January 21, 2016

Agenda pushing or science?

Comment on Bob of Jan 20 on ‘Against anti-economics’


To speak of economics in the singular is misleading because there is political and theoretical economics. The main differences are:
(i) The goal of political economics is to push an agenda, the goal of theoretical economics is to explain how the actual economy works.
(ii) In political economics anything goes; in theoretical economics, scientific standards are observed.

Theoretical economics has to be judged according to the criteria true/false and nothing else: “In order to tell the politicians and practitioners something about causes and best means, the economist needs the true theory or else he has not much more to offer than educated common sense or his personal opinion.” (Stigum, 1991, p. 30)

Economists do not have the true theory because they are scientifically incompetent. This means that their economic policy proposals have no sound theoretical foundation. Ultimately this means that economists have no legitimacy whatever to speak in the name of science. What they bring to the table is roughly at the same level as Joe Sixpack’s opinion. This applies to Walrasians, Keynesians, Marxians, and Austrians.

You say “As both Marx and Keynes point out, capitalism is not chiefly about production for consumption but rather increasing capitalists’ wealth. It’s not C-M-C’ in a barter economy with money as a veil as classical and neoclassical economics assumed but rather M-C-M’ (money for the sake of more money) in a monetary economy as Marx and Keynes analyzed.”

This is a good example of the abysmal scientific level of economics. Both Marx’s and Keynes’s profit theory are provably false (2014; 2011). Both approaches are scientifically worthless. But for agenda-pushing, they are good enough and they still have some entertainment value in political sitcoms or economics blogs.

The Classicals called themselves Political Economists and Adam Smith developed his economic theory in order to support his political agenda. This is not how science proceeds. A genuine scientist tries to figure out how the economy works. His goal is the true theory — not less, not more. A genuine scientist refrains from agenda-pushing.

All this is the exact opposite of what economists actually do. Neither Walrasians, nor Keynesians, nor Marxians, nor Austrians have the true theory. In fact, what they have developed thus far is proto-scientific garbage. Yet this does not hinder them to pester the world with ill-founded proposals/advice and feeding their students with theories/models that a provably false.

Political economics is anti-science, because of this genuine scientists are anti-economics.

Egmont Kakarot-Handtke

Kakarot-Handtke, E. (2011). Why Post Keynesianism is Not Yet a Science. SSRN Working Paper Series, 1966438: 1–20. URL
Kakarot-Handtke, E. (2014). Profit for Marxists. SSRN Working Paper Series, 2414301: 1–25. URL
Stigum, B. P. (1991). Toward a Formal Science of Economics: The Axiomatic Method in Economics and Econometrics. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Immediately preceding It’s not the ideology, it’s the methodology, stupid!.


REPLY You got the point — at least almost, comment on Luis Enrique of Jan 22

You say “If you are going to try to do something which amounts to ‘you [orthodox] economists are doing something extremely fundamental all wrong’ you have to motivate that *extremely* well and show something in the data that really cannot be explained by the existing approach but can be by yours.”

Equilibrium economics is fundamentally all wrong and you can have as much proof as you wish: “At long last, it can be said that the history of general theory from Walras to Arrow-Debreu has been a journey down a blind alley, and it is historians of economic thought who seem to have finally hammered down the nails in this coffin. (Blaug, 2001, p. 160), see also (Ingrao et al., 1990; Ackerman et al., 2004)

According to the rules of science, the orthodox approach is refuted. Period. Nothing left to do. But economists either do not understand the rules or they ignore them: “In economics we should strive to proceed, wherever we can, exactly according to the standards of the other, more advanced, sciences, where it is not possible, once an issue has been decided, to continue to write about it as if nothing had happened. (Morgenstern, 1941, p. 369)

Methodologically speaking it is inadmissible to take equilibrium and the behavioral assumption of constrained optimization into the set of axioms. Or, put the other way round, you have to do economics without these assumptions. In brief: “There is another alternative: to formulate a completely new research program and conceptual approach. As we have seen, this is often spoken of, but there is still no indication of what it might mean.” (Ingrao et al., 1990, p. 362)

Has Orthodoxy an indication of what this might mean? No idea! The fly flies unremittingly against the window glass as before: “most of what I and many others do is sorta-kinda neoclassical because it takes the maximization-and-equilibrium world as a starting point” (Krugman).

The future has no place for Krugman and nothing-has-happened-neoclassicals and dull Econ 101 students who accept supply-demand-equilibrium as a scientific explanation of how markets function.

Ackerman, F., and Nadal, A. (Eds.) (2004). Still Dead After All These Years: Interpreting the Failure of General Equilibrium Theory. London, New York: Routledge.
Blaug, M. (2001). No History of Ideas, Please, We’re Economists. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 15(1): 145–164.
Ingrao, B., and Israel, G. (1990). The Invisible Hand. Economic Equilibrium in the History of Science. Cambridge, London: MIT Press.
Morgenstern, O. (1941). Professor Hicks on Value and Capital. Journal of Political Economy, 49(3): 361–393. URL

Following Time to come up to speed.