Wednesday, August 30, 2006

I Couldn't Make This Up

Right on cue, Greg Mankiw exemplifies the intellectual impoverishment of mainstream teaching in economics.

I hadn't previously read Gabriel Mihalache's blog. I'm inclined to be more tolerant of this nonsense, given this acknowledgement. (Is it clear that the equations in this post are clickable?)

Based on the comments on this post, I may have more readers than the amount of comments suggests.


AaronSw said...

I know I read but don't comment...

Robert Vienneau said...


Thanks for the comment. Part of my interest in blogging is in increasing my understanding of Internet capabilities and culture. I keep on finding more tools, of entirely different sorts, to eventually try to understand.

Gabriel M said...

It's likely that you have more readers than comments. I suspect that part of the difference is explained by the facts that you take these things all too seriously.

Yes, these are important topics, the subject of energic debate, and so on. But that's no reason not to have fun with it.

Gabriel M said...

P.S. Your posts here are interesting but as with all methodological debates, pointing errors and showing faults is not enough.

I'd rather see people work on their own positive research agendas, publish their hypotheses and forecasts and let the adjusted R-squared, t-statistic and succesful forecasts do the talking. But that's just my preference.

Robert Vienneau said...

If these are important topic, shouldn’t the textbooks be used to teach students of economics that the foundations of economics are a matter of controversy? By the way, at one time wasn’t there a trackback from Greg Mankiw’s post to this post?

It may not come off, but I try to follow advice from Elvis Costello: "Oh I used to be disgusted / and now I try to be amused". I happen to be amused by adopting a serious persona. I deliberately don’t blog about lots of aspects of my life.

I’m not sure I’d characterize my posts as being about "methodology". My welcome message warns that I expect most of my posts to be critical.

Anonymous said...

«I may have more readers than the amount of comments suggests.»

I read your blog too, wistfully, and I don't comment much because I mostly agree. But then my background in political economy is exactly Sraffa, Robisons, Pasinetti, Garegnani (and Schumpeter!) etc.; but then I studied political economy in Italy, not the USA.

As to «the intellectual impoverishment of mainstream teaching in economics» consider instead how rewarding in material terms the very same «intellectual impoverishment» may be.

«shouldn’t the textbooks be used to teach students of economics that the foundations of economics are a matter of controversy?»

Textbooks are designed to sell, not to be vehicles of un-American notions. BTW, «controversy» is a wild understatement as you know, in the same way that the theory of intelligent design is a matter of controversy :-).

Textbooks in other countries rather more often contain different points of view. Still, the cultural hegemony of America has reduced that too.

Robert Vienneau said...


I’ve noticed your comments on Mark Thoma’s and Brad Delong’s blogs. I had noticed your knowledge of Cambridge-Italian economists, but hadn’t seen you describe your background as resulting from study in Italy. I’ve only visited Italy as a tourist – that picture of me in the upper-right is in St. Mark’s Square in Venice.

I, too, rarely comment if all I want to say is that I mostly agree.

I think scholars in almost any field look to see when they are cited. But, speaking as an outsider, I find mainstream economists seem to be a tight clique, worrying more than I have seen elsewhere about citations, who's in and out, department rankings, and influence. One likes to think good ideas will win in out debate, despite the personal foibles of practitioners. It is sad if the only people both able to get their sums correct and prominent in U.S. economics are those with political views outside of either of the major U.S. parties.

Still, economists I respect (e.g., David Colander, Ric Holt, and Barkley Rosser) assure us that cutting edge economists are more willing to accept new ideas than I might credit.