The Association for Heterodox Economics welcomes student initiatives for fundamental reform of the economics curriculum, as do our post-Keynesian colleagues (Letters, 19 November). Heterodox economists, drawing on a range of theorists, including Keynes, Marx, Minsky and others, have consistently argued for greater pluralism in both economics curricula and economics research evaluation. We recognise the clear benefits of pluralism in economics: it encourages, by exposing them to alternative perspectives, the development of students’ critical thinking and judgment. Read more…
from Lars Syll
In a report published by The Association for Heterodox Economics, INET is criticized for actually marginalizing heterodox economics:
Our main concern is that the positive potential of INET is steadily being closed down. What began as recognition of fundamental problems that require fundamental change is becoming a more modest set of alterations. A sense of failure is, for all intents and purposes, being translated into a context of relative success requiring more limited changes – though these are still being seen as significant. Part of the reason that they are seen as significant is that changes from within mainstream economics do not have to be major in order to appear radical. It is our contention that heterodox economics is being marginalised in this process of ‘change’ and that this is to the detriment of the positive potential for transforming the discipline …
Marginalising heterodoxy creates problems for teaching economics as a discipline in which economists constructively disagree and can be in error. This is important because it is through a conformity that suppresses a continual and diverse critical awareness that economics becomes a dangerous discourse prone to lack of realism, complacency, and dogmatism. Marginalising heterodoxy reduces the potential realisation of the different components of economics one might expect to be transformed as part of a project to transform the discipline …
Below is an excerpt from a theRealNews.com interview today with Heiner Flassbeck
JAY: Now, we’ve talked a bit about this before, and I know this issue of exchange rates is quite complicated. There’s many factors involved. But one of the main factors, it seems to me, if I’m understanding it correctly, is interest rates are so low in the United States because the Fed is making sure they stay as low as possible, but to a large extent because there’s so little real demand in the United States, wages are so stagnant and so low, that they’re doing everything they can to kind of keep, you know, as much as they can, boosting the economy with cheap credit. And then this has global consequences, not just American domestic consequences. Do I have it right?
FLASSBECK: Yeah, that’s one thing, that’s one factor that’s very important. But, as I said before, it’s not only the U.S. We have zero interest rates in Japan. When the U.S. still had higher interest rate, the hedge funds went through Japan, borrowed money in Japan, and carried it to Brazil and other countries. So it’s always–there’s always a low interest rate country. Or it was done through Switzerland. So it’s not important how it is done. Read more…
from The Guardian
The Post-Crash Economics Society at Manchester University. Photograph: Jon Super for the Guardian
from David Ruccio
Readers will remember the China syndrome: the fear of a nuclear meltdown in the West, in which reactor components melt through their containment structures and into the underlying earth, “all the way to China.” Now, to judge by Paul Krugman’s latest, the fear seems to be running in the opposite direction: the fear is that an economic meltdown in China will make its way “all the way to the West.”
The fact is, mainstream economists in the West have a particularly difficult time making sense of the Chinese economy, based on the fear that the West has failed in its mission to show China and the rest of the world its future. Last year, it was Daron Acemoglu who worried that the development of capitalism in China was based not on a “happy connection between prosperity and democracy” but, instead, on a system in which “rulers have been able to deliver strong economic growth without surrendering political and social control.” Krugman’s fear is a bit different: that the period of massive investment based on low wages is coming to an end and what China needs, but is failing to engineer, is an increase in private consumption. Read more…
Students at the London School of Economics have organized for this coming a weekend a rather large 3-day conference on Rethinking Economics. I am posting below the conference agenda, not with the illusion that this event is within easy geographical reach of most of this blog’s readership, but rather as an example of the sort of initiative that economics students around the world can take and increasingly are taking.
Rethinking Economics: London
Fri 28th June – Sun 30th June, London School of Economics
a conference to demystify, diversify and reinvigorate economics for imaginative citizens, students, academics, and professionals, including those with no previous training in economics to launch a collaborative network of economic rethinkers
Book workshops now to avoid disappointment: http://www.rethinkecon.co.uk/#!tickets/c1tbo
To be opened by Read more…
from Lars Syll
Noah Smith has a post up on his blog questioning that people like Dean Baker, Dirk Bezemer, Nouriel Roubini, Barkley Rosser and in particular Steve Keen really – in any essential meaning of the word – “predicted” the latest financial-economic crisis, the one that we are still living through (that mainstream economists didn’t, we know). It makes me come to think of (wonder why …) what James K. Galbraith wrote a couple of years ago in The NEA Higher Education Journal:
Leading active members of today’s economics profession… have formed themselves into a kind of Politburo for correct economic thinking. Read more…
from Norbert Häring
If you read the May Monthly Bulletin of the European Central Bank, you could be forgiven for thinking that the ECB has simply missed the widely publicized April debate around the mistakes Carmen Reinhart and Ken Rogoff made in the data analysis which formed the basis for the 90%-debt-level-threshold story. That story says that if the public debt to gdp ratio starts to exceed 90% growth goes down markedly. The ECB writes on page 95:
“Empirical literature has increasingly shown that high levels of debt (both public and private) are detrimental to growth. Some of these studies derive implicit thresholds for debt ratios and find that, beyond a certain level of debt which is maintained for a number of years, there is evidence that GDP growth remains subdued. While there is significant uncertainty surrounding such threshold estimates, there appears to be some empirical evidence that, on average, levels of public or private sector debt above 90% of GDP impair an economy’s growth.11”
However, Read more…
from Lars Syll
The determination of investment is a four-stage process in The General Theory. Money and debts determine an “interest rate”; long-term expectations determine the yield – or expected cash flows – from capital assets and current investment (i.e., the capital stock); the yield and the interest rate enter into the determination of the price of capital assets; and investment is carried to the point where the supply price of investment output equals the capitalized value of the yield. The simple IS-LM framework violates the complexity of the investment-determning process as envisaged by Keynes … Read more…
from Dean Baker
By now almost everyone knows of the famous Excel spreadsheet error by Harvard professors Carmen Reinhart and Ken Rogoff. It turns out that the main conclusions from their paper warning of the risks of high public sector debt were driven by miscalculations.
When the data are entered correctly, this hugely influential paper can no longer be used to argue that the United States or other wealthy countries need fear a large growth penalty by running deficits now. There is no obvious reason that governments can’t increase spending on infrastructure, research, education and other services that will both directly improve people’s lives and foster future growth.
With the advocates of austerity on the run this is a great time to pursue the attack. The public should understand that the often expressed concerns about long-term growth, the future, and the well-being of our children are simple fig-leafs for inhumane policies that deny people (a.k.a. the parents of our children) work and redistribute income upward. Read more…
Economic Thought - History, Philosophy, and Methodology
An open access, open peer review journal from the World Economics Association
Vol 2, No.1, 2013 – Special Issue on Ethics and Economics
|Ontological Commitments of Ethics and Economics
|Codes of Ethics for Economists: A Pluralist View
Sheila C Dow
|No Ethical Issues in Economics?
|Professional Economic Ethics: Why Heterodox Economists Should Care
|And the Real Butchers, Brewers and Bakers? Towards the Integration of Ethics and Economics
Volunteers needed to start WEA national chapters. If interested, email email@example.com
WEA Young Economists (Facebook Group – 8 days old – 260 members – join today)
from David Ruccio
Ecuador’s president Rafael Correa [ht: ke] has been elected to a third term in power.
What policies has your government pursued in order to reduce inequality?
Latin America holds the grim title of most unequal region in the world, and the Andean countries are the most unequal part of that region. This is why it was crazy to apply the neoliberal system, supposedly based on competition and the liberation of the market, in countries like Ecuador in recent decades. What competition were they talking about? It was a massacre. Now we are reducing inequality, and poverty with it, through a combination of four things. Firstly, making the rich pay more taxes. We have instituted a much more progressive taxation system, and people now actually pay their taxes—collection has doubled. These resources, together with oil revenues and the money saved by reducing the debt burden, can be devoted to education, health and so on. This is the second point: giving equality of opportunities. People no longer have to pay for healthcare or education, which were quite expensive for the poor—school enrolment cost $25 per child, but is now completely free; some children are given books and uniforms too.
Thirdly, Read more…
from Lars Syll
Last year Bank of England’s Andrew G Haldane and Benjamin Nelson presented a paper with the title Tails of the unexpected. The main message of the paper was that we should no let us be fooled by randomness:
For almost a century, the world of economics and finance has been dominated by randomness. Much of modern economic theory describes behaviour by a random walk, whether financial behaviour such as asset prices (Cochrane (2001)) or economic behaviour such as consumption (Hall (1978)). Much of modern econometric theory is likewise underpinned by the assumption of randomness in variables and estimated error terms (Hayashi (2000)).
But as Nassim Taleb reminded us, it is possible to be Fooled by Randomness (Taleb (2001)). For Taleb, the origin of this mistake was the ubiquity in economics and finance of a particular way of describing the distribution of possible real world outcomes. For non-nerds, this distribution is often called the bell-curve. For nerds, it is the normal distribution. For nerds who like to show-off, the distribution is Gaussian. Read more…
from Dean Baker
Every January the public is treated to tales of the World Economic Forum, a gathering of the world’s rich and a select few who are invited there to educate and/or entertain them. Most of us will never have the honor of getting on the inside, so we must rely on media accounts to give us the picture. It turns out that these accounts might be more informative than intended.
Reuters reported on a talk given by Clinton Treasury Secretary and former Obama National Economic Adviser Larry Summers. According to the Reuters account, Summers said:
In 1993, here’s what the situation was: Capital costs were really high, the trade deficit was really big, and if you looked at a graph of average wages and the productivity of American workers, those two graphs lay on top of each other. So, bringing down the deficit, reducing capital costs, raising investment, spurring productivity growth, was the right and natural central strategy for spurring growth. That was what Bob Rubin advised Bill Clinton, that was the advice Bill Clinton followed, and they were right.
This segment is so striking because it is completely wrong in a very big way. Read more…
Yesterday Tyler Cowen [University of George Mason] and Dean Baker [CEPR] offered opposing analysis and views regarding Keynesian economics and the effect that proposed military and healthcare budget cuts in the US are likely to have on unemployment. Below are key passages from their columns (Cowen’s and Baker’s). Who is correct? Read, discuss and vote. The debate and the poll will remain open until 25 February. Only comments that engage with the discussion will be posted. The voting box is at the bottom of this post.
Here are Cowen’s main arguments: Read more…
from Jayati Ghosh
All too often people in countries experiencing financial crisis are told that the road to recovery necessarily involves pain, that fiscal austerity and cuts in spending that adversely affect the lives of ordinary citizens are necessary costs of correction of macroeconomic imbalances and the consequent adjustment that is considered essential for recovery. This is repeated so often that it is now taken as received wisdom by policy makers and civil society alike – yet in fact it is not true at all. It can actually be plausibly argued that in several situations the reverse is correct, that attempts to reverse economic downswings through cuts in public spending are counterproductive and makes matters much worse. This is clearly evident for all to see in the case of crisis-ridden countries in the Eurozone, for example.
And there are also positive counter-examples that show how taking into account the concerns and requirements of ordinary citizens (and paid and unpaid workers in particular) can work as a positive macroeconomic strategy that actually provides a route out of crisis. Sweden provides an example of a country that responded to the financial crisis by explicitly recognizing and attempting to reduce the pressures on workers, and particularly women workers whose needs are often the last to be considered in such periods of crisis. Sweden incorporated measures to maintain or ensure favourable conditions of women’s work and life into its broader economic recovery strategy. Read more…
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.
from Dean Baker
The accolades for Timothy Geithner came on so thick and heavy in the last week that it’s necessary for those of us in the reality-based community to bring the discussion back to earth. The basic facts of the matter are very straightforward. Timothy Geithner and the bailout he helped engineer saved the Wall Street banks. He did not save the economy.
We can’t know exactly what would have happened if we did not have the TARP in October of 2008. We do know there was a major effort at the time to exaggerate the dangers to the financial system in order to pressure Congress to pass the TARP.
For example, Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernacke highlighted the claim that the commercial paper market was shutting down. Since most major companies finance their ongoing operations by issuing commercial paper, this raised the threat of a full-fledged economic collapse because even healthy companies would not be able to get the cash needed to pay their bills.
What Bernanke neglected to mention was that he personally had the ability to sustain the commercial paper market through direct lending from the Fed. He opted to go this route by announcing the creation of a Fed special lending facility to support the commercial paper market the weekend after Congress voted to approve the TARP. Read more…
from Lars Syll
Almost a hundred years after John Maynard Keynes wrote his seminal A Treatise on Probability (1921), it is still very difficult to find statistics textbooks that seriously try to incorporate his far-reaching and incisive analysis of induction and evidential weight.
The standard view in statistics – and the axiomatic probability theory underlying it – is to a large extent based on the rather simplistic idea that “more is better.” But as Keynes argues – “more of the same” is not what is important when making inductive inferences. It’s rather a question of “more but different.”
Variation, not replication, is at the core of induction. Finding that p(x|y) = p(x|y & w) doesn’t make w “irrelevant.” Knowing that the probability is unchanged when w is present gives p(x|y & w) another evidential weight (“weight of argument”). Running 10 replicative experiments do not make you as “sure” of your inductions as when running 10 000 varied experiments – even if the probability values happen to be the same. Read more…
from Peter Radford
It takes a particular type of gall for someone hiding behind the comfort of a cozy tenured professorship to yelp about the way in which unions distort the otherwise – presumably – smooth operation of a mainstream style economy. Apparently one person’s guarantee is another’s structural impediment.
This really stinks. It reeks of hypocrisy. It is devoid of ethical self-understanding. It is just rotten.
But it happens all the time. Far too often.
Today’s Financial Times has another in its series focusing on America’s so-called debt problem. This one is decidedly on the side of the austerity seekers. It is written by Ken Rogoff who seems determined to tarnish the good name he earned when he co-authored a book called “This Time is Different” in which he correctly highlighted that recoveries subsequent to a financial melt down are more difficult and prolonged. Unfortunately he drew some conclusions from his data that have a somewhat tenuous cause and effect connection. Read more…
from Lars Syll
Knowing the contents of a toolbox, of course, requires statistical thinking, that is, the art of choosing a proper tool for a given problem. Instead, one single procedure that I call the “null ritual” tends to be featured in texts and practiced by researchers. Its essence can be summarized in a few lines:
The null ritual:
1. Set up a statistical null hypothesis of “no mean difference” or “zero correlation.” Don’t specify the predictions of your research hypothesis or of any alternative substantive hypotheses.
2. Use 5% as a convention for rejecting the null. If signiﬁcant, accept your research hypothesis. Report the result as p < 0.05, p < 0.01, or p < 0.001 (whichever comes next to the obtained p-value).
3. Always perform this procedure … Read more…