July 1, 2015

Ditto and the hazards of diprosopus

Comment on ‘War of finance’


“Diprosopus (Greek two-faced) is an extremely rare disorder whereby parts or all of the face are duplicated on the head. Few two-faced animals have survived .... One of the most famous was Ditto, a pig. Ditto was raised to adulthood, but died of pneumonia caused by food inhalation when breathing through one muzzle while eating with the other.” (Wikipedia)

Like Ditto, economics has two faces: a political and a scientific face; and the two are at war. Political economics pushes an agenda, theoretical economics tries to figure out how the actual economy works. Political economics has hijacked theoretical economics.

As a result, theoretical economics is in rather poor condition. Neither Walrasianism, nor Keynesianism, nor the rest is acceptable when the scientific criteria of material and formal consistency are applied. Hence, economics has nothing to offer in the way of real scientific value.

In the beginning, economists defined themselves as political economists. However, note how J. S. Mill drew a clear line between politics and science.

“A scientific observer or reasoner, merely as such, is not an adviser for practice. His part is only to show that certain consequences follow from certain causes, and that to obtain certain ends, certain means are the most effectual. Whether the ends themselves are such as ought to be pursued, and if so, in what cases and to how great a length, it is no part of his business as a cultivator of science to decide, and science alone will never qualify him for the decision.” (Mill, 2006, p. 950)

It is fair to say that not only Orthodoxy is in the grip of politics but Heterodoxy, too. Hence, economics is entirely out of science.

David Ruccio's post is a case in point. It is not about economics proper, but about the use of economic institutions in a 'war of finance.' My point is not whether this description is true/false, but that with this war report we are in the realm of politics and have left economics far behind.

My question is what Heterodoxy stands for at the moment and what it should be in the future. My idea is clear and simple: (i) Heterodoxy should replace Orthodoxy as the superior scientific approach, and (ii), economics as a scientific discipline should refuse to be the useful idiot in any politician’s war whatsoever.

These were Ditto's last words: One face is more than enough.

Egmont Kakarot-Handtke

Mill, J. S. (2006). A System of Logic Ratiocinative and Inductive. Being a Connected View of the Principles of Evidence and the Methods of Scientific Investigation,
volume 8 of Collected Works of John Stuart Mill. Indianapolis, IN: Liberty Fund.