Saturday, January 10, 2015

Because Something Is Happening Here/But You Don’t Know What It Is/Do You, Mister Jones?

Strangely, some prominent, somewhat liberal, economics bloggers have decided simultaneously to complain about (unnamed) left-leaning heterodox economists:

All three, incorrectly in my view, think the heterodox economists who they object to are only arguing politics. As far as I know, many, including me, do not take issue with Krugman's short-term policy views. Smith, in his trollish approach, raises a side comment about Austrian economists and the Mont Pelerin society. (I will state the proper label for Friedrich Hayek and Ludwig Von Mises is "economist", not "quasi-economist", as Smith would have it. But I've seen for some time that I am more well-informed on Austrian economics than Smith is.)

I think more pertinent issues center around modeling approaches, the image the profession projects in the public sphere, and the sociology of the profession. How is it than so many rightists have been able to push the view that their politics is good economics, while simultaneously insisting that economics is a positive science? The involvement of economists with neoliberal politics is not confined to some fringe. Consider, for example, the Chicago school, the lack of a strong ethics policy in the American Economic Association, the Washington consensus, and even Paul Samuelson's 1960s research that led to to Efficient Market Hypothesis.

There is probably also a personnel element here. Non-mainstream, heterodox economists would like more acknowledgement by mainstream economists. If your knowledge of heterodox economics is confined to what you can get off the Internet, aside from what professional literature is now available there, you might not know what you are talking about when you talk about heterodox economics. (And this includes the Austrian school.) Furthermore, when you develop parallel ideas, or draw on heterodox economics, you should acknowledge it. In the linked post above, Krugman makes the point that "a country that borrows in its own currency" cannot easily become like Greece, under attack from "bond vigilantes", without saying anything about endogenous money or the economists at the University of Missouri Kansas City. (I could also say something about the research for which Krugman won the "Nobel Prize".) If you know where to look, you can find Joseph Stiglitz acknowledging that he learned a lot from such Cambridge economists as Nicky Kaldor and Joan Robinson.

Maybe economics would be a better place if the center of gravity in economics in the United States were arguments between mainstream economists and, say, economists at the New School and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. If the profession were to move in this direction, young doctorates would need to be socialized to not dismiss viewpoints because of the rankings of the universities and the journals in which they were advanced. Methodology would continue to need to be broadened to include more than mathematical models of optimizing agents.

Update: Reactions from Chris Dillow, Peter Dorman, and Alex Marsh.


Matias Vernengo said...

It was in part a response to the URPE and Adbusters campaign at the ASSA meeting. See this

Robert Vienneau said...

Thanks. I might as well put that in a link.