Home > economics profession, World Economics Association > The political economy of economic metrics (WEA online conference is now open)

The political economy of economic metrics (WEA online conference is now open)

Economic metrics are used to describe the world. Enormous amounts of money are spent on measuring GDP, employment, wages, unemployment, inflation, consumer and producer confidence, debt, money, the price level and whatever. These metrics show us if inequality is rising or if unemployment is going down. But these metrics are not just, or even mainly, gathered for the sake of science.

They also play a role in economic policy and are often designed to enable this. Some of these metrics like government debt as a percentage of GDP, are even used to call entire countries to account – they surely are part of ‘the language of power’.
But are we measuring the right metrics? And do we measure them in the right way? Or are our insights and policies biased because we’re looking at biased and incomplete metrics? And are we looking at them in the right way? Or do they act as blindfolds? Who decides anyway and on which grounds about the very definitions and about the money spent on gathering the data?

These kinds of questions are being discussed in the World Economics Association internet conference on The political economy of economic metrics. The conference, which is led by Merijn Knibbe and Dirk Bezemer, is now open here http://peemconference2013.worldeconomicsassociation.org/  Anyone may take part.

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  1. sergio
    January 31, 2013 at 4:10 am | #1

    Economic metrics reflects our vision of economy. For example, for neoclassicals statistics for unemployment means absolutely nothing, or at most shows how people prefer leisure time or shows that inflexible wage is maybe too high above equilibrium. If there were no other vision except neoclassical than we all would think that way. Happily, not everyone not everyone has such a stupid vision of economy, as neoclassical economists.
    We are obsessed with aggregate growth and its distribution. All key indicators are based on this vision. That is why we are not satisfied with them.
    First of all, we need to define “wealth”. Adam Smith wrote “An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations”
    Inquiry into Causes – inquiry based on logic and reasoning. Not tweaking statistical data, using rubbish called econometrics. Not Granger causality test with expensive software! Use your own brain!
    Nature – definition or discussion of what is Wealth. GDP is not Wealth.
    Nations – study each country as it is, in its own unique social, cultural and historical aspects. Do not even attempt to create one dogma (production function, GDP) for all countries. “One dogma for all” is ultimately created to impose policies by force, not to understand each country. Each country has its own values. Do not impose values of neoclassical economists on them.

    We need to do what we did not do for 200+ years of waisting time for neoclassical stupidity.
    Define Wealth. Define Money. Define how do WE think we SHOULD live. Define our relations in society and our relations with a State.

    It is not neoclassical economics who defines for us how we should live.

  2. January 31, 2013 at 10:14 am | #2

    i remember a big deal was made in the us press when amrtya sen, stiglitz, etc were hired by france to design a metric beyond gdp.

    there are metrics going back to the 30′s; the social indicators movement in the 60′s pretty much summed it up (until they got defunded—i know someone who was on that project).

    in the 90′s i think ‘redefining progress’ started the whole ‘bhutan most happy’ type index (also promoted by herman daly).

    but i thought stiglitz and sen both have jobs and even a piece of the noble pie. so why do they need to triple dip?

    i guess this is the new metric—since beyonce can afford a big house under current maximization of gdp metric, a new one will maximize that of economic experts.

    history is the story of good fortune as told by the fortunate ones. (unfortunates are speechless, a bit like the congresswoman who was shot in arizona).

    a newer better metric will increase monotonically (or exponentially) with studies of its properties by experts.

  3. February 5, 2013 at 7:04 pm | #3

    If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. Political economy is political science by any other name. Mathematical models (complex ones at that!) are still needed to measure the very things you rail against. Economics without mathematical models is empty philosophy.

    • sergio
      February 6, 2013 at 1:36 am | #4

      Albert Einstein: “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.”
      Mathematical models of neoclassical pseudo-economics are useless completely – both in predicting and in calculation of MODERN REALITY.
      Neoclassical economics is an empty philosophy grounded on nonsense, which purposefully uses mathematics to persuade naive people in validity of its nonsense.

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