Home > The Economics Profession > A response to Robert Locke

A response to Robert Locke

From Peter Radford

Robert:

I read with interest your comments. I agree in many ways, and with JC Spender’s follow-up.

Economics is intensely introspective. It exists within its own world, and were that all no one would care much about its oddities. But that is not the case. Economics plays a crucial role in shaping our lives via its impact on public policy and it is that social role that engenders so much despair amongst those of us who try to take it seriously and yet are on the outside looking in. Given that allow me to offer up what I have learned since I re-engaged with the discipline a few years back.

  • Economics does not exist. Instead there are a series of vaguely related sub-disciplines the practitioners of which fiercely protect and delineate in order to preserve territory and to propagate ideas. This is why we see so many “gotcha” moments as economists yell back and forth about their ideas. Worse, it also means that each sub-discipline can police itself, leaving us without any idea about the value of what’s being taught/learned/written within each.
  • These sub-disciplines are  intensely path dependent and thus not easily diverted by empirical evidence. They continue regardless. I have come to think that Kuhn had economics in mind when he wrote his book.
  • There are many useful – more useful?- things to learn about the economy by studying sociology, history, politics, organization, and other disciplines, all of which are less arrogant about their knowledge and, perhaps, thus more open to learning. Indeed I advise young people wanting to study the economy to avoid economics and enter one of those fields instead.
  • The line between politics and economics has melted entirely which is why I refer – snidely I admit – to “right wing” and “left wing” economics nowadays. There is an economist to support any and each view no matter how contradictory those views may be.
  • This ability to appear on all side in any argument devalues economics as a “science”, but it encourages a divergence of opinion that can be mistaken for “pluralism”.
  • Pluralism is only useful when the participants can agree on the facts and artifacts to apply their plurality of views/methods on. Economics has no such agreement, thus pluralism engenders and sustains discord rather than opening doors to resolution and progress.
  • Nonetheless there is a dominant form of economics here in the US – and presumably in the UK, although I cannot vouch for that – which is the loosely defined thing called neoclassical economics. I think this is what you mean by “Anglo-Saxonia”, although I think that’s unfair because it ignores the contribution of people like Walras who managed to push the subject into its general equilibrium fantasy.
  • As far as I can tell neoclassical economics is not about the economy, but about itself – its core beliefs are absurd but make amenable the use of lots of fancy analytical techniques that attract attention.
  • This leads me to suspect that technique is more highly valued than substance. A view confirmed by the constant inflow of graduate economists into analytically intense jobs in industry – they are there not to talk about the economy but to run numbers in very sophisticated ways. They are kind of “hyper accountants”.
  • Economists are dangerously ignorant of the economy. My background is business and not academic, and the comments I see coming from economists about what actually goes on out there are often alarmingly simple. I understand, of course, that economics and business are not the same, but they ought to intersect, business is, after all, surely part of the economy. My current favorite instance of this ignorance is Ronald Coase and his 1937 paper. He asked vital questions that have not yet been answered because – in my opinion – they cannot be answered from within economics as it now exists. Coase himself gave an unsatisfactory answer perhaps because he didn’t want to part company with the discipline. Another example would be the great “capital debates” where the clear winning argument has been consigned to history because it would require a root and branch re-thinking of some topics – as acknowledged by the losers.
  • Yet economics is taught faithfully in all the big business schools and forms the intellectual basis for modern finance etc. There can be nothing more odd than a class of classic micro being given to a bunch of business people who know that they have no clue – and no hope of one -of what the marginal costs are that they are supposed to be matching with marginal revenue. But, as the economists say: we teach that stuff because we assume people behave “as if” it were true, and thus it becomes legitimate to analyze the fiction “as if it were truth”.
  • No one cares. I say this because, as far as I can tell, the constant uprising and moaning about the apparent nonsense of mainstream economics results in precisely no change. There are studies going way back, and complaints decades old, describing what you are reacting to. The teaching remains the same. No one acts. I mean really acts, not simply writes another paper. When good people devote their lives to alchemy they come to accept it just as those before did. Plus, of course, there is the comfort of the sub-disciplines into which to retreat.
  • I joined forces with Edward Fullbrook and others to start the World Economic Association in order to act and, more to the point, provide a rallying point for others far more learned and experienced than me to act. I hope you are a member and an active member.
  • This drumbeat is old. It is time to move on with the creation of the new, no matter what the current practitioners argue or say.
  • Yet they own the process of education. Hence the frustration and resignation.

None of this is new. None unique. All subjective. A little overdrawn. In general I see economics as a mess, of dubious value, hidebound by academic niceties, unethical – in that it has no sense of social responsibility as a whole – and in need of overthrow. It is the alchemy of our age.

Your reference to Ping Chen is highly pertinent. I recommend his book “Economic Complexity and Equilibrium Illusion”.

My conclusion: Economics needs to become a non-equilibrium social science that embraces importance of institutions, culture [rhetoric?], networks, endogenous technology, structure, as well as the individual. It is an information science where the relevance of complexity is central. Time must be acknowledged not masked by fantastic tricks, and where asymmetries of all sorts are the norm not the exception. An economy changes itself as surely as the people within it adapt to their ever changing environment. They shape and are shaped by that environment, so feedback keeps the whole thing moving along. It is a learning device where we both discover and create solutions to everyday problems. It is driven by both competition and cooperation. It sits within, not without, society as a whole. It is melange of energy, resources, and knowledge that we configure and re-configure to satisfy our needs. And it is a process whereby we explore the potential of that melange and translate potential into possible, and then into actual, ways to satisfy those needs, whilst recognizing we are creating needs as we go along. It is thus open ended, procedural, dynamic, and intensely human. In other words it is evolutionary.

But enough of my simple minded rant.

Regards, and with hope for change,

Peter

  1. Helene Clement-Pitiot
    September 19, 2013 at 12:59 pm

    Thank for your energetic support to all of us. Time will change and also turn back.
    Our “glory” is that we could guess that Keynes might have the same feeling until the end of his life, despite his professional success. Common knowledge for sensitive humans being!
    Memory, history and examples help a lot to follow ethical ambition instead of technical show off.

  2. Hawkeye
    September 19, 2013 at 5:13 pm

    “Economics needs to become a non-equilibrium social science that embraces importance of institutions, culture [rhetoric?], networks, endogenous technology, structure, as well as the individual. ”

    I agree. It also needs to appreciate the fundamental role of energy inputs as providing the bounty of riches that the world has enjoyed the last 250 years. Otherwise the profession risks being completely blindsided by “circumstances” in the face of declining energy quality.

    Ayres & Warr provide ample justification for this view:

    http://www.insead.edu/facultyresearch/research/doc.cfm?did=1244

  3. September 19, 2013 at 6:41 pm

    “There are many useful – more useful?- things to learn about the economy by studying sociology, history, politics, organization, and other disciplines…”

    A long article and not one mention is made of banking and the structural basis of the economy being money created as a scheduled debt of itself. Economists ignore the nature of money, the basic building block of economics. The failure of their “science” is thus no mystery at all.

    http://peemconference2013.worldeconomicsassociation.org/?paper=proposed-new-metric-the-perpetual-debt-level

  4. BFWR
    September 19, 2013 at 8:19 pm

    The deepest problem with economics is its bias for power and resultant neglect of the individual. We have the tools (money and mathematics) to bring accountancy and relative stability to a human social science which by its very nature indeed tends to resist quantification. But we must neither let the perfect be the enemy of the Good, nor the impossible be an inducement to apathy. The way to avoid both of these is to put all of the tools available to “work”, the two above AND a philosophy which recognizes and includes all of the quantities of economics and yet also tends to enable the best in our natures instead of inhibiting such. A new “policy of a philosophy” which accurately reflected these best NATURAL characteristics and had the freedom of the individual as its primary intention instead of the power of business or individual entities is NECESSARY. Otherwise our economic struggles will result in those of Sisyphus. Such a wedding of the pragmatic and the psychological/ethical in economics will enable us to make the numbers work for a progression toward homo sapiens, wise and discerning man instead of keeping us in the evolutionary backwaters of a failed experiment with homo economicus.

  5. September 20, 2013 at 8:22 am

    As an outside amateur, I feel economics isn’t going to achieve much as a study of aggregates. Sure, we can study equilibrium in idealistic market conditions. We can set up artificial markets as a very expensive way of calculating the clearing price and quantity of aggregates, a calculation that could be done more cheaply by a bureaucrat for conditions so artificial.

    What’s exciting to me is to see economics as a study of graphs. People don’t maximise aggregates. They’re embedded in graphs of formal and informal economic relations. Value flows through these graphs. Day to day people adjust their connections (with colleagues, customers, family and friends, brands) and manage regular value flows much more than they arrive at an abstract market to hawk their wares. Economic relations are overwhelmingly persistent and trading with strangers, as in market, is the exception. In fact one-off economic relations are problematic and generally avoided for game theory reasons. So economics should be about graphs. Graphs of actors and value flows. An economy is a graph. Embrace graphs and ditch boring aggregates.

    • BFWR
      September 20, 2013 at 3:23 pm

      If we aggregate the empirical data on incomes and prices simultaneously produced by the basic economic entities (businesses) within the economy, which is the scientific thing to do because how much more fundamental a picture of the economy can you get than people exchanging their incomes for products and services by liquidating the prices attached to them, we can see that the incomes produced cannot possibly liquidate the prices. Not at their initial creation and not with each business they pass through on their way to where costs and prices are finally summed at retail sale to an individual. Now velocity THEORY supposedly remedies this, but I believe that empirical data ought to trump theory, and if one also recognizes that downturns in borrowing/lending of money into the economy, a drop in the velocity of money and recessions/depressions all three have a 100% correlation it becomes pretty apparent that the “circulation” of money is really just the continual injection of loans into the economy and the resulting build up of unsustainable debt….like now. It isn’t interest that is the basic problem because if you take out 6 loans that require a $200/mo payment and you only have $1000/mo. of effective demand….you’re insolvent….like we actually are now.

      Graph the above empirical data through time and you get two upward sloping lines. the top one labeled prices is going to go up at a higher rate of flow than the bottom one labeled individual incomes. In other words the two lines are going to diverge. So the elemental empirical data and the fundamental actions of production and exchange and hence, inherently, that is in the normal operation of the economy, the economic effect is price inflation. And so the economy/the entire productive process automatically erodes business profits and individual purchasing power through time.

      You cannot remedy this state by injecting money into the productive process. You have to raise the rate of flow of total individual incomes to approximate prices by GIVING individuals a direct payment BEFORE it is injected into the economy. In this way you are not re-initiating the price inflationary nature of the productive process.

  6. davetaylor1
    September 20, 2013 at 3:52 pm

    From Peter’s blog. “No one cares. I say this because, as far as I can tell, the constant uprising and moaning about the apparent nonsense of mainstream economics results in precisely no change. There are studies going way back, and complaints decades old, describing what you are reacting to. The teaching remains the same. No one acts. I mean really acts, not simply writes another paper. When good people devote their lives to alchemy they come to accept it just as those before did. Plus, of course, there is the comfort of the sub-disciplines into which to retreat”.

    I resent this facile judgement, Peter. If I am going to act, there has not only to be a need to, but I need to know how to, and whether the objective is feasible. If it is only feasible with the help of other people, then some of us need to understand and agree on what we are doing, and the others to understand our strategy well enough to accept their own roles in it.

    I personally care so much about what, since Thatcher, has happened to my country and the world, that I have spent half my life trying to get past the first stages in the above process. Writing to economists and politicians doesn’t work, there is no market for the unexpected and the few like minds I have found have been unable to relate my perspective to their own on what needs to be done. I have been very happy to support others and critique them as far as I am able, going to their conferences etc at my own expense, but in the absence of an agreed alternative to what we are objecting to I see no point in joining a mob of protesters waving their hands and yelling in the streets.

    So, thirtyfive years on, I am still DOING on my own what I CAN do, Peter. I keep sowing Copernican seed among the politicians and economists professionally responsible for sorting out the mess, and among the growing number who, like me, care enough to get involved.

    Being a Christian, I can still live in hope. Given time, mighty oaks from little acorns grow. The sower sowed his seed and despite so much falling among briars, on stony ground or on the path (to be trampled on and eaten by the birds), enough fell on good ground to multiply ten, fifty, a hundred fold, in due season producing a more than sufficient harvest. Be mindful of the patient Chinese, wearing away obstacles drip by drip. Remember the post-war Keynesian years when we had never had it so good.

  7. Fred Zaman
    September 21, 2013 at 5:27 pm

    Greed, the mainspring of capitalist corruption?

    Borrowing from Sheldon Wolin, laissez-faire capitalism can be regarded as an “inverted aristocracy” in which the “democratic incorporation” of the wealthiest 1% on Wall Street controls capitalism’s neoclassical economy. The “totalitarian inversion” of which “democracy,” by Wall Street’s ruling elite, is here a caricaturization of Ayn Rand’s “JOHN GALT” – an anti-Randian theory (ART) in which JOHN is mnemonic for capitalism’s “Janus-faced, opportunistic, hegemonic narcissism; and GALT is the same for capitalism’s “gilded, aristocratic, laissez-faire tyranny.” ART and its capitalist mnemonic JOHN GALT thus stand for the possibility of a theory of the world economy that, grounded on the thinking of radical political theorists Sheldon Wolen, Ayn Rand and others, may be more complex, and indeed far more radical than anything now found in economic journals and on economic websites.

    It seemingly is just about time for today’s “real-world” economists to stop whining about not being able to bring about change, and start taking seriously the need to engage in complex theory development that can replace the currently hegemonic, overly simplistic theory of neoclassical economics; which absolutely will remain in place – all whining against notwithstanding – until a clearly superior theory of the economy can be developed. Continued whining simply will not do the job; theory needs to be developed that recognizes and makes foundational the human propensity for greed. Greed indeed must be the foundation of economic theory, which to its credit neoclassical economics recognizes and does make foundational. However, in striving to be “scientific,” neoclassical economics makes the fundamental mistake in failing to make moral judgment about such greed, particularly in its failure to address the cumulative, horrendous effect of greed on society’s moral fiber generally.

    Greed arguably is, and always has been, the mainspring of society’s corruption; and neoclassical economics today is its handmaiden. “Real-world economists,” in the effort to keep their economic thinking on a scientific footing, seemingly are refusing to highlight greed and make it foundational in their critiques of neoclassical economics. But what this means is that they are making essentially the same mistake as the neoclassical economists they critique, only in a different way. Neoclassical economists recognize greed and accept it without moral critique as being foundational to the economy. Real-world economists in opposition in effect critique the neoclassical economic foundation on greed, but in this critique are failing to recognize that greed in economics indeed is foundational and must be retained in theory. Its retention by real-world economists, however, must be on a different basis that includes moral judgment – which real-world economists are wont to do because it imperils economics future standing as science.

    So what is to be the future of economics? Is it to continue as a supposed science that recognizes the reality of greed, but retains its standing as science only by absolutely making no moral judgment about it whatever; or will it now through real-world economists working for change, in the 21st century continue recognizing the fundamentality of greed in economics, but making explicit moral judgment thereabout and thus risking its standing as science. Consider in this regard the ART of economics briefly described above, which conceivably could provide an objective foundation for human science thus reconsidered; in which systemic greed, collusion, corruption, etc. are allowed to be the subject of investigation.

    • BFWR
      September 21, 2013 at 6:42 pm

      @Fred Zaman

      Economic, monetary and political power vs Individual freedom is the basic conflict. There are many variables (geo-politics, energy, national partisan politics, theoretical confusions about money and economics, authoritarianism, the mistaken conflation of personal values onto systemic problems) that contribute to the apparent necessity for power, manipulation and tyrannical control. However, if you resolved the most basic underlying problem (the erosion of business profits and individual purchasing power even when the system is operating in supposed normal and good circumstances) by adopting a policy of immanent individual economic freedom a lot of these variables will dissipate and/or disappear.

    • davetaylor1
      September 21, 2013 at 9:40 pm

      Greed is a necessary consequence of Hume’s ideological individualism (if we don’t know others’ needs we can’t allow for them), but in my theory, following Claude Levi-Strauss, the family, seeing its developing world from different and complementary perspectives, is the fundamental unit of society.

      “Greed indeed must be the foundation of economic theory”, but as you say, it “arguably is, and always has been, the mainspring of society’s corruption”.

      Fred, I said at #7 that “the few like minds I have found [including yours] have been unable to relate my perspective to their own on what needs to be done”. You say: “theory needs to be developed that recognizes and makes foundational the human propensity for greed”. If you look again through what I’ve been saying here these last few years, you may find I’ve done exactly that, without “the fundamental mistake [of neo-classicism] in failing to make moral judgment about such greed”.

      Where Santa Fé type Complexity Theory envisages useful pattern evolving from the forceful random interactions of greedy individuals, the Complex Truth (“judged true and no errors detected”) implied by Information Science is about how to distinguish signals from “noise” and eliminate any corruption: the “noise” being considered bad whether it be due to electromagnetic interference or the misconceptions, lies and fraudulent practices of greedy (including power-hungry) individuals.

      In my theory, therefore, a moral judgement is implicit in interpreting not just computers with anti-viral programs but families, parliaments and economies as multi-purpose systems with general-purpose logic and an information-based error control sub-system. Whereas the force-based conception of control is about and limited to a specific objective (e.g. making money or staying in power), the whole point of Information Science is how to control and eliminate corruption (considered bad) of signals carrying information on whatever subject some of us may in due course act on.

      • davetaylor1
        September 21, 2013 at 9:51 pm

        I don’t understand how the cobble-up at #10 could have happened. In any case, my opeing para began with “Fred, I said ..”, and the pragraphs thereafter read upward instead of downward, rolling round to restart from the bottom. I think I’d better resend it.

    • davetaylor1
      September 21, 2013 at 9:53 pm

      Fred, I said at #7 that “the few like minds I have found [including yours] have been unable to relate my perspective to their own on what needs to be done”. You say: “theory needs to be developed that recognizes and makes foundational the human propensity for greed”. If you look again through what I’ve been saying here these last few years, you may find I’ve done exactly that, without “the fundamental mistake [of neo-classicism] in failing to make moral judgment about such greed”.

      Greed is a necessary consequence of Hume’s ideological individualism (if we don’t know others’ needs we can’t allow for them), but in my theory, following Claude Levi-Strauss, the family, seeing its developing world from different and complementary perspectives, is the fundamental unit of society.

      “Greed indeed must be the foundation of economic theory”, but as you say, it “arguably is, and always has been, the mainspring of society’s corruption”.

      In my theory, therefore, a moral judgement is implicit in interpreting not just computers with anti-viral programs but families, parliaments and economies as multi-purpose systems with general-purpose logic and an information-based error control sub-system. Whereas the force-based conception of control is about and limited to a specific objective (e.g. making money or staying in power), the whole point of Information Science is how to control and eliminate corruption (considered bad) of signals carrying information on whatever subject some of us may in due course act on.

      Where Santa Fé type Complexity Theory envisages useful pattern evolving from the forceful random interactions of greedy individuals, the Complex Truth (“judged true and no errors detected”) implied by Information Science is about how to distinguish signals from “noise” and eliminate any corruption: the “noise” being considered bad whether it be due to electromagnetic interference or the misconceptions, lies and fraudulent practices of greedy (including power-hungry) individuals.

  8. Robert Locke
    September 22, 2013 at 8:40 am

    “All seem agreed about the shortcomings of economics yet we see its stature unaffected by even the admitted failures.”

    J-C’s comment in the Peng Chen thread opens up vistas of pessimism.

    Fred raises the reform bar very high; he wants to get rid of capitalism in the process of reforming economics, but the failure of socialism to accomplish this overthrow when most of the world was under socialist regimes, makes the prospect of ending capitalism and the reign of neo-classical economics with it, in the era of capitalism triumphant after 1990, dismal.

    If we set the bar lower and wish just to work within academia to change things, how, with the mainline economists in control of academic schools and departments and the publications, could this be brought about?

    Perhaps we could engage in some reverse engineering – undo the mainline economists by following the tactics they employed when taking over economics after WWII. This happened in two ways. First, they took over the departments of economics in universities with the support of the military-industrial complex. Economists during WWII and the Cold War were recruited into government and defense department jobs, where they learned the scientific toolkit of operations research and war-planning (linear programming, etc.) and then introduced them into departments of economics when they returned to them. Second, with the massive expansion of business schools, the newly reformed economics moved into them in the 1960s and 1970s and imposed the new discipline on business school curricula. To throw them out the way they came in we would have to have the support of the government and the defense establishment, the deans of the business schools and monies from the great private foundations (Ford) to carry through the campaign. Not much chance of getting that, and hence, not much chance of getting reform within the US.

    Could we go outside the US & the UK to carry on this campaign of reform? This, perhaps, is not a fantastic propositions, since the centers of wealth and manufacturing have shifted or are shifting outside the UK, US orbit. I include Central Europe as an area where reform might have a chance. But how is change promoted; some of you management people, who deal with the management of transformations, help us out.

    • davetaylor1
      September 22, 2013 at 12:04 pm

      What I learned as a junior manager was that if something needed doing, the way was not to tell my boss he was a louse or an idiot but to float ideas more or less in passing, which once he had absorbed he could reinvent for himself.

      Curiously, that was precisely the theme of the readings at church this morning. People don’t change much, which is one reason why I agree with Robert about the importance of learning from history – the other being I’ve learnt more about economics from the likes of J K Galbraith and Philip Mirowski than any other modern writer, and I’ve just found the latter’s “More Heat Than Light” (ch.2) posing all the questions I’ve found it necessary to answer to find a firm basis for economic theory. Anyway, here’s Amos, c.750 b.c., taking the “louse” view of business and finance, and Jesus (c.30 a.d.) joking about their ability to get themselves out of a scrape.

      First Amos. “Listen to this, you who trample on the needy and try to suppress the poor of the country, you who say ‘When will the New Moon be over so we can sell our corn, and the sabbath so we can market our wheat? Then by lowering the bushel, raising the shekel, by swindling and tampering with the scales, we can buy up the poor for money, and the needy for a pair of sandals, and get a price even for the sweepings of the wheat’. The Lord swears it … : ‘Never will I forget a single thing you have done’ “. [Amos 8:4-7].

      Now the ‘Good News’ from Jesus. “There was a man whose steward was denounced to him for being wasteful with his property. He called for the man and said, “What is this I hear about you? Draw me up an account of your stewardship because I’m going to sack you’. The steward said to himself: ‘Now I’ve lost my job, what am I to do? Dig? I am not strong enough. Go begging? I should be too ashamed. Ah, I know …”. He called his masters deptors one by one. To the first he said, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ ‘One hundred measures of oil’ was the reply. The steward said, ‘Here, take your bond; sit down and write fifty’. To another he said, ‘And you, sir, what do you owe’? ‘One hundred measures of wheat’, was the reply. The steward said, ‘Here, take your bond and write eighty’. The master praised the dishonest steward for his astuteness, for the children of this world are more astute in dealing with their own kind than are the children of light. And so I tell you this: use money, tainted as it is, to win you friends, and thus make sure than when it fails you, they will welcome you into their tents”. [Luke 16:1-10].

  9. Allen
    September 23, 2013 at 3:05 am

    “No-one cares.” Why is there no change? An earlier blog from Edward Fullbrook gives a clue. It was about a middle-aged economist at a prestigious British university. Fullbrook called him Dr X. Dr X confessed to writing “shit papers” which are about outdated theories which few believe. He would like to write worthwhile papers but dare not because of the grading system which is based on the the number of papers he has published in “top” journals published by a handful of “top” universities. Please someone tell me the “top” journals and their publishers. Surely even right-wing governments (except, possibly in the USA) would see the waste and inefficiency in this practice. Academic economists need to get politically active and lobby influential politicians, if necessary, privately. Those fraudulent journals should be shunned; universities should stop buying them. Dr X said heaps of economists would like to see change from the present system. If a stream of such economists were to badger carefully chosen politicians, funding criteria might very well change for the better.

  10. Ken Zimmerman
    September 28, 2013 at 11:57 am

    Excuse my tardiness in replying to this post. I was out of the country and spent no time keeping up with emails and such.

    According to the American Economics Association’s web page, these are the AEA’s goals:
    1. The encouragement of economic research, especially the historical and statistical study of the actual conditions of industrial life.
    2. The issue of publications on economic subjects.
    3. The encouragement of perfect freedom of economic discussion. The Association as such will take no partisan attitude, nor will it commit its members to any position on practical economic questions.
    I can only assume that in 1885 when the AEA was organized, those who set it up believed in these goals and wanted to put them into practice. Reviewing AEA members’ research over the years confirms this. This review confirms also that these researchers tried to study and report on economic actions and decisions as understood and performed my non-economists, under the assumption that it was these actors who made economics and economies, which economists wanted to observe and report on.

    But then enter the “expert.” Beginning after WWII and lead by physical scientists the era of experts began. Most problems were said to be too complex and difficult for ordinary “non-scientists” to deal with. Besides which ordinary citizens usually just made such problem worse, not better. And the physical sciences gave us thousands of problem solutions and new tools that not only improved our lives but changed our education, religion, civics, transportation, energy, etc. And along the line they also created a whole new set of problems that we are just beginning to grasp. The experts were in return given great prestige, respect, honor, and adulation, if not always the highest wealth. The social sciences, which were brand new at this point, got in on the game and suddenly there were all sorts of “human sciences” experts, telling us how to solve our problems of war, poverty, marriage, etc. and of course wanting the honor and respect that went along with such expertise. Also creating new problems just now coming to light. And standing on the sidelines were the members of the AEA. Barely even noticed. And voila was born out of the minds of smart and ambitious economics’ faculty and big university contributors the economic expert. Who would not only provide a full explanation of all of economic life, assure us that we would be wealthy and our economy always healthy, but most importantly would relieve us of the burden of working out what economic actions and decisions should go into public and business policy. Who could ask for anything more? And of course these new economics experts expected our full adulation and unquestioning obedience. And now we begin to see the problems these experts created, for themselves and for us all. Scientific expertism has been widely under attack since the 1970s in the US (and even earlier in other places) not only due to its paternalism and arrogance, but also because it often creates as many problems as it solves, and often even fails to solve the problems it claims to, and overall denigrates and denies forms of knowledge not in the expert column. The debate now turns to “economic experts.” Best of luck to you all!

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