“Politburo of correct economic thinking”
In the new issue of Twill, which is devoted to economics, James Galbriath has an article on the intellectually and morally appalling state of the economics profession. His article’s conclusion begins with a passage (in italtics) from an article that he wrote eleven years ago.
Leading active members of today’s economics profession… have formed themselves into a kind of Politburo for correct economic thinking. As a general rule – as one might generally expect from a gentleman’s club – this has placed them on the wrong side of every important policy issue, and not just recently but for decades. They predict disaster where none occurs. They deny the possibility of events that then happen. … They oppose the most basic, decent and sensible reforms, while offering placebos instead. They are always surprised when something untoward (like a recession) actually occurs. And when finally they sense that some position cannot be sustained, they do not re-examine their ideas. They do not consider the possibility of a flaw in logic or theory. Rather, they simply change the subject. No one loses face, in this club, for having been wrong. No one is dis-invited from presenting papers at later annual meetings. And still less is anyone from the outside invited in.
This remains the essential problem. As I have documented – and only in part – there is a rich and promising body of economics – theory and evidence – entirely suited to the study of financial crisis and its enormous problems. This work is significant in ways in which the entire corpus of mainstream economics – and including recent fashions like the new “behavioral economics” is not. And it brings great clarity to thinking about the implications of the Great Crisis through which we are still passing today. But where is it, inside the economics profession?Essentially, nowhere.
It is therefore pointless to continue with conversations centered on the conventional economics, futile to keep on arguing with Tweedledum and Tweedledee. The urgent need is instead to expand the academic space and the public visibility of ongoing work that is of actual value when faced with the many deep problems of economic life in our time. The urgent task is to make possible careers in those areas, and for people with those perspectives, that have been proven worthy by events. The followers of John Kenneth Galbraith, of Hyman Minsky and of Wynne Godley can claim this distinction. The task now is to increase their numbers and to reward their work.