will make a lot of sense if you keep reading.]

So, the first thing you need to know is that there are multiple correct ways of explaining IS-LM. That's because it's a model of several interacting markets, and you can enter from multiple directions, any one of which is a valid starting point.

My favorite of these approaches is to think of IS-LM as a way to reconcile two seemingly incompatible views about what determines interest rates. One view says that the interest rate is determined by the supply of and demand for savings – the "loanable funds" approach. The other says that the interest rate is determined by the tradeoff between bonds, which pay interest, and money, which doesn't, but which you can use for transactions and therefore has special value due to its liquidity – the "liquidity preference" approach. (Yes, some money-like things pay interest, but normally not as much as less liquid assets.)

How can both views be true? Because we are at minimum talking about *two* variables, not one – GDP as well as the interest rate. And the adjustment of GDP is what makes both loanable funds and liquidity preference hold at the same time....

Paine - , June 13, 2017 at 02:04 PM
Yes yes yes

U admonished my humble self
For blasting krugman as a less then necessary additional singer in the shrill liberal chorus

But here is where he belongs

This is a giant strike at the last generation
Of the on going macro theorist academic clique

Mr and ms university
Tear down that model


That is the new classical model and it's pitiful off spring new Keynesianism

[Jun 14, 2017] IS-LM stands for investment-savings, liquidity-money and is a junk model

Notable quotes:
"... Dynamic stochastic general equilibrium modeling is a branch of applied general equilibrium theory that is influential in contemporary macroeconomics. The DSGE methodology attempts to explain aggregate economic phenomena, such as economic growth, business cycles, and the effects of monetary and fiscal policy, on the basis of macroeconomic models derived from microeconomic principles. ..."
"... expertise in high-powered macroeconomics - mainly meaning dynamic stochastic general equilibrium - positively incapacitates its possessors from the use of low-powered macroeconomics, largely IS-LM and its derivatives. ..."
Jun 14, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com
anne , June 12, 2017 at 03:01 PM
http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/10/09/is-lmentary/

October 9, 2011

IS-LMentary
By Paul Krugman

A number of readers, both at this blog and other places, have been asking for an explanation of what IS-LM is all about. Fair enough – this blogosphere conversation has been an exchange among insiders, and probably a bit baffling to normal human beings (which is why I have been labeling my posts "wonkish").

[IS-LM stands for investment-savings, liquidity-money -- which will make a lot of sense if you keep reading.]

So, the first thing you need to know is that there are multiple correct ways of explaining IS-LM. That's because it's a model of several interacting markets, and you can enter from multiple directions, any one of which is a valid starting point.

My favorite of these approaches is to think of IS-LM as a way to reconcile two seemingly incompatible views about what determines interest rates. One view says that the interest rate is determined by the supply of and demand for savings – the "loanable funds" approach. The other says that the interest rate is determined by the tradeoff between bonds, which pay interest, and money, which doesn't, but which you can use for transactions and therefore has special value due to its liquidity – the "liquidity preference" approach. (Yes, some money-like things pay interest, but normally not as much as less liquid assets.)

How can both views be true? Because we are at minimum talking about *two* variables, not one – GDP as well as the interest rate. And the adjustment of GDP is what makes both loanable funds and liquidity preference hold at the same time.

Start with the loanable funds side. Suppose that desired savings and desired investment spending are currently equal, and that something causes the interest rate to fall. Must it rise back to its original level? Not necessarily. An excess of desired investment over desired savings can lead to economic expansion, which drives up income. And since some of the rise in income will be saved – and assuming that investment demand doesn't rise by as much – a sufficiently large rise in GDP can restore equality between desired savings and desired investment at the new interest rate.

That means that loanable funds doesn't determine the interest rate per se; it determines a set of possible combinations of the interest rate and GDP, with lower rates corresponding to higher GDP. And that's the IS curve.

Meanwhile, people deciding how to allocate their wealth are making tradeoffs between money and bonds. There's a downward-sloping demand for money – the higher the interest rate, the more people will skimp on liquidity in favor of higher returns. Suppose temporarily that the Federal Reserve holds the money supply fixed; in that case the interest rate must be such as to match that demand to the quantity of money. And the Fed can move the interest rate by changing the money supply: increase the supply of money and the interest rate must fall to induce people to hold a larger quantity.

Here too, however, GDP must be taken into account: a higher level of GDP will mean more transactions, and hence higher demand for money, other things equal. So higher GDP will mean that the interest rate needed to match supply and demand for money must rise. This means that like loanable funds, liquidity preference doesn't determine the interest rate per se; it defines a set of possible combinations of the interest rate and GDP – the LM curve.

And that's IS-LM:

[Graph]

The point where the curves cross determines both GDP and the interest rate, and at that point both loanable funds and liquidity preference are valid.

What use is this framework? First of all, it helps you avoid fallacies like the notion that because savings must equal investment, government spending cannot lead to a rise in total spending – which right away puts us above the level of argument that famous Chicago professors somehow find convincing. And it also gets you past confusions like the notion that government deficits, by driving up interest rates, can actually cause the economy to contract.

Most spectacularly, IS-LM turns out to be very useful for thinking about extreme conditions like the present, in which private demand has fallen so far that the economy remains depressed even at a zero interest rate. In that case the picture looks like this:

[Graph]

Why is the LM curve flat at zero? Because if the interest rate fell below zero, people would just hold cash instead of bonds. At the margin, then, money is just being held as a store of value, and changes in the money supply have no effect. This is, of course, the liquidity trap.

And IS-LM makes some predictions about what happens in the liquidity trap. Budget deficits shift IS to the right; in the liquidity trap that has no effect on the interest rate. Increases in the money supply do nothing at all.

That's why in early 2009, when the Wall Street Journal, the Austrians, and the other usual suspects were screaming about soaring rates and runaway inflation, those who understood IS-LM were predicting that interest rates would stay low and that even a tripling of the monetary base would not be inflationary. Events since then have, as I see it, been a huge vindication for the IS-LM types – despite some headline inflation driven by commodity prices – and a huge failure for the soaring-rates-and-inflation crowd.

Yes, IS-LM simplifies things a lot, and can't be taken as the final word. But it has done what good economic models are supposed to do: make sense of what we see, and make highly useful predictions about what would happen in unusual circumstances. Economists who understand IS-LM have done vastly better in tracking our current crisis than people who don't.

anne - , June 12, 2017 at 03:02 PM
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dynamic_stochastic_general_equilibrium

Dynamic stochastic general equilibrium modeling is a branch of applied general equilibrium theory that is influential in contemporary macroeconomics. The DSGE methodology attempts to explain aggregate economic phenomena, such as economic growth, business cycles, and the effects of monetary and fiscal policy, on the basis of macroeconomic models derived from microeconomic principles.

Paine - , June 13, 2017 at 01:50 PM
This on academic macro since the seventies

Is the Paul krugman I respect

His hysterics about the trump menace ?

Not so useful

Paul leave that rote tub thumping to hacks

Paine - , June 13, 2017 at 01:50 PM
"expertise in high-powered macroeconomics - mainly meaning dynamic stochastic general equilibrium - positively incapacitates its possessors from the use of low-powered macroeconomics, largely IS-LM and its derivatives."

Amen

[Jun 14, 2017] Brad Delong is peddling his insane neoliberal nonsense again.

Jun 14, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com

Paine , June 14, 2017 at 08:26 AM

Btw

Brad has a fine little logic ox calculation
This is his best side
The deflection point in his zero lower bound graph
That shows a fed helpless as the real rate climbs as the deflation rate climbs ...
and his little set of equations that generate
A run away deflation
Using a Harmless looking Taylor rule
with too low...for his logic toy system...
(2%) A target inflation rate

If

The neutral rate of the system is dwelling down around one percent

Paine - , June 14, 2017 at 08:29 AM
Brad has his uses for sure

Recall the similar logical toy system he built and manipulated for his mentor Larry Summers

That showed
The benefits of public investment in a period of private doldrums

Paine - , June 14, 2017 at 08:32 AM
Delong, J. Bradford, and Lawrence H. Summers. 2012. "Fiscal Policy in a Depressed Economy." Brookings Papers on Economic Activity 44 (1)


Very much a fun little gadget

Paine - , June 14, 2017 at 08:36 AM
Abstract

In a depressed economy, with short-term nominal interest rates
at their zero lower bound, ample cyclical unemployment, and excess capacity,
increased government purchases would be neither offset by the monetary
authority raising interest rates nor neutralized by supply-side bottlenecks.
Then even a small amount of hysteresis-even a small shadow cast on future
potential output by the cyclical downturn-means, by simple arithmetic, that
expansionary fiscal policy is likely to be self-financing. Even if it is not, it is
highly likely to pass the sensible benefit-cost test of raising the present value
of future potential output. Thus, at the zero bound, where the central bank
cannot or will not but in any event does not perform its full role in stabilization
policy, fiscal policy has the stabilization policy mission that others have
convincingly argued it lacks in normal times. Whereas many economists
have assumed that the path of potential output is invariant to even a deep
and prolonged downturn, the available evidence raises a strong fear that
hysteresis is indeed a factor. Although nothing in our analysis calls into question
the importance of sustainable fiscal policies, it strongly suggests the need
for caution regarding the pace of fiscal consolidation.

Yes yes my fellow home makers
If macro conditions are right ...
even a small Amount of hysteresis can turn the project into a self financing gig

anne - , June 14, 2017 at 11:36 AM
https://www.brookings.edu/bpea-articles/fiscal-policy-in-a-depressed-economy/

March, 2012

Fiscal Policy in a Depressed Economy
By J. Bradford DeLong and Lawrence H. Summers

Abstract

In a depressed economy, with short-term nominal interest rates at their zero lower bound, ample cyclical unemployment, and excess capacity, increased government purchases would be neither offset by the monetary authority raising interest rates nor neutralized by supply-side bottlenecks. Then even a small amount of hysteresis-even a small shadow cast on future potential output by the cyclical downturn-means, by simple arithmetic, that expansionary fiscal policy is likely to be self-financing. Even if it is not, it is highly likely to pass the sensible benefit-cost test of raising the present value of future potential output. Thus, at the zero bound, where the central bank cannot or will not but in any event does not perform its full role in stabilization policy, fiscal policy has the stabilization policy mission that others have convincingly argued it lacks in normal times. Whereas many economists have assumed that the path of potential output is invariant to even a deep and prolonged downturn, the available evidence raises a strong fear that hysteresis is indeed a factor. Although nothing in our analysis calls into question the importance of sustainable fiscal policies, it strongly suggests the need for caution regarding the pace of fiscal consolidation.

anne - , June 14, 2017 at 11:46 AM
Thus, at the zero bound, where the central bank cannot or will not but in any event does not perform its full role in stabilization policy, fiscal policy has the stabilization policy mission that others have convincingly argued it lacks in normal times....

-- DeLong and Summers

[ I find such a rationale for fiscal policy to foster growth only convincing in a limited and possible even politically self-defeating way, and would argue the rationale importantly undervalues fiscal policy as a growth driver. The paper is clear and important though as a beginning rationale for fiscal policy use. ]

anne - , June 14, 2017 at 11:52 AM
Correcting:

I find such a rationale for fiscal policy to foster growth only convincing in a limited and possibly even politically self-defeating way, and would argue the rationale importantly undervalues fiscal policy as a growth driver. The paper is clear and important though as a beginning rationale for fiscal policy use.

Tom aka Rusty - , June 14, 2017 at 09:20 AM
Brad is peddling his insane nonsense again.

http://www.bradford-delong.com/2017/06/no-it-is-really-not-harder-to-make-the-case-for-free-trade-these-days.html#more

Both members of a family must be injured by trade for there to be an injury - stupid.

Poorly paid service workers are ok because they can buy cheap Chinese merchandise (like that makes up for poor benefits and no retirement).

His neoliberal freak flag is showing some wear - and even Krugman knows better.

[Jun 13, 2017] Can anyone make the case doe neoclassical macroeconomics? With a straight face?

Notable quotes:
"... the experience since 2008 has strongly suggested that the research program that dominated macro for the previous generation actually impaired the ability of economists to provide useful advice in the moment. Mastering the fancy stuff made economists useless at the simple stuff. ..."
Jun 13, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com

anne, June 12, 2017 at 03:23 PM

https://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2017/06/12/macroeconomics-the-simple-and-the-fancy/

June 12, 2017

Macroeconomics: The Simple and the Fancy
By Paul Krugman

Noah Smith has a nice summation * of his critique of macroeconomics, which mainly comes down, as I read it, as an appeal for researchers to stay close to the ground. That's definitely good advice for young researchers.

But what about economists trying to provide useful advice, directly or indirectly, to policy makers, who need to make decisions based on educated guesses about the whole system? Smith says, "go slow, allow central bankers to use judgment and simple models in the meantime." That would be better than a lot of what academic macroeconomists do in practice, which is to castigate central bankers and other policymakers for not using elaborate models that don't work. But is there really no role for smart academics to help out in this process? And if so, what does this say about the utility of what the profession does?

The thing is, those simple models have done pretty darn well since 2008 - and central bankers who used them, like Bernanke, did a lot better than central bankers like Trichet who based their judgements on something else. So surely at least part of the training of macroeconomists should prepare them to be helpful in applying simple models, maybe even in making those simple models better.

Reading Smith, I found myself remembering an old line ** from Robert Solow in defense of "fancy" economic theorizing:

"In economics I like a man to have mastered the fancy theory before I trust him with simple theory because high-powered economics seems to be such an excellent school for the skillful use of low-powered economics."

OK, can anyone make that case about modern macroeconomics? With a straight face? In practice, it has often seemed that expertise in high-powered macroeconomics - mainly meaning dynamic stochastic general equilibrium - positively incapacitates its possessors from the use of low-powered macroeconomics, largely IS-LM and its derivatives.

I don't want to make a crude functional argument here: research that advances knowledge doesn't have to provide an immediate practical payoff. But the experience since 2008 has strongly suggested that the research program that dominated macro for the previous generation actually impaired the ability of economists to provide useful advice in the moment. Mastering the fancy stuff made economists useless at the simple stuff.

A more modest program would, in part, help diminish this harm. But it would also be really helpful if macroeconomists relearned the idea that simple aggregate models can, in fact, be useful.

* http://noahpinionblog.blogspot.fr/2017/06/summing-up-my-thoughts-on-macroeconomics.html

** https://books.google.com/books?id=7ABgM8-ExXsC&pg=PA44&lpg=PA44&dq=solow+simple+fancy+economics+trust&source=bl&ots=XflZaM5HLV&sig=vsqDgLLShG5gBda-NBTxyjmclI0&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjSxZ6ShLnUAhVMNT4KHW9VBIUQ6AEIOjAE#v=onepage&q=solow%20simple%20fancy%20economics%20trust&f=false

anne, June 12, 2017 at 03:24 PM
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dynamic_stochastic_general_equilibrium

Dynamic stochastic general equilibrium modeling is a branch of applied general equilibrium theory that is influential in contemporary macroeconomics. The DSGE methodology attempts to explain aggregate economic phenomena, such as economic growth, business cycles, and the effects of monetary and fiscal policy, on the basis of macroeconomic models derived from microeconomic principles.

libezkova -> anne... , June 12, 2017 at 09:39 PM
Dynamic stochastic general equilibrium is a pseudoscience.

The problem with most neoclassical economics is that they are very bad mathematicians :-)

See, for example an interesting discussion at:

Why Neoclassical Economists Didnt See the Great Recession Coming by Prof Steve Keen

Uploaded on Jul 12, 2011

Mainstream "Neoclassical" Economists famously did not see the Great Recession coming, and when you look at their theories, it's no wonder. Their favourite model prior to the crisis goes by the name of "Dynamic Stochastic General Equilibrium", or DSGE. These models imagined that the entire economy could be modeled as a single individual. Yet neoclassical researchers proved decades ago that even a single market can't be modeled that way. I explain this proof while outlining the fundamental truth that "Neoclassical Economists Don't Understand Neoclassical Economics".

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1L6-loOZYLc

anne, June 12, 2017 at 03:25 PM
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IS%E2%80%93LM_model

The IS–LM model, or Hicks–Hansen model, is a macroeconomic tool that shows the relationship between interest rates and real output, in the goods and services market and the money market (also known as the assets market). The intersection of the "investment–saving" (IS) and "liquidity preference–money supply" (LM) curves is the "general equilibrium" where there is simultaneous equilibrium in both markets. Two equivalent interpretations are possible: first, the IS–LM model explains changes in national income when the price level is fixed in the short-run; second, the IS–LM model shows why the aggregate demand curve shifts. Hence, this tool is sometimes used not only to analyse the fluctuations of the economy but also to find appropriate stabilisation policies.

[Jun 12, 2017] P>rogressives has become one of those bastardized words (like socialist)

Notable quotes:
"... Neoliberals continue attack who they see as their enemies, the civil left. All the while the barbarians mass at the gates. I don't quite know what to make of the rage the neoliberals have towards progressives. I think it's because they think if the progressives weren't stabbing them in that back they could fend off the fascists. ..."
"... progressive has become one of those bastardized words (like socialist) where someone who sticks it to the establishment by supporting Trump is now a progressive. ..."
"... I think he had no clue how much damage he was doing. Personally I think economics doesn't train anyone to be good at things outside economics, like politics. Likely the reverse, especially with politics. ..."
insider.foxnews.com
Mar 22, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com

Gibbon1, March 19, 2017 at 05:13 PM

Neoliberals continue attack who they see as their enemies, the civil left. All the while the barbarians mass at the gates. I don't quite know what to make of the rage the neoliberals have towards progressives. I think it's because they think if the progressives weren't stabbing them in that back they could fend off the fascists.

Progressives know better though. If the neoliberals continue as usual we can't help, fascism will win out.

yuan -> Gibbon1... March 19, 2017 at 06:41 PM

progressive has become one of those bastardized words (like socialist) where someone who sticks it to the establishment by supporting Trump is now a progressive.

Peter K. -> Gibbon1...March 19, 2017 at 07:21 PM

Excellent points as usual.

Part of it is they don't like being called sell-outs. They don't like being reminded of the fact.

Which is why if they're polite and accommodating as some are, it's important to be polite in kind.

But the ones who enjoy punching hippies don't deserve any such consideration especially when they're dishonest about it. I'm done with Krugman for instance. I don't think he realizes how many people he alienated last year and how bad he damaged his brand.

Gibbon1 -> Jerry Brown... March 20, 2017 at 12:43 AM

[guess he does understand how many people he alienated with his columns and blog posts during the Democratic primaries last year]

I think he had no clue how much damage he was doing. Personally I think economics doesn't train anyone to be good at things outside economics, like politics. Likely the reverse, especially with politics.

[Jun 12, 2017] In order to tell the politicians and practitioners something about causes and best means, the economist needs the true theory or else he has not much more to offer than educated common sense or his personal opinion

Notable quotes:
"... What supply-demand-equilibrium economists never understood is that the price mechanism DESTABILIZES the economy. The sequence is as follows: price up - rhoF down - employment down - wage rate down - rhoF down - employment down - and so on. In other words, the market economy is inherently unstable. ..."
Jun 12, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com

Egmont Kakarot-Handtke

, June 10, 2017 at 08:13 AM
Think deeper
Comment on Bradford DeLong on 'RETHINK 2%'

"In order to tell the politicians and practitioners something about causes and best means, the economist needs the true theory or else he has not much more to offer than educated common sense or his personal opinion." (Stigum)

The fact of the matter is that economists do NOT have the true theory. More precisely, economists do not know how the price- and profit mechanism works. The four main approaches ― Walrasianism, Keynesianism, Marxianism, Austrianism ― are mutually contradictory, axiomatically false, materially/formally inconsistent, and all got profit wrong.

Because of this economic policy guidance never had sound scientific foundations. This holds also for the RETHINK 2% letter to the Federal Reserve Board of Governors#1 which in turn is based on Josh Bivens's article.#2

Note for a start that Josh Bivens does not mention profit ― the pivotal variable of economics ― once. From this follows that his underlying profit theory is false. And from this in turn follows that his whole argument is false. ALL models that do not explicitly define macroeconomic profit are false.

The elementary version of the correct objective, systemic, behavior-free, macrofounded employment equation is shown on Wikimedia.#3 This equation says ― among other things ― that an increase of the factor cost ratio rhoF=W/PR leads to higher employment. The ratio rhoF embodies the price mechanism.

In order to focus on the crucial point imagine the FED has the means to directly influence the price P and increases it by 2%, all other variables unchanged. The correct macroeconomic employment equation tells us that employment falls. Bad move.

Next try. The FED sets the change of price to zero and instead increases the wage rate W by 2 %. The correct macroeconomic employment equation tells us that employment rises. Good move.

What supply-demand-equilibrium economists never understood is that the price mechanism DESTABILIZES the economy. The sequence is as follows: price up - rhoF down - employment down - wage rate down - rhoF down - employment down - and so on. In other words, the market economy is inherently unstable.

#4 Standard employment theory is false. 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 Letter to the Federal Reserve Board of Governors
http://www.bradford-delong.com/2017/06/rethink-2.html

#2 Josh Bivens 'Is 2 percent too low?'
http://www.epi.org/publication/is-2-percent-too-low/

#3 Wikimedia
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:AXEC62.png
For details see 'Keynes' Employment Function and the Gratuitous Phillips Curve Disaster'
https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2130421

#4 See also 'How Wicksell and the rest got inflation/deflation wrong'
http://axecorg.blogspot.de/2016/05/how-wicksell-and-rest-got.html

[Jun 12, 2017] progressive has become one of those bastardized words (like socialist)

Notable quotes:
"... Neoliberals continue attack who they see as their enemies, the civil left. All the while the barbarians mass at the gates. I don't quite know what to make of the rage the neoliberals have towards progressives. I think it's because they think if the progressives weren't stabbing them in that back they could fend off the fascists. ..."
"... progressive has become one of those bastardized words (like socialist) where someone who sticks it to the establishment by supporting Trump is now a progressive. ..."
"... I think he had no clue how much damage he was doing. Personally I think economics doesn't train anyone to be good at things outside economics, like politics. Likely the reverse, especially with politics. ..."
Mar 22, 2017 | href="where%20someone%20who%20sticks%20it%20to%20the%20establishment%20by%20supporting%20Trump%20is%20now%20a%20progressive.">

Gibbon1 -> Peter K.... Reply Sunday, March 19, 2017 at 05:13 PM

Neoliberals continue attack who they see as their enemies, the civil left. All the while the barbarians mass at the gates. I don't quite know what to make of the rage the neoliberals have towards progressives. I think it's because they think if the progressives weren't stabbing them in that back they could fend off the fascists.

Progressives know better though. If the neoliberals continue as usual we can't help, fascism will win out.

yuan -> Gibbon1... March 19, 2017 at 06:41 PM

progressive has become one of those bastardized words (like socialist) where someone who sticks it to the establishment by supporting Trump is now a progressive.

Peter K. -> Gibbon1...March 19, 2017 at 07:21 PM

Excellent points as usual.

Part of it is they don't like being called sell-outs. They don't like being reminded of the fact.

Which is why if they're polite and accommodating as some are, it's important to be polite in kind.

But the ones who enjoy punching hippies don't deserve any such consideration especially when they're dishonest about it. I'm done with Krugman for instance. I don't think he realizes how many people he alienated last year and how bad he damaged his brand.

Jerry Brown -> Peter K.... March 19, 2017 at 07:51 PM

Paul Krugman is pretty smart. No, he is very, very smart, much smarter than me, and I would guess he does understand how many people he alienated with his columns and blog posts during the Democratic primaries last year. He doesn't do much blog posting anymore but I very much hope he comes back to where he was representing my point of view very consistently. As in prior to that primary. Extraordinary writing skills and intellect.

Jerry Brown -> Jerry Brown... March 19, 2017 at 07:54 PM

Always good to have someone like Paul Krugman on your side. And always bad to have him against you.

Gibbon1 -> Jerry Brown... March 20, 2017 at 12:43 AM

[guess he does understand how many people he alienated with his columns and blog posts during the Democratic primaries last year]

I think he had no clue how much damage he was doing. Personally I think economics doesn't train anyone to be good at things outside economics, like politics. Likely the reverse, especially with politics.

yuan -> Peter K.... March 19, 2017 at 08:12 PM

don't think peter k. will ever forgive the democratic party for choosing a democrat over a cantankerous independent. i supported sanders because his moderately left message is something the American people have not heard since the 50s. i had no expectation that he would win. Reply Sunday,

kthomas -> yuan... March 20, 2017 at 06:13 AM

I used to admire him. Now I see him for what he really is: a left-wing, empty-handed, crackpot. He has no legislation to his credit, who bitches and whines to no end yet rarely offers anything resembling a solution in any detail aside from wind out of mouth. Even now he's traveling the country just to shill, and pretend he cares. Useless old man.

[Jun 09, 2017] Mr. Trump may be wrecking the state but only after Paul Krugman has wrecked economics

economistsview.typepad.com

Egmont Kakarot-Handtke , June 09, 2017 at 10:32 AM

Jun 09, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com
Just another wreck
Comment on Paul Krugman on 'Wrecking the Ship of State'

Mr. Trump may be wrecking the state but only after Paul Krugman has wrecked economics.*

Egmont Kakarot-Handtke

* Krugman and the scientific implosion of economics
http://axecorg.blogspot.de/2016/02/krugman-and-scientific-implosion-of.html

Mr. Keynes, Prof. Krugman, IS-LM, and the End of Economics as We Know It
https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2392856

Krugman is not an economist
http://axecorg.blogspot.de/2016/09/krugman-is-not-economist.html

The Krugman curse
http://axecorg.blogspot.de/2017/04/the-krugman-curse.html

[Jun 09, 2017] Mr. Trump may be wrecking the state but only after Paul Krugman has wrecked economics.

Jun 09, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com

Egmont Kakarot-Handtke , June 09, 2017 at 10:32 AM

Just another wreck
Comment on Paul Krugman on 'Wrecking the Ship of State'

Mr. Trump may be wrecking the state but only after Paul Krugman has wrecked economics.*

Egmont Kakarot-Handtke

* Krugman and the scientific implosion of economics
http://axecorg.blogspot.de/2016/02/krugman-and-scientific-implosion-of.html

Mr. Keynes, Prof. Krugman, IS-LM, and the End of Economics as We Know It
https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2392856

Krugman is not an economist
http://axecorg.blogspot.de/2016/09/krugman-is-not-economist.html

The Krugman curse
http://axecorg.blogspot.de/2017/04/the-krugman-curse.html

[Jun 04, 2017] Our politicians have been brainwashed by neoliberal economists.

Actually the reverse is true ;-)
Notable quotes:
"... Economics is a corrupt pseudo-science that gives a pseudo-scientific justification for the greed and rapacity of One Percenters. Its methodological flaws are glaring. It's time economists went back to the social science faculty, where they belong. ..."
www.unz.com

greenwichite , 27 Apr 2017 06:44

Our politicians have been brainwashed by neoliberal economists.

These economists produce models that factor-in all the upsides to globalisation, but fail to model any of the crippling, expensive-to-treat consequences of shutting down entire towns in places like Michigan or Lancashire.

They assume people live frictionless lives; that when the European ship-building industry moves to Poland, riveters in Portsmouth can just up-sticks and move to Gdansk with no problem. They encourage a narrative that implies such an English riveter are lazy if he fails to seize this opportunity.

(Let's drop a few economists in Gdansk with £100 in their pockets, and see how their families do.)

Economics is a corrupt pseudo-science that gives a pseudo-scientific justification for the greed and rapacity of One Percenters. Its methodological flaws are glaring. It's time economists went back to the social science faculty, where they belong.

[May 31, 2017] Economics needs to be holistic

Notable quotes:
"... The Wealth of Nations ..."
"... James Stoner is Professor in the Department of Political Science at Louisiana State University. He sits on the editorial board of ..."
"... . The papers presented at the Natural Law and Economics Conference can be found on-line at the conference website . ..."
Jun 02, 2009 | www.thepublicdiscourse.com

Natural Law and Economics Total Strangers or Separated Lovers

Relations between the disciplines have not always been so distant. Scholastic natural lawyers trained in the tradition of Aristotle and Aquinas developed defenses of private property and free trade that influenced authors such as Grotius, who in the seventeenth century laid the groundwork of the modern law of nations and thus the basis of modern trade. John Locke subsequently wrote an incisive account of the natural right to property as the source of economic prosperity, and Adam Smith, who wrote a treatise of moral philosophy before authoring The Wealth of Nations , described what he called a system of natural liberty as the matrix of genuine wealth. Although in the nineteenth century both moral philosophy and economics in the English-speaking world developed under the influence of utilitarianism, contemporary theory in both natural-law moral philosophy and economics emphasizes the centrality of the human person and the practical choices he makes concerning human goods or values. In this regard, the question of the relation of natural law to economics is on the one hand the extent to which economic calculations can be based on notions of objective good established by practical moral reason, and on the other hand the extent to which practical judgments by individuals about their good can be informed by an awareness of global consequences.

Philosophy of Economics

"Philosophy of Economics" consists of inquiries concerning

(a) rational choice,

(b) the appraisal of economic outcomes, institutions and processes, and

(c) the ontology of economic phenomena and the possibilities of acquiring knowledge of them.

Although these inquiries overlap in many ways, it is useful to divide philosophy of economics in this way into three subject matters which can be regarded respectively as branches of action theory, ethics (or normative social and political philosophy), and philosophy of science.

Economic theories of rationality, welfare, and social choice defend substantive philosophical theses often informed by relevant philosophical literature and of evident interest to those interested in action theory, philosophical psychology, and social and political philosophy.

Economics is of particular interest to those interested in epistemology and philosophy of science both because of its detailed peculiarities and because it possesses many of the overt features of the natural sciences, while its object consists of social phenomena.

https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/economics/
Reply Friday, May 26, 2017 at 07:19 AM

James Stoner is Professor in the Department of Political Science at Louisiana State University. He sits on the editorial board of Public Discourse . The papers presented at the Natural Law and Economics Conference can be found on-line at the conference website .

RGC said... [Economics needs to be holistic]: May 26, 2017 at 07:19 AM

Humans exist in, for all practical purposes, a closed system - the earth.

There are resources available within that system and various means for humans to avail themselves of those resources.

Economics is supposed to be the study of the management of available resources in the most adventageous manner.

To do that properly, economics must start with the examination of the whole system.]

Natural Law and Economics: Total Strangers or Separated Lovers?
by James Stoner

"A recent conference at Princeton University asked whether in the midst of current economic challenges natural law philosophy might not provide a better foundation for the practice of economics than the utilitarian account of value that currently underwrites it.

"Relations between the disciplines have not always been so distant. Scholastic natural lawyers trained in the tradition of Aristotle and Aquinas developed defenses of private property and free trade that influenced authors such as Grotius, who in the seventeenth century laid the groundwork of the modern law of nations and thus the basis of modern trade. John Locke subsequently wrote an incisive account of the natural right to property as the source of economic prosperity, and Adam Smith, who wrote a treatise of moral philosophy before authoring The Wealth of Nations, described what he called a system of natural liberty as the matrix of genuine wealth. Although in the nineteenth century both moral philosophy and economics in the English-speaking world developed under the influence of utilitarianism, contemporary theory in both natural-law moral philosophy and economics emphasizes the centrality of the human person and the practical choices he makes concerning human goods or values. In this regard, the question of the relation of natural law to economics is on the one hand the extent to which economic calculations can be based on notions of objective good established by practical moral reason, and on the other hand the extent to which practical judgments by individuals about their good can be informed by an awareness of global consequences."

http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2009/06/213/
......................................................
Philosophy of Economics

"Philosophy of Economics" consists of inquiries concerning (a) rational choice, (b) the appraisal of economic outcomes, institutions and processes, and (c) the ontology of economic phenomena and the possibilities of acquiring knowledge of them. Although these inquiries overlap in many ways, it is useful to divide philosophy of economics in this way into three subject matters which can be regarded respectively as branches of action theory, ethics (or normative social and political philosophy), and philosophy of science. Economic theories of rationality, welfare, and social choice defend substantive philosophical theses often informed by relevant philosophical literature and of evident interest to those interested in action theory, philosophical psychology, and social and political philosophy. Economics is of particular interest to those interested in epistemology and philosophy of science both because of its detailed peculiarities and because it possesses many of the overt features of the natural sciences, while its object consists of social phenomena.

https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/economics/

[May 29, 2017] Neoliberal ideology postulated that there is nothing about the economy that cannot be improved by wage cuts and redistributing wealth upwards

May 29, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com
Christopher H. - May 27, 2017 at 05:26 AM Good points by both djb and NDd.

"The quandary is, why is somebody continuing to make use of an obviously failed model?"

And why is the New York Times printing this?

XXX, May 27, 2017 at 01:28 PM

[And why is the New York Times printing this?]

Parable: A friend stopped by at a small forest service museum in the great northwest. From the informational displays about forest management, there is nothing about a forest that cannot be improved by cutting down trees.

With economics there is nothing about the economy that cannot be improved by wage cuts and redistributing wealth upwards.

[May 29, 2017] There is no property without a government

May 29, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com

jonny bakho , May 28, 2017 at 07:40 AM

As General Sherman aptly observed:
"There is no property without a government."
The rules for our "Market Economy" are not divine nor set in stone.
In the US, the rules are the product of we the people.
We the people have control over the rules that govern rights to property and obligations to society.
If DeLong's view is correct, that under current rules wealth will become concentrated into the hands of a few, then it is up to we the people to modify the rules to produce a more equitable, just and economically viable set of rules
djb , May 28, 2017 at 08:33 AM
the message to take from this, is that as long the economy is viewed as ideally implemented when people and firms selfishly acquire as much wealth as possible with no consideration for the plight of their fellow humans, ...then that the economy will decay and many people will suffer

it is truly the job of the government to manage the economy in such a way as to maximize utility for all

it is truly to job of economists to advise on how to do this

[May 21, 2017] The Connection Between Finance and Politics Has Been Under-Researched for Years by ProMarket writers

Notable quotes:
"... GR: Then in the beginning of the 2000s comes the beginning of your work with Professor Raghuram Rajan on "rules of the game." You looked at who's setting the rules of the game, who is influencing the rules ofthe game, and what we learn. ..."
"... GR: For decades, economists and other scholars dedicated a lot of intellectual energy to look at the relationship between companies, shareholders and executives, and between shareholders and boards. Maybe there's not enough intellectual energy going into the question of who sets the rules of the game that determine the outcomes and the dynamics in finance? ..."
"... GR: When it comes to politics, many times data aremuch more complicated and debatable, and ambiguous in many ways. When you deal with numbers and with asset prices, maybe it's easier to go with the data than when you go into the realms of politics. ..."
"... GR: Let's talk a little bit about the research that will be presented in this conference. I'll start with the most politically-sensitive paper that we have, a very interesting paper looking into the Obama administration and more than 2,000 meetings that President Obama and his chief aides had with businessmen over the last eight years. I don't know if you could call it crony capitalism, but whatever is happening out there didn't start in the Trump administration. ..."
"... GR: Another paper looks again at the United States and the way that decisions on bailouts of banks were decided after the financial crisis. Can you elaborate a bit on that? ..."
"... GR: When you're ignoring politics, the outcome many times would be to give more power in the market of ideas and in policies to vested interests, to the powerful? ..."
"... GR: Luigi Zingales, thank you very much. ..."
May 19, 2017 | promarket.org

Ahead of the Stigler Center'sconference on the political economy of finance, we interviewed Stigler Center Director Luigi Zingales about the motivation behind the first-of-its-kind conference.

On June 1-2, the Stigler Center will host a first-of-its-kind conference focusing on the role of politics in finance research. In the last twenty years, political considerations have played an increasingly important role in financial economics: from the design of the rules that make financial markets viable to politically-motivated changes in bankruptcy law, from political connections in firms to the effects of political uncertainty on investments. Yet up until now, no conference has been dedicated to it.

Ahead of this conference, we interviewed University of Chicago Booth School of Business Professor and Stigler Center Director Luigi Zingales [also, one of the editors of this blog] about the motivation behind it and the political economy of finance.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/jB1b2T0QtFk

The following is a transcript of the interview, slightly edited for clarity:

Guy Rolnik: I was surprised to understand that, actually, there are not many conferences on the politics of finance.

GR: Why is it that there aren't many conferences on the political economy of finance? You would think that politics has a lot to do with finance.

LZ: I think historically, people have not looked at that aspect a lot. I would like to divide the brief history of the academic field of finance into three periods: I would call the first one-that started in the late '50s-the Modigliani and Miller period. Modigliani and Miller, to simplify to the extreme, said that the way you slice a pizza does not change the size of the pizza. This is a period in which basically finance is irrelevant, and the only frictions that matter are probably only tax frictions.

Then, starting with the '70s, people realized: "Wait a second. If you start to divide a pizza before you produce the pizza, maybe this will have some impact on how the pizza is produced." This is what in jargon goes under "agency," or "asymmetric information." Essentially, the way you allocate the cash flows of the firm has some impact on the way the firm is run.

However, all this is in the context of, "The external rules are fixed. We're in a very predetermined society and the rules are fixed. That's what we do."

Starting with the '90s and then the 2000s, people realized that the rules are not fixed, that actually the changing nature of the rules is very important, and of course, political gain is what makes the rules change.

GR: So this is where the 2008 financial crisis comes in, and after the financial crisis people started to develop a lot of interest in the role of politics in financial crises and the role of politics in finance.

LZ: To be honest, I think things started before the financial crisis. I think probably the intellectual origin of all this is the theory of incomplete contracts developed by Grossman and Hart, where because the cash flow is bargain ex post, then the rules are more fluid. Then this call for renegotiation, or re-discussion, which is to a large degree about politics, comes into the game.

One of the early papers about this is a paper by Patrick Bolton and Howard Rosenthal-a finance guy and a political scientist-looking at how renegotiation of debt and the rules for bankruptcy change dramatically with the business cycle. Every major financial crisis in the United States had the bankruptcy rules restated to some extent, or reshaped.

Traditionally, finance people thought about bankruptcy as a given. Now [they] realize it is not a given, that the rules change. How do they change? They're politically determined. Of course, for the misbeliever, the financial crisis brought this to an attention that could not be ignored.

We've seen the work by Amir Sufi and Atif Mian and Francesco Trebbi looking at the political determinants of the intervention on TARP, and the work that Amit Seru and co-authors have done on the politics around regulation and how ineffective regulation is because of political constraints.

I think that by the beginning of the second decade of the 21st century, politics has become mainstream and was overdue to have a conference dedicated to it.

GR: Then in the beginning of the 2000s comes the beginning of your work with Professor Raghuram Rajan on "rules of the game." You looked at who's setting the rules of the game, who is influencing the rules ofthe game, and what we learn.

LZ: I think that in the late '90s and early 2000, there was a big interest inwhy countries are not more financially developed. Thanks to the work of Andrei Shleifer and Robert Vishny and others, there was this importance of the law as a major factor.

Raghuram and I asked the very simple question: if it is as simple as importing a code from another country, why don't more countries do it? It cannot be just a lack of technical expertise. Lawyers are expensive but can be imported. In fact, Russia did import the best lawyers from the United States. I'm not sure it was a big success.

The conclusion was, no, it's lack of political will. We started to open the debate for, say, "Look, finance does benefit most people, but hurts others." So there is a political economy even with [the] introduction of financial laws.

GR: For decades, economists and other scholars dedicated a lot of intellectual energy to look at the relationship between companies, shareholders and executives, and between shareholders and boards. Maybe there's not enough intellectual energy going into the question of who sets the rules of the game that determine the outcomes and the dynamics in finance?

LZ: I think that the role of conferences like the one here at the Stigler Center is to bring together scholars who work in a certain area, and also give confidence that this area is important, and attract more research.

You're absolutely right, people tend to research where the data are. The famous old joke about economists, that they look where the light is, not where they lost the key, has some element of truth. In finance, there are things that we can observe very well and compensation is one. You're going to have a lot of papers about managerial compensation.

But I think what is important is that even data are endogenous, in a sense. Compustat ExecuComp, which is the primary data source to study this stuff, was created in the early '90s as a result of academic interest in executive compensation.

Going back in history, CRSP, the Center for Research in Security Prices here at Chicago, which is the main data source for security prices research, was created by Jim Lorie, a faculty here, who saw people like Eugene Fama and others interested in this topic and said, "We have to create a data set to analyze."

The role of academia is, in a sense, to open new avenues and then have a data provider follow.

GR: When it comes to politics, many times data aremuch more complicated and debatable, and ambiguous in many ways. When you deal with numbers and with asset prices, maybe it's easier to go with the data than when you go into the realms of politics.

LZ: There are two aspects: one, there are fewer data coming from thepolitical world than from the asset pricing world, even from corporate finance. Even those data tend not to be disclosed and available as much as data on companies. Data on lobbying now start to be widely available. Data on campaign contributions start to be available. The data on corporate donations tend to be more difficult. They're not as established.

Then there is a more difficult problem to tackle: in a sense, politics is much more fluid. Whenever data are available, the deals move somewhere else. As researchers, we're always fighting the last war because we look at what happened in the past, but politics run ahead.

GR: Let's talk a little bit about the research that will be presented in this conference. I'll start with the most politically-sensitive paper that we have, a very interesting paper looking into the Obama administration and more than 2,000 meetings that President Obama and his chief aides had with businessmen over the last eight years. I don't know if you could call it crony capitalism, but whatever is happening out there didn't start in the Trump administration.

LZ: Certainly. I think it's actually very healthy, and one of the goals of this conference is to bring this research from analyzing foreign countries to analyzing the United States. It's much easier to point fingers toward other people. When Ray Fisman wrote the first paper on the political connections of Suharto, everybody clapped. Why? Because it's Indonesia and corruption in Indonesia is something that we think is granted.

Now, when people apply the same technique to the United States of America, a lot of people [are] up in arms and say, "Oh, it's impossible. This is not corruption." But if it worked as a technique for Suharto, why can't it work for Trump, or for Obama, or for people before?

I don't think that these results are specific to the Obama administration. I think that the data are better in recent years, and so, the paper analyzed that rather than analyzing George W. Bush, or Bill Clinton.

GR: Another paper looks again at the United States and the way that decisions on bailouts of banks were decided after the financial crisis. Can you elaborate a bit on that?

LZ: Again, I think that it's not surprising to international scholars that the allocation of aid, the allocation of credit, and particularly the allocation of bailout credit to banks is very politically-determined.

This research is showing that surprise, surprise, without a doubt, in the United States the same happens. I think it's a good example [that]what we've learned analyzing countries around the world can be applied to the United States.

GR: We do look internationally at this conference, and we have an interesting paper on Chile. Chile is a very interesting case for many reasons. One of them, of course, is that for many decades, Chile was the "poster child" of a successful market economy in South America. Recently, people have been looking into the details of what's happening in this economy, and they see some other perspectives on Chile that were not as salient as before.

LZ: I will distinguish two things: First of all, I think that Chile is a fantastic example of the difference between being pro-market and being pro-business. I think that Chile has been very much pro-business, but there is no doubt that it was a huge success in terms of growth. On the other hand, I think there is not enough antitrust policies, or attention to political connections. The result is that the income distribution is extremely unequal, and this really puts, in my view, bounds on future growth.

I think one needs to reconsider the limitations of looking only at micro-measures of market flexibility, and not at the political economy of the country.

In addition, like in many countries, [in Chile] we have a phenomenon where privatizations on the one hand improved efficiency-because the government is not very good at running things-but were probably done to the benefit of some people. One of the major mines was sold to the then son-in-law of Pinochet who now, ironically, was found to [have] actually [paid] money to the son of the current president, [Michelle] Bachelet. This shows that it's not right or left, it is basically crony capitalism.

GR: And China?

LZ: China is a phenomenal example. There is a very exciting paper looking at the way loans are made, and the political incentives, not only the economic incentives, that are present in China.

We tend to look at China with too much of a Western view, not realizing that in China, in every major company there is a representative of the Communist Party who basically oversees the company. These guys tend to have political incentives that are different than the standard market incentives. I think understanding better the interaction between the two is a fascinating topic.

GR: To sum up our discussion: politics is key when it comes to finance, and we should research the relationship between the political world and finance more. Are there any specific things that you think are under-researched today, or over-researched? From a societal point of view, what would be the right research agenda when it comes to finance today?

LZ: First of all, it's very difficult to ask an academic what is the right research agenda because most of the people will answer what they're doing this moment, so I don't want to fall into this trap. In general, the connection between finance and politics has been under-researched for years, and the goal of this conference is precisely to motivate more research. I think there is a need to apply more creative and different approaches.

I think that generally in academia, what tends to be overdone is research that's based on data that areeasily available, with techniques that are fairly well-established, because the cost of production is low, the value added is also low, but also, the risks tend to be low.

I think that what good researchers should do is to be more ambitious, take more risks-especially after you get tenure, there is no justification not to take more risks.

GR: Do economists need help from other disciplines when they're going into the realm of political economy of finance?

LZ: I think economists need help in other disciplines regardless. There was a long period in which economists were sort of colonialists, and they were moving to other fields, ignoring, or not really understanding the other fields, but just trying to grab some of those questions.

I think that those times, by and large, are gone. I think there is a lot of good research interacting psychology with economics. I think that is less so, for example, in sociology. I think that sociologists and economists tend to not interact a lot, and I think there are great opportunities there.

I think also with political scientists, there are more economists acting as political scientists-there is a bit less of an integration. I think that would be helpful, especially in areas like finance. I think if you are in the political economy section of an economics department, you naturally interact with political scientists.

When you come to business school, and you do finance, or you do IO, you tend to be less well-integrated.

GR: Some economists shy away from politics for many reasons, but correct me if I'm wrong: the deeper we go into the political economy of finance, we'll see that politics has a lot of influence on the outcomes of the financial markets, and it will force us to think much more about politics.

LZ: I would also say the opposite. I think that economists, and academics in general, have a huge impact on what happens in the political world. Not immediately, not individually, as they had in academia by themselves, but the academic thinking isa crucial part in shaping politics.

It's very hard to do lobbying without some ideas to support the lobbying. My fear is that academics are not sufficiently aware of their impact. Jean-Paul Sartre used to say you cannot not choose because not choosing is choosing not to choose. I would like to paraphrase and say you cannot ignore politics because ignoring politics is choosing a particular political perspective of ignoring it. You are announcing a particular view, you're not abstaining from it.

The attitude of many academics that say "I do science, I have nothing to do with politics"-they are doing politics in another way.

GR: When you're ignoring politics, the outcome many times would be to give more power in the market of ideas and in policies to vested interests, to the powerful?

LZ: I think that that could be an outcome. It's not necessarily an outcome, but that could be an outcome. I'm just saying that you should be aware of the consequences of your actions because not acting is an action.

GR: Luigi Zingales, thank you very much.

LZ: You're welcome.

Disclaimer: The ProMarket blog is dedicated to discussing how competition tends to be subverted by special interests. The posts represent the opinions of their writers, not those of the University of Chicago, the Booth School of Business, or its faculty. For more information, please visit ProMarket Blog Policy .

[May 21, 2017] The Connection Between Finance and Politics Has Been Under-Researched for Years

May 21, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com

likezkova, May 20, 2017 at 11:22 AM

A very interesting and important article: The Connection Between Finance and Politics Has Been Under-Researched for Years (https://promarket.org/connection-finance-politics2/ )

That was my point for a long time. Inability to challenge the underlying assumptions of the neoclassical economics and current neoliberal polices (such as Washington consensus) sooner of later backfire both in economics and politics, because politics and economics are intrinsically connected.

to the extent that "pure economics" is a pseudo-science (with bunch of complex mathematical masturbations, much like geocentric theory of movement of planets; which actually did predicted certain movements of plants accurately. using overcomplicated math stuff -- epicycles)

But political posturing often prevent such a reevaluation, even when people understand that something is wrong with the current state of economics.

Much like that fact that the USA pretentions of the world hegemony make deviations from pre-existing policies a sign of "weakness". But is a dialectical way, the obsessive desire to project strength is a serious weakness in itself ;-)

And it looks like this inability and lack of desire to challenge the fundamental assumptions is a very serious problem not only with the US elite, but with the American society as a whole.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0104257/quotes

Col. Jessep: [from the witness stand] *You want answers?*

Kaffee: *I want the truth!*

Col. Jessup: [from the witness stand] *You can't handle the truth!*

Emong other things it led to the economic policies that on "being disastrous" scale are probably close the policies that led to Iraq war (remember neocons boasting before this war that we will be greeted with flowers and the cost will be minimal and democracy will flourish in Iraq). The results of outsourcing of manufacturing is very similar to the real result obtains due to the Iraq war.

So there is an important question that the article missed. Can the American elite face the truth?

That answer is: "No". That's why neoclassical economics while discredited as a theory remain dominant as a civil religion of neoliberalism, indoctrination into which is a prerequisite to obtaining an academic degree, and students are indoctrinated into this this bunch of mathiness each year. Compare with Steve Keen "Debunking economics" ( https://www.amazon.com/Debunking-Economics-Revised-Expanded-Dethroned/dp/1848139926 ). Much like Marxism was obligatory in the USSR and can't graduate without passing exams on Marxist political economy.

But, truth be told, neoclassical economics has a strong political undercurrent because historically it emerged (like neoliberalism in late 30th early 40th) as an alternative to Marxism. And to certain extent it did has its value while Marxism and Marxist theory of value were not discredited (that means up to late 40th, early 60th).

Another point is that the US neoliberal elite demonstrated willingness and ability to engage in self-defeating behavior because they do not want to look weak or challenge the postulated of neoliberalism. That's the same behavior the Politburo was engaged in the USSR.

I would shy from using the term "decline od neoliberalism" because it has a flavor of "doom and gloom" (and haw we can speak about decline if a realistic alternative does not exist?), but neoliberalism really faces the crisis of confidence. Neoliberal myths such a "Greed is good", "Casino capitalism is virtuous", "Entrepreneurship is the ultimate value and the source of material reward", "free market", "free trade", "labor market", "poor are guilty of their own fate because they lack responsibility", "rising stock market tide lifts all boats", etc are dispelled.

Promises of "prosperity for all" are not delivered (at least to the lower 80% of population.)

Basically the same situation that existed with Brezhnev socialism in the USSR with the communist ideology stating with 70th.

Instead of the USSR alcoholism epidemic we have opioids and meth epidemic with the same or similar social roots.

Add to this several wars (or more correctly occupations of the countries) going on and resources wasted on those (mostly unwinnable) wars (with the recent myth that "counterinsurgency" tactics will bring the USA the success in Afghanistan -- David Petraeus' myth -- http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/12997-how-petraeus-created-the-myth-of-his-success, https://www.scribd.com/document/67519776/Puncturing-the-Counterinsurgency-Myth-Britain-and-Irregular-Warfare-in-the-Past-Present-and-Future ) which also nobody in the establishment has the courage of challenging and you get the picture. It's not pretty.

That worldview had derived from this conviction that American power implies commitment to global hegemony, and this commitment expressed the nation's enduring devotion to its founding ideals of freedom and democracy.

That also means that election of Trump will not result in proper actions that can change the course of "battleship America" and can rectify the current difficulties. Much like the election of Barack Obama before him.

[May 18, 2017] Hayek and Neoclassicals Meet Information Theory and Fail

Notable quotes:
"... By Jason Smith, a physicist who messes around with economic theory. He graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in math and a degree in physics, and received his Ph.D. from the University of Washington in theoretical physics. Follow him on Twitter: @infotranecon. Originally published at Evonomics ..."
"... The New Industrial State ..."
"... I think the tradition of economic thinking has been really influential. I think it's actually a thing that people on the left really should do - take the time to understand all of that. There is a tremendous amount of incredible insight into some of the things we're talking about, like non-zero-sum settings, and the way in which human exchange can be generative in this sort of amazing way. Understanding how capitalism works has been really, really important for me, and has been something that I feel like I'm a better thinker and an analyst because of the time and reading I put into a lot of conservative authors on that topic. ..."
May 18, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com
Posted on May 17, 2017 by Yves Smith By Jason Smith, a physicist who messes around with economic theory. He graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in math and a degree in physics, and received his Ph.D. from the University of Washington in theoretical physics. Follow him on Twitter: @infotranecon. Originally published at Evonomics

The inspiration for this piece came from a Vox podcast with Chris Hayes of MSNBC. One of the topics they discussed was which right-of-center ideas the left ought to engage. Hayes says:

The entirety of the corpus of [Friedrich] Hayek, [Milton] Friedman, and neoclassical economics. I think it's an incredibly powerful intellectual tradition and a really important one to understand, these basic frameworks of neoclassical economics, the sort of ideas about market clearing prices, about the functioning of supply and demand, about thinking in marginal terms.

I think the tradition of economic thinking has been really influential. I think it's actually a thing that people on the left really should do - take the time to understand all of that. There is a tremendous amount of incredible insight into some of the things we're talking about, like non-zero-sum settings, and the way in which human exchange can be generative in this sort of amazing way. Understanding how capitalism works has been really, really important for me, and has been something that I feel like I'm a better thinker and an analyst because of the time and reading I put into a lot of conservative authors on that topic.

Putting aside the fact that the left has fully understood and engaged with these ideas, deeply and over decades (it may be dense writing, but it's not exactly quantum field theory), I can hear some of you asking: Do I have to?

The answer is: No.

Why? Because you can get the same understanding while also understanding where these ideas fall apart ‒ that is to say understanding the limited scope of market-clearing prices and supply and demand – using information theory.

Prices and Hayek

Friedrich Hayek did have some insight into prices having something to do with information, but he got the details wrong and vastly understated the complexity of the system. He saw market prices aggregating information from events: a blueberry crop failure, a population boom, or speculation on crop yields. Price changes purportedly communicated knowledge about the state of the world.

However, Hayek was writing in a time before information theory. (Hayek's The Use of Knowledge in Society was written in 1945, a just few years before Claude Shannon's A Mathematical Theory of Communication in 1948.) Hayek thought a large amount of knowledge about biological or ecological systems, population, and social systems could be communicated by a single number: a price. Can you imagine the number of variables you'd need to describe crop failures, population booms, and market bubbles? Thousands? Millions? How many variables of information do you get from the price of blueberries? One. Hayek dreams of compressing a complex multidimensional space of possibilities that includes the state of the world and the states of mind of thousands or millions of agents into a single dimension (i.e. price), inevitably losing a great deal of information in the process.

... ... ...

The market as an algorithm

The picture above is of a functioning market as an algorithm matching distributions by raising and lowering a price until it reaches a stable price. In fact, this picture is of a specific machine learning algorithm called Generative Adversarial Networks (GAN, described in this Medium article or in the original paper ) that has emerged recently. Of course, the idea of the market as an algorithm to solve a problem is not new. For example one of the best blog posts of all time (in my opinion) talks about linear programming as an algorithm, giving an argument for why planned economies will likely fail, but the same argument implies we cannot check the optimality of the market allocation of resources, therefore claims of markets as optimal are entirely faith-based. The Medium article uses a good analogy using a painting, a forger, and a detective, but I will recast it in terms of the information theory description.

Instead of the complex multidimensional distributions, here we have blueberry buyers and blueberry sellers. The "supply" ( B from above) is the generator G , the demand A is the "real data" R (the information the deep learning algorithm is trying to learn). Instead of the random initial input I - coin tosses or dice throws - we have the complex, irrational, entrepreneurial, animal spirits of people. We also have the random effects of weather on blueberry production. The detector D (which is coincidentally the terminology Fieltiz and Borchardt used) is the price p . When the detector can't tell the difference between the distribution of demand for blueberries and the distribution of the supply of blueberries (i.e. when the price reaches a relatively stable value because the distributions are the same), we've reached our solution (a market equilibrium).

Note that the problem the GAN algorithm tackles can be represented by the two-player minimax game from game theory. The thing is that with the wrong settings, algorithms fail and you get garbage. I know this from experience in my regular job researching machine learning, sparse reconstruction, and signal processing algorithms. Therefore depending on the input data (especially data resulting from human behavior), we shouldn't expect to get good results all of the time. These failures are exactly the failure of information to flow from the real data to the generator through the detector – the failure of information from the demand to reach the supply via the price mechanism.

When asked by Quora what the recent and upcoming breakthroughs in deep learning are, Yann LeCun, director of AI research at Facebook and a professor at NYU, said:

The most important one, in my opinion, is adversarial training (also called GAN for Generative Adversarial Networks). This is an idea that was originally proposed by Ian Goodfellow when he was a student with Yoshua Bengio at the University of Montreal (he since moved to Google Brain and recently to OpenAI).

This, and the variations that are now being proposed is the most interesting idea in the last 10 years in ML, in my opinion.

Research into these deep learning algorithms and information theory may provide insight into economic systems.

An Interpretation of Economics for the Left

So again, Hayek had a fine intuition: prices and information have some relationship. But he didn't have the conceptual or mathematical tools of information theory to understand the mechanisms of that relationship - tools that emerged with Shannon's key paper in 1948, and that continue to be elaborated to this day to produce algorithms like generative adversarial networks.

The understanding of prices and supply and demand provided by information theory and machine learning algorithms is better equipped to explain markets than arguments reducing complex distributions of possibilities to a single dimension, and hence, necessarily, requiring assumptions like rational agents and perfect foresight. Ideas that were posited as articles of faith or created through incomplete arguments by Hayek are not even close to the whole story, and leave you with no knowledge of the ways the price mechanism, marginalism, or supply and demand can go wrong. Those arguments assume and (hence) conclude market optimality. Leaving out the failure modes effectively declares many social concerns of the left moot by fiat. The potential and actual failures of markets are a major concern of the left, and are frequently part of discussions of inequality and social justice.

The left doesn't need to follow Chris Hayes' advice and engage with Hayek, Friedman, and neoclassical economics. The left instead needs to engage with a real world vision of economics that recognizes the limited scope of ideal markets and begins with imperfection as the more useful default scenario. Understanding economics in terms of information flow is one way of doing that.

JULIA WILLE , May 17, 2017 at 8:28 am

Is this just my lack of formal education or is this article very complicated? Honestly I did not understand it at all. Is there any way to explain this different? ( a link to a different way of describing informationtheory / free market theory)
Thanks Julia

PKMKII , May 17, 2017 at 10:23 am

To put it in more layman-friendly terms: price settings are based on information the suppliers gather regarding the market, both demand side and supply side (sales forecasts, commodity pricing, consumer confidence number, focus group information, etc). Demanders do the same. However, they can never have absolute, complete information for either side. So prices, and idea of what prices should be, in a free market never represent a true optimal price, but rather a best guess.

This pokes a few holes in neoclassical economic assumptions:

– Most obviously, prices cannot be optimal in a free market.
– Supply and demand changes cannot account entirely for changes in price, as refinements to the information flow can affect them as well.
– Information asymmetry corrupts prices, and can be used to exploit consumers.
– Information is dependent on a large enough sample size, so neoclassical economics is useless in markets with limited transactions. An easy example of this are those kind of items on shows like Antique Roadshow, where there's so few of the items out there that the expert says, "This is a guess, but really it could go for almost any amount at auction."

So the Left can use this to argue for non-market price controls (to account for the lack of free market price optimization) and for forcing corporations to have better fiscal transparency and more strict anti-trust laws (to increase information flow and to prevent information asymmetry).

JTMcPhee , May 17, 2017 at 11:04 am

Local prices for gasoline look a lot more like looting and chaos to me than any kind of correspondence to "markets." Yesterday at the RaceTrac at the end of my street, "regular" dropped four cents from morning to evening, reflecting the pricing at the two other "service stations" at the intersection. A month or so ago (I got tired of keeping a little record of the changes) the price jumped 25 cents overnight. None of these moves seemed to correspond with the stuff I was reading about in the market conditions around the planet and just in the US - supply and demand? More like the Useless Looters at BP and Shell and others just spin an arrow on a kid's game board to pick the day's price point (that sick phrase), or somebody in the C-Suite decided the "Bottom Line" needed a goose to pump the bonus generator up a bit.

The fraud is everywhere, the looting and scamming too. Seems to me that searching for some "touchstone" to make sense of It All is an exercise in futility.

PKMKII , May 17, 2017 at 11:47 am

Gasoline runs into a different limitation with free market economics, which is that consumers need to be able to freely enter and leave the market in question in order for the free market to function (which is why privatized healthcare doesn't work). Outside of a few urban areas with robust public transportation, most Americans are immediately dependent on gasoline in order to survive. Even those who do have access to a Metro are still dependent on the shipping that uses gasoline. So they can raise prices with a greater confidence that the number of consumers will not drop off as significantly as with other industries.

rn , May 17, 2017 at 12:54 pm

"This pokes a few holes in neoclassical economic assumptions:"

In neoclassical economics, these "holes" are pretty much understood as the prerequisites for "perfect competition", as opposed to imperfect competition or monopolies.

When politics is mixed with economics, these are ignored, as they are in the interest of the ruling class.

HBE , May 17, 2017 at 2:37 pm

Thank you for the laymans version PKMKII. I read it twice, but it only clicked after reading your comment.

LT , May 17, 2017 at 4:01 pm

https://aeon.co/essays/how-the-cold-war-led-the-cia-to-promote-human-capital-theory/

Vastydeep , May 17, 2017 at 11:00 am

PKMKII said it very well, and here's another way to look at it: Centrally-planned economies (say, some Politburo minister in the former Soviet Union) fail because a central bureaucrat cannot possibly guess the demand and distribution for all products (say, metal bathtubs) across an economy in a given year. He guesses, poorly, and either the shortages or the oversupply make our history books.

Market economics makes a better guess, because pricing gives a dynamic estimate of what the supply and demand really are. That this estimate is generally *better* has been (mis)represented as that this estimate is somehow PERFECT - the best estimate that can possibly exist! As the article describes, this assessment (that only a market economy can generate maximal wealth and optimal wealth distributions) is FALSE.

The economics underlying communist central planning failed because they couldn't provide the optimization that comes from valid pricing function. With Shannon's information theory and advanced analytics, it is possible to create a more optimal economy than our current, simplistic market/pricing function provides.

Ever since Samuelson's Economics in 1948, we've worshipped a market god based on scanty math. The first step in moving beyond Samuelson is recognizing that progress is indeed still possible, and then making the choice and determining the steps to pursue it.

Mel , May 17, 2017 at 11:22 am

Not just communist central planning. John Kenneth Galbraith's The New Industrial State makes a special space in society for industries in The Planning Sector. These were the very large businesses that worked with huge capital bases, long lead times, populations comparable to small nations. Planning, both input and output, was key to these businesses because there was too much at stake to risk losing it to the whims of any market. Communist societies were extreme examples, as they were betting the entire national economy, but the parallels with huge "private" firms were quite exact.
The Planning Sector businesses failed when they had to slough off all the activities that were too hard to plan; then they morphed into the Finance/Insurance/Real Estate Sector.

Brian G , May 17, 2017 at 11:15 am

I don't think it is a lack of formal education. It is simply written in a way that is not easy to understand. I have my master's in engineering, and I'm still not sure exactly what this passage is trying to say:
"If you randomly generated thousands of messages from the distribution of possible messages, the distribution of generated messages would be an approximation to the actual distribution of messages. If you sent these messages over your noisy communication channel that met the requirement for faithful transmission, it would reproduce an informationally equivalent distribution of messages on the other end."
From that point on I simply skimmed it and, if I'm not mistaken, the author also assigns positions to Hayek that seem to be a little more extreme than the positions he actually held.

I.D.G , May 17, 2017 at 1:14 pm

Will try to break that:

If you randomly generated thousands of messages from the distribution of possible messages, the distribution of generated messages would be an approximation to the actual distribution of messages.

You can only get to the true distribution assuming an infinite number of samples, everything else is asymptotic approximation to the true posterior distribution. This is true for any mathematical function approximated numerically were closed solutions are not possible to find (ie. not integrable). But this is relevant to the second phrase because:

If you sent these messages over your noisy communication channel that met the requirement for faithful transmission, it would reproduce an informationally equivalent distribution of messages on the other end.

A noisy communication channel introduces random bits of information which are not part of the original distribution, but because that noise is random, you would get a message that is an approximation of the true distribution of the original message being transmitted (is informationally equivalent) as the noise is distributed 'randomly' .

However, this is only true when the number of information bits approach infinity (for large numbers), BE WARE! Indeed that randomness can be very skewed for small samples. this is relevant and interesting because complex systems were you have a large number of variables are not easy to converge with, even when you are aware of the whole system variables (is a mathematically intractable problem).

You can think as market pricing (in an ideal world free of politics and power games, which is not) as a convergence to a complex multidimensional problem, and even though we know that we are NOT aware of all the variables at play for a given product, hence this supposedly God like attributes of market price discovery are unwarranted.

Synoia , May 17, 2017 at 8:23 pm

Looking at the signal gives you both information and a probability of being correct. Now we get to significance, which is defined as 95% probability.

When you get to 95% probability depends on the signal to noise ratio.

Any guesses as to the signal to noise ratio of the News Media?

Tim , May 17, 2017 at 3:27 pm

Actually that's just poor writing.

Jim Haygood , May 17, 2017 at 8:49 am

"Because the information flow from A can never be greater than A's total information, and will mostly be less than that total, the observed prices in a real economy will most likely fall below the ideal market prices."

Surely not. Post-industrial economies feature an asymmetry: individual consumers, catered to predominantly by large nationwide publicly-traded suppliers.

Because of the superior knowledge possessed by suppliers, further leveraged by advertising and publicity which exploits human psychological foibles such as peer pressure and herding, prices in the economy are almost certainly too high versus the ideal of complete information flow (while the price of labor is almost certainly too low).

Nowhere are prices higher than in the nonnegotiable, monopoly services of government. Not only does it charge astronomical property taxes which mean that there's really no such thing as secure property title without income, but also it compels hapless working schmoes to "invest" 15.3% of their income for their entire working lives at approximately zero return.

Mr Trump tear down these prices .

Synoia , May 17, 2017 at 8:26 pm

Nowhere are prices higher than in the nonnegotiable, monopoly services of government.

Really? Care to discuss an example?

Such as the UK NHS v the US Health Care System? Better outcome at nearly half the cost.

Now how is your " prices higher monopoly services of government" doing?

Please post a counter example.

TG , May 17, 2017 at 9:34 am

With respect, it is not empirically incorrect that immigration lowers wages. The historical experience is quite clear, that when governments force population growth, whether through increased immigration or via incentives to increase the local fertility rate, wages for the many fall and profits for the few increase.

Sure more workers means more competition for jobs, but can also result in an increase in the number of jobs – BUT ONLY OVER TIME AND ONLY IF NEEDED INVESTMENTS ARE MADE AND THERE IS ENOUGH MARGINAL CAPACITY TO INVEST AND TECHNOLOGY AND RESOURCES ARE NOT ENTERING THE AREA OF DIMINISHING RETURNS. Which is not guaranteed, especially if the immigration level is massive and constantly increasing.

The United States from around 1929 to 1970 had very low immigration, and, starting from a low level, wages soared. Starting in 1970, the borders to the overpopulated third world have been progressively opened, and wages have started to diverge from productivity and are now starting to decline in absolute terms. Other nations that recently increased the rate of immigration and have seen significant falls in wages are: South Africa, the Ivory Coast, England, Australia, and Singapore – and even some provinces of India, where immigration from Bangladesh has been used to make certain that wages stay near subsistence. Yes immigration was not the only thing going on there, but when rapid forced increases in the supply of labor are always followed by falls in wages, well, the empirical evidence is hardly to be dismissed out of hand.

Remember, no society in all of history has run out of workers. When the headlines say that immigrants are needed to end a labor 'shortage' what is really meant is a 'shortage' of workers who have no option but to accept low wages. However, the only reason that workers can get high wages is that there is a 'shortage' of workers forced to take low wages. It is thus essentially tautological that when immigration is said to eliminate a labor shortage, it is lowering wages, because a labor 'shortage' is in fact what high wages are based on.

PKMKII , May 17, 2017 at 10:31 am

They're arguing that you can't empirically say that immigration decreases wages, because there are simply too many variables in an economy to be able to say definitively if it's a cause or a correlation, i.e. does the immigration decrease wages, or does another socio-economic factor simultaneously decrease wages and cause an influx of immigrants? This is why economics is treated as a soft science, as you can't remove variables in a lab setting the way you can with other sciences.

Ignacio , May 17, 2017 at 11:46 am

"BUT ONLY OVER TIME AND ONLY IF NEEDED INVESTMENTS ARE MADE AND THERE IS ENOUGH MARGINAL CAPACITY TO INVEST AND TECHNOLOGY AND RESOURCES ARE NOT ENTERING THE AREA OF DIMINISHING RETURNS."

Nope. Once immigrants arrive, demand increases instantly, even before they get a job.

H. Alexander Ivey , May 17, 2017 at 9:59 am

Wow. Just wow. A complete, through, and total BS assertion of some kind of economic theory. I am simply stunned at his verbal density of discourse, blithe refusal to explain, and simply name dropping facts, ideas, and concepts that are absolutely not related except in being part of the English language.

I know this is close to an ad hominum attack; I haven't given any specific rebuttal. But I don't have the tools at my disposal right now to avenge what I see as an assault on my analytic abilities.

Good night and good luck.

Synoia , May 17, 2017 at 1:02 pm

Perhaps you should do some reading or studying of math?

Vastydeep , May 17, 2017 at 1:46 pm

If not a specific rebuttal, what *kinds* of things in the article do you disagree with? Perhaps this posting is just a step to some greater knowing. Neoclassical Economics has been taught as "factual and beyond dispute" my whole career - I'm sure that Alchemy and Leechbooks were taught similarly in earlier ages. How might you suggest that we move forward to something better?

"It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so." ~ Mark Twain

skippy , May 17, 2017 at 3:44 pm

"Wow. Just wow. A complete, through, and total BS assertion of some kind of economic theory. I am simply stunned at his verbal density of discourse, blithe refusal to explain, and simply name dropping facts, ideas, and concepts that are absolutely not related except in being part of the English language."

Yeah that is a pretty good summation of my experience wrt Austrians over almost 2 decades in a nutter shell[ ] kudos.

Now if only the neoclassicals would abandon the individual and consider vectors in distribution and how groups affect information.

disheveled .. throws toys out of play pen and hurrumphs away . victoriously .

Abate Magic Thinking but NOT Money , May 17, 2017 at 10:39 am

In my limited experience the prices we accept are more to do with contentment than information. We are aware that we can never have perfect information; bounded rationality being our situation*. So as buyers, we end up going with contentment or at least convenience; price too high, content to leave it on the shelf. Price too low and the reaction might be the same because it is too good to be true, or of suspect quality. You can have a bargain staring you in the face and, but you are content because of lack of interest or knowledge.

Good luck to those who try to quantify contentment!

.And then there is the tyranny of choice; not content!

Pip Pip!

* When it comes to the prices people are prepared to pay for products such as cosmetics and super-cars the rule seems to be unbounded irrationality, but hopefully contentment is achieved anyway.

Synoia , May 17, 2017 at 1:12 pm

Please do not confuse commodity price with perceived value.

Perceived value is clearly a signal injection into the information stream (an engineers view of marketing)

huh? , May 17, 2017 at 10:40 am

when it comes to the political application of this 'theoretical' argument I think it will be easily dismissed as more leftist academic pedantry, 'immanentizing the eschaton'- all the comments reflecting the advantages of imperfect information evidence.

SouthLooper , May 17, 2017 at 10:52 am

This is a wonderful, cogent explanation of a very mathematically complex subject, which is Information Theory, that has been used to make profound contributions well beyond telephonic communication for which Claude Shannon developed it, when he discovered it trying to code the English language, and which he failed to do.

R.A. Fisher was also brilliant. His work has had implications in probability, and statistics, economics, and perhaps most profoundly in genetics.

PKMKII , May 17, 2017 at 11:37 am

The neoclassical analysis also doesn't account for single supplier, multiple demand market situations. If blueberries both have the consumer market, but also an industrial market (dye purpose, maybe), then the blueberry supplier has to balance both of those demands, which may end up favoring one or the other, or some state that isn't ideal for either demand market. The universal example is the private property of the business itself. The owner isn't just in the market of whatever service or widget they make, but also in the commercial real estate market. This is especially problematic with housing, as high rents + vacancies create the impression of scarcity and value to prospective buyers.

Synoia , May 17, 2017 at 11:41 am

Good work. Now add the delays in information transfer, and fear and greed buying motivations based on multiple information streams, coupled with information conflicts (injected noise), and you are getting closer to the real world.

Information conflicts are the differing explanations of the Trump/Corey affair. There is much noise in the information stream.

Mel , May 17, 2017 at 12:47 pm

The example seems very sketchy:

Stable prices mean a balance of crop failures and crop booms (supply), population declines and population booms (demand), speculation and risk-aversion (demand)

This is a good example because it's easy to understand appealing, I fear, to our neoclassical prejudices.
It's a bad example because it doesn't seem very multidimensional; appealing to our neoclassical prejudices it collapses easily into "How many blueberry buyers?" and "How many blueberries?"
Trying to imagine something more multidimensional there might be a preference for big blueberries because they're big there might be a preference for small blueberries because people think that they're wild, so they must be tastier. If the markets were segregated, there could be a market-clearing price for big blueberries, and another for small blueberries. But the markets probably aren't segregated, and the prices would play back and forth against each other.
Maybe good too in dealing with prices of different goods, not just The Price. Neoclassical prices are meant to be the information that tells me whether to buy dish soap or a new overcoat instead.

Synoia , May 17, 2017 at 1:25 pm

Stable prices mean a balance of crop failures and crop booms (supply), population declines and population booms (demand), speculation and risk-aversion (demand)

There are no stable prices. With this analysis, the steps to include feedback is clear, and if the feedback is non-linear, non-linear feedback is a characteristic of chaotic systems.

Temporary stability only in a non-linear system, with tipping points etc.

UserFriendly , May 17, 2017 at 1:34 pm

Thank you for this, I found it very helpful.

Plenue , May 17, 2017 at 3:12 pm

Chris Hayes is an idiot. What kind of person can repeatedly visit the post-industrial wasteland of the rust belt for town halls with Bernie Sanders and then say "what we need more of is the philosophy of free-markets"?

But even with that being said, Hayes somehow is still by far the most worthwhile personality on MSNBC.

Left in Wisconsin , May 17, 2017 at 3:41 pm

I think the tradition of economic thinking has been really influential. I think it's actually a thing that people on the left really should do - take the time to understand all of that. There is a tremendous amount of incredible insight into some of the things we're talking about, like non-zero-sum settings, and the way in which human exchange can be generative in this sort of amazing way. Understanding how capitalism works has been really, really important for me, and has been something that I feel like I'm a better thinker and an analyst because of the time and reading I put into a lot of conservative authors on that topic.

While I agree with much of the argument Hayes is making – know thy enemy, etc. – he gets one huge thing wrong here that is very troubling: equating capitalism with markets. "Understanding how capitalism works has been really, really important for me " I'm amazed at how often this trips up otherwise smart people. There is no capitalism in mainstream neoclassical economics (no government either, and you can't have capitalism without government). And get any business person talking freely and they will tell you that everyone in business hates super-competitive markets of the kind fetishized by economists, and that profitability is all about finding niches and other ways to avoid competition.

LT , May 17, 2017 at 4:00 pm

https://aeon.co/essays/how-the-cold-war-led-the-cia-to-promote-human-capital-theory
"Friedman had discovered in human capital theory more than just a means for boosting economic growth. The very way it conceptualised human beings was an ideological weapon too "

Ellis , May 17, 2017 at 4:30 pm

I think it's important to recognize where information theory and the principle of maximum entropy does succeed in economics and that is as a method of doing statistical inference in economics. For those interested, I would recommend looking at the increasing amount of information theoretic research coming out of the Economics Department at the New School for Social Research and UMKC. You can find many good working papers by myself, Duncan Foley, Paulo dos Santos, Gregor Semieniuk, and others on the NSSR Repec page https://ideas.repec.org/s/new/wpaper.html .

Larry Y , May 17, 2017 at 4:56 pm

At Bell Labs, plaques and a statue of Shannon occupy places of honor, in more prominent places than the tributes to other prominent people (including 8 Nobel Prize winners in science).

Here's a presentation by Prof. Christopher Sims of Princeton, at Bell Labs. "Information Theory in Economics" https://youtu.be/a8jt_TmwQ-U – critique of the optimizing rational behavior models, noting people are bandwidth limited ("Rational Inattention"). Non-gaussian! Brings up example of monopolist of with no high capacity limit vs. customers.

J ,

[May 18, 2017] We need to attack and defeat the neoliberal belief that markets are information processors that can know more than any person could ever know and solve problems no computer could ever solve

Notable quotes:
"... But making the observation that there are no markets as defined makes little dint on a faith-based theory like neoliberalism, especially a theory whose Church encompasses most university economics departments, most "working" economists, numerous well-funded think tanks, and owns much/most of our political elite and so effectively promotes the short-term interests of our Power Elite. ..."
May 18, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com
Jeremy Grimm , May 17, 2017 at 5:59 pm

Phillip Mirowski challenged the left to directly attack and defeat the neoliberal belief that markets are information processors that can know more than any person could ever know and solve problems no computer could ever solve.

[Prof. Philip Mirowski keynote for 'Life and Debt' conference https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I7ewn29w-9I ]

Sorry for the long quote - I am loathe to attempt to paraphrase Hayek

"This is particularly true of our theories accounting for the determination of the systems of relative prices and wages that will form themselves on a well functioning market. Into the determination of these prices and wages there will enter the effects of particular information possessed by every one of the participants in the market process – a sum of facts which in their totality cannot be known to the scientific observer, or to any other single brain.

It is indeed the source of the superiority of the market order, and the reason why, when it is not suppressed by the powers of government, it regularly displaces other types of order, that in the resulting allocation of resources more of the knowledge of particular facts will be utilized which exists only dispersed among uncounted persons, than any one person can possess.

But because we, the observing scientists, can thus never know all the determinants of such an order, and in consequence also cannot know at which particular structure of prices and wages demand would everywhere equal supply, we also cannot measure the deviations from that order; nor can we statistically test our theory that it is the deviations from that "equilibrium" system of prices and wages which make it impossible to sell some of the products and services at the prices at which they are offered."
[Extract from Hayek's Nobel Lecture]

This just hints at Hayek's market supercomputer idea -- I still haven't found a particular writing which exposits the idea -- so this will have to do.

Sorry - another quote from the Hayek Nobel Lecture [I have no idea how to paraphrase stuff like this!]:

"There may be few instances in which the superstition that only measurable magnitudes can be important has done positive harm in the economic field: but the present inflation and employment problems are a very serious one. Its effect has been that what is probably the true cause of extensive unemployment has been disregarded by the scientistically minded majority of economists, because its operation could not be confirmed by directly observable relations between measurable magnitudes, and that an almost exclusive concentration on quantitatively measurable surface phenomena has produced a policy which has made matters worse."

I can't follow Hayek and I can't follow Jason Smith. The first quote above sounds like a "faith based" theory of economics as difficult to characterize as it is to refute. The second quote throws out Jason Smith's argument with a combination of faith based economics and a rejection of the basis for Smith's argument - as "scientistically minded."

I prefer the much simpler answer implicit in Veblen and plain in "Industrial Prices and their Relative Inflexibility." US Senate Document no. 13, 74th Congress, 1st Session, Government Printing Office, Washington DC. Means, G. C. 1935 - Market? What Market? Can you point to one? [refer to William Waller: Thorstein Veblen, Business Enterprise, and the Financial Crisis (July 06, 2012)

[https://archive.org/details/WilliamWallerThorsteinVeblenBusinessEnterpriseAndTheFinancialCrisis ]

It might be interesting if Jason Smith's information theory approach to the market creature could prove how the assumed properties of that mythical creature could be used to derive a proof that the mythical Market creature cannot act as an information processor as Mirowski asserts that Hayek asserts.

So far as I can tell from my very little exposure to Hayek's market creature it is far too fantastical to characterize with axioms or properties amenable to making reasoned arguments or proofs as Jason Smith attempts. Worse - though I admit being totally confused by his arguments - Smith's arguments seem to slice at a strawman creature that bears little likeness to Hayek's market creature.

The conclusion of this post adds a scary thought: "The understanding of prices and supply and demand provided by information theory and machine learning algorithms is better equipped to explain markets than arguments reducing complex distributions of possibilities to a single dimension, and hence, necessarily, requiring assumptions like rational agents and perfect foresight." It almost sounds as if Jason Smith intends to build a better Market as information processor religion -- maybe tweak the axioms a little and bring in Shannon. Jason Smith is not our St. George.

But making the observation that there are no markets as defined makes little dint on a faith-based theory like neoliberalism, especially a theory whose Church encompasses most university economics departments, most "working" economists, numerous well-funded think tanks, and owns much/most of our political elite and so effectively promotes the short-term interests of our Power Elite.

[May 08, 2017] Goods and services in Russia are considerably less expensive than in the West (and this includes the cost of producing fighter jets or rockets), so for such purposes GDP PPP is a better indicator than is nominal GDP

Some interesting notes about difficulty of comparing GDP of various countries, in this case the USA and Russia.
Notable quotes:
"... Russia's overall GDP PPP places it slightly below Germany - 6th place in the world ..."
"... But the US GDP is of an different structure. Compared it is overblown with pure financial sales and "hedonistic adjustments". More is blown by the culture. In the US much more everyday things relies on money. In case of case they are all worth nothing. Furthermore, if it comes to conflicts than the whole US Infrastructure has to be "revalued", and i doubt that it can withheld some stress tests. ..."
"... Over the years, the Pentagon encouraged Congress to move parts of national security spending out of its budget to the extent that almost half is found outside the DOD. The USA really spends over a trillion dollars a year. For example, nuclear weapons research, testing, procurement, and maintenance is found in the Dept of Energy budget. ..."
"... [AKA "SmoothieX12"] ..."
"... No serious analyst takes US GDP as 18 trillion dollars seriously. A huge part of it is a creative bookkeeping and most of it is financial and service sector. ..."
"... In general, overall power of the state (nation) is not only in its "economic" indices. I use Barnett's definition of national power constantly, remarkably Lavrov's recent speech in the General Staff Academy uses virtually identical definition. ..."
Apr 17, 2017 | www.unz.com

Anonymous , April 17, 2017 at 5:31 am GMT

Russia spent almost 5.4% of GDP on military spending. The US last year spent 3.3% and with Trump's proposed increase this number will increase by a few decimal points.

Russia is a middle income country while the US is a rich country, in the top 10 of GDP per capita. If oil prices don't substantially improve and Russia continues to spend the way it does on the military it will simply go broke.

Sources: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_GDP_(nominal)_per_capita (Russia is between Mexico and Suriname)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_military_expenditures

@AP
Goods and services in Russia are considerably less expensive than in the West (and this includes the cost of producing fighter jets or rockets), so for such purposes GDP PPP is a better indicator than is nominal GDP. In terms of GDP PPP, Russia is of course not on par with the United States but is considerably higher than Mexico. It is in the same neighborhood as places such as Hungary.

Russia's overall GDP PPP places it slightly below Germany - 6th place in the world :

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_GDP_(PPP)

@Lewl42
Russia is a middle income country while the US is a rich country, in the top 10 of GDP per capita.

But the US GDP is of an different structure. Compared it is overblown with pure financial sales and "hedonistic adjustments". More is blown by the culture. In the US much more everyday things relies on money. In case of case they are all worth nothing. Furthermore, if it comes to conflicts than the whole US Infrastructure has to be "revalued", and i doubt that it can withheld some stress tests.

If oil prices don't substantially improve and Russia continues to spend the way it does on the military it will simply go broke

No country that relies on oil ( Russia do not) has made substantial improvements. Normally they are problem states where the problems made by oil are solved by money.

So from my point of view the opposite is true. Russia has made the big mistake to open itself to the west and was bitten. Now they readjust (with a border to china). Thank's to the US Oligarchs which thrown away that chance for they're primitive Neanderthal tribe thinking.

@Carlton Meyer
Over the years, the Pentagon encouraged Congress to move parts of national security spending out of its budget to the extent that almost half is found outside the DOD. The USA really spends over a trillion dollars a year. For example, nuclear weapons research, testing, procurement, and maintenance is found in the Dept of Energy budget.

http://www.pogo.org/straus/issues/defense-budget/2016/americas-1-trillion-national-security-budget.html

And as others have noted, GDP is a measure of activity, not prosperity. For example, mortgage refinancing creates lots of GDP, but no real wealth. Hurricanes and arson are good for GDP too!

@5371

Stupid beyond belief. Countries can't go broke doing something, if they control the natural and human resources they need to accomplish it. In addition, you apparently did not read Smoothie's explanation of why just comparing the sums spent is silly.
@Joe Wong
"Russia is a middle income country while the US is a rich country, in the top 10 of GDP per capita." this is very funny, how about the 20 trillions of US national debt and it is skyrocketing fast? If you only count asset without counting liability US maybe in the top 10 GDP per capita, but if you count net asset the US is in the negative GDP per capita, a broke nation. Perhaps it is American Exceptionalism logic, claiming credit where credit is not due, living in a world detached from reality.

"If oil prices don't substantially improve and Russia continues to spend the way it does on the military it will simply go broke." this is even funnier, Russian does not use USD in Russia, nor Russian government pay its MIC in USD, meanwhile Russian Central Bank can print Ruble thru the thin air just like the Fed, why does oil price have any relationship with Russian internal spending? Another example of "completely triumphalist and detached from Russia's economic realities" which is defined by meaningless Wall Street economic indices and snakeoil economic theories and rhetoric taught in the western universities.

Andrei Martyanov [AKA "SmoothieX12"] , Website

... ... ...

P.S. No serious analyst takes US GDP as 18 trillion dollars seriously. A huge part of it is a creative bookkeeping and most of it is financial and service sector. Out of very few good things Vitaly Shlykov left after himself was his "The General Staff And Economics", which addressed the issue of actual US military-industrial potential.

Then come strategic, operational and technological dimensions. You want to see operational dimension -- look no further than Mosul which is still, after 6 months, being "liberated". Comparisons to Aleppo are not only warranted but irresistible.

In general, overall power of the state (nation) is not only in its "economic" indices. I use Barnett's definition of national power constantly, remarkably Lavrov's recent speech in the General Staff Academy uses virtually identical definition.

[Apr 20, 2017] Against False Arrogance of Economic Knowledge

Notable quotes:
"... By Amit Bhaduri, Professor Emeritus, Jawaharlal Nehru University and Visting Professor, Council for Social Development. Originally published at the New Economic Perspectives website ..."
"... why do we accept the artificial devolution of political economy into economics and politics? ..."
"... gets interest from ..."
"... Economics should be transferred to the divinity school. Then it will be untouchable! ..."
Apr 19, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com
Yves here. I'm using the original headline from INET even though "false arrogance" seems like rhetorical overkill. After all, arrogance and hubris are closely related phenomena (my online thesaurus list "arrogance" as the first synonym for "hubris"). But in Greek tragedies, the victims of hubris were all legitimately accomplished, yet let their successes go to their heads. Thus the use of "false arrogance" presumably means that economists' high opinion of themselves is not warranted.

By Amit Bhaduri, Professor Emeritus, Jawaharlal Nehru University and Visting Professor, Council for Social Development. Originally published at the New Economic Perspectives website

The problem of any branch of knowledge is to systematize a set of particular observations in a more coherent form, called hypothesis or 'theory.' Two problems must be resolved by those attempting to develop theory: (1) finding agreement on what has been observed; (2) finding agreement on how to systematize those observations.

In economics, there would be more agreement on the second point than on the first. Many would agree that using the short-hand rules of mathematics is a convenient way of systematizing and communicating knowledge - provided we have agreement on the first problem, namely what observations are being systematized. Social sciences face this problem in the absence of controlled experiments in a changing, non-repetitive world. This problem may be more acute for economics than for other branches of social science, because economists like to believe that they are dealing with quantitative facts, and can use standard statistical methods. However, what are quantitative facts in a changing world? If one is dealing with questions of general interest that arise in macroeconomics, one has to first agree on 'robust' so-called 'stylized' facts based on observation: for example, we can agree that business cycles occur; that total output grows as a long term trend; that unemployment and financial crisis are recurring problems, and so on.

In the view of the economic world now dominant in major universities in the United States - with its ripple effect around the world - is these are transient states, aberrations from a perfectly functioning equilibrium system. The function of theory, in this view, is to systematize the perfectly functioning world as a deterministic system with the aid of mathematics. One cannot but be reminded of the great French mathematician Laplace, who claimed with chilling arrogance, two centuries after Newton, that one could completely predict the future and the past on the basis of scientific laws of motion - if only one knew completely the present state of all particles. When emperor Napoleon asked how God fitted into this view, Laplace is said to have replied that he did not need that particular hypothesis. Replace 'God' by 'uncertainty', and you are pretty close to knowing what mainstream macro-economists in well-known universities are doing with their own variety of temporal and inter-temporal optimization techniques, and their assumption of a representative all knowing, all-seeing rational agent.

Some find this extreme and out-dated scientific determinism difficult to stomach, but are afraid to move too far away, mostly for career reasons. They change assumptions at the margin, but leave the main structure mostly unchallenged. The tragedy of the vast, growing industry of 'scientific' knowledge in economics is that students and young researchers are not exposed to alternative views of how problems may be posed and tackled.

This exclusion of alternative views is not merely a question of vested interest and the ideological view that we live in the best of all possible worlds where optimum equilibria rule, except during transient moments. It stems, also, from a misplaced notion of the aesthetics of good theory: Good theory is assumed to be a closed axiomatic system. Its axioms can, at best, be challenged empirically - e.g. testing the axiom of individual rationality by setting up experimental devices - but such challenges hardly add up to any workable alternative way of doing macro-economics.

There is however an alternative way, or, rather, there are alternative ways. We must learn to accept that when undeniable facts stare us in the face and shake up our political universe - e.g. growing unemployment is a problem, and money and finance have roles beyond medium of payment in an uncertain world shaken by financial crises - they are not transient problems; they are a part of the system we are meant to study. It is no good saying my axiomatic system does not have room for them. Instead, the alternative way is to take each problem and devise the best ways in which we are able to handle them analytically. Physicist Feynman (economist Dow (1995) made a similar distinction) had made a distinction between the Greek way of doing mathematics axiomatically, and the Babylonian way, which used separate known results (theorems) without necessarily knowing the link among them. We must accept this Babylonian approach to deal with macro-economic problems, without pretending that it must follow from some grand axiom.

Awareness of history must enter economic theory by showing that concepts such as cost, profit, wage, rent, and even commercial rationality have anthropological dimensions specific to social systems. The humility to accept that economic propositions cannot be universal would save us from self-defeating arrogance.

8 0 0 1 0 This entry was posted in Guest Post , Ridiculously obvious scams , Science and the scientific method , The dismal science on April 19, 2017 by Yves Smith .
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Subscribe to Post Comments 63 comments fresno dan , April 19, 2017 at 10:03 am

I can't tell you how much I agree with the article.
For example, what CRITERIA are used that something is a "good" job. Before you even start to debate the "facts" at least set up the criteria by which you will evaluate them. It seems evident to me (pension, "good" – what is "good" health care) but apparently, one of the "pre-eminent" economists, at least according to another economist, thinks part time jobs are just as good as retail .

http://cepr.net/blogs/beat-the-press/paul-krugman-gets-retail-wrong-they-are-not-very-good-jobs?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+beat_the_press+%28Beat+the+Press%29

Cujo359 , April 19, 2017 at 1:10 pm

It works for me as an executive summary, but almost every paragraph would probably require a similarly-sized essay to explain it. I agree with its judgment that too many economists view the world as being governed by some sort of universal economic law (or "laws"), when in reality those laws work in very limited circumstances. Whether it's possible there could be such laws some day, I don't have an opinion one way or another, and nothing in this article sheds much light on that issue.

Benedict@Large , April 19, 2017 at 1:20 pm

It's my experience that the overwhelming number of economists don't know squat about employment/ unemployment, including why and employer hires and why people look for and accept jobs. I assume this is because all of these things are rare event in the personal lives of economists, who spend little time looking for or between jobs. An economist is either employed, or he/she is not an economist, and so once they gain experience with the above, they are no longer in a position where they can speak about it among others still in the field.

jrs , April 19, 2017 at 2:19 pm

pension + black lung = good job? I mean if we're saying coal mining is a "good job" now noone who can do better wants it though, that's what a "good job" it is. Compensation matters but so do working conditions, and by the way externalities matter, and "coal mining" as a good job certainly doesn't account for that and the whole community being a cancer cluster etc.

Moneta , April 20, 2017 at 8:20 am

The thing is that there are an awful lot of bad jobs that need to be done and will never go away.

Dead Dog , April 19, 2017 at 5:24 pm

As an economist, now semi retired (author, handyman, carer ), I can speak of my own experiences.

I think one aspect of my degree course was a lack of normative studies and not enough, 'well that is the mainstream theory, now this is what we observe in practice' (and why eg control fraud, captured political interests)

We were also mispoken to about how private banks create money, taxes fund government spending and so on.

My choice to study economics was regretted years later, yet it gave me a lift up career-wise.

It now seems sad that the profession has become mis-trusted and denigrated. We don't all think alike.

Moneta , April 20, 2017 at 8:36 am

When I studied economics, I realized how absurd a lot of it was so I answered according to what the prof wanted to see.

However, I'm under the impression that my education in a Cdn university was way less dogmatic than in the US.

Externalities were discussed, as was the dubious quality of GDP growth. I had a book on the history of the Cdn financial system. It explained very well how we went from gold standard to current system.. and how the leading countries used devaluations (France, UK, US) to their advantage.

The problem with objective economists is that they realize that there exists something called the law of unintended consequences. Once you realize there are too many variables to control, you become a leaf in the wind. And no one likes ambivalent people. They want leaders who KNOW the answers. So leaders who appear to have answers are chosen.

Eric Anderson , April 20, 2017 at 2:10 pm

Well said. I always appreciated having my undergraduate economic theory class delivered by an active duty Marine Corp Major. A hardened realist with a talent for illuminating theory.

sgt_doom , April 19, 2017 at 6:51 pm

No offense to Dean Baker, but what doesn't Krugman NOT get wrong? His public disagreement with Real Economist, Steve Keen, would have been hilarious had it not been so pathetic in demonstrating either what a sheer idiot he is, or professional liar, whatever the case may be. (Krugman was claiming that banks do not create credit as Krugman has no understanding of that rather simple fractional reserve banking system. I once wrote to Krugman to correct him on his supply-and-demand theory as to the cause of that incredible spiking upwards of oil/energy costs around 2008, even though the Baltic Exchange Index ad pretty much collapsed, with an incredible number of oil tankers floating off the coasts of Singapore and Malaysia, in an inactive state – – attempting to explain to him about Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, et al., speculating up the prices on ICE via commodity futures speculation or wash sales, and he didn't get that either!)

But this reminds me of a local (Seattle) witless talk show (KIRO radio station: the John and Curley Show) where the two snarky hosts, as ignorant as can be, go on and on about their love of globalization, scoffing at those who don't understand that offshoring manufacturing (they ignored all the other categories) jobs to China and elsewhere was most clever, and "freed up America to manufacture high-end goods" - evidently ignorant of the fact as to where most chip fabs are located, and that 70% to 100% of many auto parts and aircraft parts are manufactured overseas, shipped back to America only for assembling purposes.

That ultra-boondoggle, the F-35, is manufactured across 9 foreign countries plus America - wonder why it's such a cluster screw-up, huh?

JustAnObserver , April 19, 2017 at 10:16 am

In Greek tragedy wasn't hubris always followed by nemesis as the Gods took their revenge on the upstart humans ?

witters , April 19, 2017 at 6:03 pm

A further aside: I don't see all Greek tragedies as turning on hubris. Where is the hubris, say, of Oedipus? He is the King, there is a plague, the people call on him for help, he helps. And the plague is vanquished (mind you, he and his family – the ones still living – are in a mess. But that – Sophocles seems to be saying – is Life).

RBHoughton , April 19, 2017 at 8:22 pm

The important thing according to the Greek scholar Michael Scott is to recognize that Greek theater and Greek democracy are joined at the hip. The former educated the electorate in the difficult choices they would have to make as managers of their own political existence. We have political theater today but no-one considers it instruction in one's civic duty.

JTMcPhee , April 19, 2017 at 10:18 am

"We" here can say it to each other, over and over, in different and ever-better-documented ways, that almost all economics and the "findings" it generates, and almost all economists and their credentials, are BS, MS, Ph.D (bullish!t, more sh!t, piled higher and deeper). But how to reach a larger, and large enough, set of people who actually have votes that count and can "call bullsh!t" and demand and get an end to the "policies" that are built on and gather "legitimacy" from the "findings" of all those faux 'economists?" Who after all do have those (feedback-loop-granted) "credentials," and so many sous-chefs to keep pumping out the mega-gallons of Bernays sauce to make the sh!t sandwiches seem au courant, de rigeur, and somehow palatable?

washunate , April 19, 2017 at 10:35 am

Agreed, I think that's the issue. Debating whether or not economics is a science plays right into the prevailing power structure. Rather, the question is why do we accept the artificial devolution of political economy into economics and politics? There are lots of quantitative (and qualitative) "facts" in the world about economics; it can be a scientific discipline like any other. The important civic debate is the political part: what values should guide our interpretation and implementation of those economic understandings?

nycTerrierist , April 19, 2017 at 11:28 am

x1000!

Left in Wisconsin , April 19, 2017 at 7:11 pm

why do we accept the artificial devolution of political economy into economics and politics?

This is the right question if we change "why to we accept" to "how is it that we now have" – that is, if we ask an empirical, historical question and not a metaphysical or psychological question. In an academic sense, I would say the answer has to do with a long battle within economics that was decisively won in the 50s or 60s by one "school" to the extent that they could ostracize and ignore alternative "schools" without much effective criticism, and an implicit "bargain" with sociology and political science to craft an academic division of labor. And then, inertia and serious pushback against any and all challengers.

In the non-academic world, the answer has to do with a certain confluence of interest between neoclassical economics and existing social and economic power.

a different chris , April 19, 2017 at 8:15 pm

(never mind, I seem to have missed half of your good post)

Ulysses , April 19, 2017 at 11:16 am

"But how to reach a larger, and large enough, set of people who actually have votes that count and can "call bullsh!t" and demand and get an end to the "policies" that are built on and gather "legitimacy" from the "findings" of all those faux 'economists?"

I think one method, to move in that direction, is to make a very small number of very specific demands. Single payer healthcare, and a living wage. We demand them!! Why don't we have them??!!

When the "economists" tie themselves up into illogical pretzels, trying to "explain" why we can't have these nice things, they destroy their credibility– to the point where their dogma is revealed as false and inhuman. Then, we can shake off their dead hand and begin to build a new society on more rational and humane principles.

dontknowitall , April 19, 2017 at 1:02 pm

I understand and share your frustration with a brand of economics being used as a cudgel to tell us we cannot have nice things even as each individual US state's GDP is the equivalent to that of (at least) a medium EU nation which individually can afford far better health insurance schemes than we do. It should be the economists' job to smooth the way, to find ways so that we can have nice things not just leave it at can't.

I disagree with washunate that to engage with economists who are failing is a waste of time that plays into the hands of the prevailing power structure. Neoliberal economists should be hearing from us that they are not scientists no matter how much math they dress their pet theories with. The greatest glory of a science is the predictive powers of its foundational theories and in that regard neoliberal economics fails spectacularly. It is not by any definition a science and they should hear it as often as possible. Of course they know this in their bones but their theories give their funders significant political cover as they seek more undeserved goods for themselves. It is our job to remind everyone who will hear that neoliberal theories are fiction not science.

steelhead23 , April 19, 2017 at 7:15 pm

Why don't we have universal health care? Sadly, I think the answer is quite simple – the elasticity of demand for health is infinite as the alternative is death. Hence, Genentech can and does charge $20,000 for a round of rituxan, which is very effective on non-Hodgkins lymphoma. Is it worth it? Of course it is – lymphoma is deadly.

My point is that while the social benefit of universal health care is high, so is the opportunity cost to the healthcare industry. And since the industry is free to bribe politicians (sans a quid pro quo of course) we are unlikely to ever get it. As discussed above, economics divorced from politics is useless.

a different chris , April 19, 2017 at 8:20 pm

wow pretty awesome that Europe/Great Britain and Japan don't have politicians . just teasing you, how though did those countries manage to get around your problem is the question//

AbateMagicThinking but Not money , April 20, 2017 at 12:22 am

The British learned from the washout of the first world war that the usual politicians could not be trusted to produce a country fit for heroes as was promised, so they voted for socialism.

As for the Japanese, my memory is that the US set their health system up! Dang!

AbateMagicThinking but Not money , April 20, 2017 at 12:49 am

The British polititician who lost out big time in that election that brought the Labour Party's version of socialism into power, was Winston Churchill – after the end of World War Two.
It goes to show that you might need one kind of leader in existential-wartime, and another for peacetime. However, nowadays how do you know whether the there is an existential struggle or not?

Katharine , April 19, 2017 at 10:38 am

Yes, hubris was the tragic flaw. Treating it as a mere synonym for arrogance is a fine example of why to avoid thesaurusi. A good dictionary with synonymies is more reliable.

Katharine , April 19, 2017 at 11:34 am

That was supposed to be a reply to JustAnObserver. Don't know what happened.

sgt_doom , April 19, 2017 at 6:57 pm

Speaking of hubris, there's a recently published book by a "professor of national security" (good luck with that one!!!), Tom Nichols, titled: The Death of Expertise , and it's a real hoot!

Not because the author got anything right, he got almost everything completely wrong, and simply for that reason!

At one point in this garbage book by Nichols, he is repeating an exchange between a political appointee whom he believes to be an "expert" and a grad student concerning Reagan's spaced-based missile defense {SDI or Star Wars - in this case I believe it was the space-based platform} of which much of it turned out to be a hoax meant to mislead the Soviets – – and historically we know the grad student was correct, and Jastrow, if I recall his name correctly, was most incorrect – – but you would never know it from this author! ! !

(If you observe any American space-based missile platforms, please be sure to let me know!)

flora , April 19, 2017 at 8:40 pm

Hubris: "My theory, divorced from reality, supersedes reality."

CD , April 19, 2017 at 11:09 am

Besides acknowledging that economic theory is bound to time and society, it would also be good to give some fresh thought to familiar economic concepts we take as Bible-given.

Let's re-examine the ideas of interest [can we do without it], growth [can we have a no-growth economy], and differential pay [need we pay a much higher salary for "higher" work],

I would go on to look at profit [should there be profit in all economic activities, such as health care, education, and others], oligopolies [is it good to have very large corporations], and competition [should we promote competition is all aspects of life].

Some of these have been questioned in these pages, such as the question of oligopoly. I encourage raising more and continued questioning, as we've done here.

JTMcPhee , April 19, 2017 at 1:00 pm

It tends to draw fire when I mention it, but "Sharia or Islamic banking and finance" is supposed to be done without any interest. And the system (now under assault by Western interest-holders, by physical violence and subversion of many types, and co-optation via corruption) kind of relies on actual trust and risk-sharing. Here's some details for anyone "interested:" http://www.islamic-banking.com/islamic_banking_principle.aspx

So there is a model to look toward, though there will be all kinds of nationalist and kleptocratic resistance, http://www.wnd.com/2015/07/major-u-s-city-poised-to-implement-islamic-law/ . Though of course because Muslims have money, our banksters are adapting and even bringing semi-pseudo-Sharia banking and finance inside Western borders, https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2014/10/11/shariah-compliant-islamic-financing-usa-europe/16828599/ .

Once again, "we" need to look at what "we" means - hardly a collective with any mass or teeth, mostly just an aspirational conversation tic.

Larry Motuz , April 19, 2017 at 1:29 pm

Thank you for your first reference, JTMcPhee, from the Institute of Islamic Banking. It makes a great deal of sense that lenders bear risk along with borrowers when we are talking about financing entrepreneurship. In this view, the lender has an interest in rather than gets interest from . [I very much suspect that the former meaning became detached from the latter very early on in human history, which is why the latter was condemned as 'usury', a result itself of an imbalance of power leading to coercive lending.]

I wonder, however, about 'consumer lending' where there is clearly no entrepreneurial risk.

Do you have a useful reference about how this 'consumer lending' occurs without 'interest' in the Islamic world?

JTMcPhee , April 19, 2017 at 1:36 pm

Try this: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/8401421.stm
It's not easy being halal Not when all that "green" is floating around

fresno dan , April 19, 2017 at 11:14 am

https://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2017/apr/06/kate-raworth-doughnut-economics-new-economics

In 1955, the economist Simon Kuznets thought he had found such a law of motion, one that determined the path of income inequality in a growing economy. The scant data that he could gather together seemed to suggest that, as a nation's GDP grows, inequality first rises, then levels off, and ultimately starts to fall. Despite Kuznets' explicit warnings that his work was 5% empirical, 95% speculation and "some of it possibly tainted by wishful thinking", his findings were soon touted as an economic law of motion, immortalized as "the Kuznets Curve"– resembling an upside-down U on the page – and has been taught to every economics student for the past half century.

As for the curve's message? When it comes to inequality, it has to get worse before it can get better, and more growth will make it better. And so the Kuznets Curve became a perfect justification for trickle-down economics and for enduring austerity today in the pursuit of making everyone better off some day.

Forty years later, in the 1990s, economists Gene Grossman and Alan Krueger thought they too had found an economic law of motion, this time about pollution. And it appeared to follow the very same trajectory as Kuznets' curve on inequality: first rising then falling as the economy grows. Despite the familiar caveats that the data were incomplete, and available for local air and water pollutants only, their findings were quickly labeled the "Environmental Kuznets Curve". And the message? When it comes to pollution, it has to get worse before it can get better and – guess what – more growth will make it better. Like a well-trained child, growth will apparently clean up after itself.

Except it doesn't.
===================================================================
More fuel to the fire

MyLessThanPrimeBeef , April 19, 2017 at 2:11 pm

They both seem typical of the human search for knowledge, with or without resorting to the Scientific Method.

Typical in that

1. we fail to recognize our knowledge is always partial and limited
1A. Sometimes with the added arrogance of saying we know it's partial and limited
(Some can't afford that added arrogance, because they have been exposed already, like, say, fortune tellers)

And yet
2. we use that knowledge as if it's complete and applicable everywhere.

Michael Hudson , April 19, 2017 at 11:21 am

The Greek concept of hubris was not merely arrogance, but involved an INJURY to others. (I discuss this in J is for Junk Economics.) The main examples were creditors and land monopolizers - and kings. Nemesis not only fight hubris, but specifically supported the weak and poor who were the main injured parties. The iconography is quite similar to Sumerian Nanshe of Lagash.
So the concept of hubris is linked to affluenza: irresponsibility of wealth, injuring society at large.

HopeLB , April 19, 2017 at 3:31 pm

My Lord! The best economist on the planet is commenting! Our Economist God! (As someone here aptly characterized you a few weeks ago when Yves ran your discussion of Jubilees.)
I'll come right out with it, I'm a Michael Hudson super fan/groupie and after Yves published one of your articles, which of course, I had already read being a big fan/internet tube tracker, I suggested we concerned citizens, get a Michael Hudson fan club going and somehow convince you to take your stellar, economics distilling/demystifying self on the road along with other exemplary economists and some musicians and comedians. Like that stadium event you did in Europe or that Irish Econ Conference, but this would be for the education of the vast citizenry, hence the addition of a bit of music/comedy to entice. A touring TED/Coachella or South by Southwest but for the Economic Edification of the 99%. (You wouldn't neccessarily have to deliver all of your addresses in person. Some could be taped.)
You would be bigger than Bernie if the millenials became familiar with your work, but more importantly, you and other like minded economists, could arm people with the deeper understanding that is essential to overturning the prevailing paradigm.

Thank You For Your Works!
Hope

ps I looked into getting Economic Rock Star as a website but it is taken.

clinical wasteman , April 19, 2017 at 11:53 pm

Yes, 'injury' as in injustice ! Of course that may entail physical damage, but the recent tendency to reduce 'injury' to that narrow sense alone misses most of the point.
Thanks for the connection to 'hubris', concerning which I was Classically clueless until a few minutes ago. If hubris corresponds to injury in the proper sense, perhaps 'arrogance' should be paired with 'insult', i.e. the gratuitous gloating (= self-aggrandizement of the unjust) and gleeful blaming of the injured that at least in living memory seems almost always to be packaged with the injustice?

fresno dan , April 19, 2017 at 11:23 am

https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2017-04-18/california-tries-to-refill-its-biggest-reservoir

None of these practices is new, although their use has expanded over the years. What does seem to be new, as Bettina Boxall of the Los Angeles Times reported this week, is that some California farmers are now experimenting with flooding fields that have grapevines and almond trees growing on them. And in general, people in California are paying a lot more attention to groundwater than they used to.

In 2014, the California Legislature approved a package of groundwater-management laws - long after most other Western states had done so - that are now slowwwwwly beginning to take effect. Local groundwater-management agencies are being formed that will have to come up with plans to reach groundwater sustainability within 20 years.

========================================================
You can look at this optimistically or pessimistically. With the population growing year, after year, after year, it doesn't take high intelligence that water demand will exceed water supply. And yet CA government choose to deal with this freight train coming down the tracks in ..2014.

Arizona Slim , April 19, 2017 at 1:50 pm

And, once again, the elephant in the room is not addressed. Population growth.

Too many people in this world already. We need to question the pro-natalist bias in our culture.

Spring Texan , April 19, 2017 at 2:14 pm

Yes. See this NY Times article from this week. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/16/business/fewer-children-in-greece-may-add-to-its-financial-crisis.html

Wisdom Seeker , April 19, 2017 at 3:35 pm

> With the population growing year, after year, after year, it doesn't take high intelligence that water demand will exceed water supply.

Supply is not fixed. A lot of the current "supply" (rainfall) isn't being retained, stored, or used intelligently. So there's still quite a bit of room for population growth, particularly in the northern, wetter parts of the state. Even without artificial restrictions on usage.

On the other had, I agree with the point that humanity should not have as its primary goal the maximization of population on a single finite sphere. And thus economics should not have as its primary goal the maximization of "growth".

flora , April 19, 2017 at 11:30 am

"The problem of any branch of knowledge is to systematize a set of particular observations in a more coherent form, called hypothesis or 'theory.' Two problems must be resolved by those attempting to develop theory: (1) finding agreement on what has been observed; (2) finding agreement on how to systematize those observations."

How will modern economists agree to agree on anything real now that post-modernist thought and critique has entered the economics field?

"But Foucault had belatedly spotted that post-modernism and "neo-liberal" free-market economics, which had developed entirely independently of each other over the previous half-century, pointed in much the same direction. "
http://www.economist.com/node/8401159

Thanks for this post.

flora , April 19, 2017 at 1:00 pm

adding: The economists who use a post-modernist approach( all is uncertain and events are transient and therefore immaterial to the core theory) to defend a scientific determinist* core theory are engaging in double-think. I'm not an economist so maybe there's a there there I cannot see.

*
"Popper insisted that the term "scientific" can only be applied to statements that are falsifiable. Popper's book The Open Universe: An Argument For Indeterminism defines scientific determinism as the claim that any event can be rationally predicted, with any desired degree of precision, if we are given a sufficiently precise description of past events, together with all the laws of nature, a notion that Popper asserted was both falsifiable and adequately falsified by modern scientific knowledge.

"In his book, A Brief History of Time, Hawking claims that predictability is required for 'scientific determinism' (start of chapter 4). He defines 'scientific determinism"" as meaning: 'something that will happen in the future can be predicted.' "

http://psychology.wikia.com/wiki/Scientific_determinism

fresno dan , April 19, 2017 at 11:37 am

https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2017-04-18/why-social-networks-are-becoming-too-viral

By measures that register actual human engagement – rather than fake accounts and bot activity - Facebook does not seem to be growing at all. In 2016, its users generated about 25 percent less original content than in 2015. The time users spend on Facebook dropped from 24 hours in mid-2015 to 18.9 hours in February, Comscore reported.

========================================
One can only hope.
I am only on Facebook because a friend and co-worker signed me up (without my knowledge or consent, but I think most people looked upon it like getting a greeting card) back in the day when the Facebook fad was at its peak. And I was interested in it as a social and economic phenomenon.

My own anecdotal experience is that the most ardent users (multi daily postings) have declined by 95%. The occasional 2 or 3 times weekly posters are down to once monthly, and so on.
And the response to postings seems to have had even greater declines. Even good friends who I used to TRY and keep up with postings, I scarcely ever bother now – and when I do open one, people who used to get near 100 "looks" have 2 or 3 – maybe once in a while for something real (somebody died, instead this is a picture of a meal I eated) , maybe 5.

Woolworths used to be a juggernaut – so was Sears. Who remembers "My Space" ???

Arizona Slim , April 19, 2017 at 1:55 pm

The Presidential election of 2016 did it for me.

I saw too many people turning into Trump Fraidy Cats before the election ("Vote for Hillary because Trump! He's so awful!") or Vote Shamers ("You're voting third party? Shame on you!").

After the election, Facebook seemed like a psych ward. Too many sobbing, crying, and raving loons for my taste.

Cutting back on Facebook is part of my larger goal of spending less time on social media and more time in social reality.

Cujo359 , April 19, 2017 at 2:00 pm

I had a similar experience on Twitter, which is why I stopped going there. Too depressing.

Kalen , April 19, 2017 at 11:49 am

Bravo, another critical issue absent from MSM or even worse purposefully being confused.

It would help a lot if people take time to understand the money in itself that permeates every aspect of life since it is a central feature of any financial system under any economic system ancient or contemporary.

Here is an simple essay that explains without financial jargon what money is in itself as a social construct and whom in reality it serves:

https://contrarianopinion.wordpress.com/2015/04/14/plutus-and-the-myth-of-money/

Disturbed Voter , April 19, 2017 at 12:41 pm

Economics isn't economical, it is political-economics. Politics first, economics second. Politics is the art, not the science, of sharing out the wealth, power and fame in a society in an organized way. If your politics is corrupt, then your economics will be corrupt also.

Blame Pythagoras. From Pythagoras and Croesus, we got the idea that value was a number, and that everything had a value, and that a market (aka city state) is where the hidden hand determined the relationship between prices, goods and services. The actual "cost" per capita, of running a subsistence agrarian society hasn't changed since the days of Babylon. We simply have more technical bookkeeping (and accounting). A shekel was the weight of 180 grains of dried barley seed. The Babylonians didn't have a primitive society they had monarchy, theocracy, militarism and receipts. A thing might be valued in so many shekels of silver, but the receipt accomplished what a coin would have, because it was honored. Clay money instead of paper money. You got your receipt for your socialist food dole, went to the temple granary to pick it up (this was long before Rome), visited the temple prostitutes (way better than Roman games), then went home. And as has been pointed out, this was a clay fiat and honesty was just as vanishing then as now. And yes, it was a debt system, not a credit system. The US and the world has moved from a credit system to a debt system in the last 100 years. The Great Whore, Babylon is still awaiting her destiny.

"Daniel reads the words MENE, MENE, TEKEL, PARSIN and interprets them for the king: MENE, God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end; TEKEL, you have been weighed and found wanting; and PERES, the kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians."

Paul Greenwood , April 19, 2017 at 1:19 pm

Having once held a 1776 edition of Wealth of Nations in my hand I recall Smith was a Moral Philosopher and that Economics was a branch of Moral Philosophy choosing between Goods and Bads and seeing Utility Functions as Demand Curves.

Then I recall Keynes, the Mathematician, writing beautiful prose in The General Theory. Somewhere the Reduced Form Equation boys started to play with Stochastic Variables to make the R2 fit Deterministic equations replaced Moral choices and an obsession with Beta proceeded to ignore Alpha.

Economics is something of an academic joke. Steve Keen has introduced some life into a dead subject with his Hyman MInsky analysis since so much of Economic Theory as propounded is simply a Java Box running inside the main system

Hope Larkin-Begley , April 19, 2017 at 5:35 pm

Steve Keen is great like Michael Hudson. Did you read this hilarious post;

http://eprints.kingston.ac.uk/36353/

flora , April 19, 2017 at 6:18 pm

+1. Moral philosophy. Yes.

Cujo359 , April 19, 2017 at 1:23 pm

We must learn to accept that when undeniable facts stare us in the face and shake up our political universe - e.g. growing unemployment is a problem , and money and finance have roles beyond medium of payment in an uncertain world shaken by financial crises - they are not transient problems; they are a part of the system we are meant to study.

I think studying some of these things might be better left to psychologists. I emphasized the phrase about unemployment as a case in point – it could be argued that we have the unemployment we have right now thanks to telling ourselves, collectively, that we can't employ people. Anyone who chooses to look around and observe can find things we could be paying people to do, like fixing our streets and bridges, educating our young, exploring space and advancing science, providing medical care to the significant portion of our population who don't have access, but we are told that this would be bad for some reason, and many of us seem to believe this.

I don't know if that confirms the author's ideas or not, but as several of us have observed now in these comments, our economic problems have less to do with the dismal science (or lack of it) and more to do with what people are inclined to believe is true, regardless of the facts.

PKMKII , April 19, 2017 at 2:15 pm

Economics needs to think of itself as a branch of sociology, and not money physics.

Justicia , April 19, 2017 at 3:05 pm

Actually, economics is more like a branch of medieval scholasticism. It's about forcing reality to fit dogma by imposing methodological and epistemological gag rules on its practitioners so that they're blinded to substance by form - and the non-expert public is bamboozled into mute acquiescence. Econned, as Yves would say.

Andrew Baker , April 20, 2017 at 7:46 am

+ 1

Spring Texan , April 19, 2017 at 2:18 pm

Yes, I'm baffled that we hear all this about oh jobs are going away becuz robots and maybe UBI and on and on when there are SO MANY UNFILLED JOBS staring us in the face where filling them would be of enormous benefit to all. Are they looking around at ALL?

Thanks, Cujo349

Cujo359 , April 19, 2017 at 2:59 pm

As you can see, I'm baffled, too. UBI might be a good idea, and various forms of technology have certainly eliminated jobs over the years, but when so much work remains to be done, I don't see how you can argue that we've reached an age where most of us are truly unemployable.

FTM, what is employment? Put most simply, it is one person or entity who has money paying someone to perform some task(s), possibly to a minimum acceptable quality. There are many forms of work we do that no one wants to pay us to do. My work at an amateur theatre falls into that category, as does the work of the people in the food bank/soup kitchen next door. Maybe our concept of what constitutes useful work needs to change, too.

Cujo359 , April 19, 2017 at 3:06 pm

Let me revise that to say "most of us who are now unemployed are truly unemployable".

JEHR , April 19, 2017 at 3:27 pm

The place to start paying decent wages is for all kinds of housework, daycare and elder care. All are undervalued and underpaid while that latter two are essential for a healthy community. None of these should be consigned to robots as only human contact can do the job well.

washunate , April 19, 2017 at 3:39 pm

But the irony of basic income is that's one of the things it does. A huge portion of "housework, daycare, and elder care" is better done informally , outside of the GDP-measured formal economy of employers and jobs and wages and benefits, especially given how crappy the formal jobs tend to be in those sectors. Income supports that lack formal work requirements by definition create more time for people to do things in the informal economy.

Left in Wisconsin , April 19, 2017 at 7:18 pm

But wouldn't it be better to pay parents and caregivers for caring? First of all, it's work and deserves to be remunerated like work. Second, keeping care work in the informal economy only "works" if people have other income with which to satisfy their needs and wants. There is no possibility that any basic income grant will provide a single parent with the funds to allow them to work taking care of their children, which is the socially optimal situation in almost all cases.

craazyman , April 19, 2017 at 6:30 pm

pretty funny. that's been standard econ cirricuulum at the University of Magonia for, oh, let's see, 1, 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9. Nine! Nine years!

Pretty funny. Is this still April 1st? I guess not. Oh well, a day late, a dollar short (no pun intended) is better than a year late and a grand short, or a century late and a million short. There's a pattern there! it goes back to the Testament of Amram, Manuscript B. The Dead Sea Scrolls. That's what we teach in econo 101 during the "money" unit. Money, at the Universtiy of Magonia, is an idea that mediates the boundary wtihin a society between cooperation and conflict.. That's not a theory, it's a reality. Everybody has heard this before in the peanut gallery so I won't reapeat myself.

They should send a delegation from Harvard to the Universtiy of Magonia for a seminar in money and economics. hahahaha. That's pretty funny even to think about. Believe me. They'd learn a few things but they might get ontological shock and end up like MIT mathematical economist Ed Bucks who spent two months in the New Hampshire woods looking at deer through binoculars in search of a theory of economics that could survive a collision with nature AND be deterministic and mathematically rigorous. He pretty much had a nervous breakdown and ended up back at MIT sucking up grant money like a baby at his mamas tits. Many are called, but few are chosen. LOL

wilroncanada , April 19, 2017 at 8:06 pm

Magonia? Isn't that the university that was threatening to move to San Seriffe, because they got a big donation from President Pica?

Expat , April 19, 2017 at 7:10 pm

Economics should be transferred to the divinity school. Then it will be untouchable!

[Apr 19, 2017] Paul Krugman Gets Retail Wrong: They are Not Very Good Jobs

Apr 19, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com
anne , April 17, 2017 at 05:55 AM
http://cepr.net/blogs/beat-the-press/paul-krugman-gets-retail-wrong-they-are-not-very-good-jobs

April 17, 2017

Paul Krugman Gets Retail Wrong: They are Not Very Good Jobs

Paul Krugman used his column * this morning to ask why we don't pay as much attention to the loss of jobs in retail as we do to jobs lost in mining and manufacturing. His answer is that in large part the former jobs tend to be more white and male than the latter. While this is true, although African Americans have historically been over-represented in manufacturing, there is another simpler explanation: retail jobs tend to not be very good jobs.

The basic story is that jobs in mining and manufacturing tend to offer higher pay and are far more likely to come with health care and pension benefits than retail jobs. A worker who loses a job in these sectors is unlikely to find a comparable job elsewhere. In retail, the odds are that a person who loses a job will be able to find one with similar pay and benefits.

A quick look at average weekly wages ** can make this point. In mining the average weekly wage is $1,450, in manufacturing it is $1,070, by comparison in retail it is just $555. It is worth mentioning that much of this difference is in hours worked, not the hourly pay. There is nothing wrong with working shorter workweeks (in fact, I think it is a very good idea), but for those who need a 40 hour plus workweek to make ends meet, a 30-hour a week job will not fit the bill.

This difference in job quality is apparent in the difference in separation rates by industry. (This is the percentage of workers who lose or leave their job every month.) It was 2.4 percent for the most recent month in manufacturing. By comparison, it was 4.7 percent in retail, almost twice as high. (It was 5.2 percent in mining and logging. My guess is that this is driven by logging, but I will leave that one for folks who know the industry better.)

Anyhow, it shouldn't be a mystery that we tend to be more concerned about the loss of good jobs than the loss of jobs that are not very good. If we want to ask a deeper question, as to why retail jobs are not very good, then the demographics almost certainly play a big role.

Since only a small segment of the workforce is going to be employed in manufacturing regardless of what we do on trade (even the Baker dream policy will add at most 2 million jobs), we should be focused on making retail and other service sector jobs good jobs. The full agenda for making this transformation is a long one (higher minimum wages and unions would be a big part of the picture, along with universal health care insurance and a national pension system), but there is one immediate item on the agenda.

All right minded people should be yelling about the Federal Reserve Board's interest rate hikes. The point of these hikes is to slow the economy and reduce the rate of job creation. The Fed's concern is that the labor market is getting too tight. In a tighter labor market workers, especially those at the bottom of the pecking order, are able to get larger wage increases. The Fed is ostensibly worried that this can lead to higher inflation, which can get us to a wage price spiral like we saw in the 70s.

As I and others have argued, *** there is little basis for thinking that we are anywhere close to a 1970s type inflation, with inflation consistently running below the Fed's 2.0 percent target, (which many of us think is too low anyhow). I'd love to see Krugman pushing the cause of full employment here. We should call out racism and sexism where we see it, but this is a case where there is a concrete policy that can do something to address it. Come on Paul, we need your voice.

* https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/17/opinion/why-dont-all-jobs-matter.html

** https://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.t19.htm

*** http://cepr.net/blogs/beat-the-press/overall-and-core-cpi-fall-in-march

-- Dean Baker

Fred C. Dobbs -> anne... , April 17, 2017 at 06:17 AM
PK: Consider what has happened to department stores. Even as Mr. Trump was boasting about saving a few hundred jobs in manufacturing here and there, Macy's announced plans to close 68 stores and lay off 10,000 workers. Sears, another iconic institution, has expressed "substantial doubt" about its ability to stay in business.

Overall, department stores employ a third fewer people now than they did in 2001. That's half a million traditional jobs gone - about eighteen times as many jobs as were lost in coal mining over the same period.

And retailing isn't the only service industry that has been hit hard by changing technology. Another prime example is newspaper publishing, where employment has declined by 270,000, almost two-thirds of the work force, since 2000. ...

(To those that had them, they were probably
pretty decent jobs, albeit much less 'gritty'
than mining or manufacturing.)

BenIsNotYoda -> anne... , April 17, 2017 at 06:42 AM
Dean is correct. Krugman just wants to play the racism card or tell people those who wish their communities were gutted that they are stupid.
JohnH -> BenIsNotYoda... , April 17, 2017 at 06:48 AM
Elite experts are totally flummoxed...how can they pontificate solutions when they are clueless?

Roger Cohen had a very long piece about France and it discontents in the Times Sunday Review yesterday. He could not make heads or tails of the problem. Not worth the read.
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/14/opinion/sunday/france-in-the-end-of-days.html?rref=collection%2Fcolumn%2Froger-cohen&action=click&contentCollection=opinion&region=stream&module=stream_unit&version=latest&contentPlacement=2&pgtype=collection&_r=0

And experts wonder why nobody listens to them any more? Priceless!!!

BenIsNotYoda -> JohnH... , April 17, 2017 at 07:34 AM
clueless experts/academics. well said.
paine -> anne... , April 17, 2017 at 08:27 AM
Exactly dean
Tom aka Rusty -> anne... , April 17, 2017 at 07:39 AM
Krugman is an arrogant elitist who thinks people who disagree with him tend to be ignorant yahoos.

Sort of a Larry Summers with a little better manners.

anne -> Tom aka Rusty... , April 17, 2017 at 08:18 AM
Krugman is an arrogant elitist who thinks people who disagree with him tend to be ignorant yahoos.

[ This is a harsh but fair criticism, and even the apology of Paul Krugman was conditional and showed no thought to the other workers insulted. ]

cm -> Tom aka Rusty... , April 17, 2017 at 08:11 AM
There is a lot of elitism to go around. People will be much more reluctant to express publicly the same as in private (or pseudonymously on the internet?). But looking down on other people and their work is pretty widespread (and in either case there is a lot of assumption about the nature of the work and the personal attributes of the people doing it - usually of a derogatory type in both cases).

I find it plausible that Krugman was referring those widespread stereotypes about job categories that (traditionally?) have not required a college degree, or have been relatively at the low end of the esteem scale in a given industry (e.g. in "tech" and manufacturing, QA/testing related work).

It must be possible to comment on such stereotypes, but there is of course always the risk of being thought to hold them oneself, or indeed being complicit in perpetuating them.

As a thought experiment, I suggest reviewing what you yourself think about occupations not held by yourself, good friends, and family members and acquaintainces you like/respect (these qualifications are deliberate). For example, you seem to think not very highly of maids.

Of course, being an RN requires significantly more training than being a maid, and not just once when you start in your career. But at some level of abstraction, anybody who does work where their autonomy is quite limited (i.e. they are not setting objectives at any level of the organization) is "just a worker". That's the very stereotype we are discussing, isn't it?

anne -> cm... , April 17, 2017 at 08:26 AM
Nicely explained.
paine -> anne... , April 17, 2017 at 08:40 AM
Yes
anne -> Tom aka Rusty... , April 17, 2017 at 08:24 AM
Krugman thinks nurses are the equivalent of maids...

[ The problem is that Paul Krugman dismissed the work of nurses and maids and gardeners as "menial." I find no evidence that Krugman understands that even after conditionally apologizing to nurses. ]

paine -> anne... , April 17, 2017 at 08:42 AM
Even if there are millions of mcjobs
out there
none are filled by mcpeople

[Apr 17, 2017] In teams, an individuals marginal product is beyond his control

Notable quotes:
"... Secondly, in football there's a high ratio of noise to signal: performances are due in part to luck. This is true not just in football. ..."
"... Thirdly, imagine a top goalkeeper were playing for a better side than Sunderland. His performances would then make a difference to his team's points: a couple of great saves per game would convert losses to draws or wins, rather than 4-0 defeats into 2-0 ones. His marginal product would be higher. ..."
"... This tells us that, in teams, an individual's marginal product is beyond his control: if Pickford had better colleagues, his marginal product would be higher. A similar problem arises in many large firms. As the late Herbert Scarf wrote: ..."
Apr 17, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com
Peter K. , April 16, 2017 at 08:52 AM
For fans of football/soccer and leftist economics.

http://stumblingandmumbling.typepad.com/stumbling_and_mumbling/2017/04/against-marginal-product.html

April 16, 2017

AGAINST MARGINAL PRODUCT
by Chris Dillow

David Moyes says Jordan Pickford has been a better player than Dele Alli this season. This set me wondering about marginal productivity theory.

To see my point, think about how we'd test Moyes' claim. We could look at what the two teams did in games which Alli and Pickford missed. But there are too few of these to draw robust inferences, and doing so would be impossible for a player who hadn't missed any games*. Instead, we could compare how Sunderland would have done if Pickford were replaced with a next-best alternative to how S***s would have done with a next-best replacement for Alli. In effect, we're asking: what are their marginal products?

I suspect that Pickford's marginal product consists in converting heavy defeats into narrower ones: this still leaves Sunderland relegated, only with a lesser goal difference. Alli, by contrast, has converted draws or losses into wins. That's a bigger difference.

This, I think, highlights three problems with marginal productivity analysis.

The first is that marginal product is the result of a hypothetical question. For example, in considering my own marginal product, I ask: how would the IC do without me? That's a hypothetical to which we cannot give a precise answer. This is true of much of neoclassical economics. As Noah says:

Demand curves aren't actually directly observable. They're hypotheticals - "If the price were X, how much would you buy?"

In this, he's echoing Sraffa:

The marginal approach requires attention to be focused on change, for without change either in the scale of an industry or in the 'proportions of the factors of production' there can be neither marginal product nor marginal cost. In a system in which, day after day, production continued unchanged in those respects, the marginal product of a factor (or alternatively the marginal cost of a product) would not merely be hard to find - it just would not be there to be found. (Production of Commodities by Means of Commodities, pv)

Secondly, in football there's a high ratio of noise to signal: performances are due in part to luck. This is true not just in football.

Consider two men of equal ability who become CFOs of start-ups. One start-up becomes massive, the other struggles. The man who joined the former will be many times richer than the latter. But that's more to do with fortune than with human capital or marginal product: firms don't usually grow big because they've got a slightly better CFO than the firm down the road. Anyone who's mind isn't befuddled by Randian nonsense will know that our lives and incomes are the product of luck. But we know that people are terrible at distinguishing luck from skill – in part because they suffer from the outcome bias.

Thirdly, imagine a top goalkeeper were playing for a better side than Sunderland. His performances would then make a difference to his team's points: a couple of great saves per game would convert losses to draws or wins, rather than 4-0 defeats into 2-0 ones. His marginal product would be higher.

This tells us that, in teams, an individual's marginal product is beyond his control: if Pickford had better colleagues, his marginal product would be higher. A similar problem arises in many large firms. As the late Herbert Scarf wrote:

If economists are to study economies of scale, and the division of labor in the large firm, the first step is to take our trusty derivatives, pack them up carefully in mothballs and put them away respectfully; they have served us well for many a year. But derivatives are prices, and in the presence of indivisibilities in production, prices simply don't do the jobs that they were meant to do. They do not detect optimality; they aren't useful in comparative statics; and they tell us very little about the organized complexity of the large firm.

For me, flaws such as these mean that marginal product theory doesn't make much sense as an explanation of wage levels. We should abandon it as a mental model in favour of bargaining (pdf) models. In these, matches between workers and jobs lead to surpluses, and the surplus is divided according to the balance of power.

In such models, human capital raises wages insofar as it generates surplus and gives its holders outside options which enhance their bargaining power. But human capital and "marginal product" aren't the whole story. All the things that affect bargaining power, such as technology and unions, also matter. Such models are consistent with the theory that inequality is due to the rise of superstar firms (pdf). They're also consistent with the fact that minimum wages don't destroy many jobs. And they help explain rising CEO pay better than marginal product theory.

What I'm appealing for here is for economists to abandon unscientific just-so stories and to think instead about the real world. In this world, wages are determined not by unobservable entities such as marginal product but by – among other things – power (pdf).

* S***s did well during Harry Kane's injury. Few would say this is evidence that Kane is a poor player, and not should they.

Peter K. -> Peter K.... , April 16, 2017 at 08:56 AM
See Denis Drew. I guess Keynes was in favor of trade unions but Keynesian economists never discuss them. Neither do bloviating, blowhards like EMichael.

PGL used to brag about how Hillary supported striking Verizon workers during the election but that was just a photo-op, like how all of the building trade unions hob-nobbed with Trump. It's BS. Unions have collapsed under the watch of New Democrats. They've done nothing.

In his final speech Obama said we have to beware of automatization. There's no evidence of it. It's an excuse. No, the Democrats have sold us out. So what that they raised taxes on the rich a little. The rich have never had is so good.

Peter K. -> Peter K.... , April 16, 2017 at 09:01 AM
"The first is that marginal product is the result of a hypothetical question. For example, in considering my own marginal product, I ask: how would the IC do without me? That's a hypothetical to which we cannot give a precise answer. This is true of much of neoclassical economics. As Noah says:

Demand curves aren't actually directly observable. They're hypotheticals - "If the price were X, how much would you buy?"

In this, he's echoing Sraffa:

The marginal approach requires attention to be focused on change, for without change either in the scale of an industry or in the 'proportions of the factors of production' there can be neither marginal product nor marginal cost. In a system in which, day after day, production continued unchanged in those respects, the marginal product of a factor (or alternatively the marginal cost of a product) would not merely be hard to find - it just would not be there to be found. (Production of Commodities by Means of Commodities, pv)"

Is this related to the price of airline tickets?

http://www.interfluidity.com/v2/6846.html

Steve Randy Waldman

...

It's a cliché that the government builds "bridges to nowhere" that the private sector never would build. That's true. And it's a credit to the public sector. Bridges to nowhere are what turn nowheres into somewheres. We need many, many more bridges to nowhere.

Finally, I want to express my annoyance at a trope in punditry about air travel that is as common as it is mistaken. Here is Kevin Drum:

So flying sucks because we, the customers, have made it clear that we don't care. We love to gripe, but we just flatly aren't willing to pay more for a better experience. Certain individuals (i.e., the 10 percent of the population over six feet tall) are willing to pay for legroom. Some are willing to pay more for extra baggage. Some are willing to pay more for a window seat. But most of us aren't. If the ticket price on We Care Airlines is $10 more, we click the link for Suck It Up Airlines. We did the same thing before the web too. As usual, the fault lies not in the stars, but in ourselves.

Here is Megan McArdle, in a piece titled (by somebody) "Hate Flying? It's Your Fault":

Ultimately, the reason airlines cram us into tiny seats and upcharge for everything is that we're out there on Expedia and Kayak, shopping on exactly one dimension: the price of the flight. To win business, airlines have to deliver the absolute lowest fare. And the way to do that is . . . to cram us into tiny seats and upcharge for everything. If American consumers were willing to pay more for a better experience, they'd deliver it. We're not, and they don't.

cm -> Peter K.... , April 16, 2017 at 06:35 PM
So it is my fault that for my travel needs, I have very few choices of carriers, if I have a strong preference for few stopovers? As soon as I accept 1-2 additional stops than minimally necessary (and the corresponding doubling or more of travel time, nevermind increased risk of missing flights, delays, etc.), I can find more connections.

My problem, if I pay for the trip, is flight availability. It is usually not an option to pay even twice as much for flying when or how I want or need to.

I know absolutely nothing about the economics of air travel (any experts here?), but how about airport gates and airport passenger/flight processing capacity as bottlenecks, and long-distance flights favoring if not requiring larger aircraft (which cannot use every airport for regular flights). With larger aircraft you have the problem of selling all seats on all flights, which would seem to favor multi-hop trips via major routes, with all the multiple de/boardings, security checks, and as we have recently seen increased chances of "re-accommodation".

cm -> cm... , April 16, 2017 at 06:50 PM
When I travel for business, my choices are further restricted by "appropriate" departure and arrival times. Then it also becomes a multivariate problem - arriving one day earlier leads to one more hotel stay, car rental day, etc.

In my current situation I could "save" the company around a hundred bucks by using a cheaper carrier that has a direct flight from where I am to where I need to go, and for returning, there is a multi-hop flight that takes ~3 hours longer to get home than the hundred bucks more expensive competition (arriving not in the late evening but after midnight), because the first leg of the flight is in the opposite direction of where I need to go. No thanks, if I can avoid it! I take the more "expensive" carrier which has direct flights in both directions.

cm -> cm... , April 16, 2017 at 06:59 PM
It seems to me it may be a similar problem as the debate over public transit experience vs. driving. In public transit, unless your travel endpoints are close to a single route, it is usually the line changes and distance between end stations and the actual destinations that make up half the total time or more.

The problem can be "addressed" by more N-to-N routes, but then the transit agency has a problem with getting enough ridership on every route (and where to store all the transit vessels outside of peak traffic hours, and fleet operation/maintenance overheads, etc.).

reason -> cm... , April 17, 2017 at 08:27 AM
Which is where driverless cars (as taxi alternative) could come in. That is the real potential revolution.

[Apr 15, 2017] This market monetarist fiasco is a other blind spot for the Krugman-DeLong-Hillary axis \

Apr 15, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com
Peter K. , April 14, 2017 at 06:22 AM
Bernanke comes out for NGDP targeting after previously dismissing the idea when Christina Romer called for a regime change during his tenure.

sanjait -> Peter K....

"Eat it Krugman."

It's funny you say this right after the passage about price level targeting, as if the passage were a refutation of Krugman somehow.

This is the same Krugman that said in 1998 that forward guidance could be effective if and only if it were credible, and who said in 2015 that such credibility would only be possible with a regime change in Fed policy.

He didn't name level targeting, but it fits his stated conditions perfectly.

Eat it Peter.

Reply Thursday, April 13, 2017 at 01:02 PM

It's a big deal that Bernanke came out in favor of NGDP targeting.

Krugman hasn't promoted the idea *at all* at his blog and he goes out of his way to be dismissive of Scott Sumner and market monetarists since they are conservative.


I could find evidence on his blog if I wanted to waste the time.

Sanjait can't or won't understand this fact. Why? Is it a case of hero-worship?

Krugman has pretty much stopped talking about monetary/macro policy other than to say that the case for fiscal expansion "isn't completely absent."

That's the wrong way to put it.

His candidate Hillary said nothing about monetary policy, tacitly saying that the Fed has done a good job. Her fiscal expansion plan was such that Alan Blinder said it wouldn't effect the Fed's reaction function. That's why center-left Krugman avoids the topic of macro policy and running the economy hot.

Republican/centrist Bernanke is ahead of Krugman on the issue?

Peter K. -> Peter K.... , April 14, 2017 at 06:30 AM
I will grant Krugman (and DeLong etc.) that they receive a lot of hostility from conservative market monetarist types. Still...

Instead of embracing NGPD targeting they say no we need fiscal expansion. Why not do both? Nothing says we can't do both. It's what this guy says.

https://medium.com/i-m-h-o/why-market-monetarists-must-attack-paul-krugman-e38b6f9c1e0e

Why Market Monetarists Must Attack Paul Krugman
Ideas are secondary to tribes.

by Ryan L. Cooper

Paul Krugman, in a post attacking hard money types who are howling for the Fed to cut back on its easing programs, writes that folks like Scott Sumner ought to wake up to who their real allies are:

Actually, before I get there, a word about self-styled conservative "market monetarists": guys, have you noticed who your real policy enemies are? People like me, Brad DeLong, etc. are skeptical about the Fed's ability to offset the effects of fiscal austerity, but we do want it to try. The furious academic opposition to quantitative easing is instead coming from moderate conservative macroeconomists, notably Taylor and Feldstein. So your problem isn't just that the GOP's effective leader on economic issues gets his macro from Francisco D'Anconia; it's that even the not-so-silly wing of the party is dead set against what you consider reform.

He's right that the opposition to further stimulus from the Fed is overwhelmingly from the hard money right, but behind this kind of thinking is an assumption that reasoned debate is effective-that the way people come to believe stuff is through argument and evidence.

I think this is wrong. Let me explain. (And yes, I see the irony.)

People don't come to their beliefs through a disinterested weighing of all the available evidence. They form them through emotional processes and then reason backwards to form support. It sounds foolish described that way but it's actually not a bad system-reasoning from first principles for every decision would be almost impossibly difficult. You need crude, workable heuristics to be able to function.

In addition, most people are invested in one of the great tribes-you choose a political side, and get a full suite of opinions to call your own. Paul Krugman is one of the most prominent members of Team Left in the world; he believes in universal health insurance, high taxes on the rich, raising welfare and unemployment benefits, and relief for underwater mortgages, among many other things. He's your basic American liberal, and none too ashamed of it; indeed, he's famous for his snarky aggressiveness.

Most of that is totally anathema to the right. To a first approximation, if Paul Krugman says it, conservatives will disagree.

So if Scott Sumner (the preeminent market monetarist) were to start agreeing with Krugman and spend most of his time attacking the goldbugs and hard money fanatics on the right, all the great weight of Krugman's lefty baggage would start to bear on his reputation. He'd be "the guy that mostly agrees with Krugman" rather than "the conservative who argues for monetary stimulus."

The true genius of Sumner is that he has provided a conservative-coded way to embrace monetary stimulus. He's the guy who proved that you can favor monetary stimulus and still hate Paul Krugman. That's huge. It's carved out a big intellectual space-it's not a coincidence that about the only "conservative reform" policy that has gotten any traction is Sumner's NGDP target.

Don't take my word for it, take a look at AEI scholar Jim Pethokoukis, who has done the rarest of things: changed his mind on a major issue. He moved from a traditional inflation paranoia to an advocate of monetary stimulus, and explicitly mentions Sumner as inspiration. Seen so, regular fights with Krugman are critical to maintaining Sumner's territory and credibility.

Now, I don't think Sumner is doing this strategically or duplicitously. He does it for the same reason as anyone, I suspect-because Krugman writes stuff that pisses him off and he wants to pick holes in the argument.

What I'm saying is that that the liberals who value their conservative allies against goldbuggery and Mellonite liquidationist thinking (as they ought to) should understand that the forces of tribalism will totally overwhelm any reason-based approach. Sumner is right to keep up his conservative street cred.

B.T. -> Peter K.... , April 14, 2017 at 07:41 AM
This market monetarist fiasco is a other blind spot for the Krugman-DeLong-Hillary axis.

We need to read better people.

Maybe if Obama had been more aggressive on the monetary stimulus front we wouldn't be here listening to Trump.

mulp -> B.T.... , April 14, 2017 at 08:08 AM
Obama had no power over monetary policy.

But I gather you believe that the monetary policy of the 70s was fantastic and really created a fantastic economy that got better as that decade ended? The Treasury did act to void Brenton Woods and supporting erosion of Regulation Q causing Fed and shadow bank money printing leading to high inflation suppressed by price controls.

Obama had neither option, the shadow banks were sharply contracting money supply in 2008 to 2010 at a rate faster than the Fed could print money. Then from 2010 to 2015, the Fed printed money in lockstep with the shadow banks cutting money supply.

But you want the central bank of Venezuela where the president can print money as fast as he needs to to fund government handouts to keep power.

And your monetary policy theory had demonstrated that it can deliver fantastic overall economic welfare! The US needs ano economy like Venezuela has!

B.T. -> mulp... , April 14, 2017 at 08:36 AM
Obama had the option to appoint more doves to the FED but he did not. He left seats open.

He was busy reading fiscal stimulus BS from nasty, stupid people.

EMichael -> B.T.... , April 14, 2017 at 08:52 AM
So you are saying that if there were more doves on the Fed board they would have raised rates during the Obama admin? Lowered them beyond zero? Did more QE? Did less QE?

He took office in 09 with the rate at .25. Six years later it went to a half. Another year and it went to .75. QE totaled around $2 Trillion.

What would doves have done?

sanjait -> EMichael... , April 14, 2017 at 09:30 AM
A moderately more dovish Fed would have not talked about tightening at every turn while it kept rates low. This anti-forward guidance has real effects on inflation expectations and by extension the real rate of interest.

A substantially more dovish Fed could have engaged in a regime change to alter the explicitly or implicit targets. Commonly discussed options include an increased inflation target, an inflation level target, and NGDP or NGDP level targets.

My own preference would be for an inflation level target at an increased rate, in the 3-4% range. I very strongly believe such a regime would have and would still make a huge difference.

EMichael -> sanjait... , April 14, 2017 at 09:41 AM
I gotta tell you, I do not believe that "talking about tightening" has absolutely no effect on the economy.

Tightening does.

I agree about the inflation target, but when you do not tighten it does not matter what your target is.

sanjait -> EMichael... , April 14, 2017 at 10:27 AM
" I do not believe that "talking about tightening" has absolutely no effect on the economy.

Tightening does."

I think you meant to say that you DO believe talking about tightening has NO effect on the economy. Correct?

Either way, I do absolutely and confidently believe that talking about tightening has an effect on the economy. We can watch in real time as Fed statements that shift expectations of future policy stance affect bond rates, equities prices and exchange rates immediately. That illustrates how they can tighten merely with words. They did so numerous times in the ZLB era.

EMichael -> sanjait... , April 14, 2017 at 10:45 AM
My error.

Small, insignificant an temporary changes controlled
by glorified day traders with good computers.

B.T. -> EMichael... , April 14, 2017 at 10:50 AM
Yes to all of the above.

It's unacceptable that we bailed out the bankers but we couldn't do more monetary stimulus to help out the middle class.

Wages have been stagnating partly because we came in too low on inflation during Obama's term.

EMichael -> B.T.... , April 14, 2017 at 10:57 AM
You did not answer my question.

can't go lower than zero. So you think QE should have been larger?

Exactly how can you drive inflation up with monetary policy at the ZLB other than QE?

Please don't answer Bernake begging for fiscal policy. He did it enough, and it means absolutely nothing wheter he did or not.

EMichael -> B.T.... , April 14, 2017 at 11:00 AM
BTW,

If you are talking about the banks being bailed out be the Obama admin you need to check your work.

The first $6 trillion bailout happened before he was elected; the next $10 trillion bailout happened before he took office.

Please do not mention TARP.

yuan -> EMichael... , April 14, 2017 at 03:37 PM
Negative interest rates and genuine helicopter drops would have been a better option than the Fed's QE nothing burger.
EMichael -> yuan... , April 14, 2017 at 05:18 PM

Yeah, genuine helicopter drops would have been in the power of the WH.

Or even the Fed.

Classroom doodling.

Peter K. -> B.T.... , April 14, 2017 at 09:33 AM
"Maybe if Obama had been more aggressive on the monetary stimulus front we wouldn't be here listening to Trump."

Yes exactly and now Yellen is raising rates.

PGL, Sanjait etc somehow believed Hillary would be different even though she gave no indication.

sanjait -> Peter K.... , April 14, 2017 at 10:28 AM
"Sanjait ... somehow believed Hillary would be different even though she gave no indication."

Never said that, you lying sack.

pgl -> sanjait... , April 14, 2017 at 11:19 AM
That is his day job. Inventing straw man so he can "stand up" to them.
yuan -> Peter K.... , April 14, 2017 at 08:47 AM
summary:

peter k. argues that sumner's opposition to fiscal stimulus is a brilliant tactic to get conservatives to work with libruls.

sanjait -> yuan... , April 14, 2017 at 09:04 AM
Basically, they allege Sumner is a hippy puncher*.

*In the original sense of the term: a conservative who would rhetorically trash liberals before making a liberalish argument to get conservatives to accept the argument... not the more recent use of the term, which has become "anyone who criticizes Bernie."

kthomas -> Peter K.... , April 14, 2017 at 07:14 AM
Yawn.
sanjait -> Peter K.... , April 14, 2017 at 09:00 AM
"It's a big deal that Bernanke came out in favor of NGDP targeting."

He didn't. He said distinctly positive things about inflation level targeting in contrast to raising the inflation rate, and then briefly entertained the notion that some kind of "mixed" program could also be good, without providing much specificity.

This is sort of like how you took one paragraph from Bernie about how the Fed should keep rates low longer, in the context of an otherwise unrelated rant of an op-ed, and decided that it showed he agreed with everything you believe about monetary policy.

Your own perception bias is clear.

"Krugman hasn't promoted the idea *at all* at his blog and he goes out of his way to be dismissive of Scott Sumner and market monetarists since they are conservative."

You are right that Krugman has not promoted NGDP targeting per se. In fact, in the passage from me
you quoted, I already pointed that out.

I also pointed out that Krugman originally presented the model that explains how credible forward guidance is necessary in a liquidity trap, and then updated it to claim that a "regime change" would be necessary to enforce the credibility.

He admittedly doesn't go deep into how that should play out, but I'm not the only one who has distinctly read an argument for price level targeting, or even NGDPLT in Krugman's discussion of this.

Here's Nick Rowe saying pretty much exactly what I just said:

http://worthwhile.typepad.com/worthwhile_canadian_initi/2009/01/future-monetary-policy-vs-current-fiscal-policy-pricelevel-path-targeting.html

And here's *Scott Sumner* endorsing heartily Krugman's framework analysis arguing for a higher inflation target, while of course Sumner claims it argues strongly also in favor of NGDPLT:

http://www.themoneyillusion.com/?p=26771

If you want to argue Krugman is overly skeptical of the kind of expectations-drive monetary policies his own model points towards ... that's probably fair, though in reality Krugman doesn't ever say they won't work, only that he finds their reliability questionable *relative to fiscal and conventional monetary stimulus.* That's a huge distinction, and the way you fail to recognize it deliberately puts you in straw-man-humping territory.

sanjait -> sanjait... , April 14, 2017 at 09:16 AM
Here's a few more links for historical reference.

Krugman from 2011, describing (as I explained) how his own model calls for expectations driven monetary policy to address the ZLB problem, but expressing skepticism that it could be made credible in practice given the politics:

https://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/03/18/credibility-and-monetary-policy-in-a-liquidity-trap-wonkish/?_r=0

Here is Sumner again, from 2014, reacting to Krugman's presentation on the subject that mentions "regime change". Sumner, like I did above, notes how Krugman doesn't really go on to describe what form that is supposed to take, but he also, like me, sees Krugman's overarching framework as a great one for explaining why other monetary regimes would be favorable, including higher inflation, inflation level targeting or NGDP/NGDPLT.

http://www.themoneyillusion.com/?p=26571

These guys are way far apart on fiscal policy, and on that subject I think Sumner is a bit of a twat. That's why they find reason to disagree so often.

But on monetary stuff they are actually not so far apart.

Peter K. -> sanjait... , April 14, 2017 at 09:46 AM
"That's a huge distinction, and the way you fail to recognize it deliberately puts you in straw-man-humping territory."

"This is sort of like how you took one paragraph from Bernie "

Not at all. Not at all. You are completely wrong.

"If you want to argue Krugman is overly skeptical... though in reality Krugman doesn't ever say they won't work..."

He says it's worth a try, but that's it. He doesn't promote it or discuss it very often. Scott Sumner and the market monetarist people have been actively promoting it. People can easily compare by skimming through Sumner's blog versus Krugman's blog in 2016 and 2017.

As soon as Republicans took over in 2010, Krugman pretty much stopped criticizing the Fed.

Bernanke who was once a Republican is now to the left of Krugman??? Bernanke favors NGDP targeting over raising the inflation target, which is now what the "party line" of center-left economists like Krugman and PGL is. They promote raising the inflation target over NGDP targeting, as PGL does to stick it to Sumner, etc.

Bernanke said "no, NGDP targeting should be tried before raising the inflation target, which has more mixed pros and cons.

That's why I said "Eat it PGL, eat it Krugman." And of course PGL doesn't respond. I should have added "Eat it Sanjait."

Bernanke:

"If the Fed wanted to go farther, it could consider changing what it targets from inflation to some other economic variable. There have been many proposals, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. One possibility that has some attractive features is a so-called price-level target. With a price-level target the Fed would commit to making up misses of its desired inflation level. For example, if inflation fell below 2 percent for a time the Fed would compensate by aiming for inflation above 2 percent until average inflation over the whole period had returned to 2 percent. The adoption of price-level targeting would be preferable to raising the inflation target, as price-level targeting is both more consistent with the Fed's mandate to promote price stability and because it is more similar to an optimal "make-up" monetary policy. (Following a ZLB episode, a price-level-targeting central bank would be committed to making up any shortfall of inflation.)

Price-level targeting does have drawbacks as well. For example, if a rise in oil prices or another supply shock temporarily increases inflation, a price-level-targeting central bank would be forced to tighten monetary policy to push down subsequent inflation rates, even if the economy were in a downturn. In contrast, an inflation-targeting central bank could "look through" a temporary inflation increase, letting inflation bygones be bygones.

Another alternative would be to try to implement the optimal "make-up" strategy, in which the Fed commits to compensating for the effects of the ZLB by holding rates low for a time after the ZLB no longer binds, with the length of the make-up period explicitly depending on the severity of the ZLB episode. KR consider several policies of this type and show in their simulations that such policies reduce the frequency of ZLB episodes and largely eliminate their costs, while keeping average inflation close to 2 percent. The main challenges for this approach are in communicating it clearly and ensuring that it is credible, since if market participants and the public don't believe that the central bank will carry through on its promise to keep rates low, the policy won't work. However, the Fed's recent experience with forward guidance suggests that such commitments by central banks can be effective. [3] They would probably be even more effective if the principles of this approach were laid out and explained in a normal period in which the ZLB was not binding.

As price-level targeting and "make-up" policies are closely related, they could be combined in various ways. For example, by promising to return the price level to trend after a period at the zero lower bound, the Fed could use the language of price-level targeting to make precise its commitment to make up for its inability to respond adequately during the period when rates are at zero."

Sanders "dont raise rates until we hit 4 percent unemployement" is essentially forward guidance and yet you and Krugman go with Hillary who was satisfied with the Federal Reserve's continued failure.

At least Bernanke gets it.

Peter K. -> sanjait... , April 14, 2017 at 10:07 AM
"It's a big deal that Bernanke came out in favor of NGDP targeting."

He didn't.

"The adoption of price-level targeting would be preferable to raising the inflation target, as price-level targeting is both more consistent with the Fed's mandate to promote price stability and because it is more similar to an optimal "make-up" monetary policy. (Following a ZLB episode, a price-level-targeting central bank would be committed to making up any shortfall of inflation.)"

Christ you're a fukin troll.

sanjait -> Peter K.... , April 14, 2017 at 10:31 AM
Hey dipshit, price level targeting is not the same as NGDPP targeting, and saying a price-level target "would be preferable to..." an increased inflation rate is also not an endorsement of NGDP targeting.

You can say whatever you want about me but it's pretty clear how you're full of it here.

pgl -> sanjait... , April 14, 2017 at 11:21 AM
Don't confuse PeterK with the real world. He gets all angry when we do that.
Peter K. -> sanjait... , April 14, 2017 at 07:38 PM
Compared to what Bernanke has said before about price-level/NGDP targeting it is an endorsement. He is basically saying it is worth a try and preferable to raising the inflation target which is PGL's and the squishy liberals' answer to Fed fail.

You and PGL are fukin trolls. Pompous idiots.

[Apr 13, 2017] personal.lse.ac.uk

Notable quotes:
"... He writes a DSGE model where banks hold sovereign debt, so that bad news about a possible future sovereign default both puts a strain on the funding of banks but also induces them to cut their leverage as a precautionary reaction. ..."
"... This channel for the diabolic loop linking banks and sovereign debt fits reasonably well the behavior of credit spreads across Italian banks and firms, and predicts that the ECB's interventions had a small effect. ..."
Apr 13, 2017 | lse.ac.uk
Luigi Bocola (2014, Penn, Northwestern): Bocola tries to explain the depth of the crisis in Italy after 2011. He writes a DSGE model where banks hold sovereign debt, so that bad news about a possible future sovereign default both puts a strain on the funding of banks but also induces them to cut their leverage as a precautionary reaction.

This channel for the diabolic loop linking banks and sovereign debt fits reasonably well the behavior of credit spreads across Italian banks and firms, and predicts that the ECB's interventions had a small effect.

[Apr 12, 2017] Macroeconomists supposedly failed to anticipate the crisis because they were enamored by models where financial markets and institutions were absent

Apr 12, 2017 | lse.ac.uk

Blanchard (2016), Korinek (2015) and Wren-Lewis (2017) worry that the current standards and editorial criteria in macroeconomics undermine promising ideas, deter needed diversity in the topics covered, and impose mindless work on DSGEs that brings little useful knowledge to policy discussions.

Smith (2016) emphasizes that we have far less data than what we would need to adequately test our models, and Romer (2016) that identification is the perennial challenge for social sciences. Smith (2014) and Coyle and Haldane (2014) characterize the state of economics, not as the perennial glass half full and half empty, but rather as two glasses, one full and the other empty. In their view, applied empirical economists have been celebrating their successes, while macroeconomists lament their losses.

... ... ...

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. As I wrote in Reis (2010) " by setting themselves the goal of unconditional forecasting of aggregate variables, macroeconomists are setting such a high bar that they are almost sure to fail."

...Forecasting when economic agents themselves are forecasting your forecast to anticipate the policies that will be adopted involves strategic thinking and game theory that goes well beyond the standard statistical toolbox. Very few economists that I know of would defend themselves too vigorously against the frequent criticisms of forecasting failures by economists. As is regularly shown, macroeconomic forecasts come with large and often serially correlated errors.10

...At the same time, the way that forecasts are mis-read and mis-interpreted is part of the problem. As much as economists state that their forecasts are probabilities, and come with confidence bands, they are reported in the media always as point estimates

...Compare how economics does relative to the medical sciences. Analogies across sciences are always very tricky, and must be taken with a large grain of salt. Moreover, surely economists are still far from being as useful as dentists, like Keynes dreamed of, let alone to have made a contribution to human welfare that is close to the one by doctors or biologists. The comparison to make is much more narrow and limited, restricted only to how economic forecasts compare to medical forecasts.

...Currently, the major and almost single public funder for economic research in the United States is the National Science Foundation. Its 2015 budget for the whole of social, behavioral and economic sciences was $276 million. The part attributed to its social and economic sciences group was $98 million.

[Apr 12, 2017] Very knowledgeable persons just dont know when to shut up.

Apr 12, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com
JohnH -> anne... , April 12, 2017 at 06:45 AM
Krugman's hectoring the French will probably have the same effect as his hectoring the Brits on Brexit.

'Very knowledgeable persons' just don't know when to shut up.

Apparently it's easier for Krugman to rant about French elections than to tell us what he's been learning about inequality at his day job at the CUNY Luxembourg Income Study Center!

anne -> JohnH... , April 12, 2017 at 07:19 AM
'Very knowledgeable persons' just don't know when to shut up....

[ The meanness is ceaseless and covers a lack of substance, but the meanness is intolerable. I will never bother to read another post by this person. ]

JohnH -> anne... , April 12, 2017 at 08:50 AM
Would you prefer that I say: "Though the honorable Mr. Krugman is entitled to use his bully pulpit at the NY Times any way he sees fit, recent events suggest that current practice has proven to be less than optimal. The wisdom of using the bully pulpit in such manner should be carefully reconsidered and, if necessary, modified to achieve the goals that Mr. Krugman professes to espouse...unless, of course, the goal is in fact to realize the goal that the honorable Mr. Krugman claims to oppose."

[Apr 12, 2017] Yes, adding more epicycles will do the trick

Apr 12, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com
T Read the Reis article and I'm much relieved. State-o'-the-art mascro = which didn't even include financial sectors at the time of the Great Recession (I mean really -how could that be a problem?) - is now on the right track. Yes, adding more epicycles will do the trick. Because as we all know, the sun, moon, planets and stars revolve around the earth. Reply Wednesday, April 12, 2017 at 06:05 AM libezkova -> T... , April 12, 2017 at 08:26 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.

[Apr 12, 2017] An economics that helps us to live within the doughnut would seek to reduce inequalities in wealth and income.

Apr 12, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com
reason , April 12, 2017 at 05:36 AM
Sorry if this ends up being a repeat post, but my other attempts to post have been swallowed for some reason. So I'll try again.

A very important post by George Monbiot:
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/apr/12/doughnut-growth-economics-book-economic-model
Reminds me of Hermann Daly. I hope he gets credited.

JohnH -> reason ... , April 12, 2017 at 06:53 AM
Money quote: "An economics that helps us to live within the doughnut would seek to reduce inequalities in wealth and income. Wealth arising from the gifts of nature would be widely shared. Money, markets, taxation and public investment would be designed to conserve and regenerate resources rather than squander them. State-owned banks would invest in projects that transform our relationship with the living world, such as zero-carbon public transport and community energy schemes. New metrics would measure genuine prosperity, rather than the speed with which we degrade our long-term prospects."

Macroeconomists largely stopped paying attention to income distribution and turned their attention to growth decades ago. Even today, folks like Krugman, who are paid handsomely to study inequality, don't like to talk about it much.

[Apr 12, 2017] China validates the general theory

Apr 12, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com
RGC , April 12, 2017 at 05:16 AM
CHINA VALIDATES THE GENERAL THEORY

Before proceeding, I wish to make it quite clear that in referencing Keynes or Keynesianism, I am referring to John Maynard Keynes of 'The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money' (GT) and I am not referring to neo Keynesianism or new Keynesianism or any variant of the so-called neo classical synthesis (which, imo, is one of the most dishonest actions ever taken by an academic) devised by Paul Samuelson and others at MIT.

With that said, I would first note that Keynes titled chapter 24 of GT:

"Concluding Notes on the Social Philosophy towards which the General Theory might Lead"

and began the chapter with:

"The outstanding faults of the economic society in which we live are its failure to provide for full employment and its arbitrary and inequitable distribution of wealth and incomes."

Keynes next remarks on the progress toward equality in Great Britain attained via taxation of income and inheritance taxes and argues that these measures, in conditions of less than full employment, are, contrary to common belief, actually conducive to increased investment:

" Thus our argument leads towards the conclusion that in contemporary conditions the growth of wealth, so far from being dependent on the abstinence of the rich, as is commonly supposed, is more likely to be impeded by it. One of the chief social justifications of great inequality of wealth is, therefore, removed. "

Keynes particularly approves of taxing inheritances:

"This particularly affects our attitude towards death duties: for there are certain justifications for inequality of incomes which do not apply equally to inequality of inheritances."


Keynes then debunks the theory that interest is a reward for saving:

"The justification for a moderately high rate of interest has been found hitherto in the necessity of providing a sufficient inducement to save. But we have shown that the extent of effective saving is necessarily determined by the scale of investment and that the scale of investment is promoted by a low rate of interest, provided that we do not attempt to stimulate it in this way beyond the point which corresponds to full employment. Thus it is to our best advantage to reduce the rate of interest to that point relatively to the schedule of the marginal efficiency of capital at which there is full employment.

"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"


And then Keynes heralds the "euthanasia of the rentier" and "the cumulative oppressive power of the capitalist to exploit the scarcity-value of capital." because the state can supply adequate capital:

"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."


But this "euthanasia" can take place gradually and need not require a revolution:


"I see, therefore, the rentier aspect of capitalism as a transitional phase which will disappear when it has done its work. And with the disappearance of its rentier aspect much else in it besides will suffer a sea-change. It will be, moreover, a great advantage of the order of events which I am advocating, that the euthanasia of the rentier, of the functionless investor, will be nothing sudden, merely a gradual but prolonged continuance of what we have seen recently in Great Britain, and will need no revolution.

"Thus we might aim in practice (there being nothing in this which is unattainable) at an increase in the volume of capital until it ceases to be scarce, so that the functionless investor will no longer receive a bonus; and at a scheme of direct taxation which allows the intelligence and determination and executive skill of the financier, the entrepreneur et hoc genus omne (who are certainly so fond of their craft that their labour could be obtained much cheaper than at present), to be harnessed to the service of the community on reasonable terms of reward."


Then keynes notes that although his prescription will entail a greater role for the state and "a somewhat comprehensive socialisation of investment" , it will not eliminate the role of individual entrepreneurship:


"In some other respects the foregoing theory is moderately conservative in its implications. For whilst it indicates the vital importance of establishing certain central controls in matters which are now left in the main to individual initiative, there are wide fields of activity which are unaffected. The State will have to exercise a guiding influence on the propensity to consume partly through its scheme of taxation, partly by fixing the rate of interest, and partly, perhaps, in other ways. Furthermore, it seems unlikely that the influence of banking policy on the rate of interest will be sufficient by itself to determine an optimum rate of investment. I conceive, therefore, that a somewhat comprehensive socialisation of investment will prove the only means of securing an approximation to full employment; though this need not exclude all manner of compromises and of devices by which public authority will co-operate with private initiative. But beyond this no obvious case is made out for a system of State Socialism which would embrace most of the economic life of the community. It is not the ownership of the instruments of production which it is important for the State to assume. If the State is able to determine the aggregate amount of resources devoted to augmenting the instruments and the basic rate of reward to those who own them, it will have accomplished all that is necessary. Moreover, the necessary measures of socialisation can be introduced gradually and without a break in the general traditions of society"


And he proceeds to describe the advantages of individualism:

"Let us stop for a moment to remind ourselves what these advantages are. They are partly advantages of efficiency - the advantages of decentralisation and of the play of self-interest. The advantage to efficiency of the decentralisation of decisions and of individual responsibility is even greater, perhaps, than the nineteenth century supposed; and the reaction against the appeal to self-interest may have gone too far. But, above all, individualism, if it can be purged of its defects and its abuses, is the best safeguard of personal liberty in the sense that, compared with any other system, it greatly widens the field for the exercise of personal choice. It is also the best safeguard of the variety of life, which emerges precisely from this extended field of personal choice, and the loss of which is the greatest of all the losses of the homogeneous or totalitarian state. For this variety preserves the traditions which embody the most secure and successful choices of former generations; it colours the present with the diversification of its fancy; and, being the handmaid of experiment as well as of tradition and of fancy, it is the most powerful instrument to better the future.
"Whilst, therefore, the enlargement of the functions of government, involved in the task of adjusting to one another the propensity to consume and the inducement to invest, would seem to a nineteenth-century publicist or to a contemporary American financier to be a terrific encroachment on individualism. I defend it, on the contrary, both as the only practicable means of avoiding the destruction of existing economic forms in their entirety and as the condition of the successful functioning of individual initiative."


And furthermore, not only will the prescribed system be to the advantage of all, it will also forestall the temptation to even more drastic measures and preclude the merchantilist and imperialist temptations of the recent past:

"War has several causes. Dictators and others such, to whom war offers, in expectation at least, a pleasurable excitement, find it easy to work on the natural bellicosity of their peoples. But, over and above this, facilitating their task of fanning the popular flame, are the economic causes of war, namely, the pressure of population and the competitive struggle for markets. It is the second factor, which probably played a predominant part in the nineteenth century, and might again, that is germane to this discussion.
"I have pointed out in the preceding chapter that, under the system of domestic laissez-faire and an international gold standard such as was orthodox in the latter half of the nineteenth century, there was no means open to a government whereby to mitigate economic distress at home except through the competitive struggle for markets. For all measures helpful to a state of chronic or intermittent under-employment were ruled out, except measures to improve the balance of trade on income account."

https://www.marxists.org/reference/subject/economics/keynes/general-theory/ch24.htm

And how does this relate to China?

The Peoples Republic of China (PRC) began in 1949. Under the leadership of Mao Zedong the PRC introduced Soviet-style Marxism and other "socialization" programs that resulted in famine and other catastrophes, although national sovereignty was established.

Upon Mao's death in 1976 chinese leadership became uncertain. During some transition until roughly 1980 market mechanisms were introduced alongside central planning.

In 1982 Deng Xioping introduced "reform and opening", which meant essentially economic reform internally and a greater focus on foreign trade. And in 1992 he announced a focus on creating a "socialist market economy", which entailed state control of primary industries and banking alongside greater autonomy for secondary commercial enterprises.

Since Deng's reforms, China has far outpaced the rest of the world in economic performance.


Keynes analysed capitalist economies and concluded that "a somewhat comprehensive socialisation of investment will prove the only means of securing an approximation to full employment; though this need not exclude all manner of compromises and of devices by which public authority will co-operate with private initiative. "


The leadership of the PRC analysed and managed the Chinese economy and concluded that a "socialist market economy" was the proper system.


So from opposite directions Keynes and the Chinese arrived at the same destination. Keynes wanted to preserve the market mechanism, the Chinese wanted to preserve Marxist socialism. They each arrived at a centrally-controlled economy with significant market mechanisms.

Perhaps there is a lesson for us there.

[Apr 12, 2017] If you are an economist who believes that the nongovt financial system is basically the only functionary that there should be for the handling the creation of credit in society, you are a shill, not a thoughtful analyst. I doubt you can think outside your blinders.

Apr 12, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com
JF -> RC AKA Darryl, Ron...

, April 11, 2017 at 09:21 AM
The Chinese do not believe in this stuff, they have read Leviticus though, and plainly understand that they can create credit and erase it anytime they want to do so.

There was an article somwhere here today or yesterday that made points about how the Chinese 'manipulate' affecting the Triffin calculus and domestic pricing trends influencing consumption in order to make a steady growth and transformation of their economic system from where it was in 1980, for a billion plus people. I wish them success.

If you are an economist who believes that the nongovt financial system is basically the only functionary that there should be for the handling the creation of credit in society, you are a shill, not a thoughtful analyst. I doubt you can think outside your blinders.

RC AKA Darryl, Ron said in reply to JF... , April 11, 2017 at 09:28 AM
"The Chinese do not believe in this stuff..."

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triffin_dilemma

...Specifically, the Triffin dilemma is usually cited to articulate the problems with the role of the U.S. dollar as the reserve currency under the Bretton Woods system. John Maynard Keynes had anticipated this difficulty and had advocated the use of a global reserve currency called 'Bancor'. Currently the IMF's SDRs are the closest thing to the proposed Bancor but they have not been adopted widely enough to replace the dollar as the global reserve currency.

In the wake of the financial crisis of 2007–2008, the governor of the People's Bank of China (YES - CHINA) explicitly named the reserve currency status of the US dollar as a contributing factor to global savings and investment imbalances that led to the crisis. As such the Triffin Dilemma is related to the Global Savings Glut hypothesis because the dollar's reserve currency role exacerbates the U.S. current account deficit due to heightened demand for dollars...


...
Implication in 2008 meltdown

In the wake of the financial crisis of 2007–2008, the governor of the People's Bank of China explicitly named the Triffin Dilemma as the root cause of the economic disorder, in a speech titled Reform the International Monetary System. Zhou Xiaochuan's speech of 29 March 2009 proposed strengthening existing global currency controls, through the IMF.[1][2]

This would involve a gradual move away from the U.S. dollar as a reserve currency and towards the use of IMF special drawing rights (SDRs) as a global reserve currency.

Zhou argued that part of the reason for the original Bretton Woods system breaking down was the refusal to adopt Keynes' bancor which would have been a special international reserve currency to be used instead of the dollar...


JF -> RC AKA Darryl, Ron... , April 11, 2017 at 11:06 AM
Thanks for sharing. I think the speech was intended to message about the US being part of the problem not to give credit to Triffin. But of course I dont know.

I simply want people to put on different thinking caps, so to speak.

Chris Lowery -> RC AKA Darryl, Ron... , April 11, 2017 at 10:07 AM
Or maybe going to Keynes's bancor?
RC AKA Darryl, Ron said in reply to Chris Lowery ... , April 11, 2017 at 11:03 AM
Something like that sure enough, but a bit more formalized in the area of exchange rates and maybe capital controls as well. In any case a pipe dream in my lifetime. What we are attempting to get that old teaming masses of uneducated voting majority to realize first is that they have been duped. There are tons of alternatives, too many almost. Sovereigns make their own currencies for the most part, tax if they will, and regulate. There are a great many ways to play the game. The idea that industrial policy and capital controls violate some pre-ordained laws of economics is rubbish. OTOH, no nation is free of the external consequences of their economic and currency policies if they must depend upon exchange for any of their necessities.
pgl -> BenIsNotYoda... , April 11, 2017 at 10:32 AM
You sir get what Joan Robinson wrote about this. PeterK? He will never get it as she wrote in the English language.
pgl -> BenIsNotYoda... , April 11, 2017 at 10:31 AM
Exactly! PeterK never got what Expenditure Switching was all about even if Joan Robinson explained it thoroughly.

What we need is more fiscal stimulus globally but these Trumpian nitwits are all banging their heads over Beggar Thy Neighbor nonsense.

Peter K. -> BenIsNotYoda... , April 11, 2017 at 01:54 PM
"everyone who runs a surplus is subtracting from global demand? that is just plain strange."

Depends on how they're doing. Do you understand how they're doing it?

pgl -> BenIsNotYoda... , April 11, 2017 at 07:49 AM
"I can do the accounting with the best of them."

Maybe so. Then do it - and show your homework.

[Apr 12, 2017] The right way forward for macro isn't to go all-in on a hot new theory, or to passionately embrace old paradigms either. The best approach is to adopt more public humility and caution about their theories, while working to understand microeconomics better

Apr 12, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com
Egmont Kakarot-Handtke , April 11, 2017 at 11:10 AM
Review of the economics troops
Comment on Noah Smith on 'Keynesian Economics Is Hot Again'

There is Orthodoxy with Walrasian microfoundations and it has been nicely defined by Krugman: " most of what I and many others do is sorta-kinda neoclassical because it takes the maximization-and-equilibrium world as a starting point."

There is Keynesianism with macrofoundations and they have been nicely defined by Keynes: "Income = value of output = consumption + investment. Saving = income - consumption. Therefore saving = investment."

Both, Walrasian microfoundations and Keynesian macrofoundations are provable false. Methodologically speaking, micro and macro is axiomatically false. It holds, when the premises/axioms/foundational propositions are false or contain nonentities the WHOLE theory/model/analytical superstructure is false. This includes ALL variants of IS-LM from Hicks to Krugman.#1

The four main approaches ― Walrasianism, Keynesianism, Marxianism, Austrianism ― are mutually contradictory, axiomatically false, materially/formally inconsistent and all got the pivotal economic concept profit wrong. Because economists lack the true theory their economic policy guidance has NO sound scientific foundation since Adam Smith/Karl Marx.

There is NO use to combine axiomatically false approaches or to periodically alternate between them. What Krugman or Christiano are doing is cargo cultic show biz.

Noah Smith maintains: "The right way forward for macro isn't to go all-in on a hot new theory, or to passionately embrace old paradigms either. The best approach is to adopt more public humility and caution about their theories, while working to understand microeconomics better."

In view of the fact that the profit theory is false since 200+ years, microfoundations are false since 140+ years, and macrofoundations are false since 80+ years, the right way forward for Walrasians and Keynesians is to retire.

Egmont Kakarot-Handtke

#1 For details see 'Mr. Keynes, Prof. Krugman, IS-LM, and the End of Economics as We Know It'
https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2392856

anne , April 11, 2017 at 12:07 PM
https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2017-04-10/keynesian-economics-is-hot-again

April 10, 2017

Keynesian Economics Is Hot Again
By Noah Smith - Bloomberg

To the growing list of famous mainstream macroeconomists who have publicly criticized their discipline, add another: In a recent essay, * Lawrence Christiano of Northwestern University argues that the Great Recession was an "earthquake" that dramatically changed how researchers think about the U.S. economy.

Christiano is known as a scholar who straddles macroeconomics' great divide. His models adopt the basic form and some of the bedrock assumptions of the New Classicals, the economists who insisted in the 1980s that monetary and fiscal policy can't fight recessions. But he also incorporates some elements of Keynesianism, the idea that aggregate demand shortages exist and can be corrected by the government stimulus. Perhaps as a result of their centrist take on that long-running debate, theories inspired by Christiano's have won pride of place in central banks around the world.

But after the Great Recession, Christiano says, the pendulum should swing decisively in the Keynesian direction:

"The Great Recession was the response of the economy to a negative shock to the demand for goods all across the board. This is very much in the spirit of the traditional macroeconomic paradigm captured by the [simple Keynesian] model The Great Recession seems impossible to understand without invoking shocks in aggregate demand. As a consequence, the modern equivalent of the IS-LM model-the New Keynesian model-has returned to center stage."

Another way of putting this is that Paul Krugman was right. Krugman has long advocated that macroeconomists learn to once again think in terms of simple simple Keynesian theory. And when more fully developed, complex models are needed, Krugman uses the kind of models that Christiano endorses.

As Christiano mentioned, the New Keynesian revolution isn't so new. Even in the 1990s, economists like Greg Mankiw and Olivier Blanchard were arguing that monetary policy had real effects on demand. And at the same time, international macroeconomists were realizing that Japan's post-bubble experience of slow growth, low interest rates and low inflation implied that demand shortages could last for a very long time unless the government rode to the rescue. Krugman, Adam Posen, Lars Svensson, and others were already referring to a Japan-type stagnation as a liquidity trap in the late 1990s, and warning that standard monetary policy of cutting interest rates wouldn't work in that sort of situation.

But the profession didn't listen, and only the smallest deviations from the New Classical orthodoxy were accepted into the mainstream. The idea of fiscal stimulus was still largely taboo. Nobel prizes were awarded to the economists who made theories in which demand shortages can't exist, while no Nobels were given to New Keynesians for suggesting otherwise. When the Great Recession hit, some prominent macroeconomists pooh-poohed the idea that stimulus could help.

Christiano's essay should serve as a needed rebuke to the profession for resisting Keynesian ideas just when they were needed most. But it also raises an uncomfortable question: Why didn't macroeconomists catch on until years after disaster struck?

One explanation is sociological. Perhaps the influence of legendary figures like Robert Lucas, Thomas Sargent and Edward Prescott -- all anti-Keynesians who now have big gold medals from Sweden -- was enough to scare younger economists away Keynesian ideas. Some of macroeconomics' internal critics, such as World Bank chief economist Paul Romer, have suggested as much. Political considerations might have played a role as well -- to many economists on the free-market end of the ideological spectrum, Keynesianism represents unacceptable government meddling.

But these explanations, by themselves, are unsatisfying. In most scientific fields -- biology or astronomy, for example -- the weight of evidence is enough to overcome social fads and political bias. Even in most areas of economics, empirical results gradually push the profession in one direction or another. For example, relatively few economists now believe a $15 minimum wage is likely to reduce employment very much; a plurality is uncertain. The steady drumbeat of papers showing small or zero job losses from minimum-wage hikes probably played a role in altering the expert consensus.

If economists gravitated toward anti-Keynesian theories, it was at least in part because evidence wasn't strong enough to push them in the right direction. It's just very hard to assess the impacts of fiscal stimulus. For example, Japan's tremendous government spending binge in the 1990s looks to a casual observer like it had no effect, since the economy didn't recover until years later -- but government spending might have been the only thing saving the country from a deeper recession.

For a great explanation of why macroeconomic evidence is so weak and subject to multiple interpretations, read this excellent post ** by the University of Oregon's Mark Thoma....

* https://www.minneapolisfed.org/~/media/files/pubs/eppapers/17-1/the-great-recession-a-macroeconomic-earthquake.pdf

** http://economistsview.typepad.com/economistsview/2013/04/empirical-methods-and-progress-in-macroeconomics.html

[Apr 11, 2017] Neo-classical economics as a new flat earth cult

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

[Apr 09, 2017] Krugman should never comment on anything outside of economics

Apr 09, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com
sanjait , April 07, 2017 at 10:34 AM
Krugman, who according to his critics should never comment on anything outside of economics, makes two apt points here about the politics.

Trump gets points for "honesty" not because he's honest, but because he gives voice to the deplorable instincts of many (which apparently includes a majority of Republican voters). They like that he expresses the ugly things they are afraid to say themselves.

Also, while Trump is indeed incompetent, his failure to implement policy could instead be attributed to underlying lack of plausibility behind the GOPs talking points. Their goals are not getting accomplished because there are fundamental structural flaws underlying them. I'm not sure I agree with Krugs entirely on this ... but it's an interesting supposition.

pgl -> sanjait... , April 07, 2017 at 10:43 AM
I've met Krugman. He needs to be careful before using the word ugly. Of course a lot of smart people are not George Clooney.
libezkova -> sanjait... , April 07, 2017 at 03:45 PM
"Krugman ... should never comment on anything outside of economics"

And even is the area of economics not his views are questionable at best. What is so interesting in views of an aging neoliberal...

He with his column is an anachronism...

Sanjait -> libezkova... , April 07, 2017 at 11:40 PM
Aren't you an actual professed 9/11 truther?

So your opinion is of course highly credible.

ilsm -> Sanjait... , April 08, 2017 at 06:54 AM
AD HOMINEM

no logic

libezkova -> Sanjait... , April 08, 2017 at 06:54 AM
Sanjait,

I understand that you have zero physics knowledge. You do not need to repeat that.

And my opinion certainly is more credible on issues such as Russia because I can compare views of two sides of this conflict (remember Latin dictum "Audi alteram partem" ) and you do not and do not want to do this.

All you do by attacking ilsm, who BTW, unlike you, served his country, is to demonstrate the level of your indoctrination into jingoism and militarism. Which is impressive, but not so interesting, other then for study of groupthink.

The only thing you can do on issues of foreigh policy is to regurgitate uncritically the propaganda taken from CNN. Which actually makes you yet another neoliberal twerp in this forum.

I actually do not even remember when the last time I thought of your posts on issues of foreign policy as anything worse noting .

At least I studied Russian history and the language.

While your ignorance and jingoism make you a laughing stock for those people who are not indoctrinated into American exceptionalism.

[Apr 09, 2017] Neoliberals come right up and punch you in the face. Neoclassicals slink around and stab you in the back.

Apr 09, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com
libezkova -> RC AKA Darryl, Ron... , April 08, 2017 at 12:56 PM
"This perversion isn't Arrow's fault. He merely helped to prove a mathematical theorem, and was no blind advocate for markets. Indeed, he actually thought the theorem illustrated the limitations of capitalism"

This quote illustrates that there is some difference between neoliberalism and neo-classical economics. Neoliberals do not care about applicability of neo-classical economics or the validity of generalized stochastic equilibrium.

They used neo-classical theories as a ram to destroy New Deal Capitalism and paid "useful idiots" outsized amount of money to keep them in power in economics departments.

RC AKA Darryl, Ron -> libezkova... , April 08, 2017 at 01:02 PM
There is a well known historical narrative which supports your assertion surrounding Austrian economics and the University of Chicago although as you suggest it goes much deeper than that.
RGC -> libezkova... , April 08, 2017 at 01:42 PM
In my view neoliberals are like republicans, in that they make no secret of their allegiances.

I see neoclassicals as even more despicable, because they pretend to be Keynesians and in favor of the working class, while promoting "free market" solutions.

Neoliberals come right up and punch you in the face. Neoclassicals slink around and stab you in the back.

[Apr 08, 2017] Krugman has bought into free lunch economics, but simply wants to pick different winners and losers.

Apr 08, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com
mulp -> sanjait... , April 07, 2017 at 12:36 PM
It's because Krugman fails to use the terms "job killing tax cuts", "job killing deregulation", "job killing coal", "job killing cheap oil", "job killing easy credit", "job killing profits".

Followed by simple explanations using real world examples of workers who have lost their jobs thanks to tax cuts, thanks to deregulation, thanks to high profits, thanks to easy credit.

Krugman has bought into free lunch economics, but simply wants to pick different winners and losers.

Look at the efforts to repeal Obamacare. That will kill hundreds of thousands of jobs every quarter, quarter after quarter, unless government bailout the corporations trying to avoid bankruptcy by slashing payrolls, bailouts funded with easy cheap credit.

Obamacare forced people with income to pay more and more workers to deliver more and more medical care. Zero sum. The cost to people paying the new taxes and insurance premiums pay the increasing labor costs of higher employment in health care delivering more health to the consumers most in need of consuming health care.

If a tax on gasoline was increased to $1 a gallon for Federal and State, every added penny in revenue from years 1 to 10 will spent in years 2 to 7, with already scheduled maintenance for the next 18 months done in 12 months. This is forced spending by people who have money most are not spending on stuff made by local workers.

... .. ...

jonny bakho -> mulp... , April 07, 2017 at 04:33 PM
good rant!

[Apr 08, 2017] Neoliberals do not care about applicability of neo-classical economics or the validity of generalized stochastic equilibrium. They used neo-classical theories as a ram to destroy New Deal Capitalism

Apr 08, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com
RGC , April 08, 2017 at 06:35 AM
Re: The ideas of Kenneth Arrow - Steven Durlauf
...............
"Yet the theorem trails a dense cloud of caveats, which Arrow himself recognized could be more important than the proof itself. For one, it worked only in a perfect world, far removed from the one humans actually inhabit. Equilibrium is merely one of many conceivable states of that world; there's no particular reason to believe that the economy would naturally tend toward it. Beautiful as the math may be, actual experience suggests that its magical efficiency is purely theoretical, and a poor guide to reality."
...................

"Remarkably, academic macroeconomists have largely ignored these limitations, and continue to teach the general equilibrium model -- and more modern variants with same fatal weaknesses -- as a decent approximation of reality. Economists routinely use the framework to form their views on everything from taxation to global trade -- portraying it as a value-free, scientific approach, when in fact it carries a hidden ideology that casts completely free markets as the ideal."
...........................

"This perversion isn't Arrow's fault. He merely helped to prove a mathematical theorem, and was no blind advocate for markets. Indeed, he actually thought the theorem illustrated the limitations of capitalism, and he was prescient in understanding how economic inequality might come to impair the workings of democratic government. Perhaps it would be best to use his own words: "In a system where virtually all resources are available for a price, economic power can be translated into political power by channels too obvious for mention. In a capitalist society, economic power is very unequally distributed, and hence democratic government is inevitably something of a sham.""
......................
https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2017-03-09/the-misunderstanding-at-the-core-of-economics

RC AKA Darryl, Ron said in reply to RGC... , April 08, 2017 at 06:48 AM
Excellent.
libezkova -> RC AKA Darryl, Ron... , April 08, 2017 at 12:56 PM
"This perversion isn't Arrow's fault. He merely helped to prove a mathematical theorem, and was no blind advocate for markets. Indeed, he actually thought the theorem illustrated the limitations of capitalism"

This quote illustrates that there is some difference between neoliberalism and neo-classical economics. Neoliberals do not care about applicability of neo-classical economics or the validity of generalized stochastic equilibrium.

They used neo-classical theories as a ram to destroy New Deal Capitalism and paid "useful idiots" outsized amount of money to keep them in power in economics departments.

[Apr 08, 2017] Kenneth Arrow and the golden age of neoliberal economic theory

Notable quotes:
"... The inevitable failure of economics started with Jevons/Walras/Menger but Arrow gave the final push with this fundamental methodological specification: "It is a touchstone of accepted economics that all explanations must run in terms of the actions and reactions of individuals. Our behavior in judging economic research, in peer review of papers and research, and in promotions, includes the criterion that in principle the behavior we explain and the policies we propose are explicable in terms of individuals, not of other social categories." (Arrow, 1994) ..."
"... The definition of the subject matter translates into the following hard core propositions, a.k.a. axioms: "HC1 economic agents have preferences over outcomes; HC2 agents individually optimize subject to constraints; HC3 agent choice is manifest in interrelated markets; HC4 agents have full relevant knowledge; HC5 observable outcomes are coordinated, and must be discussed with reference to equilibrium states." (Weintraub, 1985) ..."
"... Obviously, this axiom set contains THREE NONENTITIES: (i) constrained optimization (HC2), (ii) rational expectations (HC4), (iii) equilibrium (HC5). Every theory/model that contains a nonentity is A PRIORI false. By consequence, General Equilibrium theory of the Arrow-Debreu type and its offspring until DSGE/RBC/New Keynesianism is scientifically worthless. ..."
Apr 08, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com
Egmont Kakarot-Handtke , April 08, 2017 at 02:57 AM
How Arrow pushed economics over the cliff
Comment on Steven Durlauf on 'Kenneth Arrow and the golden age of economic theory'

The inevitable failure of economics started with Jevons/Walras/Menger but Arrow gave the final push with this fundamental methodological specification: "It is a touchstone of accepted economics that all explanations must run in terms of the actions and reactions of individuals. Our behavior in judging economic research, in peer review of papers and research, and in promotions, includes the criterion that in principle the behavior we explain and the policies we propose are explicable in terms of individuals, not of other social categories." (Arrow, 1994)

The definition of the subject matter translates into the following hard core propositions, a.k.a. axioms: "HC1 economic agents have preferences over outcomes; HC2 agents individually optimize subject to constraints; HC3 agent choice is manifest in interrelated markets; HC4 agents have full relevant knowledge; HC5 observable outcomes are coordinated, and must be discussed with reference to equilibrium states." (Weintraub, 1985)

Obviously, this axiom set contains THREE NONENTITIES: (i) constrained optimization (HC2), (ii) rational expectations (HC4), (iii) equilibrium (HC5). Every theory/model that contains a nonentity is A PRIORI false. By consequence, General Equilibrium theory of the Arrow-Debreu type and its offspring until DSGE/RBC/New Keynesianism is scientifically worthless.

Egmont Kakarot-Handtke

RC AKA Darryl, Ron , April 08, 2017 at 05:33 AM
We are all Luddites now.
RGC , April 08, 2017 at 06:35 AM
Re: The ideas of Kenneth Arrow - Steven Durlauf
...............
"Yet the theorem trails a dense cloud of caveats, which Arrow himself recognized could be more important than the proof itself. For one, it worked only in a perfect world, far removed from the one humans actually inhabit. Equilibrium is merely one of many conceivable states of that world; there's no particular reason to believe that the economy would naturally tend toward it. Beautiful as the math may be, actual experience suggests that its magical efficiency is purely theoretical, and a poor guide to reality."
...................

"Remarkably, academic macroeconomists have largely ignored these limitations, and continue to teach the general equilibrium model -- and more modern variants with same fatal weaknesses -- as a decent approximation of reality. Economists routinely use the framework to form their views on everything from taxation to global trade -- portraying it as a value-free, scientific approach, when in fact it carries a hidden ideology that casts completely free markets as the ideal."
...........................

"This perversion isn't Arrow's fault. He merely helped to prove a mathematical theorem, and was no blind advocate for markets. Indeed, he actually thought the theorem illustrated the limitations of capitalism, and he was prescient in understanding how economic inequality might come to impair the workings of democratic government. Perhaps it would be best to use his own words: "In a system where virtually all resources are available for a price, economic power can be translated into political power by channels too obvious for mention. In a capitalist society, economic power is very unequally distributed, and hence democratic government is inevitably something of a sham.""
......................
https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2017-03-09/the-misunderstanding-at-the-core-of-economics

RC AKA Darryl, Ron -> RGC... , April 08, 2017 at 06:48 AM
Excellent.
RC AKA Darryl, Ron -> RGC... , April 08, 2017 at 09:54 AM
"I Suspect the Major Reason for the Rise in Concentration Is Technological Change, Particularly in IT"
Posted on April 7, 2017 by ProMarket writers

In this installment of ProMarket's interview series on concentration in America, Chicago Booth professor Steven Kaplan discusses the reasons for the rise in concentration. "Overall, the increases in concentration from technology and regulation are positive while the increase from rent seeking is a negative."

https://promarket.org/suspect-major-reason-rise-concentration-technological-change-particularly/


[The article linked above entirely misses "how economic inequality might come to impair the workings of democratic government." Kaplan is very tentative about linking inequality to concentration and is generally less concerned with inequality per se than monopoly rent seeking. As long as all the sharks in the tank are free then everything is OK.]

RC AKA Darryl, Ron -> RC AKA Darryl, Ron... , April 08, 2017 at 09:55 AM
It's getting to be a bad time to be a little fish again.
RGC -> RC AKA Darryl, Ron... , April 08, 2017 at 10:29 AM
Walmart, Home Depot and various chains/licensees are examples of concentration that didn't arise because of network effects. Rather, they used their advantage of overwhelming amounts of capital backing to under-price and/or outlast smaller competitors.

As a result we have wealth moving from the top 20% to the top 0.1%, wealth less geographically disbursed and fly-over country deteriorating.

Peter K. -> RGC... , April 08, 2017 at 10:51 AM
And PGL [hearts] Walmart which bankrolls liberal think tanks like the Center for American Progess.

We wouldn't want the move to the left the Democratic party and younger left-liberals are undergoing to get out of hand would we?!?!?

pgl -> Peter K.... , April 08, 2017 at 11:05 AM
Gee - I heart what? Maybe you missed my Econospeak post where I noted how they abused transfer pricing. Something to do with Hong Kong sourcing affiliates. I'd explain it to you all over again but you would get angry as you usually do when you cannot grasp simple concepts.
cm -> RGC... , April 08, 2017 at 12:17 PM
Network effects? How about economy of scale, not least management at scale enabled by IT? Not just in retail, IT has significantly increased management efficiency, i.e. raised the thresholds of size and complexity where an organization becomes unmanageable (which I would define as taking on more size or complexity leads to a *reduction* or at least no increment in output/profit).
cm -> RGC... , April 08, 2017 at 12:20 PM
According to a number of claims I read long ago, Walmart's power over suppliers derived in large part from the volume they could command. Capital or not, they will not order more volume than they can sell - so they have to be able to sell that much stuff, and profitably, to begin with.
point -> RC AKA Darryl, Ron... , April 08, 2017 at 11:07 AM
The opinions of the professor seem to belong to someone who has never spent any time studying a real business.
RC AKA Darryl, Ron -> point... , April 08, 2017 at 11:29 AM
...or worrying about how he was going to pay the bills.

[Apr 06, 2017] How Land Disappeared from Economic Theory

Apr 06, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com
RGC , April 05, 2017 at 06:41 AM
[ Why does "Progress" and "Productivity" lead to poverty and inequality?]

[You have to read the whole post]

How Land Disappeared from Economic Theory


For classical economists, it was a factor of production, and the source of "rent."
..............
In reality, however, land and capital are fundamentally distinctive phenomena. Land is permanent, cannot be produced or reproduced, cannot be 'used up' and does not depreciate. None of these features apply to capital. Capital goods are produced by humans, depreciate over time due to physical wear and tear and innovations in technology (think of computers or mobile phones) and they can be replicated.

In any set of national accounts, you will find a sizeable negative number detailing physical capital stock 'depreciation': net, not gross capital investment is the preferred variable used in calculating a nations's output. When it comes to land, net and gross values are equal.

http://evonomics.com/josh-ryan-collins-land-economic-theory/
..................

RGC -> RGC... , April 05, 2017 at 06:54 AM
There are root causes (ultimate causes) and there are peripheral causes (proximate causes).

If you want to solve a problem, you first have to sort-out proximate versus ultimate causes and identify the ultimate (root) cause of that problem.

paine -> RGC... , April 05, 2017 at 11:44 AM
You are battling with ideal types

Frank ramsey simply
thought of a spectrum of
Supply elasticity
from zero to unlimited

paine -> paine... , April 05, 2017 at 11:47 AM
As a practical matter
no land type
is fixed even if
each location
is fixed
we have metrics but
the features are changeable
paine -> paine... , April 05, 2017 at 11:56 AM
Consider capital to be a social construct

machines coal mines hay fields rain forests
glacial lakes these are physical constructs
that society
ie acting at the social level
can capitalize
By adding labor
produces product that exchanges
on markets for more then the labor
costs

RGC -> paine... , April 05, 2017 at 12:08 PM
Granted. I would like to see us reach the point where the issue is even raised.
RGC -> RGC... , April 05, 2017 at 12:32 PM
Resurrected... Un-buried...

Dug up from the cold, hard ground where the neoclassicals buried it.

[Apr 06, 2017] Neoliberal economics have hidden behind forecasting is not our job defense for too long

Apr 06, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com
BenIsNotYoda , April 05, 2017 at 04:28 AM
Noah Smith says important things in his post. Economists have hidden behind "forecasting is not our job" defense for too long. I would like to add that as with any model, in sample and out of sample testing is very important. Economists never do that. The latest attempt to add variables to explain the events of the last decade is another exercise in over fitting models. Pathetic.

"Macroeconomists typically respond that forecasting isn't their job. The economy has all kinds of things going on at any given time, they say -- too much randomness and noise to allow a reliable forecast. The best they can do, macroeconomists will say, is to predict the effects of specific policies.

This defense is weak. If the economy is dominated by random noise, that noise will also permeate the data that is used to validate macroeconomic models. If forecasting is impossible, then picking the right policy-evaluation model will also be impossible. Also, the inability to forecast is often a clue that a model is just plain wrong."

pgl -> BenIsNotYoda... , April 05, 2017 at 08:09 AM
Can I try another tack? People expect us to be good forecasters. We're not. The old adage applies - "why do economists forecast? To make the weather man look good".
pgl -> BenIsNotYoda... , April 05, 2017 at 08:12 AM
"My favorite paper in this literature is by Refet Gurkaynak, Burcin Kisacikoglu, and Barbara Rossi. In 2013, they took some of the most advanced modern macroeconomic models then available -- called DSGE, for dynamic stochastic general equilibrium -- and tested them against some very simple models called autoregressive (AR) models."

Noah and I share one thing in common - a certain disdain for these overly complex and highly unrealistic DSGE models. Of course they missed the Great Recession. Many of them rely on assumptions that markets are perfect and instantly clear. If one ignore an issue - that issue can come back to bite you fast.

BenIsNotYoda -> pgl... , April 05, 2017 at 09:48 AM
I share your skepticism of the DSGE models. However, the problems are more basic and applies across model types.

1) very few papers come up with models to forecast. instead of testing the ability to forecast, they quantify how well past data is fit. Then they will produce some bogus looking charts of impulse responses to one variable holding all else equal. The impulse response charts are the most useless output in econ papers.

2) It is far easier to produce a model with good in sample forecasts. It is far more difficult to produce true good out of sample forecasts. I have really not seen economists do out of sample forecasting in an honest way.

pgl -> BenIsNotYoda... , April 05, 2017 at 10:45 AM
All true. Documenting the past is so much easier than forecasting. Of course - anyone can see what has happened.
paine -> BenIsNotYoda... , April 05, 2017 at 11:20 AM
The job of the state
is to make macro outcomes
not predict them


We need the best real time
Data
and the fastest acting macro
instruments
its the task of economists
to design these system

paine -> paine... , April 05, 2017 at 11:32 AM
Forecasting markets is a fools task
As a scientist

Like alchemy its goal is gold
out of lead
when market systems
are inherently historistic
and thus radically uncertain
at time intervals long enough
to be meaningful
to macro forecasting

ilsm -> paine... , April 05, 2017 at 02:48 PM
I used cost

forecasts

we observed

it is hard

to say

a "fallacy

about the future"

paine -> BenIsNotYoda... , April 05, 2017 at 02:48 PM
Weather models

V

Market models

Hardly similar
we can impact markets
thru state action
making outcomes not forecasting them

[Apr 04, 2017] In Neo-classical Economics as a Stratagem Against Henry George

Notable quotes:
"... As with any major reform movement, the corporate backlash was predictable. In Neo-classical Economics, Gaffney reveals that this backlash took two main forms. The first was the Red Scare (1919-1989), overseen by J Edgar Hoover as Assistant Attorney General and later as FBI director. ..."
"... The second was more insidious and involved the deliberate reframing of the classical economic theory developed by Adam Smith, Locke, Hume, and Ricardo as so-called neoclassical economics. ..."
Apr 04, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com
RGC , April 03, 2017 at 06:36 AM
Karl Marx vs Henry George

by Stuart Jeanne Bramhall / August 12th, 2013


Why do American children study Karl Marx, the villain we love to hate, in school? Yet Henry George, whose views on land and tax reform gave rise to the Progressive and Populist movements of the 1900s, is totally absent from US history books.

During the 1890s George, author of the 1879 bestseller Progress and Poverty, was the third most famous American, after Mark Twain and Thomas Edison. In 1896 he outpolled Teddy Roosevelt and was nearly elected mayor of New York.

In Neo-classical Economics as a Stratagem Against Henry George (2007), University of California economist Mason Gaffney argues that George and his Land Value Tax pose a far greater threat than Marx to America's corporate elite.

America's enormous concentration of wealth has always depended on the inherent right of the wealthy elite to seize and monopolize vast quantities of land and natural resources (oil, gas, forests, water, minerals, etc) for personal profit.

Adopting an LVT, which is far easier than launching a violent revolution, would essentially negate that right. What's more, every jurisdiction that has ever implemented an LVT finds it works exactly the way George predicted it would. Productivity, prosperity, and social wellbeing flourish, while inflation, wealth inequality, and boom and bust recessions and depressions virtually vanish.

When Progress and Poverty first came out in 1879, it started a worldwide reform movement that in the US manifested in the fiercely anti-corporate Populist Movement in the 1880s and later the Progressive Movement (1900-1920). Many important anti-corporate reforms came out of this period, including the Sherman Antitrust Act (1890), a constitutional amendment allowing Americans to elect the Senate by popular vote (prior to 1913 the Senate was appointed by state legislators), and the country's first state-owned bank, The Bank of North Dakota (1919).

The Corporate Elite Strikes Back

As with any major reform movement, the corporate backlash was predictable. In Neo-classical Economics, Gaffney reveals that this backlash took two main forms. The first was the Red Scare (1919-1989), overseen by J Edgar Hoover as Assistant Attorney General and later as FBI director.

The second was more insidious and involved the deliberate reframing of the classical economic theory developed by Adam Smith, Locke, Hume, and Ricardo as so-called neoclassical economics.

The latter totally negates Adam Smith's basic differentiation between "land", a limited, non-producible resource. and "capital", a reproducible result of past human production. Smith, Locke, Hume, and Ricardo all held that individuals have no right to seize and monopolize scarce natural resources, such as land, minerals, water, and forests. They believed that because these resources are both limited and essential for human survival, they should belong to the public.

Neoclassical economics, which first developed in the 1890s, was based on the premise that growth and development can only occur if a handful of rent-seekers are allowed to monopolize scarce land and natural resources for their personal profit. Henry George, who publicly debated the early pioneers of neoclassical economics, claimed the science of economics was being deliberately distorted to discredit him. Gaffney agrees. Because George's proposal to replace income and sales tax with single land value taxed is based on logical concepts of land, capital, labor, and rent advanced by Adam Smith, Locke, Hume, and Ricardo, they all had to be discredited.

Gaffney believes neoclassical economic theory undermines George's arguments for a single Land Value Tax in two basic ways: 1) by claiming that land is no different from other capital (ironically Marx made the identical argument) and 2) by portraying the science of economics as a series of hard choices and sacrifices that low and middle income people must make. Some examples:

If we want efficiency, we must sacrifice equity.

To attract business, we must lower taxes and shut libraries and defund schools.

To prevent inflation, we must keep a large number of Americans unemployed.

To create jobs, we must destroy the environment and pollute the air, water, and food chain.

To raise productivity, we must fire people.

Gaffney's book traces the phenomenal public support Georgism enjoyed before the tenets of neoclassical economics took hold in American universities. In addition to inspiring the Populist and Progressive movements, an LVT to fund irrigation projects in California's Central Valley made California the top producing farm state. In 1916 the first federal income tax law was introduced by Georgist members of Congress (Henry George Jr and Warren Bailey) and included virtually no tax on wages. In 1934 Georgist Upton Sinclair was almost elected governor of California.


Gaffney also identifies the robber barons whose fortunes financed the economics departments of the major universities who went on to substitute neooclassical economics for classical economic theory. At the top of this list were

Ezra Cornell (owner of both Western Union and Associated Press) – founder of Cornell University

John D Rockefeller – helped fund the University of Chicago and installed his cronies in its economics department.

J. P Morgan – investment banker and early funder of Columbia University

B&O Railroad – John Hopkins University

Southern Pacific Railroad – Stanford University

The final section of Gaffney's book lays out the tragic economic, political, and social consequences of allowing the Red Scare and neoclassical economics to stifle America's movement for a single Land Value Tax:

Economic Consequences

The corporate elite has privatized, or is privatizing, most of the public domain (including fisheries, the public airwaves, water, offshore oil and gas, and the right to clean air) without compensation to the public.

The rate of saving and capital formation continues to fall rapidly. This is the main reason there is no recovery.
Although profits soar, corporations have no incentive to invest in expansion and jobs. Instead they invest their profits in real estate, derivatives, and commodities speculation.

American capital is decayed and obsolete. The US has lost much of its steel and auto industries. Power plants and oil refineries are ancient and polluting. Most public capital (infrastructure) is old and crumbling.

The number of American farms has fallen from 6 million in 1920 to 1 million in 2007.

The USA, once so self-sufficient, has grown dangerously dependent on importing raw materials and foreign manufacturers.

The US financial system is a shambles, supported only by loading trillions of dollars of bad debts onto the taxpayers.

Real wage rates have continued to fall since 1975,
Unemployment has risen to chronically high levels.
Inequality in wealth and income continues to increase rapidly.

Political Consequences

The corporate elite has nullified all the Progressive Era electoral reforms by pouring money into politics and "deep lobbying," at all levels of government, including our institutions of higher learning and our public schools.

The corporate elite continue to pour ever more of our tax money into prisons.

Social Consequences

Homelessness has risen to new heights, in spite of decades of subsidies to home-building and, favorable tax treatment of owner-occupied homes

Hunger is rampant.

Street begging, once rare, is everywhere

Americans have experienced a sharp loss of community, honor, duty, loyalty and patriotism.

In the shadow world between crime and business there is now the vast, gray underground economy that includes tax evasion, tax avoidance, and drug-dealing.

The US which once led the world in nearly every endeavor, has fallen far behind in infant survival, in longevity, in literacy, in numeracy, in mental health.

American education no longer leads the world. Privatized education in the form of commercial TV has largely superseded public education.

http://dissidentvoice.org/2013/08/karl-marx-vs-henry-george/

[Apr 04, 2017] How Do We Reclaim Control Of Our Lives When the Economy Looms So Grim

Notable quotes:
"... he never lost his aversion for the 'economism' that presumes that matters of public policy, employment, ecology and culture can be interpreted mainly in terms of mathematical abstractions. ..."
"... Lean Logic: A Dictionary for the Future and How to Survive It ..."
"... Tomorrow's World ..."
"... So in an economy like ours, a technological advance that doubles the amount of useful work a person can do in a day becomes a problem rather than a benefit. It tends to put half the workers out of work, turning them into a potential drain on the state. ..."
"... Tomorrow's World ..."
"... Lean Logic ..."
"... Surviving the Future: Culture, Carnival and Capital in the Aftermath of the Market Economy ..."
"... Didn't residents keep on doing whatever they were doing when the Vesuvius erupted ..."
"... As a dispirited milennial myself, it seems that the best option for me is to cut loose, live somewhere cheap and warm, enjoy nature and some friendly neighbors and watch this apocalypse unfold. ..."
"... News from Nowhere ..."
"... Illegitimi non carborundum ..."
"... During my time as a retail worker it struck me how much of effective customer service was really an unpaid use of our spontaneous urge to give aid to other people, to respond to their needs as human beings. ..."
"... We were often in the position of spiking the SOP of the business to get them what they wanted. It hit me then how much the ostensible money economy is a free rider on the world of our human non-economic lives, or is like free clean water used in an industrial process. ..."
"... One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch ..."
Apr 04, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com
As my friend David Fleming once wrote, conventional economics 'puts the grim into reality.'

Something of a radical, back in the 1970s Fleming was involved in the early days of what is now the Green Party of England and Wales. Frustrated by the mainstream's limited engagement with ecological thinking, he urged his peers to learn the language and concepts of economics in order to confound the arguments of their opponents.

By the time I met Fleming in 2006, he had practised what he preached and earned himself a PhD in Economics. But he never lost his aversion for the 'economism' that presumes that matters of public policy, employment, ecology and culture can be interpreted mainly in terms of mathematical abstractions.

Worse, he noted that even the word ' economics' has the power to make these life-defining topics seem impenetrable, none-of-our-business and, of all things, boring . Fleming's work was all about returning them to their rightful owners-those whose lives are shaped by them, meaning all of us.

Fleming was a key influence on the birth of the New Economics Foundation and Transition Towns movement , but it was only in the aftermath of his sudden death in 2010 that I discovered the breadth of the powerfully-different vision of economics that underpinned his life. On his home computer I discovered a manuscript for the book he had been preparing to publish after thirty years' work entitled Lean Logic: A Dictionary for the Future and How to Survive It .

Reminding us that our present growth-based market economy has only been around for a couple of hundred years (and is already hitting the buffers), Fleming's lifework looks to the great majority of human history for insight: "We know what we need to do," he writes , "We need to build the sequel, to draw on inspiration which has lain dormant, like the seed beneath the snow."

What he found was that-in the absence of a perpetually-growing economy- community and culture are key. He quotes, for example, the historian Juliet Schor's view of working life in the Middle Ages:

"The medieval calendar was filled with holidays These were spent both in sober churchgoing and in feasting, drinking and merrymaking All told, holiday leisure time in medieval England took up probably about one third of the year. And the English were apparently working harder than their neighbors. The a ncien régime in France is reported to have guaranteed fifty-two Sundays, ninety rest days, and thirty-eight holidays. In Spain, travelers noted that holidays totaled five months per year."

Reading this took me back to a childhood fed by TV programmes like the BBC's Tomorrow's World , which had informed me that by now robots would be doing all the menial work, leaving humans free to relax and enjoy an abundance of leisure time. So it came as a shock to realise that the good folk of the Middle Ages were enjoying far more of it than we are in our technologically-advanced society. What gives? Fleming explains ,

"In a competitive market economy a large amount of roughly-equally-shared leisure time – say, a three-day working week, or less – is hard to sustain, because any individuals who decide to instead work a full week can produce for a lower price (by working longer hours than the competition they can produce a greater quantity of goods and services, and thus earn the same wage by selling each one more cheaply). These more competitive people would then be fully employed, and would put the more leisurely out of business completely. This is what puts the grim into reality."

So in an economy like ours, a technological advance that doubles the amount of useful work a person can do in a day becomes a problem rather than a benefit. It tends to put half the workers out of work, turning them into a potential drain on the state.

Of course, in theory all the workers could just work half-time and still produce all that is needed, much as Tomorrow's World predicted. But in practice they are often afraid of having their pay cut, or losing their jobs to a stranger who is willing to work longer hours, so they can't take the steps needed to solve their collective economic problems and enjoy more leisurely lives. Instead, people are kept busy partly through what anthropologist David Graeber memorably characterised as " bullshit jobs ."

How, then, can we feed, house and support ourselves without working as relentlessly as we do today? Fleming's work explores the answer, making a rigorous case that we need to get beyond mainstream economists' ideas of minimising 'spare labour' if we are to sustain a post-growth economy. This 'spare labour' is what most of us would call spare time-a welcome part of a life well lived rather than a 'problem of unemployment.'

He highlights that the holidays of former times were far from a product of laziness. Rather they were, in an important sense, what men and women lived for . 'Spare time' spent in feasting, performing, collaborating and merrymaking together formed the basis of community bonding and membership. Those shared cultural ties hold people together, even in the absence of economic growth and full-time employment. When productivity improves, as one of his readers put it , "in our system you have a problem, in Fleming's system you have a party."

Under the current economic paradigm, the only way to keep unemployment from rising to the point where the population can't be supported is through endless economic growth, which thus becomes an obligation. So we are damned if we grow and damned if we don't, since endless growth will eventually cross every conceivable biophysical boundary and destroy the planet's ability to support us. That's why, in practice, we just keep growing and cross our fingers that somehow it will all work out. As Fleming writes :

"The reduction of a society and culture to dependence on mathematical abstraction has infantilised a grown-up civilisation and is well on the way to destroying it. Civilisations self-destruct anyway, but it is reasonable to ask whether they have done so before with such enthusiasm, in obedience to such an acutely absurd superstition, while claiming with such insistence that they were beyond being seduced by the irrational promises of religion."

Technological fixes do not help, as we are all discovering to our cost. We are already working ever harder, and with ever more advanced technologies, yet the hope of a better future dwindles day-by-day. Take heart though, for when the current paradigm transparently provides nothing but a dead end, we can be sure that we are on the cusp of a fundamental shift.

Fleming provides a radical but historically-proven alternative: focusing neither on the growth or de-growth of the market economy, but the huge expansion of the 'informal' or non-monetary economy-the 'core economy' that allows our society to exist, even today. This is the economy of what we love: of the things we naturally do when not otherwise compelled, of music, play, family, volunteering, activism, friendship and home.

At present, this core non-monetary economy is much weakened, pushed out and wounded by the invasion of the market. Fleming's work demonstrates that nurturing it back to health is not just some quaint and obsolete sharing longing but an absolute practical priority.

The key challenge of today, for Fleming, is to repair the atrophied social structures on which most human cultures have been built; to rediscover how to rely on each other rather than on money alone. Then life after the painful yet inevitable end to the growth of the monetary economy will start to seem feasible again, and our technological progress can bring us the fruits it always promised.

Lean Logic finally reached posthumous publication with Chelsea Green Publishing in September 2016, alongside a paperback version edited by me called Surviving the Future: Culture, Carnival and Capital in the Aftermath of the Market Economy . Needless to say, both books are deeply controversial, overthrowing as they do the central paradigm of our economy. As the writer Jonathon Porritt said at a launch event for the books last month , "there is no conventional political party anywhere in the world that doesn't have economic growth as the underpinning foundation, but David Fleming developed unique, astonishing ideas about resilience and good lives for people without growth."

It's increasingly clear that this is the conversation we all need to have, and Fleming's compelling, grounded vision of a post-growth world is rare in its ability to inspire optimism in the creativity and intelligence of human beings to nurse our economy, ecology and culture back to health. I am proud to have played a part in bringing it to the world; in fact, it might just be the best thing I have done.

> habenicht , April 3, 2017 at 7:22 am

Great post.

I think about these themes a lot and this is a helpful way of framing the underlying concepts (and explaining them to others).

fresno dan , April 3, 2017 at 7:52 am

The thing of it is, we have had growth except for recessions every 10 years or so. But somewhere along the line, due to the fact that we can never speak of "DISTRIBUTION" of this growth, we get the completely artificial idea that the lower income can ONLY be helped by higher growth. Economics has a nice scam going – only if the rich get much richer can anything be done for the 90%.

And we're told (by the rich) that this is just "natural" – a law of nature .Yeah, back when the church owned everything the priests told us it was God who wanted it that way. Now the economic priests tell us its nature that wants it this way

https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/GDPC1

Carla , April 3, 2017 at 8:16 am

Here's an antidote to fred: http://www.steadystate.org

The 15-page list of notables who have endorsed the imperative for a steady state economy includes E.O. Wilson, Jane Goodall, Maude Barlow, Herman Daly, and Wendell Berry (list available for download at http://www.steadystate.org/act/sign-the-position/endorsements-and-signatures/view-notable-signatures ).

Anyone can sign the Steady State Position Statement here:
http://www.steadystate.org/act/sign-the-position/read-the-position-statement/

Left in Wisconsin , April 3, 2017 at 11:02 am

I am increasingly of the view that we conflate two entirely different ideas, or that we don't emphasize enough that there are two fundamentally different critiques, when we challenge economists' reliance on "growth." I'm not opposed to the notion of 'steady-state' economics. But it seems presumptuous TSTL for Americans (famously 5% of the world's population using 25% of the world's resources), really 'first-world'ers in general, to say, "OK, no more growth and time to stay within in our limits, and by the way I'm good with what I've got." So I think there is a lot more work that has to be done to make that concept appropriate in a reality-based sense.

Whereas, even though Marxists have often tended toward productivist notions of economic growth that share many problematic features of capitalist growth, there is a deconstruction of capitalist, and neoclassical depictions of, economic growth that is not by definition anti-community or anti-planet. While the fundamental issues are power and control, they are perhaps most easily understood through measurement – specifically what capitalists and their economists choose to measure as growth and what they choose to ignore or take for granted. Why is paying someone else to take care of your kid considered 'economic activity,' a provider of 'jobs,' a contributor to economic growth, but raising your own kid is not? Actually, working at McDonald's while you pay someone to raise your kid counts as two jobs, while raising your own kid counts as no jobs, even though the second is in virtually all cases a socially superior outcome. (True, someone else might take that job at McD's, so the net might only be one job. But with less demand for that job, perhaps it would have to pay more and be a better job.) If you extend this line of thinking through elder care, and then family- and community-based health care ('health care' in the widest, not specifically industrial sense of the word), one could imagine substantially more healthy (in the widest sense) families, communities, and societies with substantially lower carbon footprints than our current predicament.

One question is, if one took current measures of paid 'care work' as a baseline for what counts as 'work,' and then provided similar levels of compensation to those currently performing similar unpaid work (and I would advocate for higher pay for carers with a closer social bond to those they care for, because in knowing the 'patient' better they are more 'skilled'), what implications would that have for 'the economy' and the society in general?

(Similarly, as many others have noted, we need new economic categories that allow us to identify negative economic activity (much finance, deforestation, pollution, waste, de-humanization, etc.) that subtracts from standard measures of well-being rather than being included in them.)

There are many different ways to think about this, not all positive. Commodification vs. de-commodification is a long-running discussion in Marxist circles, and one could imagine arguments in favor of extending the latter to many more spheres of society. I think many supporters of BIG are de-commifiers at heart. Even in our current context, massively improving and extending paid leave is a nod in this direction. OTOH, one could also easily imagine to make kids the one paying their parents to raise them, and going even deeper into debt, on the same logic of paying for college – your parents are working to improve your social capital and earning potential and so you should pay them out of your future earnings.

Relatedly, I am not opposed to alternative measures of social well-being, such as 'happiness indexes.' But until we are able to directly challenge capitalist and neoclassical hegemony over what counts as paid work (i.e. 'useful economic activity') and directly address the economic cost of social 'bads,' there will be no taking the foot off the accelerator of economic growth, even as we plunge Thelma-and-Louise-style over the cliff.

Carla , April 3, 2017 at 12:07 pm

Brilliant comment, LiW.

And I believe that at least several, if not all, of the "notable signers" listed in my comment above have actually done some of that challenging of capitalist and neoclassical hegemony for which you are calling.

I absolutely agree that "there is a lot more work that has to be done to make that [steady state economy] concept appropriate in a reality-based sense."

But we have to start somewhere, so I'm trying to spread the word about http://www.steadystate.org

OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL , April 3, 2017 at 3:58 pm

I think we can continue with "growth" maybe not indefinitely but certainly for a very long time to come. Just remove the giant parasitic vampire squid that drains away all of the blood, 8 guys holding 50% of the world's wealth, I mean gimme a break you don't have to be a dreaded pinko Commie to think that is just hideously wrong. The more we talk about that and the less we talk about how great it is for us all to cut back and move into Mom's basement the better. It's US versus THEM and there are very very few of THEM.

redleg , April 3, 2017 at 8:18 pm

Fantastic comment.

Piling on:
All of the artists that I personally know, and I know many, make their living doing something other than their art. Even the professional musicians get paid playing someone else's music so they can make their own.
So the thing that gives an artist's life meaning- creating art- and contributes to or even defines a local or regional culture doesn't count as work, but the day job does. The cost of making the art not only doesn't count as a job, it counts as a drain of resources in terms of both time and treasure.

HBE , April 3, 2017 at 7:55 am

I had never heard of the author or the book, I will definitely be ordering it. It's helpful to have a reminder now and again, that our society, and whole way of living and being is a historical aberration and there are many better options.

It also made me smile while reading to think about someone like Krugman reading this book and twisting themselves into pretzels to dispute it (reality).

I imagine it would be one very complex pretzel but if anything could manage it, it would be a serious of krugfacts.

Moneta , April 3, 2017 at 8:17 am

Didn't residents keep on doing whatever they were doing when the Vesuvius erupted?

Humans need a good dose of delusion to be mentally healthy. Perma-optimism is humanity's biggest challenge.

optimader , April 3, 2017 at 3:30 pm

Didn't residents keep on doing whatever they were doing when the Vesuvius erupted
Briefly

Steve H. , April 3, 2017 at 9:36 am

: What he found was that-in the absence of a perpetually-growing economy-community and culture are key.

There is a distinct difference from an ordinary pastoral in 'As You Like It' – the shepherds do not own their sheep, and specific reference is made to the rural displaced, set to walk and die on the roads. The policy was simply industrialized post-WWII, with tracts of suburbs in company towns, separated from the competing allegiances of extended family and culture.

The problem is an old one. The successful solutions are not well publicized. The equivocations of economicysts are now being revealed, and needs be drawn and quartered for the metastases they encourage.

jerry , April 3, 2017 at 10:21 am

Soo.. we're working more now than the middle ages. Great! Good job america!

As a dispirited milennial myself, it seems that the best option for me is to cut loose, live somewhere cheap and warm, enjoy nature and some friendly neighbors and watch this apocalypse unfold. I sure as hell am not grinding my life away in the corporate trenches for ever-diminishing purchasing power, give me a job at the grocer! What's that they've all been automated? Oh, damnit.

optimader , April 3, 2017 at 3:30 pm

As a dispirited milennial myself, it seems that the best option for me is to cut loose, live somewhere cheap and warm, enjoy nature and some friendly neighbors and watch this apocalypse unfold.

Also the case for a reasonably affluent babyboomer

james brown , April 3, 2017 at 4:46 pm

I actually did that. At 55, seven years ago now, I got disgusted and bailed out. I closed my business (I actually gave it to my last two employees who wanted to keep going), sold my couple of real estate holding in the city (my house and my business property) and moved out to the sticks to brood and live cheaply. Turns out the living is cheap but there's been no brooding. Although I had a ball in business, until the last two years, I've never had this much fun and contentment with life. I'm a two bit hobby farmer or homesteader, if you will. You say that flippantly, as I did, but bailing out and disconnecting from a Madison Ave determined lifestyle can actually be quite rewarding. It's not for everyone but it's been a very fulfilling experience for me. Good luck.

casino implosion , April 3, 2017 at 10:32 am

Here's a good blog that might appeal:

https://therealmovement.wordpress.com/2017/03/31/why-reducing-the-work-week-is-better-than-basic-income/

Susan the other , April 3, 2017 at 10:46 am

I had a weird dream about capitalism in reverse. Where we came to understand money as just another form of energy and distributed it to people regularly so nobody needed to sell their labor and the economy didn't need to grow to make profits. Instead of selling products/labor, everyone used their money to make things we need and then paid again to give their product to someone: "I'll give you the cost of making this naturally cured ham if you will please take it and enjoy it." And we gave our money back to the environment the same way: here, please take all of our energy and help to repair yourself. Or, we've spent our energy making these sustainable homes, and we can offer your family $20K to take one and live in it. Sounds so nutty. I guess it would still work to form a partnership, pool our money, and build a state of the art drug research lab. And pay people to use these excellent drugs. Never mind.

cocomaan , April 3, 2017 at 11:47 am

This is awesome. Please have more dreams like this.

Mel , April 3, 2017 at 12:26 pm

William Morris, News from Nowhere . Pleasant overview, not big on infrastructure, well-handled dream sequence. To clarify: I approve, but don't expect this book to give assembly instructions.

optimader , April 3, 2017 at 3:27 pm

How does that work for Hookers?

DolleyMadison , April 3, 2017 at 4:18 pm

Ich bin ein hookers now

OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL , April 3, 2017 at 4:03 pm

Hi Susan, related to your dream, see below. The guy concludes "Bitcoin" but it's very well worth a read anyway:
https://extranewsfeed.com/energy-money-and-the-destruction-of-equilibrium-da96f8a225d6

Anna Zimmerman , April 3, 2017 at 11:44 am

Thanks for this great post, more like it please! It's no good endlessly criticising the status quo we all need to spend more time discussing the alternatives and moving ourselves forward.

diptherio , April 3, 2017 at 12:40 pm

See here for much more like this:

http://www.geo.coop

Enquiring Mind , April 3, 2017 at 1:14 pm

Illegitimi non carborundum , one of my favorite Latinesque quotes.

See also for some Dog Latin diversion.

Cat Burglar , April 3, 2017 at 2:00 pm

During my time as a retail worker it struck me how much of effective customer service was really an unpaid use of our spontaneous urge to give aid to other people, to respond to their needs as human beings.

We were often in the position of spiking the SOP of the business to get them what they wanted. It hit me then how much the ostensible money economy is a free rider on the world of our human non-economic lives, or is like free clean water used in an industrial process.

My co-workers and I sometimes became bitter about the low wages, and stopped paying attention to people, but we couldn't keep it up for long, because you couldn't feel good for long about taking it out on innocent people, and eventually even the bitterest co-workers would encounter someone they just had to respond to as another person. We all figured out, sooner or later, that the connection was the enduring value in the job.

This book, Lean Logic has twigged to this reality underlying the economy.

Mel , April 3, 2017 at 2:08 pm

Hmmm. Resonates strongly with the bricklaying scene in Solzhenitsyn's One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch (about working in a prison camp.) I've got to see tomorrow if the bookstore can get Lean Logic .

Anon , April 3, 2017 at 2:03 pm

Something about this discussion reminds me of Stewart Brand and the "Whole Earth Catalog".

Tim , April 3, 2017 at 3:15 pm

In an Utopian world the hardest least desirable jobs pay the most. CEOs make minimum wage while the burger flippers being whipped by managers to hurry up are raking it in but do we have enough unambitious intelligent people to keep the world turning

Socialism will always have to be balanced by the carrot and stick to minimize the mis-allocation of resources.

Michael C. , April 3, 2017 at 4:36 pm

Thus we can see reasons behind the high priority capitalistic societies put on individualism, privatization, the self, the breaking down of "the commons," and fearing other groups, such as Hispanics, Jews, or Muslims, at one time Catholics too as in the US. The whole mode of social "we're all in this together" thinking is antithetical to it's reason for being. We need to think "bigly" with a whole new paradigm (or is it an ancient paradigm) on how we view the world, and we better do so quickly.

[Apr 03, 2017] Can central banks regain the publics trust ?

Notable quotes:
"... "Trust in institutions generally has taken a body blow over the past few years. The Edelman global survey suggests that public trust in businesses, government, NGOs and the media has fallen sharply. In 2016, only around half of the general public trusted these bodies. ..."
"... ... What is true of institutions appears to be true too of the economics profession. A recent poll by YouGov in the UK asked the general public how much they trusted various professions. Economists were towards the bottom of this list, well below scientists, historians, weather forecasters and even sports commentators." ..."
"... While the net approval of economic policy fell sharply in the Great Recession, it had been moving down since the early 2000s. In the past few years, households' assessment of economic policy got back to around its average historical level. Yet that still leaves slightly more people saying economic policy is doing a poor job than a good job. The large gap between today and the late-1990s sure looks like more than a messaging problem. ..."
Apr 03, 2017 | bankofengland.co.uk
... "how central banks could regain the public's trust by changing the way they communicate." Well worth a read. It also fits in the avalanche of commentary on how economists should engage with the public as experts and how much trust economists deserve. Some examples online from just the past few days here and here.

I can see many reasons why central banks and economists should engage with the public. (And that's even without getting into communication policy tools, like forward guidance, a topic I'll leave to the experts .) I wrote in an earlier post about a Fed Up event hosted by the Kansas City Fed. And as Steve Williamson points out in his post on Haldane's speech, Reserve Banks in the United States do many forms of community outreach. (A point Haldane does acknowledge too.) What's less clear to me is whether better communication is sufficient for raising trust. Nowhere in his speech does Haldane show that a lack of communication caused the reduced trust in central banks. In fact, central-bank communication has dramatically risen. So was it the wrong kind or too little, too late? Even so, I struggle to imagine the community round table, social media campaign, or gaming app that would have convinced regular folks that the AIG bailout was a winner. And wouldn't it have been more bizarre if the public's confidence in central banks and economists had not taken a hit in the financial crisis? I get it that technocratic credibility and the independence it allows are crucial ingredients to monetary policy, but isn't that earned by outcomes not words?

Trust slipping away? ...

How much has trust in central banks declined? Haldane's Chart 12 shows trends across various countries since 1999, though the down-trending measure for the United States is about its economic leadership in general. This reminded me of analysis done by Richard Curtin with the Michigan Survey. That survey asked U.S. households how their confidence in the Federal Reserve had changed after some major events: stock market crash of 1987, financial crisis/early recovery, and then later in this recovery. At each point, more people said their confidence in the Fed had fallen relative to five years earlier than had increased, but the net decline in confidence was sharpest around the financial crisis. Curtin also noted, not surprisingly, that individuals' confidence in the Fed (or the lack thereof) and their outlook for the economy were strongly correlated.

Even so, I don't have a sense from any of these data what is the appropriate level of trust or confidence in central banks and how far we are from it now. Maybe with Greenspan, or as his biographer dubbed him, " The Man Who Knew ," the public put too much trust in the Fed? And for an institution that got its start on a fake duck hunt in 1910, the complicated relationship with trust and transparency goes way back.

A bigger problem? ...

Are the concerns now about damaged trust only limited to central banks? Haldane argues that institutions, experts, and economists have all lost ground:

"Trust in institutions generally has taken a body blow over the past few years. The Edelman global survey suggests that public trust in businesses, government, NGOs and the media has fallen sharply. In 2016, only around half of the general public trusted these bodies.

... What is true of institutions appears to be true too of the economics profession. A recent poll by YouGov in the UK asked the general public how much they trusted various professions. Economists were towards the bottom of this list, well below scientists, historians, weather forecasters and even sports commentators."

Central banks, which are institutions full of economists, are thus in for it. It is worth pointing out that politicians scored even lower than economists in trust and civil servants only a bit better, so economic policy, in general, faces a confidence deficit. But is this really new? Since 1970, the Michigan survey has asked households:

"As to the economic policy of the government - I mean steps taken to fight inflation or unemployment - would you say the government is going a good job, only fair, or a poor job?"

While the net approval of economic policy fell sharply in the Great Recession, it had been moving down since the early 2000s. In the past few years, households' assessment of economic policy got back to around its average historical level. Yet that still leaves slightly more people saying economic policy is doing a poor job than a good job. The large gap between today and the late-1990s sure looks like more than a messaging problem.

What can words achieve? ...


Much of Haldane's speech focuses on how inaccessible the communications of central banks, including the media coverage of monetary policy, are for the general public. Seems like this tells us something about central banks as well as who finds central banks interesting. An FOMC statement via tweetstorm (shudder, at that canoe) might be more accessible but that doesn't guarantee a wider audience. Attention is a scarce resource. Plus simpler words could make it harder not easier to get the intended message across.

Finally, pivoting back to how economists communicate in general ... a while ago I got interested in the econ-blogosphere and econ-Twitter. Has reading economics with the technical jargon stripped off and more personal views added on raised my confidence in economists? No, not really, but that wasn't my goal. I went online to sample from a wider range of views about what was not working in the economy. I was also interested in economics for a larger audience. Last year on staff at the Council of Economic Advisers I got the chance to do a lot more writing, largely for non-economists. It's hard to filter through research and convey findings in an accessible way ... and don't forget the tradeoffs. Accessible often means trimming off nuance and taking a reasoned stand on debates far from settled among economists. Even after all that simplifying, I once heard our economic reports referred to as "vegetables" by White House staff ... as in good for you, but not necessarily what you want to eat. Initially, I was a bit deflated but being good for people seems to me like a more important goal for experts than being the next Elvis.

PS: Haldane refers to Elvis several times, including his title. On that fun note, I'll add that Jessie J's Price Tag in 2011 struck me as a good Fed song: "Why is everybody so serious; Acting so damn mysterious ... It's not about the money money money; We don't need your money money money; We just wanna make the world dance ..."

[Apr 02, 2017] James Tobin -- Yale professor, Nobel laureate and adviser to John F. Kennedy -- died yesterday

Notable quotes:
"... In the 1960's Mr. Tobin's sophisticated Keynesianism made him the best-known intellectual opponent of Milton Friedman, then the advocate of a rival (and rather naïve) doctrine known as monetarism ..."
Apr 02, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com
anne -> anne... , April 02, 2017 at 04:38 PM
http://www.nytimes.com/2002/03/12/opinion/missing-james-tobin.html

March 12, 2002

Missing James Tobin
By PAUL KRUGMAN

James Tobin -- Yale professor, Nobel laureate and adviser to John F. Kennedy -- died yesterday. He was a great economist and a remarkably good man; his passing seems to me to symbolize the passing of an era, one in which economic debate was both nicer and a lot more honest than it is today.

Mr. Tobin was one of those economic theorists whose influence reaches so far that many people who have never heard of him are nonetheless his disciples. He was also, however, a public figure, for a time the most prominent advocate of an ideology we might call free-market Keynesianism -- a belief that markets are fine things, but that they work best if the government stands ready to limit their excesses. In a way, Mr. Tobin was the original New Democrat; it's ironic that some of his essentially moderate ideas have lately been hijacked by extremists right and left.

Mr. Tobin was one of the economists who brought the Keynesian revolution to America. Before that revolution, there seemed to be no middle ground in economics between laissez-faire fatalism and heavy-handed government intervention -- and with laissez-faire policies widely blamed for the Great Depression, it was hard to see how free-market economics could survive. John Maynard Keynes changed all that: with judicious use of monetary and fiscal policy, he suggested, a free-market system could avoid future depressions.

What did James Tobin add? Basically, he took the crude, mechanistic Keynesianism prevalent in the 1940's and transformed it into a far more sophisticated doctrine, one that focused on the tradeoffs investors make as they balance risk, return and liquidity.

In the 1960's Mr. Tobin's sophisticated Keynesianism made him the best-known intellectual opponent of Milton Friedman, then the advocate of a rival (and rather naïve) doctrine known as monetarism . For what it's worth, Mr. Friedman's insistence that changes in the money supply explain all of the economy's ups and downs has not stood the test of time; Mr. Tobin's focus on asset prices as the driving force behind economic fluctuations has never looked better. (Mr. Friedman is himself a great economist -- but his reputation now rests on other work.) ...

[Apr 02, 2017] Why Were Economists as a Group as Useless Over 2010 -2014 as Over 1929-1935?

Apr 02, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com
Peter K. , April 01, 2017 at 07:30 AM
http://www.bradford-delong.com/2017/04/why-were-economists-as-a-group-as-useless-over-2010-2014-as-over-1929-1935.html#more

Why Were Economists as a Group as Useless Over 2010 -2014 as Over 1929-1935?

by J. Bradford DeLong

April 01, 2017 at 07:04 AM

Let us start with two texts this morning:

Paul Krugman: Don't Blame Macroeconomics (Wonkish And Petty): "Robert Skidelsky... argues, quite correctly in my view, that economists have become far too inward-looking...

...But his prime examples of economics malfeasance are, well, terrible.... [The] more or less standard model of macroeconomics when interest rates are near zero [is] IS-LM in some form.... [And] policy had exactly the effects it was "supposed to." Now, policymakers chose not to believe this.... And yes, some economists gave them cover. But that's a very different story from the claim that economics failed to offer useful guidance...

Simon Wren-Lewis: Misrepresenting Academic Economists: "The majority of academic macroeconomists were always against austerity...

...Part of the problem is a certain disregard for consensus among economists. If you ask most scientists how a particular theory is regarded within their discipline, you will generally get a honest and fairly accurate answer.... Economists are less likely to preface a presentation of their work in the media with phrases like 'untested idea' or 'minority view'.... Part of Brad's post it seems to me is simply a lament that Reinhart and Rogoff are not even better economists than they already are. But there is also a very basic information problem: how does any economist, let alone someone who is not an economist, know what the consensus among economists is? How do we know that the people we meet at the conferences we go to are representative or not?...

"Mainstream", "academic", and "majority" are doing an awful lot of work here for both Paul and Simon. So let me repeat something I wrote last December, in response to Paul's liking to say that macroeconomics has done fine since 2007. Certainly Jim Tobin's macroeconomics has. John Maynard Keynes's macroeconomics has. Walter Bagehot, Hyman Minsky, and Charlie Kindleberger's macroeconomics has done fine.

But Bagehot and Minsky influenced the then top-five American economics departments--Chicago, MIT, Harvard, Princeton, Yale--only through Kindleberger. Charlie went emeritus from MIT in 1976 and died in 1991, and MIT made a decision--a long series of repeated decisions, in fact--that there was no space on its faculty for anybody like Charlie.

When Robert Skidelsky says "macroeconomics", he means the macroeconomics of RBC and DSGE and ratex and the Great Moderation.

And he is right: Alesina and Ardagna and Reinhart and Rogoff each had more influence on what policymakers and journalists thought about the effects of fiscal policy than did Paul Krugman and company, (including me). While the Federal Reserve went full-tilt into quantitative easing (but not stamped money or helicopter money), it did so in the face of considerable know-nothing opposition. And the ECB lagged far behind in terms of even understanding its mission. Why? Because economists Taylor, Boskin, Calomiris, Lucas, Fama, and company had almost as much or even more impact as did Paul Krugman and company.

"Basic macro" did fine. But basic macro was not the really-existing macro that mattered.

And let me repeat part of my public intellectuals paper: In the last days before the coming of the Roman Empire, Marcus Tullius Cicero in Rome wrote to his BFF correspondent Titus Pomponius Atticus in Athens:

You cannot love our dear [Marcus Porcius] Cato any more than I do; but the man–although employing the finest mind and possessing the greatest trustworthiness–sometimes harms the Republic. He speaks as if we were in the Πολιτεια of Plato, and not in the sewer of Romulus

...

pgl -> Peter K.... , April 01, 2017 at 03:44 PM
"the macroeconomics of RBC and DSGE and ratex and the Great Moderation. And he is right: Alesina and Ardagna and Reinhart and Rogoff"

Keynesians like myself, Krugman, and the Romers have all rejected the above views and said so many times.

All wait - PeterK once again is over his head and has no idea what this debate is about. So he attacks me et al. for views we have refuted.

Here lies the problem with this debate. It is not a real debate but a bunch of know nothings incesssantly whining.

[Apr 01, 2017] The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money

Apr 01, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com
anne -> RC AKA Darryl, Ron... , April 01, 2017 at 11:43 AM
http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/k/keynes/john_maynard/k44g/chapter12.html

1936

The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money
By John Maynard Keynes

The State of Long-Term Expectation

[ The passage is important, but a reference is ecessary. ]

[Mar 31, 2017] S tandard Keynesian liquidity trap analysis was largely correct

Mar 31, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com
Peter K. , March 31, 2017 at 05:53 AM
I like this blogger Campbell. Stephen Williamson should be excommunicated from the Economics Guild. He should receive a letter of reproach from former CEA Chairs. (I'm thinking about the DeLong-SWL debate.)

http://douglaslcampbell.blogspot.com/2017/03/raise-rates-to-raise-inflation.html

Campbell:

"Thus it's worth peering into [Williamson's] intellectual journey. First, after QE, despite high unemployment and a weak economy, he repeatedly predicted that inflation would rise. When it didn't happen, he changed his mind, which is what one should do. Only, he couldn't concede that standard Keynesian liquidity trap analysis was largely correct. That would be equivalent to surrendering his army to the evil of evils, Paul Krugman. Much easier to venture into the wilderness, and instead conclude, not that inflation wasn't rising despite low interest rates because the economy was still depressed, and banks were just sitting on newly printed cash, but rather that inflation was low because interest rates were low!

Fortunately, not all of Macro went in this direction, as Larry Christiano, a mainstream economist, discusses the Keynesian Revival* due to the Great Recession."

* https://www.minneapolisfed.org/~/media/files/pubs/eppapers/17-1/the-great-recession-a-macroeconomic-earthquake.pdf

The Great Recession: A Macroeconomic Earthquake

Lawrence J. Christiano Northwestern University Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis

February 2017

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

The Great Recession was particularly severe and has endured far longer than most recessions. Economists now believe it was caused by a perfect storm of declining home prices, a financial system heavily invested in house-related assets and a shadow banking system highly vulnerable to bank runs or rollover risk. It has lasted longer than most recessions because economically damaged households were unwilling or unable to increase spending, thus perpetuating the recession by a mechanism known as the paradox of thrift. Economists believe the Great Recession wasn't foreseen because the size and fragility of the shadow banking system had gone unnoticed.

The recession has had an inordinate impact on macroeconomics as a discipline, leading economists to reconsider two largely discarded theories: IS-LM and the paradox of thrift. It has also forced theorists to better understand and incorporate the financial sector into their models, the most promising of which focus on mismatch between the maturity periods of assets and liabilities held by banks.

[Mar 29, 2017] The reason UK economics students revolted

Notable quotes:
"... And that's the reason UK economics students revolted: "Few mainstream economists predicted the global financial crash of 2008 and academics have been accused of acting as cheerleaders for the often labyrinthine financial models behind the crisis. Now a growing band of university students are plotting a quiet revolution against orthodox free-market teaching, arguing that alternative ways of thinking have been pushed to the margins. ..."
"... why economists failed to warn about the global financial crisis and for having too heavy a focus on training students for City jobs. ..."
"... But the answer to their question is very simple. Neoliberals are in power and they dictate what is to be taught in Economics courses. They also promote and sustain "willing charlatans" like Mankiw, who poisons and indoctrinates students with neoclassical junk. ..."
Mar 29, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com
JohnH -> Peter K.... , March 27, 2017 at 06:51 PM
So true; "SWL has never addressed what is happening in the real world."

And that's the reason UK economics students revolted: "Few mainstream economists predicted the global financial crash of 2008 and academics have been accused of acting as cheerleaders for the often labyrinthine financial models behind the crisis. Now a growing band of university students are plotting a quiet revolution against orthodox free-market teaching, arguing that alternative ways of thinking have been pushed to the margins.

Economics undergraduates at the University of Manchester have formed the Post-Crash Economics Society, which they hope will be copied by universities across the country. The organisers criticise university courses for doing little to explain why economists failed to warn about the global financial crisis and for having too heavy a focus on training students for City jobs."
https://www.theguardian.com/business/2013/oct/24/students-post-crash-economics

... ... ...

libezkova -> JohnH... , March 27, 2017 at 09:40 PM
"why economists failed to warn about the global financial crisis and for having too heavy a focus on training students for City jobs."

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2013/oct/24/students-post-crash-economics"

That's a very good link. Thank you !

But the answer to their question is very simple. Neoliberals are in power and they dictate what is to be taught in Economics courses. They also promote and sustain "willing charlatans" like Mankiw, who poisons and indoctrinates students with neoclassical junk.

[Mar 28, 2017] It is ironic that Krugman is cited as a voice for reform -- he represents the neo-Keynesian hell weve got stuck in

Notable quotes:
"... Ironic that Krugman is cited as a voice for reform - he represents the neo-Keynesian hell we've got stuck in. ..."
"... I'm an economics student at the University of Glasgow, in second year as part of a compulsory course we were taught about alternative economic theories in comparison to Neoclassical models. ..."
"... The course has only been running for a few years but in response students have set up a very similar society to promote alternative thinking on economics. Even just half a semester on Post-Keynesian Economic theory has really opened our eyes to the alternatives within economics. ..."
"... I studied neoclassical 'economics' (it really isn't economics, just garbage) for five years. Began to take my graduate degree in the autumn of 2008 when everything was falling apart and I had no idea why. No clue whatsoever. After my masters degree in neoclassical 'economics' I still had no clue what had happened. ..."
"... Orthodox economics: Ignore money. Hence, ignore debt. Let the overall leverage of the economy increase until Ponzi finance fails and financial crisis begins. The debt deflation that follows means money gets even more concentrated towards the financial/political elite than before the crisis. Neo-feudalism makes way - finally war. ..."
"... Orthodox economists don't understand capitalism. They can't. The long time failed axioms underlying everything else in their theories don't allow them to do that. ..."
Mar 28, 2017 | discussion.theguardian.com
Febo , 25 Oct 2013 15:16

Ironic that Krugman is cited as a voice for reform - he represents the neo-Keynesian hell we've got stuck in.

JmkSweeney, 25 Oct 2013 18:46

I'm an economics student at the University of Glasgow, in second year as part of a compulsory course we were taught about alternative economic theories in comparison to Neoclassical models.

The course has only been running for a few years but in response students have set up a very similar society to promote alternative thinking on economics. Even just half a semester on Post-Keynesian Economic theory has really opened our eyes to the alternatives within economics.

DisconnectMe -> JmkSweeney , 26 Oct 2013 13:54

I studied neoclassical 'economics' (it really isn't economics, just garbage) for five years. Began to take my graduate degree in the autumn of 2008 when everything was falling apart and I had no idea why. No clue whatsoever. After my masters degree in neoclassical 'economics' I still had no clue what had happened.

Then I stumbled across Post-Keynesian economics and it took me about six months to dismiss the neoclassical garbage. If I hadn't studied that garbage for five years it would have taken me a few days.

DisconnectMe , 26 Oct 2013 02:42

Orthodox economics: Ignore money. Hence, ignore debt. Let the overall leverage of the economy increase until Ponzi finance fails and financial crisis begins. The debt deflation that follows means money gets even more concentrated towards the financial/political elite than before the crisis. Neo-feudalism makes way - finally war.

Then the cycle starts again.

Orthodox economists don't understand capitalism. They can't. The long time failed axioms underlying everything else in their theories don't allow them to do that.

What a waste of economic thinking.

[Mar 28, 2017] Economics taught by neo-classical economics is like the Natural Sciences departments being run by creationists

Notable quotes:
"... This has echoes of a protest by students in 2011 at Harvard when a group of students walked out of the lectures by Dr Gregory Manilow. What has happened to them? ..."
"... Good for them. The economics profession has been dominated by neoliberal theoreticians for far too long. It needs bringing back to the real world. ..."
"... i went to the LSE to study maths and statistics with a sprinkling of economics (my first taste of it at the time). after a few months i was of the opinion it is based on terrible assumptions. e.g. the needs of the average consumer, which are then blown up into fantastical macroeconomical proportions which only led to flawed arguments. The subsequent financial crisis only backed this up. ..."
Mar 28, 2017 | discussion.theguardian.com
RobinS , 25 Oct 2013 5:20

What a ghastly indictment of Manchester, and other economics departments - obviously being very economic with their subject. Sounds a bit like the Natural Sciences departments being run by creationists.

ResponsibleWellbeing , 25 Oct 2013 5:23

This should be the first class for the whole students in economics.
What are the limits in ecology ecosystem? And what are the needs/capacities for human flourishing?

Adventures in New Economics 2: Donut Economics, Kate Raworth

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VieEtdcmjtI

This is an open/complex map with a compass in values that I've built trying to go through both main concepts. It's valid for personal development / companies / communities / nations / whole planet.

bit.ly/1775pbV

Jed Bland , 25 Oct 2013 5:36

This has echoes of a protest by students in 2011 at Harvard when a group of students walked out of the lectures by Dr Gregory Manilow. What has happened to them?

I personally have observed in other disciplines that teaching tends to be a generation behind current thinking, Particularly when it has more to do with ideology than science.

Some ten years ago, a movement called the Post-Autistic Ecomoncs Movement had a considerable influence in Europe but has no doubt disappeared in the face of the greed which is central supporting feature of today's neoliberalism.

SteveTen , 25 Oct 2013 5:44

Good for them. The economics profession has been dominated by neoliberal theoreticians for far too long. It needs bringing back to the real world.

skyblueravo , 25 Oct 2013 5:45

i went to the LSE to study maths and statistics with a sprinkling of economics (my first taste of it at the time). after a few months i was of the opinion it is based on terrible assumptions. e.g. the needs of the average consumer, which are then blown up into fantastical macroeconomical proportions which only led to flawed arguments. The subsequent financial crisis only backed this up.

I commend this thinking by the students but if I was one of their parents forking out 27k i would probably tell them to pass the exams they need to and get out and start earning.

LSE is a godawful uni also, unless you have given spawn to gordon gekko dont bother with it.

kongshan , 25 Oct 2013 5:46

Alternative theories and models??? Well they are currently practiced by North Korea and these students will be more than welcomed by the Kim family to ply their trade there.

UnlearningEcon -> kongshan , 25 Oct 2013 7:58

Actually, "alternative theories" were practiced by South Korea, which has been quite a success story. It's not either the status quo or state communism, you know.

[Mar 28, 2017] The robber barons and their useful idiots have certainly achieved what they set out to do.

Mar 28, 2017 | discussion.theguardian.com
radicalchange 25 Oct 2013 6:41

For an understanding of how we came to have thrust upon us the "Dismal Science" of neo-classical economics, which took shape in the 1880's - 1890's, I recommend reading "The Corruption of Economics" by Mason Gaffney.

Here is a link to some excerpts from his book,
http://www.politicaleconomy.org/gaffney.htm

Essentially, economic thinking was hijacked by the robber barons who through building and funding universities were able to subvert the teaching of economics to suit their own agenda. Classical economics with a sound basis of three factors of production was replaced by voodhoo economics which reduced the three factors of production to only two. Whereas once "land" was a factor of production in its own right alongside "capital" and "labour", it was magicked away to be incorporated as "capital" for the purpose of the land owning robber barons.

As anyone with a few braincells would know, "land" is a distinct factor of production in its own right, and not only that, it is the primary factor since neither "capital" or "labour" would exist without it. But "land" can exist without both the other two factors which makes it unique and makes it primary and yet voodhoo economics has managed to hide this fact so well through the employment of clever mathematics to create an illusion of being a solid discipline.

http://www.henrygeorge.org/pcontents.htm

Neoclassical economics is the idiom of most economic discourse today. It is the paradigm that bends the twigs of young minds. Then it confines the florescence of older ones, like chicken-wire shaping a topiary. It took form about a hundred years ago, when Henry George and his reform proposals were a clear and present political danger and challenge to the landed and intellectual establishments of the world. Few people realize to what a degree the founders of Neoclassical economics changed the discipline for the express purpose of deflecting George, discomfiting his followers, and frustrating future students seeking to follow his arguments. The stratagem was semantic: to destroy the very words in which he expressed himself.


To most modern readers, probably George seems too minor a figure to have warranted such an extreme reaction. This impression is a measure of the neo-classicals' success: it is what they sought to make of him. It took a generation, but by 1930 they had succeeded in reducing him in the public mind. In the process of succeeding, however, they emasculated the discipline, impoverished economic thought, muddled the minds of countless students, rationalized free-riding by landowners, took dignity from labor, rationalized chronic unemployment, hobbled us with today's counterproductive tax tangle, marginalized the obvious alternative system of public finance, shattered our sense of community, subverted a rising economic democracy for the benefit of rent-takers, and led us into becoming an increasingly nasty and dangerously divided plutocracy.

Not one economics graduate have I met that has heard of Henry George but yet they have all heard of Karl Marx. The robber barons and their useful idiots have certainly achieved what they set out to do.

radicalchange -> radicalchange , 25 Oct 2013 6:45

As clarification the two paragraphs in italics are excerpts from the "Corruption of Economics" by Mason Gaffney. The link to Henry George's "Progress and Poverty" is, http://www.henrygeorge.org/pcontents.htm

[Mar 28, 2017] I taught Economics for forty years and over 30 of those to Singaporean scholars destined to Oxford, Cambridge and Ivy League universities; in all those years I was aware of the lies I had to teach in order to pass university entrance exams.

Notable quotes:
"... Then Economic History was virtually withdrawn from university Economics and other courses so that only the"lies" would be taught backed up by unquestioned (i.e. purely deductive) Mathematics. It is an academic crime ..."
Mar 28, 2017 | profile.theguardian.com
ptah , 25 Oct 2013 7:55

If a viable economic solution emerged from the universities - one which remedied the classical models and trumped the broken neo-liberal systems, how would we recognise it?

To provide some context - and I am in no way qualified to discuss this topic really but, the first machines to produce logic emerging from Bletchley park were not fully recognised for their potential - the computer revolution took place elsewhere. The UK is absolute rubbish at recognising innovation!

Good luck to the students. I hope many more get involved in this debate.

ID2322670 , 25 Oct 2013 8:24

I taught Economics for forty years and over 30 of those to Singaporean scholars destined to Oxford, Cambridge and Ivy League universities; in all those years I was aware of the lies I had to teach in order to pass university entrance exams.

I attempted to follow the thesis that every economic theory however old or new was attempting to answer a unique contemporary economic problem and therefore only Economic History was of relevance in understanding a theory be Adam Smith or Keynes or even (unacademically) Thatcherism.

My students found all such information useless to passing Economics exams but interesting for "life".

Then Economic History was virtually withdrawn from university Economics and other courses so that only the"lies" would be taught backed up by unquestioned (i.e. purely deductive) Mathematics. It is an academic crime.

[Mar 28, 2017] Zombie theories continue on their path of destruction.

Notable quotes:
"... Neoliberal economics not only led to the crash of 2007/8 it is continuing to wreak havoc. A good current example is pension schemes - something we will depend on one day. They are valued using the purest form of free market thinking: the efficient markets hypothesis - the idea that asset markets always perfectly embody all relevant information. It is akin to belief in magic. ..."
"... It is amazing to read how narrow economics education is in modern Britain. It is not only intellectually unenlightened and literally dangerous, given the power many economics graduates can wield, amplified by the extraordinary sums and resources they manage, it also does a great disservice to people who are entitled to a proper education which, clearly, they are not receiving in this monotheistic model. ..."
"... It reminds me precisely of the so-called "religious education" I received in Ireland which was nothing of the sort. All I got was instruction in Catholic doctrine and ethics; there was no instruction in the beliefs of any other Christian sects, let alone what goes on in the other major world religions such as Hinduism, Judaism, or Islam. What I know about them I taught myself in later life. ..."
"... It seems that the same shameful parochial narrowness, intellectual provincialism, and "one true religion" ethic prevails in British economic so-called "education". ..."
"... On another matter, the revelation that economists "ignore empirical evidence that contradicts mainstream theories" destroys any notion that economics is a science, a silly claim I have always opposed. All that it reveals is that economists have no idea what science is. ..."
Mar 28, 2017 | discussion.theguardian.com
harrybuttle, 26 Oct 2013 7:25

Neoliberal economics not only led to the crash of 2007/8 it is continuing to wreak havoc. A good current example is pension schemes - something we will depend on one day. They are valued using the purest form of free market thinking: the efficient markets hypothesis - the idea that asset markets always perfectly embody all relevant information. It is akin to belief in magic.

Yet many professionals who run pension schemes and the government regulator all support it's use because it suits them - it deflects responsibility from them while they continue to be paid. It's effects on society are disastrous as it leads us to believe are insolvent. The government and actuarial profession accepted all this and enshrined it in law.

A topical example is the universities pension scheme the USS which BBC Newsnight and Radio 4 have just told us has a 'black hole' of a deficit.

Many of us thought that the EMH would ditched after its spectacular failure but no. Zombie theories continue on their path of destruction.

Josifer , 27 Oct 2013 01:00
It is amazing to read how narrow economics education is in modern Britain. It is not only intellectually unenlightened and literally dangerous, given the power many economics graduates can wield, amplified by the extraordinary sums and resources they manage, it also does a great disservice to people who are entitled to a proper education which, clearly, they are not receiving in this monotheistic model.

It reminds me precisely of the so-called "religious education" I received in Ireland which was nothing of the sort. All I got was instruction in Catholic doctrine and ethics; there was no instruction in the beliefs of any other Christian sects, let alone what goes on in the other major world religions such as Hinduism, Judaism, or Islam. What I know about them I taught myself in later life.

It seems that the same shameful parochial narrowness, intellectual provincialism, and "one true religion" ethic prevails in British economic so-called "education". Intellectuals ought to be utterly ashamed to propagate such blinkered views. Anyone who has never heard of Keynes is culturally illiterate; that an economics student, in particular, has never heard of Keynes is a disgrace.

On another matter, the revelation that economists "ignore empirical evidence that contradicts mainstream theories" destroys any notion that economics is a science, a silly claim I have always opposed. All that it reveals is that economists have no idea what science is.

[Mar 28, 2017] Priests of neoliberal economics need to recognize that they operate in a political environment in which their work will be seized upon by financial oligarchy, and will have real influnce of justifing thier often destrcutive for the majoroity of population policies

Delong is a typical neoliberal stooge, not that different from Mankiw, or Summers
Note that the terms "neoliberalism", "neo-classical economics" and "financial oligarchy" were never used...
Notable quotes:
"... "DeLong's takeaway is that economists do need to recognize that they operate in a political environment (the sewers of Romulus) in which their work will be seized upon by interested groups, with real practical outcomes. " ..."
"... UE's conclusion is that mainstream economics needs to be taken down several notches, which would open more space for alternative approaches to economics and, indeed, alternative approaches to policy that place more weight on human outcomes, broadly understood, than the formalistic criteria of efficiency, etc. ..."
"... Simon-Wren Lewis (SWL) and Chris Dillow have both recently argued that criticising economics for the 2008 financial crisis distracts from the real source of the blame, which is banks, and therefore undermines the progressive cause. While I don't disagree that the banks deserve blame, I want to push back a bit on their argument that economics as a discipline has little to do with regressive ideas. ..."
"... Consider the case of monopoly. The economics textbooks may be against monopoly, but this is largely on the grounds that it reduces consumer welfare by increasing prices. Building on this logic, the Chicago School of anti-trust regulation has shifted the focus of anti-trust law to lowering prices for consumers. As this recent article on Amazon details, this has hidden other forms of monopoly abuse such as predatory pricing, market dominance and reduced bargaining power for workers, consumers and smaller companies. ..."
"... Or consider Reinhart and Rogoff's famous '90% debt threshold', where their statistics purportedly showed that after a country reaches 90% of sovereign debt, its growth would stall. This was used by many politicians, including George Osborne, to justify austerity - until it was revealed to be based on 'statistical errors'. Sure, R & R received a fair amount of flak for this, but they have been incredibly stubborn about the result. Where was the formal, institutional denunciation of such a glaring error from the economics profession, and of the politicians who used it to justify their regressive policies? Why are R & R still allowed to comment on the matter with even an ounce of credibility? The case for austerity undoubtedly didn't hinge on this research alone, but imagine if a politician cited faulty medical research to approve their policies - would institutions like the BMA not feel a responsibility to condemn it? (Answer: yes, even when the politician was in another country). ..."
"... There are many more examples like this, such as Andrei Shleifer, who despite being prosecuted for fraud in post-Soviet Russia was awarded the John Bates Clark medal, probably the second most prestigious prize in the discipline, was subsequently allowed to publish papers in respected journals about how well privatisation went in Russia, and was eventually bailed out of the case by his incredibly wealthy university to the tune of $26 million. This is not to mention the disastrous Russian privatisation as a whole and the role of certain economists/economic ideas in it. ..."
"... Even worse were the Chicago boys, who advised Augusto Pinochet's horrific economic policies (and no, they were not just humble advisors, they were knee deep in the absolute worst excesses of the regime.) Without any substantive ethical code and without procedures for weeding out corrupt, dishonest or discredited work, the profession creates an environment where people can act like this and get away with it, all under the banner of the intellectual credibility 'economics' seems to confer on people. ..."
"... Mainstream economists have used mathematics to hide ideology. ..."
"... They have cherry-picked mathematical constructions with highly restrictive, idealized properties and then wedged-in economic parameters to fit their purposes. That is the case with the neoclassical production function and with the Arrow-Debreu general equilibrium model. The objective was to "prove" that economies free from government control were "natural" and best. They have been sophists from their first emergence. ..."
"... Science is not capable of devising a theory that adequately explains all the human elements and serendipitous effects of an economy - and may never be capable. However, humans are capable of organizing a society according to their needs and wants. They do it on a corporate scale all the time. It isn't perfect but it works pretty well. ..."
"... Mainstream economists have fought against a managed economy because it would reduce the influence of themselves and their plutocrat sponsors. ..."
Mar 28, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com
Peter K. -> pgl... March 27, 2017 at 07:25 AM
Peter Dorman:

"DeLong's takeaway is that economists do need to recognize that they operate in a political environment (the sewers of Romulus) in which their work will be seized upon by interested groups, with real practical outcomes. "

.... ... ...

Peter K. , March 27, 2017 at 07:20 AM
... ... ...

http://econospeak.blogspot.com/2017/03/economics-part-of-rot-part-of-treatment.html

SUNDAY, MARCH 26, 2017

Economics: Part of the Rot, Part of the Treatment, or Some of Each?

Is mainstream economics, with its false certitudes and ideological biases, one of the reasons for the dismal state of policy debate in countries like the UK and the US, or are its rigorous methods an important antidote to the ruling political foggery? That's being debated right now, live online.

Our starting point is a post on Unlearning Economics, dated March 5, which argues that the flaws of mainstream economics contribute to lousy policy on several fronts: downplaying the role of monopoly, cheerleading for the shareholder value imperative in the corporate world, knee-jerk support for trade agreements under the banner of comparative advantage, and regressive macroeconomic policy, among others. A particularly pointed paragraph brought up the Reinhart-Rogoff 90% affair and accused the economics profession of dereliction of duty by not taking action to rebuke the wrongdoers:

Where was the formal, institutional denunciation of such a glaring error from the economics profession, and of the politicians who used it to justify their regressive policies?

UE's conclusion is that mainstream economics needs to be taken down several notches, which would open more space for alternative approaches to economics and, indeed, alternative approaches to policy that place more weight on human outcomes, broadly understood, than the formalistic criteria of efficiency, etc.

Simon Wren-Lewis responded by arguing that UE has it exactly backwards. Restricting himself to UE's critique of macroeconomics, SWL says, yes, reactionary politicians have invoked "economics" to support austerity, but "real" economists for the most part have not gone along. True, there were a few, like Reinhart and Rogoff and those in the employ of the British financial sector ("City economists") who took a public stand against sensible Keynesian policies in the wake of the financial crisis, but they were a minority, and, in any case, what would you want to do about them? Economists, like professionals in any field, will disagree sometimes, and having a centralized agency to enforce a false consensus would ultimately work against progressives and dissenters, not for them. Let's put the blame where it really belongs, says SWL-on the politicians and pundits who have brushed aside decades of theoretical and empirical work to promulgate a reactionary, fact-free discourse on economic policy.

Yes-but, adds Brad DeLong. He largely agrees with SWL, but delves more deeply into the Reinhart-Rogoff affair. He shows that, even without the famed Excel glitch, a cursory look would reveal that R-R were trumpeting nonexistent results:

So the R-R claim that fiscal consolidation was necessary and urgent was unfounded from the get-go, and these two were both respected mainstream economists, so what can we infer? DeLong's takeaway is that economists do need to recognize that they operate in a political environment (the sewers of Romulus) in which their work will be seized upon by interested groups, with real practical outcomes. In this situation, the profession as a whole has a responsibility to assess high profile but dubious work. Although he isn't explicit, my reading is that DeLong wants some sort of professional quality control, but not institutionalized in the way UE seems to call for.

...

pgl -> Peter K.... , March 27, 2017 at 07:44 AM
Yep - try reading this portion:

"reactionary politicians have invoked "economics" to support austerity, but "real" economists for the most part have not gone along. True, there were a few, like Reinhart and Rogoff and those in the employ of the British financial sector ("City economists") who took a public stand against sensible Keynesian policies in the wake of the financial crisis, but they were a minority, and, in any case, what would you want to do about them? Economists, like professionals in any field, will disagree sometimes, and having a centralized agency to enforce a false consensus would ultimately work against progressives and dissenters, not for them. Let's put the blame where it really belongs, says SWL-on the politicians and pundits who have brushed aside decades of theoretical and empirical work to promulgate a reactionary, fact-free discourse on economic policy."

Peter K. , March 27, 2017 at 07:27 AM
https://medium.com/@UnlearningEcon/no-criticising-economics-is-not-regressive-43e114777429#.gihe5thlj

Unlearning EconomicsFollow
Mar 5

No, Criticising Economics is not Regressive

Simon-Wren Lewis (SWL) and Chris Dillow have both recently argued that criticising economics for the 2008 financial crisis distracts from the real source of the blame, which is banks, and therefore undermines the progressive cause. While I don't disagree that the banks deserve blame, I want to push back a bit on their argument that economics as a discipline has little to do with regressive ideas.

But firstly, it is my view that criticising economics needn't have an ideological motivation. Many critics, myself included, simply believe that neoclassical economics has severe shortcomings and that in order to understand the economic system properly we need better ideas. In many cases criticisms of neoclassical economics are so abstract that it's not even clear to me what the political implications of either side would be (e.g. the fact that Arrow-Debreu equilibrium might be unstable has no bearing on my view of whether capitalism itself is). I respect both SWL and Dillow immensely, but taken alone I consider this line of argument a rather feeble attempt to shut down an important scientific and philosophical debate.

Despite this, the point has some force to it: why devote so much intellectual effort to criticising economics when we could be devoting it to getting the big banks and other corporate wrongdoers? And here I think SWL and Dillow both paper over the extent to which economics has served those in power, as I will try to illustrate with a number of examples. To be clear, I'm not 'blaming' economists for all of these occurrences, but I do think the discipline seems to eschew responsibility for them, and that progressive economists have a blind spot when it comes to the practical consequences of their discipline.

Economics in Practice

I've always acknowledged that economists themselves are probably more progressive than they're usually given credit for. Nevertheless, the absence of things like power, exploitation, poverty, inequality, conflict, and disaster in most mainstream models - centred as they are around a norm of well-functioning markets, and focused on banal criteria like prices, output and efficiency - tends to anodise the subject matter. In practice, this vision of the economy detracts attention from important social issues and can even serve to conceal outright abuses. The result is that in practice, the influence of economics has often been more regressive than progressive.

Consider the case of monopoly. The economics textbooks may be against monopoly, but this is largely on the grounds that it reduces consumer welfare by increasing prices. Building on this logic, the Chicago School of anti-trust regulation has shifted the focus of anti-trust law to lowering prices for consumers. As this recent article on Amazon details, this has hidden other forms of monopoly abuse such as predatory pricing, market dominance and reduced bargaining power for workers, consumers and smaller companies.

Similarly, textbook ideas about profit maximisation and rational agents responding to incentives featured prominently in the promotion of shareholder value by Milton Friedman and other economists, which has been dominant over the past few decades and has been instrumental in increasing inequality and corporate short-termism. The potential macroeconomic impacts of corporate concentration have also been ignored by discipline until very recently - a consequence, perhaps, of the narrowing of particular subfields and the neglection of more critical systemic analysis (something similar could perhaps be said for the 2016 Prize in contract theory, though I am no expert in this area).

One type of institution which is dominated by economic ideas is central banks, yet many of their policies have had regressive elements. For instance, SWL praises economists at the Bank of England for implementing Quantitative Easing, but forgets that the Bank itself admitted that this has disproportionately benefited the wealthy. This problem goes even deeper: as J W Mason has argued, inflation targeting - a key central bank policy across the world - in practice results in workers' wages being kept down and their jobs being made more insecure in the name of combating inflation. In both cases what is painted as a relatively benign process - reducing interest rates and managing inflation, respectively - actually has quite serious social consequences, which generally aren't discussed in class or by policymakers.

In the realm of international trade, economists have been all too inclined to support trade deals - often quite vociferously - on the basis of simple ideas like comparative advantage, while ignoring (a) the actual details of the trade deals, which as Dean Baker frequently points out, tend to favour the rich and corporations and (b) their own more complex economic models, which as Dani Rodrik frequently points out, do imply that trade will harm some people while benefitting others. Uneven and unfair international trade has been a key element of the harm to workers over the past few decades, and was undoubtedly a factor in the election of Trump.

Global trade institutions like the IMF and World Bank have been dominated by economics since their inception, and using economics they inflicted massive pain through their free market 'structural adjustment' policies, which can only be described as regressive but which were fundamentally based on context-free neoclassical ideas about markets. True, these institutions may have softened somewhat in recent years, but that doesn't undo the harm they have caused. In fact, even their more recent 'bottom up' policies such as microcredit and Randomised Control Trials - both inspired by economic ideas - often seem to have benefited global and local elites at the expensive of the poorest. As Jamie Galbraith once noted in the context of the financial crisis, the discipline just has a blind spot for how ideas interact with power to produce unfair outcomes, sometimes taking the form of outright abuse and fraud. Which leads me nicely to my next argument.

Abusing Economics

Economists may complain that economic ideas have been misused by vested interests, and that this isn't their responsibility. But a huge problem with the discipline of economics is that it has virtually no institutional shields against mistakes and wrongdoing. Merton and Scholes won the biggest prize in the profession for their model of financial markets - which had become commonly adopted in options trading - in 1997. A year later those same economists required a hefty bailout when the use of their model was implicated in the collapse of the hedge fund Long-Term Capital Management, where they were both partners. Was the prize revoked? No. Were they discredited? No. Actually, even the model is still widely used, despite massively underestimating fat tails and therefore being implicated in a number of other financial crises, including 2008.

Or consider Reinhart and Rogoff's famous '90% debt threshold', where their statistics purportedly showed that after a country reaches 90% of sovereign debt, its growth would stall. This was used by many politicians, including George Osborne, to justify austerity - until it was revealed to be based on 'statistical errors'. Sure, R & R received a fair amount of flak for this, but they have been incredibly stubborn about the result. Where was the formal, institutional denunciation of such a glaring error from the economics profession, and of the politicians who used it to justify their regressive policies? Why are R & R still allowed to comment on the matter with even an ounce of credibility? The case for austerity undoubtedly didn't hinge on this research alone, but imagine if a politician cited faulty medical research to approve their policies - would institutions like the BMA not feel a responsibility to condemn it? (Answer: yes, even when the politician was in another country).

There are many more examples like this, such as Andrei Shleifer, who despite being prosecuted for fraud in post-Soviet Russia was awarded the John Bates Clark medal, probably the second most prestigious prize in the discipline, was subsequently allowed to publish papers in respected journals about how well privatisation went in Russia, and was eventually bailed out of the case by his incredibly wealthy university to the tune of $26 million. This is not to mention the disastrous Russian privatisation as a whole and the role of certain economists/economic ideas in it.

Even worse were the Chicago boys, who advised Augusto Pinochet's horrific economic policies (and no, they were not just humble advisors, they were knee deep in the absolute worst excesses of the regime.) Without any substantive ethical code and without procedures for weeding out corrupt, dishonest or discredited work, the profession creates an environment where people can act like this and get away with it, all under the banner of the intellectual credibility 'economics' seems to confer on people.

And this leads me to my last point, which is the rhetorical power that invoking 'economics' has in contemporary politics. 'You don't understand economics' is - rightly or wrongly - a common refrain of those attacking progressive policies such as Ed Miliband's proposed energy price freeze, the minimum wage, or fiscal expansion. As with the above abuses of economics, those such as SWL complain (perhaps correctly) that these are inaccurate representations of the field.

But these same economists then invoke 'economics' in a similar way to justify their own policies. In my opinion, this only reinforces the dominance of economics and narrows the debate, a process which is inherently regressive. The case against austerity does not depend on whether it is 'good economics', but on its human impact. Nor does the case for combating climate change depend on the present discounted value of future costs to GDP. Reclaiming political debate from the grip of economics will make the human side of politics more central, and so can only serve a progressive purpose.

Peter K. -> Peter K.... , March 27, 2017 at 07:29 AM
Think about how Republicans use "Science" and scientists fight back against their misuse. In recent decades Republicans have left the field and now "scientist" has become a bad word for them.

Same thing needs to happen with Economics.

RGC -> Peter K.... , March 27, 2017 at 09:25 AM
Mainstream economists have used mathematics to hide ideology.

They have cherry-picked mathematical constructions with highly restrictive, idealized properties and then wedged-in economic parameters to fit their purposes. That is the case with the neoclassical production function and with the Arrow-Debreu general equilibrium model. The objective was to "prove" that economies free from government control were "natural" and best. They have been sophists from their first emergence.

RGC -> RGC... , March 27, 2017 at 09:33 AM
Consider the Arrow-Debreu model:

In the 1950s, Arrow and others proved a theorem that, many economists believe, put a rigorous mathematical foundation beneath Adam Smith's idea of the invisible hand. The theorem shows -- in a highly abstract model -- that producers and consumers can match their desires perfectly, given a particular set of prices.

In this rarified atmosphere of "general equilibrium," economic activity might take place efficiently without any central coordination, simply as a result of people pursuing their self-interest.

It's an insight that economists have used to argue for de-unionization, globalization and financial deregulation, all in the name of removing various frictions or distortions that prevent markets from achieving the elusive equilibrium.

Yet the theorem trails a dense cloud of caveats, which Arrow himself recognized could be more important than the proof itself. For one, it worked only in a perfect world, far removed from the one humans actually inhabit.

Equilibrium is merely one of many conceivable states of that world; there's no particular reason to believe that the economy would naturally tend toward it. Beautiful as the math may be, actual experience suggests that its magical efficiency is purely theoretical, and a poor guide to reality.

Remarkably, academic macroeconomists have largely ignored these limitations, and continue to teach the general equilibrium model -- and more modern variants with same fatal weaknesses -- as a decent approximation of reality.

Economists routinely use the framework to form their views on everything from taxation to global trade -- portraying it as a value-free, scientific approach, when in fact it carries a hidden ideology that casts completely free markets as the ideal.

Thus, when markets break down, the solution inevitably entails removing barriers to their proper functioning: privatize healthcare, education or social security, keep working to free up trade, or make labor markets more "flexible."

Those prescriptions have all too often failed, as the 2008 financial crisis eloquently demonstrated. The result is widespread distrust of economic experts and rejection of globalization.

In his recent book "Economism: Bad Economics and the Rise of Inequality," James Kwak credits conservative think tanks funded by corporations and the wealthy for spreading the oversimplified belief in markets as wise machines for producing optimal social outcomes. He certainly has a point, yet such propaganda stemmed from an intellectual model that had been lurking at the center of economics all along -- and remains there now, still widely revered.

This perversion isn't Arrow's fault. He merely helped to prove a mathematical theorem, and was no blind advocate for markets. Indeed, he actually thought the theorem illustrated the limitations of capitalism, and he was prescient in understanding how economic inequality might come to impair the workings of democratic government.

Perhaps it would be best to use his own words: "In a system where virtually all resources are available for a price, economic power can be translated into political power by channels too obvious for mention. In a capitalist society, economic power is very unequally distributed, and hence democratic government is inevitably something of a sham."