Provocation # 51.
(remember these are called “provocations” because I am trying to be provocative to stimulate debate from which a better understanding can emerge).
Who cares about economics (as distinct from the economy)?
Most obviously, the profession with graduate training and research and faculty on the treadmill to first jobs and then tenure. For these economics is like a jungle gym and the journals and conferences are mostly good for scanning for those slippery hand holds and foot placements to go up.
Could this process turn more positive?
There definitely are economists who care about society and actually thought entering economics would be to gain leverage to make a better society.
Some of these economists are quite vocal -and ignored within the profession. Perhaps even a large percentage of those going with the mainstream would prefer not to go with the mainstream but can’t imagine how to do it and survive.
If graduate students learned what we think would be better economics: more history, humanity, sociology, anthropology – could they get jobs, or is the jungle gym the main source of employment?
The choice of supporting the mainstream or being scientific is painful, and made worse because “being scientific” is often used as the argument to support the abstract quantification (method centric) at the expense of avoiding phenomena, like banking, wealth, class, and the emerging unknowns that effect change in the structure of the economy.
Does current economics interest people outside the jungle gym?
What of bureaucrats with economic portfolios? They also do not read the journals but justify their own positions based on the impression given by the existence of the journals, departments, and conferences that economics is serious and hence seriously informed people are running the economy. Serious people are in charge.
There are signs that the jungle gym is coming apart. You all know of the problem with the Nobel for economics. Mirowski among others had been eloquent showing that the prize is more political than scientific. But the critique is spreading
The Political Slant of the Nobel Prize in Economics
Avner Offer, the co-author of a book on the award, explains how it has legitimized free-market thinking over time.
The core problem is that, since the prize is given for orthodoxy, it cannot be given for anything else. That market orthodoxy (that free markets are good and possible is used to justify the monopoly and regulation based market we have) keeps us from thinking.
Larry Summers probably in quest for a Noble and or a good job in the next Clinton administration, is struggling to be relevant (secular stagnation) but is trapped, and trapping us, in orthodoxy. His almost good arguments too quickly carry the baggage of existing assumptions. He published yesterday [my comments in [….]’s
Voters sour on traditional economic policy.
It is hard to escape the conclusion that the world is seeing a renaissance of populist authoritarianism.” [But you will notice that populist anxt is seen asdriven by lack of growth, and no other possibility is to be considered.]
As the world’s finance ministers and central bank governors came together in Washington last week for their annual global financial convocation, the mood was sombre. The spectre of secular stagnation and inadequate economic growth on the one hand and ascendant populism and global disintegration on the other led to widespread apprehension.
[“Secular stagnation” is interesting because it mixes religious associations (secular, not religious, with decay and death – a potent piece of rhetoric. “Secular” means not universal but of an age, hence not transcendent nor religious, and “stagnation” means sitting water with hints of decay, as pond or swamp. The impression given by the phrase, “secular stagnation,”. is we should have something that is neither secular(what is the unspoken alternative) nor stagnation. The implication is that we should return to the natural state of growth ( a natural state which is not secular and not stagnant.)]
Unlike in 2008 when the post-Lehman crisis was a preoccupation or 2011 and 2012 when the possibility of the collapse of the euro system concentrated minds, there was no imminent crisis.
Instead, the pervasive concern was that traditional ideas and leaders were losing their grip and the global economy was entering into unexplored and dangerous territory.
[so far correct. Which continues..] Continue reading