from David Ruccio
The United States suffers from an obscene cult of CEOs. Whether we’re talking about “Neutron Jack” Welch (who was celebrated for raising GE’s market value while laying off tens of thousands of workers) or Bill Gates (who made Microsoft competitive by engaging in anticompetitive practices) or Lloyd Blankfein (head of the “great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money”)—they’re routinely feted as being ruthless, “transgressive” leaders who make change happen in the corporate world.
I suppose it comes as no surprise, then, that two business professors—Hamid Bouchikhi and John R. Kimberly [ht: kc]—would extend that celebration to CEOs in the academy, by studying the decision by Dean of Arts and Letters Mark Roche to divide the Department of Economics at the University of Notre Dame.* Read more…
Times are crucial for Europe. It will either disintegrate or find a new political constitution. Below, something about the efforts of the ECB to prevent disintegration of at least the price level (and probably much more…)
From: Erwan Mahé
I am still working on my paper on QE, following the wonderful reading of 3000 pages of the FED 2010 meetings transcripts, so a very short piece today, because Draghi’s speech this morning looks like it had a ‘secret’ message in it. In fact, just a copy and paste of what I just sent to my customers by …, but this seems important to me.
After careful reading, I wonder if he is not preparing to modify the country allocation key of the APP…
Full Excerpt for the context (my emphasis):
Expanding the stance
The second, specific challenge we have faced in the euro area has come when we needed to expand our monetary stance – specifically, when we shifted from interest rates as the main instrument of monetary policy to asset purchases via the APP [asset purchases program, M.K.].
In part, large-scale asset purchases aim at reducing the risk-free rate by taking out duration from the market for sovereign bonds. In the euro area, however, we do not have a single risk-free rate since we do not have a single fiscal issuer that acts as a benchmark. And there is no national market which could act as a substitute, not only due to volume constraints, but also because no government security in the euro area is truly risk-free. The prohibition on monetary financing means that every sovereign bond carries a degree of credit risk. Read more…
from Lars Syll
Mathematics, especially through the work of David Hilbert, became increasingly viewed as a discipline properly concerned with providing a pool of frameworks for possible realities …
This emergence of the axiomatic method removed at a stroke various hitherto insurmountable constraints facing those who would mathematise the discipline of economics. Researchers involved with mathematical projects in economics could, for the time being at least, postpone the day of interpreting their preferred axioms and assumptions. There was no longer any need to seek the blessing of mathematicians and physicists or of other economists who might insist that the relevance of metaphors and analogies be established at the outset. In particular it was no longer regarded as necessary, or even relevant, to economic model construction to consider the nature of social reality, at least for the time being
from David Ruccio
It’s impossible to defend the grotesque—and growing—levels of inequality that characterize U.S. capitalism.
But, as they have throughout American history, some people still try. Their most common argument is that there’s nothing wrong with unequal outcomes as long as there is equal opportunity.* Read more…
from Edward Fullbrook
Below are some comments by Steve Marglin, Peter Radford and myself that appeared in 2010 in the RWER in response to an essay by Peter Radford and that seem relevant to the discussion that Asad Zaman has recently launched in this blog: Is there a core of heterodox economics that we can all believe in? and Fundamental Flaws of Conventional Economics
Comments and reply on Peter Radford’s “Whither economics? What do we tell the students?”
Steve Marglin [Harvard University, USA]
Dear Mr Radford,
I agree with most of what you say about economics, except that it is not as easy as you suggest to separate the study of economics from the study of economies. Keynes said it very well in the preface to the General Theory: the hardest part of coming to his new ideas was getting rid of the old ones. The problem is that one needs some kind of framework for studying economies and is thus plunged willy nilly into the study of economics.
from Dean Baker
I have tremendous respect for Paul Krugman. I also consider him a friend. For these reasons I am not eager to pick a fight with him, but there is something about his criticisms of Bernie Sanders that really bothered me.
In a blog post last week, Krugman told readers:
“As far as I can tell, every serious progressive policy expert on either health care or financial reform who has weighed in on the primary seems to lean Hillary.”
While I already had some fun with the idea of Krugman revoking the credentials of everyone who works in these areas who does not back Clinton, the appeal to the authority of the “experts” is more than a bit annoying. The reason is that the “experts” do not have a very good track record of late and still have a long way to go to win back the public’s trust.
To start with the obvious, almost none of the experts saw the 2008 collapse coming. Almost all of them dismissed the idea that there was a housing bubble and even the few that grudgingly acknowledged the possibility of a bubble insisted that it could not have much consequence for the economy.
When residents of Ferguson, Missouri, took to the streets last August to protest the death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager killed by a white police officer, the events dramatically exposed an image of modern policing that most Americans rarely see: columns of police pointing military weaponry at peaceful protestors. But the ongoing tension between residents and police in Ferguson was also indicative of another, less visual development in how the police are used to oppress impoverished communities: using law enforcement to extract revenue from the poor.
from Lars Syll
So far we have shown that for two prominent questions in the economics of education, experimental and non-experimental estimates appear to be in tension. Furthermore, experimental results across different contexts are often in tension with each other. The first tension presents policymakers with a trade-off between the internal validity of estimates from the “wrong” context, and the greater external validity of observational data analysis from the “right” context. The second tension, between equally well-identifed results across contexts, suggests that the resolution of this trade-off is not trivial. There appears to be genuine heterogeneity in the true causal parameter across contexts.
These findings imply that the common practice of ranking evidence by its level of “rigor”,
without respect to context, may produce misleading policy recommendations … Read more…
from Peter Radford
So where are we?
Nowhere further forward. Except, perhaps, that we now know about half of the Democrats in Iowa think Clinton is an extension rather than a repudiation of the past.
And I think that matters.
The time has come for us all to assess just where we are. There is way too much confusion and anger in that air for this bizarre election simply to be an oddity. I think it has meaning. Deep meaning that we need to understand if we are to venture into the future with anything other than bemused silence.
I really think this matters.
Let me venture to say that Clinton’s lost gloss – a truly accepted ‘presumptive’ nominee would not have lapsed into a tied race in Iowa – is cause for reflection amongst all those who profess to be well versed in American politics and government. She simply cannot resonate with a message for the future. She has no message of the future. In one of her last rallies before last night’s caucus she waxed lyrical about pressing on with the current agenda. Yet, surely, the electorate is no mood for continuation. The post recession muddle and thirty years of neoliberal economics have eroded voter’s confidence in our economic institutions, in our leadership, and even in our capability to get anything done. The electorate is losing both its nerve and its patience. Bad things happen when that occurs. Bad things like Donald Trump.
from Asad Zaman
On the RWER Blog, Paul David would like heterodox economists to see reason — read and understand the original Keynes. Justaluckyfool would like us to read, understand and implement Soddy’s financial engineering. On the WEA Pedagogy Blog, Paul Grignon ridicules economists’ understanding of money, and offers an alternative. Egmont Kakarot-Handtke , Xavi Mir, and Jeff offer alternative axiomatizations, and principles which would fix the problems with neoclassical theories. Others who have not spoken up on these threads have their own solutions to the problems of the world.
I am trying to offer a meta-analysis here, as noted by davetaylor1. All heterodox economists agree on one thing, by definition of heterodoxy: orthodox economics contains (huge) errors. INSTEAD of explaining what these errors are and trying to fix them, I would like to stand back from the fray and try to examine what is going on from a distance. WHAT makes certain theories popular? WHY do most people come to believe in theories? WHAT causes changes in these beliefs? By studying the Methodology of Polanyi’s Great Transformation, I came to the understanding that theories can only be understood within their historical context. This understanding is violently in conflict with the conception of knowledge, based on positivist ideas, that I learned in the universities. Contrary to positivist ideas, to understand the process of emergence of theories, and how these theories change over time, one has to do analysis at three levels simultaneously:
LEVEL 1: The Historical Facts, the Context, The Various Groups engaged in the struggle for power, and their interests and ideological positions.
from Lars Syll
We must learn WHY the argument for revealed preference, which deceived Samuelson, is wrong. As per standard positivist ideas, preferences are internal to the heart and unobservable; hence they cannot be used in scientific theories. So Samuelson came up with the idea of using the observable Choices – unobservable preferences are revealed by observable choices … Yet the basic argument is wrong; one cannot eliminate the unobservable preference from economic theories. Understanding this error, which Samuelson failed to do, is the first knot to unravel, in order to clear our minds and hearts of the logical positivist illusions.
Asad Zaman’s blog post made me come to think about an article on revealed preference theory that yours truly wrote almost twenty-five years ago and got published in History of Political Economy (no. 25, 1993).
Paul Samuelson wrote a kind letter and informed me that he was the one who had recommended it for publication. But although he liked a lot in it, he also wrote a comment — published in the same volume of HOPE — saying: Read more…
Here is a comment on Asad Zaman’s Fundamental Flaws of Conventional Economics that deserves its own post.
graccibrosJanuary 29, 2016 at 5:52 pm
Yes, let me wade in but not too deeply. I was intrigued by your very first itemization about logical positivism having failed as a theory of knowledge, and especially your mention of it excluding morality. Since I am reading the late Joe Bageant’s “Deer Hunting with Jesus,” his book about the alienation of white working class Americans from upper middle class liberals, and them not voting the logical positivistic formulations of their own economic self interest, please note that this segment of America is where the morality contained in the Evangelical Movement/Fundamentalism has its deepest roots. They listen to Larry Summers tone, condescension (even as Larry has moved left, which he tries to hide by using terms like “secular stagnation) and run into the arms of Donald Trump, not Hillary Clinton…and who knows about Bernie Sanders.
from Asad Zaman
My recent post on RWER Blog asks if there is a “CORE of heterodox economics” which we can all believe in? From the responses to my previous post on whether or not there was a core set of heterodox beliefs, it became clear to me that I have started in the wrong place. Before starting the task of constructing an alternative paradigm, we must clear away the debris of the ruins of the conventional paradigm. Frederic Lee & Steve Keen remarked in the introduction to their article on the “The incoherent emperor: a heterodox critique of neoclassical microeconomic theory” that heterodox economists often come to the defense of conventional economics, because they are ignorant of the vast range of devastating critiques against these theories. To create a revolution, we must change from lukewarm heterodoxy (a partial rejection combined with a partial acceptance of the errors of conventional theories) to a genuinely radical approach requiring a complete rejection. When the errors of the conventional approach become as obvious as the error in “2+2=5”. we will not waste time coming up with new proofs that this is a fallacious calculation.
I would like to put forth a few propositions which provide a clear demonstration of the errors of conventional economic theory. I am hoping that disagreements about these central propositions can be cleared away by discussion, so that we can create consensus about complete rejection of conventional economic theories. After this step is completed, we could move forward to thinking about how to construct alternative foundations.
Propositions: Methodological Mistakes Read more…
from Lars Syll
In the model [Gali, Smets and Wouters, Unemployment in an Estimated New Keyesian Model (2011)] there is perfect consumption insurance among the members of the household. Because of separability in utility, this implies that consumption is equalized across all workers, whether they are employed or not … Workers who find that they do not have to work are unemployed or out of the labor force, and they have cause to rejoice as a result. Unemployed workers enjoy higher utility than the employed because they receive the same level of consumption, but without having to work.
from Maria Alejandra Madi
Despite the sluggishness in the global economy, officially recorded remittances to developing countries have been growing and the number of international migrants was expected to surpass 250 million in 2015. Among the migration corridors, Mexico-United States accounted for 13 million migrants in 2013. Russia-Ukraine was the second largest, followed by Bangladesh-India, and Ukraine-Russia.
Remittance flows to developing countries are currently higher than three times the amount of flows related to official development assistance. Accordingly the World Bank’s Migration and Development Unit report, officially recorded remittances to developing countries reached almost $534 billion in 2012 and $601 billion in 2015. As remittance flows include unrecorded flows through formal and informal channels, the actual amount of money that is transferred cross-border to family members might be significantly higher. read more
from David Ruccio
In the summer of 2014, Ta-Nehisi Coates made headlines by announcing that he had changed sides and was now in favor of reparations to African-Americans (accompanied by an explanation of why, in contrast to four years earlier, he had changed his mind). Two weeks ago, Coates made headlines again by criticizing Bernie Sanders for opposing “reparations for slavery” (accompanied, a week later, by a defense of his critique of Sanders).
Needless to say, this is a sensitive debate, one that over time might contribute to the development of a progressive movement in the United States but also one that, at the present moment, threatens to undermine the fragile foundations of that movement. So, I want to step lightly and, instead of taking a firm position, merely raise a few issues for further discussion. Read more…
from Lars Syll
The unpopularity of the principle of organic unities shows very clearly how great is the danger of the assumption of unproved additive formulas. The fallacy, of which ignorance of organic unity is a particular instance, may perhaps be mathematically represented thus: suppose f(x) is the goodness of x and f(y) is the goodness of y. It is then assumed that the goodness of x and y together is f(x) + f(y) when it is clearly f(x + y) and only in special cases will it be true that f(x + y) = f(x) + f(y). It is plain that it is never legitimate to assume this property in the case of any given function without proof.
J. M. Keynes “Ethics in Relation to Conduct” (1903)
Since econometrics doesn’t content itself with only making optimal predictions, but also aspires to explain things in terms of causes and effects, econometricians need loads of assumptions — most important of these are additivity and linearity. Important, simply because if they are not true, your model is invalid and descriptively incorrect. It’s like calling your house a bicycle. No matter how you try, it won’t move you an inch. When the model is wrong — well, then it’s wrong.
from David Ruccio
Most of us have little understanding of what makes equity markets move in one direction or another.
A long time ago, one of my professors explained to me: “It’s 5 percent fundamentals; the rest is determined by however big investors feel when they wake up in the morning.”
What about the experts? Well, according to Adena Friedman, president and chief operating officer of Nasdaq Inc.,
“Once emotion comes out of the market, fundamentals should prevail.”
Really, in markets that are by their very nature speculative, how can one distinguish between emotions and fundamentals?!
from Asad Zaman
In January 1997, the annual convention of the American Economic Association included a session entitled “Is There a Core of Practical Macroeconomics That We Should All Believe?”. Several prominent macro-economists presented their takes on this issue. Since the authors were macroeconomists, it is not surprising that many of them start their papers with a “resounding” yes. However, reading the papers, we find only a host of confusions and contradictions. When asserting a core belief, each author discusses many controversies surrounding that core belief. Furthermore, the core varies from author to author. Also, after the Global Financial Crisis of 2007-8, none the core beliefs appear to be tenable. None of the extant Macro models contains any suggestion of the possibility of such a severe macroeconomic disturbance.
Readers of the RWER blog have been treated to a virtually inexhaustible collection of critiques of conventional economic theories. Furthermore, the blog posts are only a small sample of critical materials gathered at length in many books and papers. Nonetheless, there is no doubt that conventional economics remains firmly entrenched in universities as well as governments, international institutions and all corridors of power. Given that conventional economics is seriously defective, why is this the case, and what can we do to change thing? Read more…
David Sloan Wilson has an interesting blogpost about modern evolutionary theory and economics in which he compares the ideas in a highly intelligent 1996 speech about this by Paul Krugman with subsequent developments in evolutionary theory. It reminds me a little of the early twentieth century ideas of Kropotkin (see this post on this blog): “Kropotkin … noticed that groupings of species thrived through cooperation. Researching human settlements in Siberia, Kropotkin likewise noted cooperation and mutual aid as the foundation for dealing with the larger struggle for survival against natural challenges.”
Let’s revisit Krugman’s four components of economics in the light of these developments in evolutionary theory.
1) It’s about what individuals do. “Methodological individualism is of the essence”. Not any more. Read more…