Thursday, July 05, 2007

Economists as Tools

I've been reading Tiago Mata's award-winning 2005 PhD. thesis, Dissent in Economics: Making Radical Political Economics and Post Keynesian Economics, 1960-1980 (hat tip to Peter Klein).

Here's a statement read, at the 1969 American Economic Association business meeting, by a spokesperson for a group of about 25 radical economists:
"Economists in the United States work as a group and work contrary to the interests of the masses of people. The affluence and the power of the economists derive from their support of the elite, the elite which controls the institutional structure and the sources of power that perpetrate and reproduce the oppression of millions – the economists are the sycophants of inequality, alienation, destruction of environment, imperialism, racism, and the sub jugation of women.

...economists do not merely praise the system; they also supply the tools – indeed, they are the tools – instrumental to the elite’s attainment of its unjust ends. They show how to manipulate people so that the system’s hinges are smoothly oiled.

... the A.E.A. plays directly destructive roles in our society. It serves to insure the perpetuation of professionalism, elitism, and petty irrelevance. It serves to inhibit the development of new ideas, ideas which are reflective of social reality.

...Our conflict with the A.E.A. is not simply an intellectual debate. The A.E.A. cannot lessen our condemnation by their willingness to partake in debate, or by their willingness to provide a room to radical economists at this meeting. Our conflict is a basic conflict of interests. The economists have chosen to serve the status quo. We have chosen to fight it." (quote in Mata, p. 82)
Although I find the above amusing, I find myself more sympathetic to the Post Keynesians chronicled in part III.

P.S.: This week's Nation has letters responding to Chris Hayes' article about heterodox economics. The letter-writers point out the existence of feminist and ecological economics and the non-existence of a Nobel prize in economics.

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