from Edward Fullbrook
Asad Zaman has called my attention to a long article in the Huffington Post that initially appeared six years ago, but is worth rereading today as a reminder of the task faced by those desiring to turn economics into a more honourable pursuit. Here are few passages from the article.
The Federal Reserve, through its extensive network of consultants, visiting scholars, alumni and staff economists, so thoroughly dominates the field of economics that real criticism of the central bank has become a career liability for members of the profession, an investigation by the Huffington Post has found.
This dominance helps explain how, even after the Fed failed to foresee the greatest economic collapse since the Great Depression, the central bank has largely escaped criticism from academic economists. In the Fed’s thrall, the economists missed it, too.
One critical way the Fed exerts control on academic economists is through its relationships with the field’s gatekeepers. For instance, at the Journal of Monetary Economics, a must-publish venue for rising economists, more than half of the editorial board members are currently on the Fed payroll — and the rest have been in the past.
from Edward Fullbrook
Keynes argued that markets often create inaccurate expectations of economic reality which they then act upon thereby changing reality. This reflexivity that Keynes identified as central to capitalist markets is the opposite of the basic process described by traditional economic theory, both in Keynes’ day and in our own, whereby it is assumed that market expectations are determined by reality rather than one of reality’s determinants.
For most people Keynes’ theory of market expectations, like his theory of aggregate demand, is counterintuitive, and therefore difficult to elucidate and popularize sufficiently to become part of public discussion. Read more…
Nicholas Buffie at the Center for Economic and Policy Research has a blog post about this chart.
Key member of Swedish Academy of Sciences calls for immediate suspension of the “Nobel Prize for Economics”
Bo Rothstein, an important member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, has today in Sweden’s most widely read newspaper called for an immediate declaration of a moratorium on the awarding of Sveriges Riksbank Prize for Economics in the name of Nobel and the Nobel Foundation.
Rothstein’s article argues that today with increasing success, economics as commonly taught in universities and endorsed by most winners of the economics prize promotes corruption in societies around the world. Therefore he concludes that the Nobel Foundation’s awarding the economics prize is “in direct conflict with what Alfred Nobel decreed in his will.”
“I will,” writes Rothstein, “therefore now take the initiative in this matter.”
Below is a Google-translation of Rothstein’s article. If someone can provide us with a better translation, we will post it.
The Prize in contravention of the spirit of Nobel’s will
Can contribute to increased corruption. Multiple independent research shows that those who study economics are more prone to corruption. And the behavior seems to be an effect of education. A price that risk contribute to increased corruption in the world is in conflict with the spirit of Nobel’s will, writes political science professor Bo Rothstein.
from Edward Fullbrook
For me three economists stand out historically as having been the most effective at building resistance to the dominance of scientism in economics. Keynes of course is one, and the other two are Bernard Guerrien and Tony Lawson, Guerrien because he was the intellectual and moral force behind Autisme Economie which, among other things, gave rise to the RWER; and Lawson because his papers, books and seminars have inspired, joined and intellectually fortified thousands.
It is notable that all three of these economists were or were on their way to becoming professional mathematicians before switching to economics. When still in his twenties, Keynes’ mathematical genius was already publicly celebrated, most notably by Whitehead and Russell, and he had already published what was to become for his first discipline a classic work. Guerrien’s first PhD was in mathematics, and Lawson was doing a PhD in mathematics at Cambridge when its economics department lured him over in an attempt to boost its mathematical competence.
The significance for me of Keynes, Guerrien and Lawson being mathematicians first and economists second is that it meant that they were not even for an hour taken in or intimidated by the aggressive scientism of neoclassical economists, and this has enabled them to write analytically about the dominant scientism with a quiet straightforwardness that is beyond the reach of most of us.
An example of this kind of writing that I am talking about is the short essay below that in 2002 Guerrien published in what is now the Real-World Economics Review. Read more…
Where is our economic system going? What about our societies? How did we get here? And what next?
The current situation reveals not only an economic crisis but also a deep crisis of economic thought. There are many causes for this situation, and solutions can only be found through theoretical, practical and political inventiveness with our critical faculties to the fore. But, whilst such voices do exist, they have been silenced as far as orthodox economics is concerned. Simply put, there are profoud institutional barriers to the emergence and presentation of original thinking, but this blocked creativity could be released through a simple and immediate political solution. Establishing in French universities a new section, entitled Economics and Society, would allow a new way of thinking in economics.
Madam Minister, you recently decided to create this new section promoting the study of economic facts with a renewed perspective within rather than apart from social sciences. You did so because you know how much the research in economics and its teaching, but also public debate, are suffocated by the monopoly of ideas imposed by a dominant school of thought that failed to anticipate or even to allow for, let alone understand and respond to this crisis.
The proposal for this new section, and your commendable approval for it, unleashed such a backlash from the established orthodoxy that it seemed to persuade you to withdraw your support.
For these reasons, by reaffirming your support for this petition for pluralism in economics, we demand that you publish the decree that you already signed in order finally to create this new section.
Economics needs pluralism now!
You can sign this petition here http://assoeconomiepolitique.org/petition-pluralism-now/
4,559 people have already signed it, but they need lots more. You can read the names at the petition sight.
from Edward Fullbrook
I have been asked to circulate this appeal. You may sign it by leaving your name and if appropriate your affiliation as a comment to this post. Please do not comment further on this post as it will make the collection of the signatures more difficult.
Scholars’ Appeal for Greece.
We the undersigned call on the governments of Europe, the European
Commission, the European Central Bank and the IMF to respect the decision
of the Greek people to choose a new course and to engage the new
government of Greece in good faith negotiations to resolve the Greek debt.
The government of Greece is correct to insist on new policies because the
previous policies have failed. They have not brought economic recovery.
They have not brought financial stability. They have not brought jobs or
foreign investments. They have stressed and damaged Greek society and
weakened Greek institutions. There is therefore no value in that approach
and no progress to preserve. We urge Greece’s European partners to accept
this reality, without which the new government would never have been
elected. Read more…
Nicholas Otty, an artist friend of mine in France, sent me this photo of a painting that he recently finished and which I think is available for purchase. Click on the image to enlarge.
from Edward Fullbrook
In 2014 one post on this blog was viewed more than twice as many times as any other post, nearly ten thousand. It is Asad Zaman’s Summary of the Great Transformation by Polanyi. Although it was posted back in late 2013, it continues to attract viewers at a rate that every month places it in the ten most viewed posts, and in recent months its download rate has even been growing.
So how do we account for the extraordinary success of Zaman’s post? Part of the credit is due of course to the quality of Zaman’s writing and to his reputation. But surely there is more to it than that, and three possibilities have occurred to me. One, which I reject, is that it is the name Polanyi which attracts so many readers. Another is that a network of links has been created leading people, most likely students, to Zaman’s post. But after examining extensive site data I have found no evidence that such links exist. A third possibility, and the one in which I am inclined to believe, is that it is the idea of a short (blog-post-length) summary of a famous work that attracts the readers and which lends itself to discovery through search engines. I can see how this might especially be appealing to students who education is structured to not only keep them away from all primary sources, but also to deny them direct summaries of important works.
So banking on the third explanation, I am extending a broad invitation. I would like over the coming year for the RWER Blog to publish a series of short (750 words or less) summaries of famous works in economics. Initially at least, I am interested in publishing only one such summary per work. So if you are interested in writing one, you should first clear the possibility with me at email@example.com.
If over the coming year we establish a small library of these major work summaries, then there is a good chance that network effects will lead to download rates for individual summaries that exceed that of Zaman’s Polanyi to date.
The following paper appeared in 2005 in what is now the Real-World Economics Review http://www.paecon.net/PAEReview/issue31/Lee31.htm It is worth reading today no less than it was then.
Teaching Heterodox Microeconomics
Frederic S. Lee (University of Missouri-Kansas City, USA)
Microeconomics is an important, though not a very popular, field of research in heterodox economics. This is due, in part, to the underlaboring role of micro-entities, such as the business enterprises, costs, pricing, profit mark ups, wage rates, markets, and investment, in most of the research conducted by heterodox economists in macroeconomic theory, monetary theory, and economic policy. Given its theoretical importance, it is surprising that the number monographs devoted largely to delineating a heterodox microeconomic theory are so few.1 One reason for this is that some heterodox economists believe that it is necessary for all economic students to learn neoclassical microeconomic theory; and the learning of heterodox microeconomics is of second-order importance. The unintended consequence of this attitude is that there is little interest among heterodox economists to delineate a comprehensive microeconomic theory. A second reason has to do with the role of microeconomic theory in heterodox economics. In particular, microeconomic theory is correctly viewed by most heterodox economists as providing a non-reductionist foundation to macroeconomic and monetary theory. And it is these theoretic areas that contribute most to macroeconomic policy issues in which they are interested. Given this macro-policy concern, there is little interest among heterodox economists to engage in the near thankless and largely obscure task of foundation building.
World student movement could become major player in the struggle to bring pluralism and freedom of inquiry to economics
from Edward Fullbrook
An emergent worldwide grassroots movement of economics students, the International Student Initiative, has the potential of becoming a major force that could work alongside the academics’ World Economics Association (now 13,000 strong) to break the neoclassical stranglehold on economics and to bring the real world back into the classroom. Launched in May, the ISI already boasts 65 associations of economics students from 30 countries, 5 continents and representing 13 languages groups. For the most part they are based in individual universities. Together they constitute a coordinated grassroots base that has the potential of serving as the launch pad for a massive worldwide student rebellion in the coming academic year, one that would see 100s more of these associations formed, each focused on reforming the economics curriculum of their university.
The formation of these student associations can be greatly facilitated by encouragement and moral support from faculty members. If you would like to help please go to http://www.isipe.net/supportus/
Below is the ISI‘s manifesto, a partial list of the student organizations, a partial linked list of their websites, and a linked list (67) of media coverage. Here to begin with is a world map showing ISI associations to date: Read more…
Here are some highlights from a strong post from Steve Denning on Forbes blog that condemns Joseph Stiglitz for shielding the “villains”.
Joseph Stiglitz, who this week offers his final entry in the New York Times’ series, The Great Divide, with the conclusion that inequality is not inevitable. The United States that was once a “shining city on a hill” has now become, he writes, “the advanced country with the greatest level of inequality.” In effect, it’s a choice that our society can make one way or the other. As a result of the actions of many individuals, our society has chosen inequality.
And Stiglitz names those responsible for this choice. They include CEOs, bankers, private equity titans, venture capitalists, politicians, deregulators, lobbyists, the Supreme Court, and those who run corporate welfare, the prison system, the high-price justice system and the unequal health system.
The missing villains: economists
Yet there is one category of actor curiously missing from Stiglitz’s list of villains: his fellow economists.
from Edward Fullbrook
The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) is a leading player in what is called “the global wealth-management industry” and which in effect is plutonomy’s tactical cavalry in financial markets. BCG have just “released” a report disclosing that in the year 2013 the wealth of the world’s people worth $100 million or more increased 19.7 percent. That compares, they say, to 3.7 percent for the wealth of sub-millionaires. Naturally they are overjoyed at this latest redistribution.
“Wealth” meaning what? Like most people and as also with the symbol “capital”, they use “wealth” to stand for two different things, and also like most people, economists especially, they often lose track of which referent they are trying to talk about. But we can overlook that here because the 19.7 percent and 3.7 percent refer to financial wealth and, with exceptions, that is all plutonomists and their agents really care about.
The report documents how the upward redistribution of wealth to the 0.1 percent and especially to the 0.01 percent is accelerating, in other words, how the plutonomist programme (pre-Piketty it was never reported by mass media) is now restructuring the world at an even faster rate. Here is a taster of how they see the next five years. Read more…
from Edward Fullbrook
Plutonomists, like real-world economists, know that the main determinant of income and wealth distribution is the legal framework in which an economy functions. The Plutonomy Movement, by far the most powerful political force of our age, is founded on the underground application of this basic principle. Occasionally this becomes manifest when one of plutonomy’s strategic documents is leaked. Such an event happened last week when the Bank of American Merrill Lynch report “Piketty and Plutonomy: The revenge of inequality” found its way into non-plutonomist hands. In addition to posts on this blog, there was coverage in the Chinese and the Australian press and Brad Delong posted an excerpt from the report including three graphs. Here is another excerpt, very brief, and number 42 of the report’s 45 figures. Red indicates “regulatory legislation” and green “deregulatory legislation”. Read more…
from Edward Fullbrook
Bank of America Merrill Lynch has released a report titled “Piketty and Plutonomy: the Revenge of Inequality”. Here is a bit about it from the South China Morning Post.
It is interesting but not wholly surprising to see that Hong Kong has topped another index which it may not be so proud of. It leads the rankings of an analysis which shows the wealth of the uber-rich as a proportion of an economy’s gross domestic product. According to a Bank of America Merrill Lynch report, the net worth of Hong Kong’s billionaires in 2013 represented 76.4 per cent of the city’s gross domestic product.
Sweden’s billionaires were a distant second accounting for 20.7 per cent of GDP. Next was Russia with 20.1 per cent, Malaysia 18 per cent, Israel 18 per cent, Philippines 16.5 per cent and Singapore 16.3 per cent. US billionaires accounted for 13.8 per cent of GDP, Britain’s 6.2 per cent, China’s 3.5 per cent and Japan’s 1.9 per cent.
The report, titled Piketty and Plutonomy: the Revenge of Inequality, examined Thomas Piketty’s highly successful tome, Capital in the Twenty-First Century. Analysis of plutonomy – where economic growth is powered by and largely consumed by the wealthy few – is critical, the authors say, for understanding the complexities of today’s markets, as they go on to enumerate 10 implications of plutonomy for investors.
Piketty projects that the global private wealth to national income ratio will rise from 440 per cent in 2010 to record highs of 500 per cent by 2030, levels that were last seen in 1910. Hong Kong is also highly placed in terms of income inequality when ranked in terms of relative Gini coefficient levels. Hong Kong is third after Colombia and Brazil. One of the report’s conclusions is that unless there is policy intervention, in the longer term “emerging markets are likely to become entrenched and egregious plutonomies”.
more on Bank of America’s plutonomy report soon
from Edward Fullbrook
This appeared on my screen last night.
The Plutonomist Manifesto
- Because democracy is our worst enemy, we must work to convert every democracy in the world to a fake democracy.
- We, The One-percent, achieve these conversions of the system of government through three forms of targeted ownership.
a. Owning mass media, the internet and the Web.
b. Owning all major political parties. We achieve this ownership by making the electoral process extremely expensive, thereby making election dependent on our financial support.
c. Owning economists. In today’s world the economics profession determines what the electorate sees and does not see regarding the economy. Therefore it is imperative that we control it. We achieve this by maintaining remunerative revolving doors, by financing think tanks and university economics departments, by funding Trojan Horse organizations to co-opt non-One-percent economists, and by our Nobel Prize.
- In countries with real democratic traditions, plutonomy revolutions are achievable only by using Trojan Horse Methods (THMs). Subversion rather than violence or open campaigning is our means of conquest.
- The use of THMs means that sometimes we must be seen to give support to our opponents.
- We must be vigilant against leakages (for example, the Citigroup documents) of the existence of our program.
- When approached always give lip-service in support of democracy.
- The middleclass is both our means to success and our ultimate obstacle. It is they, not the poor, who have what we want. Hence the necessity of THMs.
- Ridicule all suggestions of our existence as the work of conspiracy theorists, and label people who support middleclass interests over ours as “leftists”.
- Channel funds to the emerging neo-fascists parties in the US and EU countries because their shenanigans camouflage our redistributions.
- We must work to expand and refine our armoury of redistribution mechanisms.
- The success we have had in the USA and the UK in redistributing middle-class income and wealth to ourselves must now in the next 15 years be duplicated across Western Europe, most especially in France and Germany.
- Our goal of receiving forty percent of income and owning 80 percent of wealth is achievable in most countries of the world my mid-century.
REDISTRIBUTION – REDISTRIBUTION – REDISTRIBUTION
from Edward Fullbrook
We economists use the sign “capital” to designate two fundamentally different but related things, rather as “Thomas” may be the name of both father and son. The latter type of double reference, for various reasons, does not generally cause serious problems. But the double and sometimes triple use of the sign “capital”, and often in the same paragraph, has caused centuries of confusion for the economics profession and now at escalating cost to humanity. In my mind I try always to use “capital-1” for physical capital and “capital-2” for market-values of capital-1. But when reading and the two semiotic objects are signified by the same sign on the same page, this, for me at least, is not easy.
Thomas Piketty has written an important book, and now James Galbraith has rendered it an important service. Piketty’s Capital, left to its own devices, continues economics costly tradition of conflating “capital-1” and “capital-2”. But Galbraith’s review essay in Dissent comes to the rescue. Here are a few quotes. Read more…
An international student call for pluralism in economics
It is not only the world economy that is in crisis. The teaching of economics is in crisis too, and this crisis has consequences far beyond the university walls. What is taught shapes the minds of the next generation of policymakers, and therefore shapes the societies we live in. We, 42 associations of economics students from 19 different countries, believe it is time to reconsider the way economics is taught. We are dissatisfied with the dramatic narrowing of the curriculum that has taken place over the last couple of decades. This lack of intellectual diversity does not only restrain education and research. It limits our ability to contend with the multidimensional challenges of the 21st century – from financial stability, to food security and climate change. The real world should be brought back into the classroom, as well as debate and a pluralism of theories and methods. This will help renew the discipline and ultimately create a space in which solutions to society’s problems can be generated.
United across borders, we call for a change of course. We do not claim to have the perfect answer, but we have no doubt that economics students will profit from exposure to different perspectives and ideas. Pluralism could not only help to fertilize teaching and research and reinvigorate the discipline. Rather, pluralism carries the promise to bring economics back into the service of society. Three forms of pluralism must be at the core of curricula: theoretical, methodological and interdisciplinary.