Sunday, December 16, 2012

Nick Rowe Knavery

So much nonsense packed into so few words:

"But the lefty Sraffian model has only labour and time as inputs." -- Nick Rowe

I do not know what politics has to do with it. I'd like to see some evidence of the political beliefs of, say, Neri Salvadori. When Sraffa states, in the preface of Production of Commodities By Means of Commodities, that "Others have ... independently taken up [similar] points of view," I think he includes John Von Neumann. Von Neumann wanted to wage an atomic war against the Soviet Union. I guess Rowe must think Von Neumann was a Trotskyite.

The Sraffa model, of course, includes non-produced inputs other than labor. "Land" is the title of Chapter 11 of Sraffa's book. I have attempted to explain some of the points in this chapter here and here. Heinz Kurz, Neri Salvadori, and Bertram Schefold are just some of the economists who have contributed to the literature building on Sraffa's analysis of land.

To address another Rowe misconception, Sraffians have also analyzed heterogeneous labor. In fact, "Heterogeneous Labor" is the title of Chapter 7 of Ian Steedman's book, Marx After Sraffa. I have an example with heterogeneous labor here.

The bit about time being an input in Sraffa's model is apparently some convex combination of a lie and begging the question. Sraffa explicitly states, in the title of his book, that he is considering production processes with inputs of commodities. These commodities include seed corn, iron, pigs, and so on. Although Sraffa assumes a yearly cycle of production for convenience, time is explicitly not an input in Sraffa's model. In fact, Sraffa can be said to have proven that "capital" cannot be reduced to time. In the case of joint production without land, the technique cannot even be reduced to labor inputs applied over time. (By the way, in the first chapter in her Essays in the Theory of Economic Growth, Joan Robinson explicitly analyzes an economy in which robots are produced by robots.)

Does anybody expect Rowe to acknowledge that he has no concern whatsoever over whether what he says is true or even makes sense?


Unlearningecon said...

"Does anybody expect Rowe to acknowledge that he has no concern whatsoever over whether what he says is true or even makes sense?"

Honestly sometimes I think your treatment of Rowe has too much of an edge to it, especially since he's so polite and willing to engage in debate.

Having said that, all of his discussion of heterodox theories seems to miss the point spectacularly, and it can be frustrating. For example when he suggested the CCCs were about subverting preferences as an explanation of economic activity, when they obviously began because of the nature of capital.

Perhaps the 'lefty' comment indicates he sees it as more of a political battle than anything. Perhaps not. But fundamentally it seems to gap is too wide to bridge.

Nick Rowe said...

Finally! I wondered why there was total radio silence from the English Capital Theorists, because I thought my post on production of robots by means of robots would be very much their cup of tea. Thanks Robert!

Pity you didn't respond to my models themselves though, instead of getting riled up about a throwaway line deep in the comments, taken out of context. You could at least have said I wasn't doing anything that hadn't already been done. Or had gotten it wrong. Or something. Ah well. Maybe some of your readers will follow the link back.

Thanks Unlearning. Yep, sometimes, just sometimes, you and me, and Mattias, seem to make just a little bit of progress. But Robert really doesn't seem to like my style.

G said...

Unbelievable. Nick Rowe shows up and won't even retract his false statements after being called out on them. Apparently "throwaway lines" don't need to be true. Why should anyone "respond to your models" when you don't even possess the elementary good faith to admit when you've made false statements and retract them.

Maybe what Robert really doesn't like is engaging dishonest people like you. Who would.

Robert Vienneau said...

Economics, it seems to me, is a broken discipline. (The Research Assessment Exercise includes a slow purge of British heterodox economists.) It is not solely a matter of individual economists, but a matter of the sociology of "knowledge". Where one would draw the lines and how one might respond are obviously subject to debate.

Have you seen Krugman on TV? He is soft-spoken and mild-mannered, even when stating, "That is a lie" to a liars face. I'm no Krugman, of course.

Given the variable rate at which I post, you should not conclude anything from my (lack of) commenting
on other blogs.

Nick Rowe said...

Robert: "The Research Assessment Exercise includes a slow purge of British heterodox economists."

You see British heterodox economists being either ignored or actively shut out of academia. And that makes you angry. OK. I get that.

Now try to see it from my perspective: Though I disagree with their perspective, I have actually read *some* of their work, which is a lot more than most. And I have actually blogged about my thoughts on that approach, critical yes, but not totally ignored it. I have tried to hire someone (a name you would recognise) from that school (I failed) because I thought he was a very interesting economist, even though I didn't agree.

But hmmmm. Do I really want to discuss economics with people like Robert? Or should I just ignore them and do my own stuff, so I don't have to put up with this? And there are lots of other people out there who also have different interesting ideas I could look at.

I'm pretty sure Mattias gets this point. I think Unlearning does too.

Unknown said...

I think Nick Rowe does deserve considerable credit for engaging heterodox economists, and I, for one, have profited from the debate on this blog.

Robert Vienneau said...

"that makes you angry."

My point with the Krugman story is to emphasize that one might not be able to read emotion well from text. Perhaps Rowe would find my real-life persona too much like my net persona if we were to go out for drinks.

Rowe is right that I do not like his writing style. I know I react badly to thoughts too much under development, to mere thinking aloud. (Although I would like many of posts to be considered that way, too.) And nowadays I tend to find introductory teaching to have too much heavy weather over motivation and attempts to dumb things down - I want something that could better double as a succinct reference work. Maybe it is the combination of these characteristics in his posts that I do not like. Given his purposes, he probably should ignore my preferences.

Some have criticized Kuhn's notion of incommensurable paradigms by arguing that plenty of people have communicated across paradigms. Maybe Rowe should lead me to side more with Kuhn than his critics, to accept that he is trying.

I'll still find it annoying when he directs me to comments on writers I like that are as badly thought out as I find the quote in the post.

Matias Vernengo said...

Missed this discussion. On the essence I think Robert is correct that there is more to the Sraffian system that labor and time (capital and time is the title of a very Austrian book by Hicks). And I agree with him also that there is nothing in principle lefty about Sraffians (mind you I am a lefty Sraffian). If you go back in time the classical framework used by Sraffa contained Ricardo and Marx. And Garegnani was a Communist while Pasinetti a Christian Democrat. Yes, like Keynesians (which I also like) Sraffians tend to be more to the left. But the price system has no political value per se. And I also appreciatte that Nick tries to engage in an conversation (and by the way even try to hire a few heterodox economists). Mind you I think part of the problem is that the profession used to have considerably more conversation before the 1970s (as I hear not always polite or productive), but heterodox authors have more of an audience. I suspect that causes some of the frustration. My two cents at any rate.