Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Are academic economists a waste of space?

Certainly a significant proportion are.
Scott Sumner is one, I suspect. I’ve often read his blog posts, but don’t remember anything he’s written that’s the slightest bit interesting, informative or original.
This Naked Capitalism post on Sumner sums up academia at it’s worst very nicely. The post is entitled “Scott Sumner puts foot in mouth and chews”. The Naked Capitalism post says in relation to professional economists:
“Too much verisimilitude is a cardinal sin in economics, since it becomes hard to write things up in formulas hard enough to scare laypeople but not so hard that you’d need to be a real mathematician to devise them. So they posit hyper-rational consumers with perfect information and amazing computational powers in pretty simple situations, when in reality people have crappy information and aren’t all that smart and reality is really really complicated and kinda scary too. Which is also enough to make anyone plenty emotional.”
Or as Bill Mitchell put it, Ricardian equivalence is an idea from la-la land. But as anyone acquainted with economics knows, that has not stopped hundreds of academic economists expending thousands of hours erecting impressive mathematical models based on Ricardian equivalence. Got to keep themselves employed, haven’t they?
On much the same theme, Matias Vernengo in a post entitled “Why the crisis didn’t discredit mainstream economics” said:
"I suggested before that the best way to look at it is from a sociological standpoint. The same people hold the same positions at the key 'respectable' universities, go to the same 'relevant' meetings, and award the same 'important' prizes. And research does build on previous research. Let alone that the economics profession, like the others, is there to protect and reproduce the status quo.”


P.S.(7th Sept 2013).  Daniel Hamermesh's views on useless economists.

1 comment:

  1. Matias Vernengo's point is particularly apt as the top of the mainstream is akin to High Church circa 1517. Steve Keen is a bit of a Martin Lutheresque figure in this regard who provocatively rails against the orthodoxy; Debunking Economics is his “The Ninety-Five Theses”. We know that the Establishment view will not change. Fine and Milonakis (From Political Economy to Economics, p. 300) put it well: There are surely diminishing returns to debating both the nature of formalism within economics and what should be its more appropriate role. This is not least because mainstream economists themselves show little interest in (or self awareness of) the nature of their own methodology and its weaknesses, or even that their claimed parallel with the methods of the natural sciences has long been superseded in principle and, to a large extent, in practice.12 Thus, significantly, in his defence of orthodoxy, Dasgupta (2002, p. 57) opens by confessing that ‘Most economists … have little time for the philosophy of economics as an intellectual discipline. They have even less patience with economic methodology. They prefer instead to do economics … There is much to be said for this habit … I know of no contemporary practicing economist whose investigations have been aided by the writings of professional methodologists’.


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