Signs economists haven’t the foggiest
from Lars Syll
Unlearning economics has a nice post up “outlining the major reasons why economists can be completely out of touch with their public image, as well as how they should do ‘science,’ and why their discipline is so ripe for criticism.” He presents a list of 18 common failings encountered time and time again in discussions with mainstream economists:
1. They refer to the idea that “all models are simplifications” as if this somehow creates a fireguard against any criticism of methodology, internal inconsistency or empirical relevance.
2. They argue that the financial crisis is irrelevant to their discipline (and that predicting such events is impossible).
3. They think that behavioural, new institutional and even ‘Keynesian’ economics show the discipline is pluralistic, not neoclassical.
4. They think that the fact most economic papers are “empirical” shows economists are engaging in the scientific method.
5. They think ’neoclassical economics‘ doesn’t exist and is just a swear word used by their opponents.
6. When pushed, they collapse their theories and assumptions into ridiculously weak, virtually unfalsifiable claims (such as revealed preference, the Efficient Markets Hypothesis, or rationality).
7. They dismiss ideas from the past or comprehensive study of previous thinkers and texts as “not science”.
8. They think positive and normative economics are 100% separable, and their discipline is “value free“.
9. They simply cannot think of any other approach to ‘economics’ than theirs.
10. They believe in an erroneous history that sits well with their pet theories, such as the myths of barter and free trade.
11. They think that microfoundations are a necessary and sufficient modelling technique for dealing with the Lucas Critique.
12. They think economics is separable from politics, and that the political role and application of economic ideas in the real world is irrelevant for academic discussion (examples: Friedman and Pinochet, central bank independence).
13. They think their discipline is going through a calm, fruitful period (based on their self-absorbed bubble).
14. They think that endorsing cap & trade or carbon taxes is “dealing with the environment”.
15. They think making an unrealistic model consistent with one or two observed phenomena makes it sound or worthwhile (DSGE and other models are characterised by this “frictions” approach).
16. They think their discipline is an adequate, even superior, method for analysing problems in other social sciences such as politics, history and sociology.
17. They think that the world behaves as if their assumptions are true (or close enough).
18. They think that their discipline’s use of mathematics shows that it is “rigorous” and scientific.