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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:

Dr. Nikolai Bezroukov


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"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).

[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

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] 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] Reply

Apr 12, 2017 | onclick="TPConnect.blogside.reply('6a00d83451b33869e201bb098fb894970d'); return false;" href="javascript:void 0">
Wednesday, April 12, 2017 at 06:05 AM libezkova said in reply to T... "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... from

"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"


[Apr 12, 2017] personal.lse.ac.uk

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] 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] speech

Apr 03, 2017 | bankofengland.co.uk
recently on "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."

https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2017-03-09/the-misunderstanding-at-the-core-of-economics

RGC -> RGC... , March 27, 2017 at 09:47 AM
Note that neo-classical(mainstream) economists did NOT do what scientists do.

They did not observe phenomena and then try to construct a theory to explain the phenomena.

Rather, they constructed a theory that supported their ideology and then tried to argue that the theory was representative of the real world.

anne -> RGC... , March 27, 2017 at 02:55 PM
I do appreciate this essay.
Egmont Kakarot-Handtke , March 27, 2017 at 07:50 AM
The non-existence of economics

Comment on Simon Wren-Lewis on 'On criticizing the existence of mainstream economics'

There is no such thing as economics, there are FOUR economixes and they are constantly played against each other. First, there is theoretical and political economics. The crucial distinction within theoretical economics is true/false, the crucial distinction within political economics good/bad. Economics exhausts itself since 200+ years in crossover discussion, that is, by NOT keeping science and politics properly apart. As a result, it got neither science nor politics right.

Heterodox economists say that orthodox economics is false and in this very general sense they are right. Heterodox economists have debunked much of Orthodoxy but this has not enabled them to work out a superior alternative. The proper task of Heterodoxy is not the repetitive critique of Orthodoxy but to fully replace it, that is, to perform a paradigm shift: "The problem is not just to say that something might be wrong, but to replace it by something ― and that is not so easy." (Feynman)

Because Heterodoxy has never developed a valid alternative it advocates pluralism, more precisely, the pluralism of false theories. The argument boils down to: if Orthodoxy is allowed to sell their rubbish in the curriculum, Heterodoxy must also be allowed to sell their rubbish. Economics is not so much a heroic struggle about scientific truth but about a better place at the academic trough.

The fact of the matter is that neither Orthodoxy nor Heterodoxy has the true theory and that, by consequence, the political arguments of BOTH sides have NO sound scientific foundation.

Traditional Heterodoxy knows quite well that it has nothing to offer in the way of progressive science and therefore argues for dumping scientific standards altogether and to focus on politics pure and simple: "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."

This is a good idea, economists should no longer pretend to do science but openly push their respective political agendas, after all, this is what they have actually done the past 200+ years. Neither Orthodoxy nor traditional Heterodoxy satisfies the scientific criteria of material and formal consistency. So, both, orthodox and heterodox economists have to get out of science because of incurable incompetence.

It was John Stuart Mill who told economists that they must decide themselves between science and politics: "A scientific observer or reasoner, merely as such, is not an adviser for practice. His part is only to show that certain consequences follow from certain causes, and that to obtain certain ends, certain means are the most effectual. Whether the ends themselves are such as ought to be pursued, and if so, in what cases and to how great a length, it is no part of his business as a cultivator of science to decide, and science alone will never qualify him for the decision."

Both, orthodox and heterodox economists violate the principle of the separation of science and politics on a daily basis. Economics is what Feynman famously called cargo cult science and neither right wing nor left wing economic policy guidance has a sound scientific foundation since Adam Smith/Karl Marx. It is high time that economics frees itself from the corrupting grip of politics.

Egmont Kakarot-Handtke

RGC -> Egmont Kakarot-Handtke ... , March 27, 2017 at 11:33 AM
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.

Peter K. , March 27, 2017 at 08:22 AM
I like that Thoma is linking to Campbell who has some interesting blog posts, like in today's links:

http://douglaslcampbell.blogspot.com/2017/03/corporations-in-age-of-inequality.html

"The story of inequality they tell is also one which is essentially technology based (IT and outsourcing), as they find that inequality is almost entirely driven by changes in between firm inequality. They deserve credit for presenting an interesting set of facts.

However, while intriguing, I'm not yet totally convinced this is the key to understanding inequality. Macromon [sic] also had an excellent discussion of this research awhile back...

...

I took issue with this comment "Since 1980, income inequality has risen sharply in most developed economies". As my blog readers know, income inequality has not risen dramatically in Germany, France, Japan, or Sweden according to Alvaredo et al.. Thus, this comment threw me: "This means that the rising gap in pay between firms accounts for the large majority of the increase in income inequality in the United States. It also accounts for at least a substantial part in other countries, as research conducted in the UK, Germany, and Sweden demonstrates." Right, but the increases in inequality in Germany and Sweden have been quite minor relative to the US, and are also associated with changes in top marginal tax rates. So, between firm inequality isn't actually explaining much is what I'm hearing.

..."

Peter K. , March 27, 2017 at 08:22 AM
pgl -> Peter K....
Try this single line:

"the profession as a whole has a responsibility to assess high profile but dubious work."

As in that awful paper by Gerald Friedman. Peter Dorman ripped it. I ripped. And yes the Romers ripped it.

That is what economists are suppose to do. But you have whined about this for the last 14 months.

Reply Monday, March 27, 2017 at 07:47 AM

Yes it was a priority to demonize Friedman b/c he was coming from the left and was supposedly supporting Bernie Sanders. It was a way for the center-left to discredit Bernie Sanders and call him "unPresidential" and "unserious" as Hillary did.

Meawhile PGL continuously name-drops Mankiw as if he has a man crush on him.

[Mar 28, 2017] The neoliberals also have strong views on the kind of society they would like to create, but they prefer to hide it because very few people would vote for it

Notable quotes:
"... You don't need to look very far to see the neoliberal ideal; it is all around us: everything a commodity, including human beings; massive differentials in life chances; sweat shops for producers juxtaposed with unimaginable wealth for the owners of capital; everybody on their own, the rolling back of collective provision and no such thing as society. ..."
"... Instead, the neoliberals talk of freedom and choice, but in reality it is freedom for the few to exploit the many and the choice to take whatever crumbs are offered to you or starve. ..."
"... Agree, but it's not that they don't talk about it. The use mathematics as a way to underscore what is essentially an ideological position. It gives them an aura of objectivity, impartiality and scientific truth which, given their prepositions about utility maximization and unbounded growth, they frankly don't have. ..."
Mar 28, 2017 | discussion.theguardian.com
archeeros , 25 Oct 2013 3:50

Keynes viewed economics as a branch of philosophy. At its heart are two questions - What is the nature of man? and What sort of society should we create? The focus on mathematical models, based upon free-market theories, has long been a victory for ivory towers over reality. Sure, they have an important role to play, but when they are at the centre of what is taught at universities something has gone wrong.

SteveTen -> archeeros , 25 Oct 2013 5:57

The neoliberals also have strong views on the kind of society they would like to create, but they don't talk about it often, because very few people would vote for it.

You don't need to look very far to see the neoliberal ideal; it is all around us: everything a commodity, including human beings; massive differentials in life chances; sweat shops for producers juxtaposed with unimaginable wealth for the owners of capital; everybody on their own, the rolling back of collective provision and no such thing as society.

Instead, the neoliberals talk of freedom and choice, but in reality it is freedom for the few to exploit the many and the choice to take whatever crumbs are offered to you or starve.

Usignolo -> SteveTen , 25 Oct 2013 6:18

Agree, but it's not that they don't talk about it. The use mathematics as a way to underscore what is essentially an ideological position. It gives them an aura of objectivity, impartiality and scientific truth which, given their prepositions about utility maximization and unbounded growth, they frankly don't have.

[Mar 28, 2017] Mainstream economics, with its false certitudes and ideological biases, is one of the reasons for the dismal state of policy debate in countries like the UK and the US, sustaining the ruling neoliberals political foggery?

Notable quotes:
"... 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. ..."
"... 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: ..."
"... 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. ..."
Mar 28, 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

pgl is a classic example. He regularly preaches what theory says but is clueless to explain what's really happening.

Peter K. , March 27, 2017 at 07:20 AM
I like Peter Dorman much, much better than PGL. He always has interesting things to say. Here he stays on topic, unlike PGL.

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.

...

[Mar 28, 2017] Economics students aim to tear up free-market syllabus

Notable quotes:
"... It was an eye opener that Universities are teaching only the neo-liberal model as the core syllabus. This is not education but indoctrination. Fair play to the group then who were passionate about the need for change and realise that it is up to them to effect that change. Good luck to them, I hope that they are successful in re-claiming education as a means of furthering understanding through questioning prevailing orthodoxy. ..."
"... Good luck. You may need it. You will be surprised at how much opposition you encounter and how remorseless and relentless it is. Look up the book "Political economy now!", about the experience at the University of Sydney. ..."
"... Economics is so discredited a subject that even students who have barley started studying realise that - with a few exceptions like Stiglitz or Schiller - it is total fabricated bullshit paid for by people with enough money to benefit from the lies it spreads. ..."
"... One of the biggest lies ever told the free market, as its never ever been a reality. ..."
"... Economists, like scientists and the rest of us, are always employed by someone and therein lies the problem: the conflict between what we believe to be the truth and what we are paid to do (or teach) to keep our job. Many economists (like investors & politicians) knew the crash would burst at some point but only those who enjoyed a seat outside the system would benefit from its prediction. ..."
Oct 24, 2013 | www.theguardian.com
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.

A growing number of top economists, such as Ha-Joon Chang, who teaches economics at Cambridge University, are backing the students.

Next month the society plans to publish a manifesto proposing sweeping reforms to the University of Manchester's curriculum, with the hope that other institutions will follow suit.

Joe Earle, a spokesman for the Post-Crash Economics Society and a final-year undergraduate, said academic departments were "ignoring the crisis" and that, by neglecting global developments and critics of the free market such as Keynes and Marx, the study of economics was "in danger of losing its broader relevance".

Chang, who is a reader in the political economy of development at Cambridge, said he agreed with the society's premise. The teaching of economics was increasingly confined to arcane mathematical models, he said. "Students are not even prepared for the commercial world. Few [students] know what is going on in China and how it influences the global economic situation. Even worse, I've met American students who have never heard of Keynes."

In June a network of young economics students, thinkers and writers set up Rethinking Economics , a campaign group to challenge what they say is the predominant narrative in the subject.

Earle said students across Britain were being taught neoclassical economics "as if it was the only theory".

He said: "It is given such a dominant position in our modules that many students aren't even aware that there are other distinct theories out there that question the assumptions, methodologies and conclusions of the economics we are taught."

Multiple-choice and maths questions dominate the first two years of economics degrees, which Earle said meant most students stayed away from modules that required reading and essay-writing, such as history of economic thought. "They think they just don't have the skills required for those sorts of modules and they don't want to jeopardise their degree," he said. "As a consequence, economics students never develop the faculties necessary to critically question, evaluate and compare economic theories, and enter the working world with a false belief about what economics is and a knowledge base limited to neoclassical theory."

In the decade before the 2008 crash, many economists dismissed warnings that property and stock markets were overvalued. They argued that markets were correctly pricing shares, property and exotic derivatives in line with economic models of behaviour. It was only when the US sub-prime mortgage market unravelled that banks realised a collective failure to spot the bubble had wrecked their finances.

In his 2010 documentary Inside Job, Charles Ferguson highlighted how US academics had produced hundreds of reports in support of the types of high-risk trading and debt-fuelled consumption that triggered the crash.

Some leading economists have criticised university economics teaching, among them Paul Krugman, a Nobel prize winner and professor at Princeton university who has attacked the complacency of economics education in the US.

In an article for the New York Times in 2009, Krugman wrote : "As I see it, the economics profession went astray because economists, as a group, mistook beauty, clad in impressive-looking mathematics, for truth."

Adam Posen, head of the Washington-based thinktank the Peterson Institute, said universities ignore empirical evidence that contradicts mainstream theories in favour of "overly technical nonsense".

City economists attacked Joseph Stiglitz, the former World Bank chief economist, and Olivier Blanchard, the current International Monetary Fund chief economist, when they criticised western governments for cutting investment in the wake of the crash.

A Manchester University spokeman said that, as at other university courses around the world, economics teaching at Manchester "focuses on mainstream approaches, reflecting the current state of the discipline". He added: "It is also important for students' career prospects that they have an effective grounding in the core elements of the subject.

"Many students at Manchester study economics in an interdisciplinary context alongside other social sciences, especially philosophy, politics and sociology. Such students gain knowledge of different kinds of approaches to examining social phenomena many modules taught by the department centre on the use of quantitative techniques. These could just as easily be deployed in mainstream or non-mainstream contexts." Since you're here

we've got a small favour to ask. More people are reading the Guardian than ever, but far fewer are paying for it. Advertising revenues across the media are falling fast. And unlike many news organisations, we haven't put up a paywall – we want to keep our journalism as open as we can . So you can see why we need to ask for your help. The Guardian's independent, investigative journalism takes a lot of time, money and hard work to produce. But we do it because we believe our perspective matters – because it might well be your perspective, too.

If everyone who reads our reporting, who likes it, helps to support it, our future would be much more secure.

SmashtheGates , 25 Oct 2013 00:07

Good luck to this group. They are on the right lines.

Post-Autistic Economics has been around for quite a while, now, and has developed into the World Economics Association. Take a look ...........

http://www.worldeconomicsassociation.org/ Reply Share

GreatGrandDad SmashtheGates , 25 Oct 2013 04:02
Good luck to this group. They are on the right lines.
Post-Autistic Economics has been around for quite a while....

and so has CASSE.

I hope these students can insist on For the Common Good (Daly and Cobb 1992) becoming a central text for their course.

The quotations from the 'grand-daddy' of Heterodox (as opposed to Orthodox) Economics, Kenneth Goulding,
will give them plenty of ammunition.

I particularly like: Anyone who believes exponential growth can go on forever in a finite world is either a madman or an economist. and
Economists are like computers. They need to have facts punched into them.

But my favourite is Mathematics brought rigor to Economics. Unfortunately, it also brought mortis.

littlepump SmashtheGates , 25 Oct 2013 09:42
@ SmashtheGates 25 October 2013 12:07am . Get cifFix for Firefox .

Good luck to this group. They are on the right lines.

Agreed, but they are fighting an uphill battle. Just look at how few (accademic) heterodox economists actually work in economics departments. I think almost every heterdox economist I know works in an non-economics school/faculty (i.e. schools/facultues of the environment, sustainability, sociology, land use etc).
GreatGrandDad Conrad33 , 25 Oct 2013 04:33
Again the Economists have their heads buried in stats rather than in the trenches.

Nice one, and a neat summary of what the economists had to tell the Queen in answer to her question as to why there was not forewarning of the crash.

Chrisk79 , 25 Oct 2013 00:36
I spoke with some of the Post Crash group at a Peoples Assembly meeting recently. It was an eye opener that Universities are teaching only the neo-liberal model as the core syllabus. This is not education but indoctrination. Fair play to the group then who were passionate about the need for change and realise that it is up to them to effect that change. Good luck to them, I hope that they are successful in re-claiming education as a means of furthering understanding through questioning prevailing orthodoxy.
hamstrung Chrisk79 , 25 Oct 2013 01:53
Well said that man. Very well said. Unquestioning indoctrination has led us (all countries in the world be they active participants or 'victims) to this sorry pass.

Basic economics should include the very basic idea that money is no more and no less than a tool. If you strip money / the tool away from folk then they will either try and take your tool from you or, if life becomes savage enough, they will fall by the wayside.

Does this generation and successive ones really want to walk over the bodies of others?

Without a profound readjustment and realignment of economic thinking, that is precisely what is in store. Indeed, it is what has been set in motion already. Time for an urgent re-think before more bodies litter the highways.

GreatGrandDad hamstrung , 25 Oct 2013 04:40
Time for an urgent re-think...

I heard recently about one man who had had such a re-think.

He was an American financial executive who was asked why he was taking early retirement and going off to live in a little valley in the hills.

He replied: "Well, it is a lovely property with great scenery, fertile land and its own microhydroelectricity-----but the really big attraction is that it puts 300 miles of armed hillbillies between me and the nearest city"!!.

callaspodeaspode GreatGrandDad , 25 Oct 2013 11:28
I do hope the chap in question doesn't end up regretting that he has deliberately placed himself into a situation where there are 300 miles of armed hillbillies between himself and the nearest city.

These things can cut both ways. Reply Share

GazInOz , 25 Oct 2013 02:27
Good luck. You may need it. You will be surprised at how much opposition you encounter and how remorseless and relentless it is. Look up the book "Political economy now!", about the experience at the University of Sydney.

http://purl.library.usyd.edu.au/sup/9781921364051

marukun GazInOz , 25 Oct 2013 05:22
Exactly - the clue is in this statement from the University authorities...

It is also important for students' career prospects that they have an effective grounding in the core elements of the subject.

Or in other words...

Students should be familar with the free market fair tales thrown up by rich, greedy bankers and the right wing in order to earn money pandering the "correct" line

Economics is so discredited a subject that even students who have barley started studying realise that - with a few exceptions like Stiglitz or Schiller - it is total fabricated bullshit paid for by people with enough money to benefit from the lies it spreads.

Paul Flanagan , 25 Oct 2013 02:34
One of the biggest lies ever told the free market, as its never ever been a reality.

Restrictions or prejudices ensure this, so such a philosophy deserves tearing up just like their supporters who believe community and care are bad ideals. They call it socialism but it is far from being a dirty word as it is about looking after all people on a more equal level, so as to ensure the most vulnerable people in society are not left in a helpless and hopeless position.

GreatGrandDad hamstrung , 25 Oct 2013 04:40
Time for an urgent re-think...

I heard recently about one man who had had such a re-think.
He was an American financial executive who was asked why he was taking early retirement and going off to live in a little valley in the hills.
He replied: "Well, it is a lovely property with great scenery, fertile land and its own microhydroelectricity-----but the really big attraction is that it puts 300 miles of armed hillbillies between me and the nearest city"!!.

Squiff811 , 25 Oct 2013 07:28
Thatcherist 'Reaganomics' was their response to the hissy fit Maggie threw at the 'grubby little terrorist' Nelson Mandela when he started to put the kibosh on the elites cash cow of South African apartheid, 4 decades of 'starving the beast' and media complicity in pushing the benefits of supply side while pruning demand to the core by cutting back public investment which is the only source of high velocity currency in a debt based economy where cash is simply printed to commission public gods, services and infrastructure for a civilised society and withdrawn through tax to mitigate inflation.

Only as we approach their ideology of fiscal apartheid do the courtiers perceive that without demand a bleak future awaits everyone but the very few already excessively wealthy.

Nicoise , 25 Oct 2013 07:41
Economists, like scientists and the rest of us, are always employed by someone and therein lies the problem: the conflict between what we believe to be the truth and what we are paid to do (or teach) to keep our job. Many economists (like investors & politicians) knew the crash would burst at some point but only those who enjoyed a seat outside the system would benefit from its prediction.

[Mar 28, 2017] This corrupt neoliberal stooge Brad DeLong and conversion of university economics departments into neoliberal propaganda departments

Notable quotes:
"... Lately certain unrepentant members of that disgraced profession, some of whom claim to be the consciences of the liberal establishment, have been expressing concern about the disrepute of the 'experts' and the need to allow the technocrats to take control of policy and the economy. ..."
"... Brad DeLong, by the way, banned me from his site comments noting, 'Alan Greenspan never made a decision with which I disagreed.' Since then even Alan Greenspan has admitted he does not agree with some of his decisions, in a sniveling and sneaky kind of a non-apologetic way. ..."
"... But the specific factual point from Brad's piece that got me going was this: ..."
"... "Merton and Scholes's financial math was correct, and the crash of their hedge fund did not require any public-money bailout" ..."
"... I think it is less than trivial to know where and how the B-S risk model fails as math, as illustrated so well by Benoit Mandelbrot in his book The Misbehaviour of Markets. The math fails in its selection choice of variables and assumptions. Naseem Taleb has made a cottage industry and a personal fortune understanding this error. ..."
jessescrossroadscafe.blogspot.com
Moving along, 'liberal' economist Brad DeLong of the University of California at Berkeley history of economics penned a recent column cited over at the excellent Economist's View run by Mark Thoma. The title of Brad's column is The Need for a Reformation of Authority and Hierarchy Among Economists in the Public Sphere.

Ok I have to admit that the title alone got me into a cranky mood. Lately certain unrepentant members of that disgraced profession, some of whom claim to be the consciences of the liberal establishment, have been expressing concern about the disrepute of the 'experts' and the need to allow the technocrats to take control of policy and the economy.

Granted, they may look like the lesser of two evils in some cases, as in the current nascent administration, and in their own minds. But their policy consensus and economic recommendations of the past thirty years or so, starting with the Fed chairmanship of Alan Greenspan at least, only look good in their own selective memories. Brad DeLong, by the way, banned me from his site comments noting, 'Alan Greenspan never made a decision with which I disagreed.' Since then even Alan Greenspan has admitted he does not agree with some of his decisions, in a sniveling and sneaky kind of a non-apologetic way.

For everyone else this cycle of growing inequality, policy skews to the wealthy few, and asset bubbles and bust that serve as wealth transfer mechanisms has been particularly trying.

But the specific factual point from Brad's piece that got me going was this:

"Merton and Scholes's financial math was correct, and the crash of their hedge fund did not require any public-money bailout"
Yeah, right. Let's put aside the nicety of a Fed brokered bailout of LTCM by Wall Street money as technically not requiring public bailout money, in order to save the financial system from an epic overleveraged mispricing of risk based on that correct math.

I think it is less than trivial to know where and how the B-S risk model fails as math, as illustrated so well by Benoit Mandelbrot in his book The Misbehaviour of Markets. The math fails in its selection choice of variables and assumptions. Naseem Taleb has made a cottage industry and a personal fortune understanding this error.

And what makes it most egregious is that the error hs been known among those with mathematical minds for some time. I myself read Mandelbrot's book in 2001 and said, 'holy shit.'

Let's be clear. This was not some dumb error on the part of these fellows, or some sneaky trick. They could not resolve their math without making a certain assumption, and they did it openly and consciously. And as the write of the essay below notes, there has not been anything better produced yet to his knowledge.

It is not the theory itself that is 'bad.' It is the use and misuse to which it is put by opportunists and financial predators in misrepresenting it.

But the people who use the assumptions on risk contained in the model don't care. Like the efficient market hypothesis, it is an intellectual fig leaf that covers an epic era of looting and plundering bases on what is essentially a con game. If you assume that risk is a rare event, you can persuade the regulators and the very important people to let you run on leverage at extreme levels, especially if you can use other people's money.

Like some of the other accepted truths from the turn of the century greed is good crowd, it is a meme with which to silence the protests and permit the widespread mispricing of risk in order to reap enormous short term profits for a very few wealthy insiders. This had been going on for so long that it is almost accepted as a normal way of doing business.

Here is what an essay in Criticality had to say about the Merton-Scholes math. I suppose that the sophist would say that the math was indeed right. It was just the assumptions they used to construct the model was wrong. So 3+5 does equal 8. Its just that in the real world case there were three more factors that were tossed aside and ignored because they messed up the path to the more easily determined and reassuring result.

"This implies that rather than extreme market moves being so unlikely that they make little contribution to the overall evolution, they instead come to have a very significant contribution. In a normally distributed market, crashes and booms are vanishingly rare, in a pareto-levy one crashes occur and are a significant component of the final outcome.

It has taken years for this to be taken seriously, and in the mean time financial theory has gone on using the assumption of normally distributed returns to derive such results as the Black-Scholes option pricing equation, ultimately winning an Nobel Prize in Economics for the discoverers Scholes and Merton (Black having already died), not to mention Modern Portfolio theory (also winning Nobels). That modern finance ignored Mandelbrot's discovery and went onto honor those working under assumptions shown to be false has clearly annoyed Mandelbrot immensely and as mentioned previously he spends much of the book telling us of his prior discoveries and how he was ignored.

It is like allowing tobacco companies to widely distribute their products while a bevy of hired gun experts and media pundits and PR organizations promote the theory that tobacco is not a highly addictive substance that causes a wide range of debilitating diseases, including cancer. They know damn well that it is and it does, but they do not give a damn as long as the money is rolling in. And pity the fool who tries to stand up and tell the truth.

And so to has it been with the Banks. Indeed, the PR campaign and political donations they handled through their intermediaries during the 1990s to deregulate and overturn Glass-Steagal has to be one of the great propaganda accomplishments of the twentieth century. And the follow on campaign for the US to invade Iraq in retribution for 9/11 is not far behind it for the twenty first.

The greater point is not that the B-S model is based on faulty assumptions that greatly diminish the potential risks. Rather it is how such 'laws' of economics are so often of a dodgy, optionated and theoretical nature such that taking them as a given in forming public policy is a huge mistake in judgement.

Why? Because they may embody assumptions about what is true, and what is a priority, and what our principles and objectives may be, and propagate those assumptions (biases) into a general policy of our society that ends up causing great harm to many innocent participants. Indeed, as Obama said, there is a great need to discussion and understanding. It is just that it cannot be monopolized by a particular group of insiders who adhere to certain assumptions and professional courtesies of their own, dare I say it, class.

So there are my two corrections to the mainstream media and their writing of the public record- to suit themselves and their wealthy patrons. It seems like modern America spends an enormous amount of its intellectual capital and time on finding ways to scam the public. If we could somehow reorder the paybacks on financial corruption to even a third of what it is today we could probably cure cancer in five years or less. That is what it would take to 'make America great again,' for real and not just in the funny papers.

I would like to again stress that I am not finding fault with either of the two bloggers involved, both of whom I enjoy and admire for what they do. Mark Thoma is a class act, and even when he disagrees is very fair and open minded about it. And he keeps this site in his blogroll despite some special interests who have argued for its removal. That is more than I can say for some others.

Rather, I am trying to correct a couple of things from the broader media that seem to be factually wrong, purposely, and further, to help caution the reader that things that appear in the mainstream media written by bona fide members of the certified and qualified professional establishment cannot always be taken at face value.

The deterioration of the quality of the news is startling. I think it has a lot to do with the takeover of the media by a relatively few number of large corporations (thank you Slick Willy) Yeah, there is a lot of nutty stuff on the internet and in blogs. I spend a lot of time assessing it and avoiding it where I can. But to say that the mainstream is somehow authoritative, objective and pure is self-serving baloney at best, and a thin veneer for official propaganda when it serves the purpose at worst.

[Mar 28, 2017] Its hardly surprising were such an unproductive - fiancialised and individualised nation is it? Nor is it surprising that London generally flourishes as one of the most financialised and individualised cities in the world

Mar 28, 2017 | discussion.theguardian.com
NottinghamFlorist , 25 Oct 2013 5:10 The 'free' market is as follows...

UK lending by financial institutions, 1997-2012:

36%-40% going to "financial institutions"
51%-52% going to "individuals", i.e. mostly "rich individuals"
5%-9% going to "manufacturing/productive industry".

It's hardly surprising we're such an unproductive - fiancialised and individualised nation is it? Nor is it surprising that London generally "flourishes" as one of the most financialised and individualised cities in the world.

This isn't 'freedom'. It's reaping what we have sowed for the last thirty plus years of neoliberal politics and economics. It's as centrally planned as anything under the Soviet Union, only with capitalist distribution, i.e. it is pure state capitalism, or engineered capitalism, and yet they tell us society cannot be 'engineered', or 'structured', and that this is utopian dreaming. They are the utopian dreamers.

London is the financial arm of the Washington consensus - a part of the EU, and a part of the UK, but barely so - or semi-detached. The City of London from which all financial capital flows is effectively a tax haven, no different to the Channel Islands. It's all a huge political and social mess - exactly what the economic elite want.

[Mar 28, 2017] The fact is that the mainstream economists, and most mainstream economists who were heard in the public sphere were not against austerity, but rather split, with, if anything, louder and larger voices on the pro-austerity side

Brad DeJong is staunch despicable neoliberal, but something he has the courage to admit obvious things...
Notable quotes:
"... Simon needs to face that fact squarely, rather than to dodge it. The fact is that the "mainstream economists, and most mainstream economists" who were heard in the public sphere were not against austerity, but rather split, with, if anything, louder and larger voices on the pro-austerity side. ..."
"... When Unlearning Economics seeks the destruction of "mainstream economics", he seeks the end of an intellectual hegemony that gives Reinhart and Rogoff's very shaky arguments a much more powerful institutional intellectual voice by virtue of their authors' tenured posts at Harvard than the arguments in fact deserve. ..."
Mar 28, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com

anne, March 27, 2017 at 11:08 AM

http://www.bradford-delong.com/2017/03/the-need-for-a-reformation-of-authority-and-hierarchy-among-economists-in-the-public-sphere.html

March 27, 2017

... ... ...

and then there is Reinhart and Rogoff, where I think Unlearning Economics is right.

So Unlearning Economics is batting 0.170 in their examples of "mainstream economics considered harmful". But there is that one case. And I do not think that Simon Wren-Lewis handles that one case well. And he needs to--I need to. And, since neither he nor I have, this is a big problem.

Let me put it this way: Carmen Reinhart and Ken Rogoff are mainstream economists.

The fact is that Carmen Reinhart and Ken Rogoff were wrong in 2009-2013. Yet they had much more influence on economic policy in 2009-2013 than did Simon Wren-Lewis and me. They had influence. And their influence was aggressively pro-austerity. And their influence almost entirely destructive.

Simon needs to face that fact squarely, rather than to dodge it. The fact is that the "mainstream economists, and most mainstream economists" who were heard in the public sphere were not against austerity, but rather split, with, if anything, louder and larger voices on the pro-austerity side. (In my humble opinion, Simon Wren-Lewis half admits this with his denunciations of "City economists".)

When Unlearning Economics seeks the destruction of "mainstream economics", he seeks the end of an intellectual hegemony that gives Reinhart and Rogoff's very shaky arguments a much more powerful institutional intellectual voice by virtue of their authors' tenured posts at Harvard than the arguments in fact deserve.

Simon Wren-Lewis, in response, wants to claim that strengthening the "mainstream" would somehow diminish the influence of future Reinharts and Rogoffs in analogous situations. But the arguments for austerity that turned out to be powerful and persuasive in the public sphere came from inside the house!

* https://mainly macro.blogspot.co.uk/2017/03/on-criticising-existence-of-mainstream.html

** https://medium.com/@UnlearningEcon/no-criticising-economics-is-not-regressive-43e114777429#.ptzhjr87b

-- Brad DeLong

There are no gains from trade liberalization - just ask the people of Youngstown , March 27, 2017 at 03:31 PM
American economists bear much of the blame for the collapse of US living standards.

After fifty years of real economic decline, they prattle on about the benefits of trade liberalization.

[Mar 26, 2017] Next AEA meeting should be held in Youngstown so economists can admire the fruit of their labors

Mar 26, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com
xxx , March 26, 2017 at 07:58 AM
Next American Economics Association meeting should be held in Youngstown so economists can admire the fruit of their labors. See all the destroyed buildings, the raging heroin epidemic and mass poverty your support of de-industrialization and free trade brought to America.

Every regional meeting should be held in any number of America's thousands of destroyed dilapidated cities - E. St. Louis, Rochester, Cleveland, Greensboro NC, San Bernadino - there are so many de-industrialized ghettoes from which to choose!

Tom aka Rusty -> Next AEA meeting should be held in Youngstown so economists can admire the fruit of their labors... , March 26, 2017 at 09:41 AM
I've been recommending Detroit for years.

libezkova -> Tom aka Rusty ... March 26, 2017 at 03:34 PM

That might not help. Those guy have no morals. Simply none. Nothing is left from 10 commandment in their brains. They have only "Greed is good" etched in it.

Just look at Mankiw. Noting can stop him from cashing in on all this neoclassical crap.

Or, for a change, Krugman's behavior during elections. What a despicable neoliberal stooge he proved to be. His dirty attacks on Sanders should probably be re-printed as a leaflet and distributed nationwide -- as a warning.

It is so difficult to understand that "when nothing left on the left, working class and lower middle class turns to far right." ?

What a despicable stooge of financial oligarchy. Another Rubin's boy, much like Summers...

And now he has the audacity to criticize Trump, the person he was working to put in power for more then a decade. I do not defend Trump, but it is important to ask a simple question: Are the members of the criminal Clinton gang (who essentially practiced racketeering via Clinton Foundation) and "over-connected" to intelligence services Obama paragons of virtue?

Are they conceptually any different from Trump ?

In the past they practices the same dirty neoliberal tricks as Trump tying to squeeze the majority of population in favor of financial oligarchy (Obama "non-prosecution" after 2008 is a telling example, and shows who he really is), but probably with more polish and better PR. That's the only difference.

http://www.salon.com/2013/03/09/the_world_according_to_milton_friedman_partner/

== quote ==

Discussions of neoliberalism, on both the left and the right, suffer from what Paul Krugman and others have called "zombie" ideas. These are economic concepts that have been long discredited, but continue to shamble on. On the right, a central zombie idea is that reduced state regulation of markets leads to sustainable economic growth. If you believe this, then the rise of neoliberalism is a no-brainer.

Neoliberalism is simply the economic philosophy that works. But why should anyone believe this?

The idea that unleashing free markets then leads to good economic times should never have survived the Great Depression, and should surely be killed for good by the Great Recession and its aftermath.

[Mar 26, 2017] There is no such thing as a "natural rate of interest"

Mar 26, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com
RGC, March 26, 2017 at 07:06 AM
In short, there is no such thing as a "natural rate of interest".

........................

What then? It is difficult to say, exactly, whether the prevalent confusions are the result of sloppy thinking, an incoherent textbook pedagogy, or a deliberate desire to cover for the Federal Reserve and to obstruct potential criticism of the independent central bank. As a next step, let us ask: is there a better theory of interest rates out there, somewhere in the great work of the economists?

In the CEA paper, as in most of this so-called literature, the 20th century British economist John Maynard Keynes is not cited. Yet it is a fact that Keynes did write an influential book with the word "Interest" in the title. It was called The General Theory of Employment Interest and Money, published in 1936. In which Keynes states, of the classical theory of interest – that theory of loanable funds overlying a natural rate – that his own analysis "will have made it plain that this account of the matter must be erroneous" (p. 177). Perhaps it is worthwhile to seek Keynes's counsel at this point?

Keynes's theory of interest does not rest on the capital stock. And in Keynes as in the real world, there is no "capital market" that equates household saving with business investment.

Instead, Keynes's theory of interest is about the market for money – a market that definitely does exist in the real world. He wrote: "The rate of interest is not the 'price' which brings into equilibrium the demand for resources to invest with the readiness to abstain from consumption. It is the 'price' which equilibrates the desire to hold wealth in the form of cash with the available quantity of cash" (p. 167). In other words, interest rates are a portfolio issue. They are determined in the money markets, by how – in what form – people with wealth choose, at any given time, to hold that wealth. You pay interest, in order to get people to hold their wealth in less-liquid forms, such as bonds – and this is what provides firms with a secure source of financing, which then permits them to invest.

Keynes's theory of interest is the pure common sense of how financial markets work. So why is it treated, by our leading liberal economists, as though it didn't exist? Why all this confusing folderol about natural and neutral rates? The apparent answer is damning. In the theories our economists like, a technical theory of interest creates a technical theory of income distribution, since interest rates govern the incomes of creditors against debtors, of the rich against the poor, of profits against wages. Thomas Piketty's recent book is a nice instance of this point, with its argument that the great inequalities of capitalism are due to interest rates higher than the rate of economic growth. If interest somehow reflects the physical productivity of the capital stock, then the consequences may be unfortunate – but they are inevitable and not something of which it is proper to complain.

http://www.paecon.net/PAEReview/issue78/Galbraith78.pdf

RGC -> RGC... , March 26, 2017 at 07:39 AM
"Why all this confusing folderol about natural and neutral rates? The apparent answer is damning. In the theories our economists like, a technical theory of interest creates a technical theory of income distribution, since interest rates govern the incomes of creditors against debtors, of the rich against the poor, of profits against wages..........If interest somehow reflects the physical productivity of the capital stock, then the consequences may be unfortunate – but they are inevitable and not something of which it is proper to complain."

[Is that clear enough?......Galbraith is accusing mainstream economists of acting as apologists for rentiers.]

[Mar 25, 2017] What is Economism and why it is so damaging

Notable quotes:
"... Ugh what an awful display of pop economism. Globalization and technology are "impersonal forces." No mention of the rise of inequality or the SecStags. No mention of monetary policy fail in Europe. The biggest lies of economism are the lies of omission. ..."
"... Looks like this concept of "Economism" introduced by James Kwak in his book Economism is very important conceptual tool for understanding the tremendous effectiveness of neoliberal propaganda. ..."
"... When competitive free markets and rational well-informed actors are the baseline assumption, the burden of proof shifts unfairly onto anyone proposing a government policy. ..."
"... For example, the basic Econ 101 theory of supply and demand is fine for some products, but it doesn't work very well for labor markets. It is incapable of simultaneously explaining both the small effect of minimum wage increases and the small impact of low-skilled immigration. Some more complicated, advanced theory is called for. ..."
"... But no matter how much evidence piles up, people keep talking about "the labor supply curve" and "the labor demand curve" as if these are real objects, and to analyze policies -- for example, overtime rules -- using the same old framework. ..."
"... An idea that we believe in despite all evidence to the contrary isn't a scientific theory -- it's an infectious meme. ..."
"... Academic economists are unsure about how to respond to the abuse of simplistic econ theories for political ends. On one hand, it gives them enormous prestige. The popularity of simplistic econ ideas has made economists the toast of America's intellectual classes. ..."
"... It has sustained enormous demand for the undergraduate econ major, which serves, in the words of writer Michael Lewis, as a "standardized test of general intelligence" for future businesspeople. But as Kwak points out, the simple theories promulgated by politicians and on the Wall Street Journal editorial page often bear little resemblance to the sophisticated theories used by real economists. ..."
"... And when things go wrong -- when the financial system crashes, or millions of workers displaced by Chinese imports fail to find new careers -- it's academic economists who often get blamed, not the blasé and misleading popularizers. ..."
Jan 20, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com

Peter K. : January 20, 2017 at 04:35 AM

Noah Smith: The Ways That Pop Economics Hurt America - Noah Smith

"So I wonder if economism was really as unrealistic and useless as Kwak seems to imply. Did countries that resisted economism -- Japan, for example, or France [Germany?] -- do better for their poor and middle classes than the U.S.? Wages have stagnated in those countries, and inequality has increased, even as those countries remain poorer than the U.S. Did the U.S.'s problems really all come from economism, or did forces such as globalization and technological change play a part? Cross-country comparisons suggest that the deregulation and tax cuts of the 1980s and 1990s, although ultimately excessive, probably increased economic output somewhat."

Ugh what an awful display of pop economism. Globalization and technology are "impersonal forces." No mention of the rise of inequality or the SecStags. No mention of monetary policy fail in Europe. The biggest lies of economism are the lies of omission.

libezkova -> Peter K.... , -1
Thank you !

Looks like this concept of "Economism" introduced by James Kwak in his book Economism is very important conceptual tool for understanding the tremendous effectiveness of neoliberal propaganda.

I think it is proper to view Economism as a flavor of Lysenkoism. As such it is not very effective in acquiring the dominant position and suppressing of dissent, but it also can be very damaging.

https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2017-01-19/the-ways-that-pop-economics-hurt-america

== quote ==

...When competitive free markets and rational well-informed actors are the baseline assumption, the burden of proof shifts unfairly onto anyone proposing a government policy. For far too many years, free-marketers have gotten away with winning debates by just sitting back and saying "Oh yeah? Show me the market failure!" That deck-stacking has long forced public intellectuals on the left have to work twice as hard as those safely ensconced in think tanks on the free-market right, and given the latter a louder voice in public life than their ideas warrant.

It's also true that simple theories, especially those we learn in our formative years, can maintain an almost unshakeable grip on our thinking.

For example, the basic Econ 101 theory of supply and demand is fine for some products, but it doesn't work very well for labor markets. It is incapable of simultaneously explaining both the small effect of minimum wage increases and the small impact of low-skilled immigration. Some more complicated, advanced theory is called for.

But no matter how much evidence piles up, people keep talking about "the labor supply curve" and "the labor demand curve" as if these are real objects, and to analyze policies -- for example, overtime rules -- using the same old framework.

An idea that we believe in despite all evidence to the contrary isn't a scientific theory -- it's an infectious meme.

Academic economists are unsure about how to respond to the abuse of simplistic econ theories for political ends. On one hand, it gives them enormous prestige. The popularity of simplistic econ ideas has made economists the toast of America's intellectual classes.

It has sustained enormous demand for the undergraduate econ major, which serves, in the words of writer Michael Lewis, as a "standardized test of general intelligence" for future businesspeople. But as Kwak points out, the simple theories promulgated by politicians and on the Wall Street Journal editorial page often bear little resemblance to the sophisticated theories used by real economists.

And when things go wrong -- when the financial system crashes, or millions of workers displaced by Chinese imports fail to find new careers -- it's academic economists who often get blamed, not the blasé and misleading popularizers.

... ... ...

Russia and China have given up communism not because they stopped having working classes, but because it became obvious that their communist systems were keeping them in poverty. And Americans are now starting to question economism because of declining median income, spiraling inequality and a huge financial and economic crisis.

[Mar 25, 2017] Review of Economism: Bad Economics and the Rise of Inequality by James Kwak by Peter Dorman

Notable quotes:
"... Neoliberalism, which is essentially simplified pseudo-economics in action, is finally beginning to break down, but rather than yielding to a more rational politics it is giving us Brexit, Trump and similar delusionary movements. Required to choose between the stale cant of economism and authoritarian fairytales of denial, the public is opting for the second door. Unless economism is disposed of quickly, there won't be an opening for a more enlightened third option. ..."
"... The critical deconstructive move follows, in which Kwak surveys the empirical literature, showing that, in real economics, the conventional assumptions are either flat out wrong or at least seriously qualified. He then concludes by explaining the policy implications of a more informed approach. It gets to be a bit formulaic, but it is effective and easy to follow. ..."
"... I can imagine using a book like this in an introductory microeconomics class. (Except for a bit of macro here and there, the book's focus is micro.) It's exactly the right antidote for the tendency of introductory textbooks to oversell markets and undersupply critical thinking. I hope lots of faculty teaching Econ 101 adopt it. ..."
"... He would do well to distinguish between the normative and positive aspects of economism. In a policy context, both are usually entailed: the positive view that this is how the world works is given political salience by the normative view that demand curves represent "benefits" to society and the supply curve "costs". It's important to recognize that economism can fail on either account: either empirical work can show that this is not how the world works, or the assumptions about how markets represent social interests can be challenged, or both. ..."
"... the full-dress neoclassical trade model (Heckscher-Ohlin-Samuelson, although he doesn't identify it as such) recognizes losers as well as winners from trade liberalization and makes this the conceptual linchpin of his critique of economism in this area. ..."
"... the impacts of trade liberalization on employment may be worse than this, since the proposition that the trade balance is unaffected by changes in the degree of openness requires adjustments in exchange rates that, at the very least, are empirically unreliable. ..."
"... In practice it's entirely possible, likely even, that a major liberalization event like the US opening to trade with China at the time of its WTO accession has an effect on the aggregate trade balance and not just the composition of industries on each side of the ledger. I shouldn't make a big deal of this, because Kwak is no doubt eager to avoid criticism that he is unknowledgeable about economics, and most economists would regard my criticism as falling under that shadow-but I don't think I'm wrong about this. ..."
"... Economism is wrong about how labor markets work, how health care works, how international trade works and so on, not because money doesn't buy you love, but because its analysis is wrong . If we're looking for a common message that applies to all these topics and pokes a hole in the economistic world view, wouldn't we look for common elements in the arguments we've already made? ..."
"... At its best, Economism is feisty. It challenges sloppy thinking about how the economic system works and makes the case for progressive policies that would result in greater income equality and access to economic goods. Excellent! ..."
"... The unifying progressive message is not that economics doesn't matter so much; it's that the economics of knee-jerk libertarianism is doctrinaire, false and self-serving. Our message is that we reject the ideology of universal unlimited acquisitiveness as a reasonable way of organizing human affairs, and that the evidence is on our side. I'd love to see a hard-hitting conclusion replace the flabby one that's currently there. ..."
Mar 25, 2017 | econospeak.blogspot.com
There's economics, a field that has been renewing itself, shaking off theoretical rigidities through more attention to behavior and institutions and shifting its center of gravity toward empirical observation and testing. And then there's economics as it exists in standard political discourse, seeing the whole world as refracted through supply and demand diagrams where markets are always efficient and outcomes always socially optimal. This second, dumbed down, knee-jerk libertarian creed is the object of James Kwak's new book, Economism .

If ever a book arrived to fill a need, this one has. Neoliberalism, which is essentially simplified pseudo-economics in action, is finally beginning to break down, but rather than yielding to a more rational politics it is giving us Brexit, Trump and similar delusionary movements. Required to choose between the stale cant of economism and authoritarian fairytales of denial, the public is opting for the second door. Unless economism is disposed of quickly, there won't be an opening for a more enlightened third option.

In many ways, Kwak is an ideal person to take on the job. He's very, very smart. He generally knows his economics, but he's not in thrall to the profession. (He's actually a law professor.) He writes clearly and explains economic concepts with a minimum of lecture-itis. His book is short and to the point.

Most chapters follow the same general template. Kwak begins by laying out an area of policy and briefly explaining why it's important; topics include income distribution, taxes, health care, finance and trade. He then goes into a thorough exposition of the standard economistic analysis, usually based on casual assumptions concerning rational choice, competition, and the market as a cost-benefit device. His next step is to show this conceptual framework in action, as mouthed by politicians and journalists. The critical deconstructive move follows, in which Kwak surveys the empirical literature, showing that, in real economics, the conventional assumptions are either flat out wrong or at least seriously qualified. He then concludes by explaining the policy implications of a more informed approach. It gets to be a bit formulaic, but it is effective and easy to follow.

I can imagine using a book like this in an introductory microeconomics class. (Except for a bit of macro here and there, the book's focus is micro.) It's exactly the right antidote for the tendency of introductory textbooks to oversell markets and undersupply critical thinking. I hope lots of faculty teaching Econ 101 adopt it.

That said, I think it could have been even better than it is. In a future second edition-and I expect there will be one-Kwak should consider these improvements:

1. His adoption of the voice of economism is very extended. He will go on for several pages presenting the economistic worldview as if it were his. Yes, I know, academics like Kwak, myself and perhaps you are trained to cope with this. It's nothing for us to read a book in which the author takes on the personna of someone with a differnt point of view for many pages at a time. Most general readers are not familiar with this, however. I can say from personal experience that something like half my students would come away thinking that Kwak himself espouses economism and is contradicting himself when he criticizes it. What to do about this? Of course, it's important for Kwak to present economism in a neutral, even sympathetic voice, and to do so at the length it requires. Perhaps he considered adding, every paragraph or so, a qualifier like "from this point of view", but decided it was too clunky. In that case, an altered typeface, like italics, could have been used to set off his temporarily assumed voice as expositor of economism. One way or the other, markers are needed for readers unused to academic protocols.

2. He would do well to distinguish between the normative and positive aspects of economism. In a policy context, both are usually entailed: the positive view that this is how the world works is given political salience by the normative view that demand curves represent "benefits" to society and the supply curve "costs". It's important to recognize that economism can fail on either account: either empirical work can show that this is not how the world works, or the assumptions about how markets represent social interests can be challenged, or both. In practice, Kwak relies more on the first critique, and the book usefully draws together key empirical findings on topics like minimum wages, health costs, etc. But the market failure framework could have been given more of a workout than it received; in practice these arguments are effective.

3. The chapter on international trade is timid. Kwak points out that the full-dress neoclassical trade model (Heckscher-Ohlin-Samuelson, although he doesn't identify it as such) recognizes losers as well as winners from trade liberalization and makes this the conceptual linchpin of his critique of economism in this area. In this he has a lot of company; H-O-S with lots of friction has become the standard progressive position. However, the impacts of trade liberalization on employment may be worse than this, since the proposition that the trade balance is unaffected by changes in the degree of openness requires adjustments in exchange rates that, at the very least, are empirically unreliable. ( All exchange rate adjustments in response to anything are empirically unreliable.) In practice it's entirely possible, likely even, that a major liberalization event like the US opening to trade with China at the time of its WTO accession has an effect on the aggregate trade balance and not just the composition of industries on each side of the ledger. I shouldn't make a big deal of this, because Kwak is no doubt eager to avoid criticism that he is unknowledgeable about economics, and most economists would regard my criticism as falling under that shadow-but I don't think I'm wrong about this.

4. The very end of the book-the final four pages-are simply weak. To wrap up, Kwak points out that, whatever its faults, economism delivers by having a simple, all-purpose, easy-to-grasp message and then asks, "What's our message?" His answer is that wealthy economies don't need economic growth or even economic efficiency as they used to, and we should all turn away from economic concerns and embrace happiness instead. Huh? Now, before I launch into a critique of this view, I should make it clear that I agree with a lot of it on matters of substance: economic values, like income, are not the same as human values. One can live well on less money, and the pursuit of wealth should not be the primary goal either for individuals or societies. Yes, of course. But that doesn't mean that "downplay money" is the logical message to set against economism.

One obvious reason is that the difference between wealth and happiness played no role whatsoever in the chapters that led up to his conclusion. Economism is wrong about how labor markets work, how health care works, how international trade works and so on, not because money doesn't buy you love, but because its analysis is wrong . If we're looking for a common message that applies to all these topics and pokes a hole in the economistic world view, wouldn't we look for common elements in the arguments we've already made? It's always a mistake in a piece of writing to go off in a new direction at the point where we should be summing up; this should have occurred to Kwak or been pointed out to him by his reviewers.

The other reason is that downplaying economics-saying that income and other economic measures don't mean so much-violates the spirit of the book. At its best, Economism is feisty. It challenges sloppy thinking about how the economic system works and makes the case for progressive policies that would result in greater income equality and access to economic goods. Excellent! Why at the end turn around and say, in effect, OK, we'll give the conservatives economics, and we'll take happiness instead? No! Don't give them that! They don't deserve it! The unifying progressive message is not that economics doesn't matter so much; it's that the economics of knee-jerk libertarianism is doctrinaire, false and self-serving. Our message is that we reject the ideology of universal unlimited acquisitiveness as a reasonable way of organizing human affairs, and that the evidence is on our side. I'd love to see a hard-hitting conclusion replace the flabby one that's currently there.

It's in the nature of a review like this to dwell on the negative, but I don't want you to be dissuaded from buying and reading this book. Economism is an important work of popular education that needed to be written. Kwak has the skills to do it well-even better than he has this time out.

Posted by Peter Dorman at 5 comments: Links to this post

Bruce Wilder said...
I have not read Kwak's book, though I have read the chapter on minimum wage policy republished in the Atlantic in January. My comment reflects on your review and that Atlantic article.

Kwak is trying to do a very difficult thing in attacking "economism", the glib libertarian ideology derived from neoclassical economics, and he does not seem to grasp just how difficult or why it is so difficult. The Amazon page explains, " Economism: an ideology that distorts the valid principles and tools of introductory college economics, propagated by self-styled experts, zealous lobbyists, clueless politicians, and ignorant pundits." This is the basic rhetorical stance of the book: that the economics of Econ 101 has validity and economism is some distorted, illegitimate simplification. This rhetorical template will get reiterated as the notion that the actual economy is messy and complicated and economism is wrong because it is oversimplified (to serve interests).

On the minimum wage, Kwak concedes "The supply-and-demand diagram is a good conceptual starting point for thinking about the minimum wage. But on its own, it has limited predictive value in the much more complex real world." and then presents sophisticated economics as "it's complicated". "In short, whether the minimum wage should be increased (or eliminated) is a complicated question. The economic research is difficult to parse, and arguments often turn on sophisticated econometric details. Any change in the minimum wage would have different effects on different groups of people, and should also be compared with other policies . . . "

This is a hopelessly weak rhetorical position, because it depends on conceding -- indeed, confirming -- the validity of neoclassical economics, which still outlines introductory college economics textbooks. Economism is a fair distillation of neoclassical economics and, like it or not, mainstream economics nurtures neoclassical economics and demands commitment to the neoclassical framework. Even if the mainstream permits many other ideas to float around academia, neoclassical economics is the framework of indoctrination.

I do not think it is possible to win the argument against economism, if you are not willing to reject neoclassical economics wholesale. Neoclassical economics is the father and mother of economism, and neoclassical economics is wrong, fundamentally wrong, in a scientific (aka epistemological) sense. The world is not essentially or fundamentally as neoclassical economics says, which is provable logically and empirically; you can only sustain neoclassical economics as an academic doctrine by suppressing critical thinking (which economics pedagogy insists upon). We do not live in an economic system organized primarily by markets tending toward general equilibrium; the actual economy is organized primarily by bureaucracy and driven by disequilibrium dynamics. Most prices are not formed by competitive bidding; prices are administratively determined and managed. And so on.

March 18, 2017 at 4:42 PM
Bruce Wilder said...
The supply-and-demand diagram is NOT a good conceptual starting point for thinking about the minimum wage, and Kwak should never have conceded as much. There's no labor market. Most employers offer low-wage workers take-it-leave-it terms, constrained only by the rules and bureaucracy of state and Federal labor regulations, one of which, of course, is the statutory minimum wage. (Millions work for less than the minimum wage by the way -- as the Bureau of Labor Statistics regularly attests.) And, when people go to work, they are managed and supervised in systems that determine how productive they are; if they are paid their "marginal product" in some abstract sense, it is because their managers make it so. They work in bureaucracies controlling production and distribution processes by administrative and technological means, and the terms of their employment reflects this role as controller and controlled: they are paid a more or less fixed wage, subject to being fired. The threat of being fired is key to the willingness of employees to follow managerial direction.

Neoclassical economics does not admit economic hierarchy as central to the organization of the economy. But, when you reject neoclassical economics, you do not exclude all that might be relevant from mainstream economics. Indeed, economists have had many useful insights into "efficiency wages" and the relation of principals to their agents.

Useful and sophisticated ideas are still available after rejecting neoclassical economics, but I am not sure reputable economists are. I do not think Kwak would find his book jacket blurbed by quite such luminary figures, if he had rejected neoclassical economics as one big lie (which it is). He would have been in a stronger logical and rhetorical position to reject economism, but he might have lacked reputable allies. That's what makes the rejection of economism so difficult.

Economism is the ideology of right neoliberalism, but the neoliberal right is locked into a symbiotic relationship with left neoliberalism. Paul Krugman, Brad DeLong, John Quiggin, Noah Smith, Jared Bernstein -- these people seem to be opposed to economism, but they depend upon the legitimacy of neoclassical economics and the mainstream economics establishment too much to allow a winning argument premised on a rejection of the mother lode of economism, neoclassical economics.

It is an old story of "with friends like these who needs enemies". Economics is a thoroughly corrupt profession and all neoclassical economists are some mix of fraud and fool. We might like the fools better, but they are not that much help against the frauds. As Peter Dorman says, "Kwak is no doubt eager to avoid criticism that he is unknowledgeable about economics", but I suspect his eagerness to avoid such criticism is focused more on the sociological factor that mainstream economics nurtures neoclassical economics than on actual knowledge of economics qua knowledge of the economy. And, that's the core problem.

March 18, 2017 at 4:51 PM
Sandwichman said...
"the neoliberal right is locked into a symbiotic relationship with left neoliberalism"

I would have phrased it the other way round. It seems to me the neoliberal right would be content without the left but the neoliberal left desperately needs the neoliberal right for legitimization in its relentless crusade against the heterodox infidels -- the right is what makes Krugman, DeLong et al. "the lefter of two neoliberalisms."

March 18, 2017 at 7:41 PM
George H. Blackford said...
With regard to:

"In practice it's entirely possible, likely even, that a major liberalization event like the US opening to trade with China at the time of its WTO accession has an effect on the aggregate trade balance and not just the composition of industries on each side of the ledger. I shouldn't make a big deal of this, because Kwak is no doubt eager to avoid criticism that he is unknowledgeable about economics, and most economists would regard my criticism as falling under that shadow-but I don't think I'm wrong about this."

Hobson made a very big deal about this when it comes to China more than 100 years ago:

"It is here enough to repeat that Free Trade can nowise guarantee the maintenance of industry, or of an industrial population upon any particular country, and there is no consideration, theoretic or practical, to prevent British capital from transferring itself to China, provided it can find there a cheaper or more efficient supply of labour, or even to prevent Chinese capital with Chinese labour from ousting British produce in neutral markets of the world. What applies to Great Britain applies equally to the other industrial nations which have driven their economic suckers into China. It is at least conceivable that China might so turn the tables upon the Western industrial nations, and, either by adopting their capital and organisers or, as is more probable, by substituting her own, might flood their markets with her cheaper manufactures, and refusing their imports in exchange might TAKE HER PAYMENTS IN LIENS UPON THEIR CAPITAL, REVERSING THE EARLIER PROCESS OF INVESTMENT UNTIL SHE GRADUALLY OBTAINED FINANCIAL CONTROL OVER HER QUONDAM PATRONS AND CIVILISERS. This is no idle speculation. If China in very truth possesses those industrial and business capacities with which she is commonly accredited, and the Western Powers are able to have their will in developing her upon Western lines, it seems extremely likely that this reaction will result." John Atkinson Hobson, Imperialism, A Study, 1902."

March 19, 2017 at 12:19 PM
AXEC / E.K-H said...
Bad economics, futile critique, and illusive new thinking
Comment on Peter Dorman on 'Review of Economism: Bad Economics and the Rise of Inequality by James Kwak'

Economics claims since Adam Smith/Karl Marx to be a science. Yet, everybody who looks closer into the matter comes to the conclusion that economics is a failed science. The four main approaches ― Walrasianism, Keynesianism, Marxianism, Austrianism ― are mutually contradictory, axiomatically false, materially/formally inconsistent, and all got the pivotal concept of the subject matter, i.e. profit, wrong.

In this hopeless situation, critique is futile: "There is another alternative: to formulate a completely new research program and conceptual approach. As we have seen, this is often spoken of, but there is still no indication of what it might mean." (Ingrao et al., 1990)

James Kwak, too, has not the slightest idea what a paradigm shift means: "To wrap up, Kwak points out that, whatever its faults, economism delivers by having a simple, all-purpose, easy-to-grasp message and then asks, 'What's our message?' His answer is that wealthy economies don't need economic growth or even economic efficiency as they used to, and we should all turn away from economic concerns and embrace happiness instead."*

Instead of coming up with a 'completely new research program and conceptual approach' as replacement for the standard approach, which is known to be false on all methodological counts, Kwak dishes out cheap advice from the self-help workshop: don't worry, be happy. To top it all, this abortive pseudo-critical exercise is advertised as new economic thinking.

Egmont Kakarot-Handtke

* See also 'The economist's pick: liar, moron or what?'
http://axecorg.blogspot.de/2016/12/the-economists-pick-liar-moron-or-what.html

March 20, 2017 at 4:27 PM

[Mar 24, 2017] Economism vs neoliberalism

Notable quotes:
"... Facts are always presented via lens of some underling theory and if the theory is wrong, facts can lie, even when the figures are more or less correct, or within the margin of error. ..."
"... Technocratic neoliberal economists well represented here actually serve as a fifth column of financial oligarchy, and always were. ..."
"... Simplistic and wrong supply-and-demand theory fed a market fundamentalism ideology. As a result we have a financial crash, a dysfunctional health-care system, spiraling inequality and a deficient, inadequate for a modern society social-safety net. ..."
"... When competitive free markets and rational well-informed actors are the baseline assumption, the burden of proof shifts unfairly onto anyone proposing a government policy. Government programs and regulations start to seem dangerous and inefficient, while inequality begins to feel like the natural and just order of things. ..."
"... The Amazon page to Kwak book explains, "Economism: an ideology that distorts the valid principles and tools of introductory college economics, propagated by self-styled experts, zealous lobbyists, clueless politicians, and ignorant pundits." ..."
"... Economism is reduction of all social facts to economic dimensions. The term is often used to criticize economics as an ideology, in which supply and demand are the only important factors in decisions, and outstrip or permit ignoring all other factors. ..."
"... It is believed to be a side effect of neoclassical economics and blind faith in an "invisible hand" or "laissez-faire" means of making decisions, extended far beyond controlled and regulated markets, and used to make political and military decisions. ..."
"... Conventional ethics would play no role in decisions under pure economism, except insofar as supply would be withheld, demand curtailed, by moral choices of individuals. Thus, critics of economism insist on political and other cultural dimensions in society. ..."
Mar 24, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com

libezkova : Friday, March 24, 2017 at 08:38 AM

Re: Facts or EconoFacts? - Noahpinion

Facts are always presented via lens of some underling theory and if the theory is wrong, facts can lie, even when the figures are more or less correct, or within the margin of error.

Technocratic neoliberal economists well represented here actually serve as a fifth column of financial oligarchy, and always were.

Rehashing Noah Smith thoughts we can say:

  1. Simplistic and wrong supply-and-demand theory fed a market fundamentalism ideology. As a result we have a financial crash, a dysfunctional health-care system, spiraling inequality and a deficient, inadequate for a modern society social-safety net.
  2. So when people like Krugman are now expressing their rage about Trump social policies they should understand that they created Trump.
  3. When competitive free markets and rational well-informed actors are the baseline assumption, the burden of proof shifts unfairly onto anyone proposing a government policy. Government programs and regulations start to seem dangerous and inefficient, while inequality begins to feel like the natural and just order of things.
  4. Neoliberalism with its set of myth, sold as economic theory maintains an almost unshakeable grip on thinking of most people in the USA. It is the USA civil religion, national ideology that displaced Christianity. So they now somebody claims the this is one nation under God, they factually incorrect if we mean Jesus ;-) It is a newly-born nation which rejected Christianity, adopted neoliberalism instead and now prays to the altar of "free market".
  5. Because those myths when shared by most people, they obtained its own dynamics. In this sense too we can say that most people in the USA are totally and possibly irrevocably "neoliberally-brainwashed". That means that neoliberalism has huge staying power and it is unclear when and how and into what it collapses.
  6. That might well mean that like Bolsheviks who used to hold the same ideological grip on the people of the USSR people of the USA will march toward the cliff without much thinking.
  7. The abuse of simplistic econ theories for political ends gives neoliberal economists enormous prestige. It also sustains the enormous demand for the undergraduate econ major and corresponding courses and textbooks (look at Mankiw ;-). Passing economic courses with high grade now serves like SAT for those who want to go into business or management. The mark of indoctrination. Look at disdain with which "economists" here treat the people who does not know or does not want to know all this neoclassic nonsense.
  8. The worldview neoliberalism promulgates is too simplistic, and inevitably ends up hurting the many to benefit the few.

There one additional notion that is more general then neoliberalism and that is applicable here. It is called "economism" (please read Kwak book, it is really worth reading).

This is the reduction of all social facts to economic dimensions which is at the core of mental model that most "economists" here use. Unlike mathiness, it is a very old term which was use since late 19th century.

The Amazon page to Kwak book explains, "Economism: an ideology that distorts the valid principles and tools of introductory college economics, propagated by self-styled experts, zealous lobbyists, clueless politicians, and ignorant pundits."

Here is a relevant quote from Wikipedia

== quote ==

Economism is reduction of all social facts to economic dimensions. The term is often used to criticize economics as an ideology, in which supply and demand are the only important factors in decisions, and outstrip or permit ignoring all other factors.

It is believed to be a side effect of neoclassical economics and blind faith in an "invisible hand" or "laissez-faire" means of making decisions, extended far beyond controlled and regulated markets, and used to make political and military decisions.

Conventional ethics would play no role in decisions under pure economism, except insofar as supply would be withheld, demand curtailed, by moral choices of individuals. Thus, critics of economism insist on political and other cultural dimensions in society.

Old Right social critic Albert Jay Nock used the term more broadly, denoting a moral and social philosophy "which interprets the whole sum of human life in terms of the production, acquisition, and distribution of wealth". He went on to say "I have sometimes thought that here may be the rock on which Western civilization will finally shatter itself. Economism can build a society which is rich, prosperous, powerful, even one which has a reasonably wide diffusion of material well-being.

It can not build one which is lovely, one which has savor and depth, and which exercises the irresistible power of attraction that loveliness wields.

Perhaps by the time economism has run its course the society it has built may be tired of itself, bored of its own hideousness, and may despairingly consent to annihilation, aware that it is too ugly to be let live any longer."[1]

libezkova -> libezkova... , -1
"It is a newly-born nation which rejected Christianity, adopted neoliberalism instead and now prays to the altar of "free market"."

Neoliberalism explicitly rejects the key ideas of Christianity -- the idea of ultimate justice for all sinners. Like Marxism this is an atheistic philosophy which asserts that "each individual is his or her own god and there is no room for any other God. "

Here is Pope Francis thought of the subject (Evangelii Gaudium, Apostolic Exhortation of Pope Francis, 2013):

... Such an [neoliberal] economy kills. How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points? This is a case of exclusion. Can we continue to stand by when food is thrown away while people are starving? This is a case of inequality. Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape.

Human beings are themselves considered consumer goods to be used and then discarded. We have created a "disposable" culture which is now spreading. It is no longer simply about exploitation and oppression, but something new. Exclusion ultimately has to do with what it means to be a part of the society in which we live; those excluded are no longer society's underside or its fringes or its disenfranchised – they are no longer even a part of it. The excluded are not the "exploited" but the outcast, the "leftovers".

54. In this context, some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting. To sustain a lifestyle which excludes others, or to sustain enthusiasm for that selfish ideal, a globalization of indifference has developed.

Almost without being aware of it, we end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people's pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though all this were someone else's responsibility and not our own. The culture of prosperity deadens us; we are thrilled if the market offers us something new to purchase; and in the meantime all those lives stunted for lack of opportunity seem a mere spectacle; they fail to move us.

No to the new idolatry of money

55. One cause of this situation is found in our relationship with money, since we calmly accept its dominion over ourselves and our societies. The current financial crisis can make us overlook the fact that it originated in a profound human crisis: the denial of the primacy of the human person! We have created new idols. The worship of the ancient golden calf (cf. Ex 32:1-35) has returned in a new and ruthless guise in the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose. The worldwide crisis affecting finance and the economy lays bare their imbalances and, above all, their lack of real concern for human beings; man is reduced to one of his needs alone: consumption.

56. While the earnings of a minority are growing exponentially, so too is the gap separating the majority from the prosperity enjoyed by those happy few. This imbalance is the result of ideologies which defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation. Consequently, they reject the right of states, charged with vigilance for the common good, to exercise any form of control. A new tyranny is thus born, invisible and often virtual, which unilaterally and relentlessly imposes its own laws and rules. Debt and the accumulation of interest also make it difficult for countries to realize the potential of their own economies and keep citizens from enjoying their real purchasing power. To all this we can add widespread corruption and self-serving tax evasion, which have taken on worldwide dimensions. The thirst for power and possessions knows no limits. In this system, which tends to devour everything which stands in the way of increased profits, whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of a deified market, which become the only rule.

No to a financial system which rules rather than serves

57. Behind this attitude lurks a rejection of ethics and a rejection of God. Ethics has come to be viewed with a certain scornful derision. It is seen as counterproductive, too human, because it makes money and power relative. It is felt to be a threat, since it condemns the manipulation and debasement of the person. In effect, ethics leads to a God who calls for a committed response which is outside of the categories of the marketplace. When these latter are absolutized, God can only be seen as uncontrollable, unmanageable, even dangerous, since he calls human beings to their full realization and to freedom from all forms of enslavement. Ethics – a non-ideological ethics – would make it possible to bring about balance and a more humane social order. With this in mind, I encourage financial experts and political leaders to ponder the words of one of the sages of antiquity: "Not to share one's wealth with the poor is to steal from them and to take away their livelihood. It is not our own goods which we hold, but theirs".[55]

58. A financial reform open to such ethical considerations would require a vigorous change of approach on the part of political leaders. I urge them to face this challenge with determination and an eye to the future, while not ignoring, of course, the specifics of each case. Money must serve, not rule! The Pope loves everyone, rich and poor alike, but he is obliged in the name of Christ to remind all that the rich must help, respect and promote the poor. I exhort you to generous solidarity and a return of economics and finance to an ethical approach which favours human beings.

No to the inequality which spawns violence

59. Today in many places we hear a call for greater security. But until exclusion and inequality in society and between peoples is reversed, it will be impossible to eliminate violence. The poor and the poorer peoples are accused of violence, yet without equal opportunities the different forms of aggression and conflict will find a fertile terrain for growth and eventually explode. When a society – whether local, national or global – is willing to leave a part of itself on the fringes, no political programmes or resources spent on law enforcement or surveillance systems can indefinitely guarantee tranquility. This is not the case simply because inequality provokes a violent reaction from those excluded from the system, but because the socioeconomic system is unjust at its root. Just as goodness tends to spread, the toleration of evil, which is injustice, tends to expand its baneful influence and quietly to undermine any political and social system, no matter how solid it may appear. If every action has its consequences, an evil embedded in the structures of a society has a constant potential for disintegration and death.

It is evil crystallized in unjust social structures, which cannot be the basis of hope for a better future. We are far from the so-called "end of history", since the conditions for a sustainable and peaceful development have not yet been adequately articulated and realized.

60. Today's economic mechanisms promote inordinate consumption, yet it is evident that unbridled consumerism combined with inequality proves doubly damaging to the social fabric. Inequality eventually engenders a violence which recourse to arms cannot and never will be able to resolve. This serves only to offer false hopes to those clamouring for heightened security, even though nowadays we know that weapons and violence, rather than providing solutions, create new and more serious conflicts. Some simply content themselves with blaming the poor and the poorer countries themselves for their troubles; indulging in unwarranted generalizations, they claim that the solution is an "education" that would tranquilize them, making them tame and harmless.

All this becomes even more exasperating for the marginalized in the light of the widespread and deeply rooted corruption found in many countries – in their governments, businesses and institutions – whatever the political ideology of their leaders.

RC AKA Darryl, Ron -> libezkova... March 24, 2017 at 11:34 AM
An excellent set of comment posts. THANKS!
RGC -> libezkova... March 24, 2017 at 11:47 AM
"It is a newly-born nation which rejected Christianity, adopted neoliberalism instead and now prays to the altar of "free market"."

How about "Mammon"

Mammon /ˈmæmən/ in the New Testament of the Bible is commonly thought to mean money, material wealth, or any entity that promises wealth, and is associated with the greedy pursuit of gain. "You cannot serve both God and mammon."

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

[Mar 24, 2017] The Mechanical Turn in Economics and Its Consequences

Notable quotes:
"... In the same way, neoliberals are no different. They aren't bad people – they just see their policies as right and just because those policies are working well for them and the people in their class, and I don't think they really understand why it doesn't work for others – maybe, like Adam Smith, they think that is the "natural state" .. ..."
"... Read the first sentence of the Theory of Moral Sentiments – it makes an assumption which is the foundation of all of Adam Smith. He asserted that all men are moral. Morality in economics is the invisible hand creating order like gravity in astronomy. Unfortunately, Adam Smith's assumption is false or at least not true enough to form a sound foundation for useful economic theory. ..."
"... But "morality" means different things to different people. Smith only saw the morality of his own class. For example, I am sure a wealthy man would consider it very moral to accumulate as much money as he could so that he would be seen by his peers as a good and worthy man who cares for his future generations and the well being of his class – he doesn't see this accumulation as amoral – whilst a poor man may think that kind of accumulation is amoral because he thinks that money could be better used provide for those without the basic needs to survive ..."
"... "People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices." ..."
"... Another I remember from Smith was something like, "The law exists to protect those who have much from those who have little." Sounds about right. ..."
"... One of Steve Keen's favourite analogies is astronomy. Neoclassical economics is like Ptolemy's epicycles; assume the Earth is at the centre, and that the planets orbit in circles and simply by adding little circles-epicycles-you can accurately describe the observed motion of the planets. The right epicycles in the right places can describe any motion. But they can't explain anything, they add nothing to understanding, they subtract from it, because they are false but give the illusion of knowledge. Drop the assumptions and you can begin to get somewhere. ..."
"... Steve Keen seems to have latched onto this in the last year or so, pointing out that all production is driven by energy. And the energy comes ultimately from the sun. Either it is turned into production via feeding workers, or by fueling machinery (by burning hydrocarbons extracted from plant and animal remains). ..."
"... I have a question about a similar thing. Simon Kuznetz is credited as someone who has invented modern concept of GDP and he revolutionized the field of economics with statistical method (econometrics). However, Kuznets , in the same report in which he presented modern concept of GDP to US congress, wrote following(from wikipedia): ..."
"... "The valuable capacity of the human mind to simplify a complex situation in a compact characterization becomes dangerous when not controlled in terms of definitely stated criteria. With quantitative measurements especially, the definiteness of the result suggests, often misleadingly, a precision and simplicity in the outlines of the object measured. Measurements of national income are subject to this type of illusion and resulting abuse, especially since they deal with matters that are the center of conflict of opposing social groups where the effectiveness of an argument is often contingent upon oversimplification. ..."
"... All these qualifications upon estimates of national income as an index of productivity are just as important when income measurements are interpreted from the point of view of economic welfare. But in the latter case additional difficulties will be suggested to anyone who wants to penetrate below the surface of total figures and market values. Economic welfare cannot be adequately measured unless the personal distribution of income is known. And no income measurement undertakes to estimate the reverse side of income, that is, the intensity and unpleasantness of effort going into the earning of income. The welfare of a nation can, therefore, scarcely be inferred from a measurement of national income as defined above. Distinctions must be kept in mind between quantity and quality of growth, between costs and returns, and between the short and long run. Goals for more growth should specify more growth of what and for what." ..."
"... "So , my question is why economists keep treating GDP as some scared metric when its creator himself deems it not reliable? Why all qualifications about GDP by Kuznetz is ignored by most of the economists nowadays?"@Vedant ..."
"... That is your explanation right there. Large abstract numbers such as GDP obscure social issues such as "the personal distribution of income." and the effort that goes into creating that income. Large abstract numbers obscure the moral dimension that must be a part of all economic discussion and are obscured by statistics and sciencism. As the genius of Mark Twain put it, "There are lies, damned lies and statistics." Beware the credentialed classes! ..."
"... Interesting. There is a great book by John Dupré called 'Human Nature and the Limits of Science (2001)", which tackles this subject in a general way: the facts that taking a mechanistic model as a paradigm for diverse areas of science is problematic and leads to myopia. ..."
"... He describes it as a form of 'scientific imperialism', stretching the use of concepts from one area of science to other areas and leading to bad results (because there are, you know, relevant differences). As a prime example, he mentions economics. (When reading EConned;s chapter of the science ( 'science') of economics, I was struck by the similar argument.) ..."
"... Soddy was a scientist. He should have written as a scientist with definitions, logic and rigour, but he wrote like a philosopher, full of waffle and unsubstantiated assertions like other economists. It is unscientific to apply universal laws discovered in physics and chemistry to economics without proving by observations that those laws also apply to economics. ..."
"... I get irritated by radical free-marketeers who when presented with a social problem tend to dogmatically assert that "The free market wills it," as if that ended all discussion. It is as if the free market was their God who must always be obeyed. Unlike Abraham, we do not need to obey if we feel that the answer is unjust. ..."
"... Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire ..."
"... The moralistic explanations for the disintegration of the (Western) Roman Empire were long ago discarded by all serious analysis of late antiquity. More practical explanations, especially the loss of the North African bread basket to the Vandals, are presented in the scholarly work these days. ..."
"... That book of Gibbon's is an incredible achievement. If it is not read by historians today, it is their loss. Its moral explanations, out of fashion today, are actually quite compelling. They become more so when read with de Tocqueville's views of the moral foundations of American township democracy and their transmission into the behavior, and assumptions, of New Englanders, whose views formed the basis of the federal republican constitution. ..."
"... The loss of the breadbasket was problematical, too. And it may be that no civilization, however young and virile, could withstand the migrations forever, as they withstood or absorbed them, with a few exceptions, for eight hundred years. But the progressive losses to the migratory tribes may have been a symptom of the real, "moral," cause of the decline. ..."
"... From 536-539AD the entire planet suffered a staggering holocaust. Krakatoa blew up - ejecting so much dust that it triggered a 'nuclear winter' that lasted through those years. ..."
"... It was this period that ended agriculture in North Africa. ( Algeria-Tunisia ) The drought blew all of the top soil into the Med. It was an irreversible tragedy. ..."
"... Economics is not science, simply because economics does not take facts seriously enough to modify flawed theories. ..."
"... In college I couldn't help but notice the similarities between modern economic theory and the control theory taught in engineering. Not such a great fit though, society is not a mechanical governor. ..."
"... " ..."
Mar 21, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com
Yves here. This post takes what I see as an inconsistent, indeed, inaccurate stance on Adam Smith, since it depicts him as advocating laissez faire and also not being concerned about "emotions, sentiment, human relations and community." Smith was fiercely opposed to monopolies as well as businessmen colluding to lower the wages paid to workers. He also saw The Theory of Moral Sentiments as his most important work and wanted it inscribed on his gravestone.

Nor is it true that Smith advocated government not intervening in business. From Mark Thoma , quoting Gavin Kennedy :

Jacob Viner addressed the laissez-faire attribution to Adam Smith in 1928 ..Here is a list extracted from Wealth Of Nations:

"Viner concluded, unsurprisingly, that 'Adam Smith was not a doctrinaire advocate of laissez-faire'.

By Douglass Carmichael, perviously a Professor at University of California at Santa Cruz and a Washington DC based consultant, which clients including Hewlett-Packard, World Bank, Bell laboratories, The White House and the State Department. For the last ten years he has focused on the broad social science issues relevant to rethinking humanity's relationship to nature. Cross posted from the Institute for New Economic Thinking website

With Adam Smith, and hints before in Ricardo and others, economics took the path of treating the economy as a natural object that should not be interfered with by the state. This fit the Newtonian ethos of the age: science was great, science was mathematics; science was true, right and good.

But along the way the discussion in, for example, Montaigne and Machiavelli - about the powers of imagination, myth, emotions, sentiment, human relations and community - was abandoned by the economists. (Adam Smith had written his Theory of Moral Sentiments 20 years earlier and sort of left it behind, though the Wealth of Nations is still concerned with human well-being.) Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire was published in 1776, the same year as Smith's Wealth , but hardly read today by most economists.

In philosophy and the arts (romanticism among others) there was great engagement in these issues economics was trying to avoid. But that philosophy and art criticism have not been widely read for many years.

The effect of ignoring the human side of lives was to undermine the social perspective of the "political," by merging it with the individually focused "interest." So, instead of exploring the inner structure of interest (or later utility or preference), or community feeling and the impact of culture, these were assumed to be irrelevant to the mechanics of the market. Politics, having to do with interest groups and power arrangements, is more vague and harder to model than economic activity.

Those who wanted economics to be a science were motivated by the perception that "being scientific" was appreciated by the society of the time, and was the path to rock-solid truth. But the move towards economics as a science also happened to align with a view of the landed and the wealthy that the economy was working for them, so don't touch it. We get the equation, embracing science = conservative. This is still with us because of the implication that the market is made by god or nature rather than being socially constructed. Since economics is the attempt at a description of the economy, it was more or less locked in to the naturalist approach, which ignores things like class and ownership and treated capital as part of economic flow rather than as a possession that was useable for social and political power.

Even now, economics still continues as if it were part of the age of Descartes and avoids most social, historical and philosophical thought about the nature of man and society. Names like Shaftesbury and Puffendorf, very much read in their time, are far less known now than Hobbes, Descartes, Ricardo, Mill and Keynes. Karl Polanyi is much less well known than Hayek. We do not learn of the social history such as the complex interplay in Viennese society among those who were classmates and colleagues such as Hayek, Gombrich, Popper and Drucker. The impact of Viennese culture is not known to many economists.

The result is an economics that supports an economy that is out of control because the feedback loops through society and its impact of the quality of life - and resentment - are not recognized in a dehumanized economics, and so can't have a feedback correcting effect.

The solution, however, is not to look for simplicity, but to embrace a kind of complexity that honors nature, humans, politics, and the way they are dealt with in philosophy, arts, investigative reporting, anthropology and history. Because the way forward cannot be a simple projection of the past. We are in more danger than that.

Anthony Pagden, in Why the Enlightenment is Still Important , writes that before the enlightenment, late feudalism and the Renaissance, "The scholastics had made their version of the natural law the basis for a universal moral and political code that demanded that all human beings be regarded in the same way, no matter what their culture or their beliefs. It also demanded that human beings respect each other because they share a common urge to 'come together,' and it required them to offer to each other, even to total strangers, help in times of need, to recognize 'that amity among men is part of the natural law.' Finally, while Hobbes and Grotius had accepted the existence of only one natural right - the right to self-preservation - the scholastics had allowed for a wide range of them." -

Pagen also writes, "The Enlightenment, and in particular that portion with which I am concerned, was in part, as we shall now see, an attempt to recover something of this vision of a unified and essentially benign humanity, of a potentially cosmopolitan world, without also being obliged to accept the theologians' claim that this could only make sense as part of the larger plan of a well-meaning, if deeply inscrutable, deity."

But as Pagen shows, that effort was overcome by market, technical and financial interests.

The reason this is so important is that the simple and ethical view in Smith (and many other classical economists if we were to read them) that it was wrong to let the poor starve because of manipulated grain prices, was replaced by a more mechanical view of society that denied human intelligence except as calculators of self interest. This is a return to the Hobbesian world leading to a destructive society: climate, inequality, corruption. Today, the poor are hemmed in by so many regulations and procedures (real estate, education, police) that people are now starved. Not having no food, but having bad food, which along with all the new forms of privation add up to a seriously starved life, is not perceived by a blinded society to be suffering. Economics in its current form - most economics papers and college courses - do not touch the third rail of class, or such pain.

HeadShaker , March 21, 2017 at 11:13 am

Interesting. I've been reading (thanks to an intro from NC) Mark Blyth's "Austerity" and, thus far, seems to imply, if not outright state, that Adam Smith was quite suspicious of government intervention in the economy. The "can't live with it, can't live without it, don't want to pay for it" perspective. The bullet points you've listed above seem to refute that notion.

justanotherprogressive , March 21, 2017 at 11:39 am

Adam Smith tried to make a moral science out of what his class wanted to hear. If he had actually gone into those factories of his time, he might have had a different opinion of what labour was and how there was no "natural state" for wages, but only what was imposed on people who couldn't fight back. If he had gotten out of his ivory tower for a while, he might have had a different opinion of what those owners of stock were doing. He also might have had different views on trade if he could have seen what was happening to the labourers in the textile industries in France. And I could go on. But instead he created a fantasy that has been the basis for all economic thinking since.

In the same way, neoliberals are no different. They aren't bad people – they just see their policies as right and just because those policies are working well for them and the people in their class, and I don't think they really understand why it doesn't work for others – maybe, like Adam Smith, they think that is the "natural state" ..

Sorry, but there needs to be a Copernican Revolution in Economics just as there was in science. We have to realize that maybe Adam Smith was wrong – and I know that will be hard – just as it was hard for people to realize that the Earth wasn't the center of the universe.

Since I am retired, maybe I will go back to school, hold my nose and cover my lying eyes long enough to finish that Economics degree, so that I can get good access to all the other windows in Economics. I can't really believe I am the only person thinking this way – there must be some bright people out there who have come to similar conclusions and I would dearly love to know who they are.

Lyonwiss , March 21, 2017 at 2:49 pm

Read the first sentence of the Theory of Moral Sentiments – it makes an assumption which is the foundation of all of Adam Smith. He asserted that all men are moral. Morality in economics is the invisible hand creating order like gravity in astronomy. Unfortunately, Adam Smith's assumption is false or at least not true enough to form a sound foundation for useful economic theory.

justanotherprogressive , March 21, 2017 at 3:18 pm

But "morality" means different things to different people. Smith only saw the morality of his own class. For example, I am sure a wealthy man would consider it very moral to accumulate as much money as he could so that he would be seen by his peers as a good and worthy man who cares for his future generations and the well being of his class – he doesn't see this accumulation as amoral – whilst a poor man may think that kind of accumulation is amoral because he thinks that money could be better used provide for those without the basic needs to survive

Lyonwiss , March 22, 2017 at 2:29 am

You have not read the first sentence of the book, where he stated what he meant – to me, it is his general statement of universal morality.

lyman alpha blob , March 21, 2017 at 3:03 pm

I've read a fair amount of Wealth of Nations although far from all of it and my take was that Smith was describing the economic system of his time as it was , not necessarily as it should or must be. Smith gets a bad rap from the left due to many people over the last 200+ years hearing what they wanted to hear from him to justify their own actions rather than what he actually said.

I'm cherry picking a bit here since I don't have the time to go through several hundred pages, but I think Smith might actually agree with you about the plight of labor and he was well aware of what the ownership class was up to –

"People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices."

Adam Smith – Wealth of Nations

diptherio , March 21, 2017 at 7:00 pm

Yup, wish I would have had that one handy in my intro to micro course

Another I remember from Smith was something like, "The law exists to protect those who have much from those who have little." Sounds about right.

Grebo , March 21, 2017 at 4:58 pm

there needs to be a Copernican Revolution in Economics

One of Steve Keen's favourite analogies is astronomy. Neoclassical economics is like Ptolemy's epicycles; assume the Earth is at the centre, and that the planets orbit in circles and simply by adding little circles-epicycles-you can accurately describe the observed motion of the planets. The right epicycles in the right places can describe any motion. But they can't explain anything, they add nothing to understanding, they subtract from it, because they are false but give the illusion of knowledge. Drop the assumptions and you can begin to get somewhere.

digi_owl , March 22, 2017 at 1:36 pm

And that is exactly what Marx did, but then got himself sidetracked by trying to find (or create) support for his labor theory of value.

Actually most of what he writes in Capital basically refutes said theory, instead hinting at energy being the core source of value (how much food/fuel is needed to produce one unit, basically).

Steve Keen seems to have latched onto this in the last year or so, pointing out that all production is driven by energy. And the energy comes ultimately from the sun. Either it is turned into production via feeding workers, or by fueling machinery (by burning hydrocarbons extracted from plant and animal remains).

mejimenez , March 21, 2017 at 1:41 pm

Since words have somewhat flexible boundaries, it's hard to tell from what perspective this response is looking at the history of science. Characterizing cybernetics as mechanistic would require an unusually broad definition of "mechanistic". Even a superficial reading of Norbert Wiener, Warren McCulloch, W. Ross Ashby, or any of the other early contributors to the discipline will make one aware that they were explicitly trying to address the limitations of simplistic mechanistic thinking.

In the related discipline, General Systems Theory, von Bertalanffy expressly argued that we should take our cues from the organic living world to understand complex systems. With the introduction of Second Order Cybernetics by Heinz von Foerster, Margaret Mead, Gregory Bateson and others, the role of a sentient observer in describing the system in which he/she is embedded becomes the focus of attention. Bateson was an original participant with many of the people mentioned above in the Macy conferences where cybernetics was first introduced. The bulk of his work was a direct attack on the mechanistic view of the natural world.

Of course, many writers treat cybernetics, General Systems Theory, and their related disciplines as pseudoscientific. But those are typically people who are firmly committed to mechanistic explanations.

Vedant , March 21, 2017 at 1:02 pm

Yves,

I have a question about a similar thing. Simon Kuznetz is credited as someone who has invented modern concept of GDP and he revolutionized the field of economics with statistical method (econometrics). However, Kuznets , in the same report in which he presented modern concept of GDP to US congress, wrote following(from wikipedia):-

"The valuable capacity of the human mind to simplify a complex situation in a compact characterization becomes dangerous when not controlled in terms of definitely stated criteria. With quantitative measurements especially, the definiteness of the result suggests, often misleadingly, a precision and simplicity in the outlines of the object measured. Measurements of national income are subject to this type of illusion and resulting abuse, especially since they deal with matters that are the center of conflict of opposing social groups where the effectiveness of an argument is often contingent upon oversimplification.

All these qualifications upon estimates of national income as an index of productivity are just as important when income measurements are interpreted from the point of view of economic welfare. But in the latter case additional difficulties will be suggested to anyone who wants to penetrate below the surface of total figures and market values. Economic welfare cannot be adequately measured unless the personal distribution of income is known. And no income measurement undertakes to estimate the reverse side of income, that is, the intensity and unpleasantness of effort going into the earning of income. The welfare of a nation can, therefore, scarcely be inferred from a measurement of national income as defined above.
Distinctions must be kept in mind between quantity and quality of growth, between costs and returns, and between the short and long run. Goals for more growth should specify more growth of what and for what."

So , my question is why economists keep treating GDP as some scared metric when its creator himself deems it not reliable? Why all qualifications about GDP by Kuznetz is ignored by most of the economists nowadays?

Allegorio , March 21, 2017 at 2:48 pm

"So , my question is why economists keep treating GDP as some scared metric when its creator himself deems it not reliable? Why all qualifications about GDP by Kuznetz is ignored by most of the economists nowadays?"@Vedant

" Economic welfare cannot be adequately measured unless the personal distribution of income is known. And no income measurement undertakes to estimate the reverse side of income, that is, the intensity and unpleasantness of effort going into the earning of income."

That is your explanation right there. Large abstract numbers such as GDP obscure social issues such as "the personal distribution of income." and the effort that goes into creating that income. Large abstract numbers obscure the moral dimension that must be a part of all economic discussion and are obscured by statistics and sciencism. As the genius of Mark Twain put it, "There are lies, damned lies and statistics." Beware the credentialed classes!

Mucho , March 21, 2017 at 1:20 pm

Interesting. There is a great book by John Dupré called 'Human Nature and the Limits of Science (2001)", which tackles this subject in a general way: the facts that taking a mechanistic model as a paradigm for diverse areas of science is problematic and leads to myopia.

He describes it as a form of 'scientific imperialism', stretching the use of concepts from one area of science to other areas and leading to bad results (because there are, you know, relevant differences). As a prime example, he mentions economics. (When reading EConned;s chapter of the science ( 'science') of economics, I was struck by the similar argument.)

Lyonwiss , March 21, 2017 at 2:31 pm

Science does not imply only mechanistic models, which may be appropriate for physics, but not economics. Science is a method of obtaining sound knowledge by iterative interaction between facts and theory.

http://www.asepp.com/what-is-science/

UserFriendly , March 22, 2017 at 1:37 am

Just because equilibrium is shitty mechanistic model to try and stamp onto economics doesn't mean that all scientific modeling of economics futile. Soddy just about derived MMT from the conservation of energy in 1921.

http://habitat.aq.upm.es/boletin/n37/afsod.en.html?iframe=true&width=100%&height=100%

And refined it in a book in 1923.

http://dspace.gipe.ac.in/xmlui/bitstream/handle/10973/21274/GIPE-009596.pdf?sequence=3&isAllowed=y

UserFriendly , March 22, 2017 at 2:00 am

excellent job with the prepositions there. sigh. WAKE UP!

Lyonwiss , March 23, 2017 at 2:50 am

Soddy was a scientist. He should have written as a scientist with definitions, logic and rigour, but he wrote like a philosopher, full of waffle and unsubstantiated assertions like other economists. It is unscientific to apply universal laws discovered in physics and chemistry to economics without proving by observations that those laws also apply to economics.

Soddy needed to have developed a scientific methodology for economics first, before stating his opinions which are scientifically unproven like most economic propositions.

http://www.asepp.com/methodology/

Jim A. , March 21, 2017 at 1:36 pm

I get irritated by radical free-marketeers who when presented with a social problem tend to dogmatically assert that "The free market wills it," as if that ended all discussion. It is as if the free market was their God who must always be obeyed. Unlike Abraham, we do not need to obey if we feel that the answer is unjust.

PKMKII , March 21, 2017 at 1:57 pm

Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire was published in 1776, the same year as Smith's Wealth, but hardly read today by most economists.

Other than as a reflection of the sentiments of the time Gibbon was writing in, historians don't spend much time reading it either. The moralistic explanations for the disintegration of the (Western) Roman Empire were long ago discarded by all serious analysis of late antiquity. More practical explanations, especially the loss of the North African bread basket to the Vandals, are presented in the scholarly work these days.

PhilM , March 21, 2017 at 5:07 pm

That book of Gibbon's is an incredible achievement. If it is not read by historians today, it is their loss. Its moral explanations, out of fashion today, are actually quite compelling. They become more so when read with de Tocqueville's views of the moral foundations of American township democracy and their transmission into the behavior, and assumptions, of New Englanders, whose views formed the basis of the federal republican constitution.

The loss of the breadbasket was problematical, too. And it may be that no civilization, however young and virile, could withstand the migrations forever, as they withstood or absorbed them, with a few exceptions, for eight hundred years. But the progressive losses to the migratory tribes may have been a symptom of the real, "moral," cause of the decline.

After all, the Romans did not always have that breadbasket; indeed, they had to conquer it to get it, along with the rest of the mighty and ancient civilizations of the Mediterranean and beyond, using the strengths derived from the mores of their martial republic. The story of the Punic Wars is a morality play in history, as much as anything else. But the main problem was the dilution of the Roman republican mores into a provincial stew.

And after that nice detached remark, about which historians can surely natter on in the abstract, I'll toss in this completely anti-historicist piece of nonsense: I think it's actually much the same problem the Americans are having today, as the mores of the founders have dissolved into the idea that the nation is about national government, centralized administration, world leadership, global domination through military might, and imperialist capitalism. That is not a national ethic that leads to lasting nobility of purpose and moral strength-as George Washington and Ike Eisenhower both pointed out.

blert , March 21, 2017 at 6:48 pm

Dendrochronology ( tree ring dating & organic history ) has established a wholly new rationale for the termination of the Roman Empire the re-boot of the Chinese and Japanese cultures and the death of a slew of Meso-American cultures.

From 536-539AD the entire planet suffered a staggering holocaust. Krakatoa blew up - ejecting so much dust that it triggered a 'nuclear winter' that lasted through those years.

The Orientals actually heard the blasts recognized that they emminated from the Indonesian islands. ( Well, at least to the south. ) The erruption and the weather was duly recorded by Court scribes.

Roman accounts assert that 90% of the population of Constantinople died or fled. ( mostly died ) The Emperor and his wife were at the dockside ready to flee - when she talked him back off the boat. Her reasoning was sound: it's Hell everywhere. He won't have any authority once he leaves his imperial guard.

It was this period that ended agriculture in North Africa. ( Algeria-Tunisia ) The drought blew all of the top soil into the Med. It was an irreversible tragedy.

This super drought triggered the events in Beowulf - and the exodus of the Petrans from Petra. They marched off to Mecca and Medina both locations long known to have mountain springs with deep water. The entire Arabian population congregated there.

This was the founding population amongst which Mohammed was raised many years later.

The true reason that Islam swept through Araby and North Africa was that both lands were still largely de-populated. The die-off was so staggering that one can't wrap ones mind around it.

Period art is so bleak that modern historians discounted it until the tree ring record established that this trauma happened on a global scale.

Lyonwiss , March 21, 2017 at 2:21 pm

Economics is not science, simply because economics does not take facts seriously enough to modify flawed theories.

http://www.asepp.com/facts-and-economic-science/

justanotherprogressive , March 21, 2017 at 3:00 pm

Or throw them out! I remember the very first thing I was taught in Economics 101 about supply and demand and how they would balance at an equilibrium price. It didn't take much thinking to realize that there is no equilibrium price and that an equilibrium price was exactly the last thing suppliers or demanders wanted, and that the price of a good depended on who had the most power to set the price. Yet, we had to accept the "supply and demand theory" as coming directly from God. It's as if we were taught in Chemistry that the only acceptable theory of bonding possible was the hydrogen-oxygen bond and even though we could see with our own eyes that hydrogen also bonds to carbon, we should throw that out because it is an aberration from "acceptable theory" ..

PhilM , March 21, 2017 at 4:44 pm

Yes, coming from God; Platonic, like a Form. Economics is written in Forms, like "homo economicus" and "the efficient market." But we live in the Cave, where the markets that humans actually make are sad imitations of the Forms in the textbooks.

There's a lot good in the post, I think; noting the important philosophical underpinnings and challenges to Economics, and particularly in making it a moral, and therefore political and "social" science. But it's great to see where people's use of "incantatory names from the past" is called out by the curator. It's a pet peeve.

digi_owl , March 22, 2017 at 1:45 pm

Economics is the last "science" to hold onto the notion of equilibrium. The rest has moved on to complex systems/chaos theory, first demonstrated in meteorology. Trying to apply complex systems to economics have been the goal of Steve Keen's work for several decades now.

Rosario , March 21, 2017 at 2:38 pm

In college I couldn't help but notice the similarities between modern economic theory and the control theory taught in engineering. Not such a great fit though, society is not a mechanical governor.

craazyboy , March 22, 2017 at 7:20 am

Ha. That's the same thing that got economists so excited. Things is, an engineering student attempting to model a simple system with two moving parts cares a great deal about whether the moving parts are connected by a spring, or ball screw, or shock absorber, or lever, or even invisible stuff like a temperature gradient when coming up with the system math model. Economists seem to think wtf is the difference?

Next, if the math gets a bit unwieldy as the number of moving parts increase, which it does in a hurry, they decide to simplify the math. Next, assume they have perfect sensors for everything and system lag can assumed to be zero for talking purposes, and in research papers too. Next, hysteresis effects due to bent parts, leaky valves and stretched springs are assumed not to exist. Congress has the "Highway Bill" thingy to address that.

Next, the guy with the control knob will do the "right thing". Or better yet, a "market" is doing the control knob. There could be "intermediaries", but these are modeled as zero loss pieces of golden wire and gold plated connectors.

Finally, money comes from batteries and there is no such thing in the real world like "shorts", "open circuits", or "semiconductors" with their quantum tunneling properties.

Other than that, it's all good!

knowbuddhau , March 21, 2017 at 5:23 pm

Thanks for this, and especially the heads up about the author's take on Smith. This is exactly what I'm on about. Not only are there more ways of knowing than the infamous mechanical, it itself should've died long ago.

I learned that from this Chomsky lecture I found last year: Noam Chomsky: The machine, the ghost and the limits of understanding; Newton´s contribution to the study of mind" . (Quotes are from Science, Mind, and Limits of Understanding , an essay that seems to me to be the basis of the lecture.) Pretty sure I mentioned it in comments somewhere.

The author stresses economics is stuck in the age of Descartes. The history of Newton's refutation of Descartes's mechanical philosophy is very interesting. Yes, refutation. Descartes's mechanical philosophy is as dead as a dodo. So why does it still plague us? Obviously, because thinking of and acting on nature as if it were all just one great big machine works at getting you paid, much better than that wishy-washy humanism crap. /f (facetious).

I used to go on and on against reducing everything to mechanisms, and I largely blamed Newton. I was wrong.

I've spent an hour trying to boil this down. Ain't happenin. Apologies for the length.

The background is the so-called "mechanical philosophy" – mechanical science in modern terminology. This doctrine, originating with Galileo and his contemporaries, held that the world is a machine, operating by mechanical principles, much like the remarkable devices that were being constructed by skilled artisans of the day and that stimulated the scientific imagination much as computers do today; devices with gears, levers, and other mechanical components, interacting through direct contact with no mysterious forces relating them. The doctrine held that the entire world is similar: it could in principle be constructed by a skilled artisan, and was in fact created by a super-skilled artisan. The doctrine was intended to replace the resort to "occult properties" on the part of the neoscholastics: their appeal to mysterious sympathies and antipathies, to forms flitting through the air as the means of perception, the idea that rocks fall and steam rises because they are moving to their natural place, and similar notions that were mocked by the new science.

The mechanical philosophy provided the very criterion for intelligibility in the sciences. Galileo insisted that theories are intelligible, in his words, only if we can "duplicate [their posits] by means of appropriate artificial devices." The same conception, which became the reigning orthodoxy, was maintained and developed by the other leading figures of the scientific revolution: Descartes, Leibniz, Huygens, Newton, and others.

Today Descartes is remembered mainly for his philosophical reflections, but he was primarily a working scientist and presumably thought of himself that way, as his contemporaries did. His great achievement, he believed, was to have firmly established the mechanical philosophy, to have shown that the world is indeed a machine, that the phenomena of nature could be accounted for in mechanical terms in the sense of the science of the day. But he discovered phenomena that appeared to escape the reach of mechanical science. Primary among them, for Descartes, was the creative aspect of language use, a capacity unique to humans that cannot be duplicated by machines and does not exist among animals, which in fact were a variety of machines, in his conception.

As a serious and honest scientist, Descartes therefore invoked a new principle to accommodate these non-mechanical phenomena, a kind of creative principle. In the substance philosophy of the day, this was a new substance, res cogitans, which stood alongside of res extensa. This dichotomy constitutes the mind-body theory in its scientific version. Then followed further tasks: to explain how the two substances interact and to devise experimental tests to determine whether some other creature has a mind like ours. These tasks were undertaken by Descartes and his followers, notably Géraud de Cordemoy; and in the domain of language, by the logician-grammarians of Port Royal and the tradition of rational and philosophical grammar that succeeded them, not strictly Cartesian but influenced by Cartesian ideas.

All of this is normal science, and like much normal science, it was soon shown to be incorrect. Newton demonstrated that one of the two substances does not exist: res extensa. The properties of matter, Newton showed, escape the bounds of the mechanical philosophy. To account for them it is necessary to resort to interaction without contact. Not surprisingly, Newton was condemned by the great physicists of the day for invoking the despised occult properties of the neo-scholastics. Newton largely agreed. He regarded action at a distance, in his words, as "so great an Absurdity, that I believe no Man who has in philosophical matters a competent Faculty of thinking, can ever fall into it." Newton however argued that these ideas, though absurd, were not "occult" in the traditional despised sense. Nevertheless, by invoking this absurdity, we concede that we do not understand the phenomena of the material world. To quote one standard scholarly source, "By `understand' Newton still meant what his critics meant: `understand in mechanical terms of contact action'."

It is commonly believed that Newton showed that the world is a machine, following mechanical principles, and that we can therefore dismiss "the ghost in the machine," the mind, with appropriate ridicule. The facts are the opposite: Newton exorcised the machine, leaving the ghost intact. The mind-body problem in its scientific form did indeed vanish as unformulable, because one of its terms, body, does not exist in any intelligible form. Newton knew this very well, and so did his great contemporaries.

And later:

Similar conclusions are commonplace in the history of science. In the mid-twentieth century, Alexander Koyré observed that Newton demonstrated that "a purely materialistic pattern of nature is utterly impossible (and a purely materialistic or mechanistic physics, such as that of Lucretius or of Descartes, is utterly impossible, too)"; his mathematical physics required the "admission into the body of science of incomprehensible and inexplicable `facts' imposed up on us by empiricism," by what is observed and our conclusions from these observations.

So the wrong guy was declared the winner of Descartes vs. Newton, and we've been living with the resultant Frankenstein's monster of an economy running rampant all this time. And the mad "scientists" who keep it alive, who think themselves so "realistic" and "pragmatic" in fact are atavists ignorant of the last few centuries of science. But they do get paid, whereas I (relatively) don't.

Vatch , March 21, 2017 at 5:40 pm

Alexander Koyré observed that Newton demonstrated that "a purely materialistic pattern of nature is utterly impossible (and a purely materialistic or mechanistic physics, such as that of Lucretius or of Descartes, is utterly impossible, too)"

I think that Newton considered phenomena like gravity, magnetism, and optics to be non-material, perhaps even spiritual, and separate from matter. Modern physicists would disagree, and would consider gravity and electro-magnetism to be purely material phenomena. Newton didn't prove that the world is non-mechanical; he showed that objects do not need to touch for them to have influence on each other.

It is still quite possible that there are non-material phenomena, but those would be separate from gravity and electro-magnetism, which Newton considered non-material.

diptherio , March 21, 2017 at 7:10 pm

It is still quite possible that there are non-material phenomena

Like love, courage, hope, fear, greed and compassion?

Vatch , March 21, 2017 at 7:37 pm

Sure! The existence of souls is another possibility (even for Buddhists, although I suppose they would have to be pudgalavadins to believe in this).

Plenue , March 22, 2017 at 1:54 pm

Are all products of the brain. I don't see how the results of the interaction of electrical impulses and chemicals are non-material. Magic is not an explanation for anything.

M Quinlan , March 21, 2017 at 7:50 pm

So Newton formulated his theories because of his belief in Alchemy and not, as I had thought, despite it. Discussions like this are what make this site so great.

blert , March 21, 2017 at 7:08 pm

All modern economic thought ( 1900+ ) has been corrupted by the arrogance of Taylor's Time & Motion Studies. The essence of which is that bean counters can revolutionize economic output by statistics and basic accounting.

AKA Taylorism.

Big Government is Taylorism as practiced.

At bottom, it arrogantly assumes that if you can count it, you can optimise it.

The fact is that 'things' are too complicated.

Taylor's principles only work in a micro environment. His work started in machine shops, and at that level of simplicity, still applies.

Its abstractions and assumptions break down elsewhere.

MOST economic models in use today are the grandsons of Taylorism.

They are also the analytic engines that have driven the global economy to the edge of the cliff.

RBHoughton , March 21, 2017 at 7:24 pm

For my penny's worth the sentence "Today, the poor are hemmed in by so many regulations and procedures (real estate, education, police) that people are now starved" reveals the main problem.

Too many of the most lucrative parts of every national economy have been closed off by politicians and reserved for their friends.

Peter L. , March 23, 2017 at 9:55 pm

The introductory remarks on Adam Smith reminded me of a funny exchange between David Barsamian and Noam Chomsky. Barsamian complements Chomsky on his research on Adam Smith :

DAVID BARSAMIAN: One of the heroes of the current right-wing revival is Adam Smith. You've done some pretty impressive research on Smith that has excavated a lot of information that's not coming out. You've often quoted him describing the "vile maxim of the masters of mankind: all for ourselves and nothing for other people."

NOAM CHOMSKY: I didn't do any research at all on Smith. I just read him. There's no research. Just read it. He's pre-capitalist, a figure of the Enlightenment. What we would call capitalism he despised.

People read snippets of Adam Smith, the few phrases they teach in school. Everybody reads the first paragraph of The Wealth of Nations where he talks about how wonderful the division of labor is. But not many people get to the point hundreds of pages later, where he says that division of labor will destroy human beings and turn people into creatures as stupid and ignorant as it is possible for a human being to