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Mainstream ‘pluralism’

from Lars Syll


The only economic analysis that mainstream economists accept is the one that takes place within the analytic-formalistic modeling strategy that makes up the core of mainstream economics. All models and theories that do not live up to the precepts of the mainstream methodological canon are pruned. straight-jacketYou’re free to take your models — not using (mathematical) models at all is considered totally unthinkable — and apply them to whatever you want — as long as you do it within the mainstream approach and its modeling strategy.

If you do not follow that particular mathematical-deductive analytical formalism you’re not even considered doing economics. ‘If it isn’t modeled, it isn’t economics.’

That isn’t pluralism.

That’s a methodological reductionist straightjacket.

  1. Paul Davidson
    April 18, 2017 at 8:48 pm

    Samuelson in his book on Foundations of Economic Theory insists that Walrasian microfoundation must be the foundation of all macro theory! But in Walrasian theory it is assumed that all decision makers KNOW all market prices today and for every day in the future! In other words there can never be any uncertainty in mainstream economics!!

    • April 19, 2017 at 8:20 am

      When we create plans and the models they’re based on, we assume all this. That we know the values of all the variables now, 2 years out, 5 years out, 10 years out, etc. But then we do something economists usually don’t do. We systematically vary these values to look for changes in the models and the plans. This is called scenario testing. Then we ask all the stakeholders to provide their own values for further scenarios. We end up with a complex plan but one which can be discussed with stakeholders and used for policy development. I see no similar process among economists.

  2. April 19, 2017 at 12:25 am

    Here’s a link to the 38-page Oxfam “Rigged Reform”https://www.oxfam.de/system/files/rigged_reform.pdf

  3. April 19, 2017 at 12:54 am

    In a way that is true i think, but my impression since the 60’s and especially after SMD theorem and then chaos and game theory, alot of the big results in mainstream economics of this form were ‘impossibility ‘ or no go theorems. Its similar to physics as i gather it—they could solve a whole lot of concrete problems (eg make superconductors…) but the big theory results were they couldn’t solve the conceptual and foundational issues (eg you ended up with ‘np-complete’ problems–no computer could even solve them.)Some said maybe we should just forget abhout those problems. (in math these are the constructionists, intuitionists, strict and ultrafinitis).

    • April 19, 2017 at 1:40 am

      my father used samuelson—i read some of his copy (he also had lange and lerner/hayek; marx, shumpeter, and some other old stuff alfred marshall he picked up in used libraries). i dont remember samuleson saying that tho he may have.
      but that book i think was writtern in 1950’s tho it went through many edtions. walras (and leontief) i think are good starting points as is bentham, and 1800;’s types. bliss=pleasure-pain = benefit-cost=utility.

      in quantum theory most books teach bohr model of atom (a mini solar system—-nowadays almost a joke—its like say in biology the original cell and theories would be miniature human beings the size of a cell or molecule.
      I actually think that may be true if you look closely through a microscope or electron mciroscope—maybe plot image in different coordinates (norbert weiner–‘i can fit your data to an elephant’).
      alot of people see entropy as uncertainty. but in statistical mechan ics it is known basically that the (Gibbs/boltzmann) entropy of a system never changes– its a constant (unless one considers an open universe where matter is always created and destroyed, or similar things). There’s no uncertainty. The system knows where it is. What changes is the ‘coarse grained entropy’ which is what we see.
      I agree that walrasian theory does say that there is no uncertainty (i first saw this inGeoregscu’s ‘entropy law’ which was also kicking around the house. ) But people aren’t bound by that, any more than by gibbs entropy—or rather one is bound by that, but that is not what you are interested in. You need to ‘coarse grain’ the system—this is what is done in my view when you discuss dynamics of general equilibriujm (tattonment or approach to equilibrium). The classic assumption is system relaxes ‘immediately’–auctioneer and everyone choose correct price immediately.
      I went and bought a lock for my bike today—it took me half an hour to decide; got sort of confused. Pay 6.99 for that or 6.29 for a different kind, or maybe buy some writing paper. Standard eco cant handle that, nor can standard statistical mechanics (FPU first trie dto prove ergodic theorem and arrow of time around 1945 with ENIAC computer . They decuide it must be false, sot KAM theory was invented (ie there is no equilbirium in classic sense, instead there is an atractor or many. But later on peoplein 90’s or so people repeated FPU and said maybe it did prove ergodicity–they just didnt have a big enough computer.
      Sort of like zeno;’s paradox—an arrow can never hit a target. but with a bigger computer if you long enough it will.
      i’m undecided on FPU, and see it as same situation as SMD. (it would be interesting if one can find a map between those letters lime say DT=DT ‘donald trump = delerium tremens’).

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