January 19, 2016

It’s not the ideology, it’s the methodology, stupid!

Comment on Chris Dillow on ‘Against anti-economics’


You say “ideological attacks upon mainstream economics misunderstand how economics progresses.”

This is a misrepresentation of the ongoing discussion. The critical point to realize first is that economics in effect stagnates “... we know little more now about ‘how the economy works,’ or about the modus operandi of the invisible hand than we knew in 1790, after Adam Smith completed the last revision of The Wealth of Nations.” (Clower)

The main reason for the dismal state of economics is scientific incompetence. Accordingly, the critique of Wren-Lewis as proponent of DSGE is not ideological but methodological.

In order to make the point at issue transparent it is of utmost importance to distinguish between 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. The history of political economics, on the other hand, can be summarized as the perpetual violation of well-defined scientific standards.

The fact of the matter is that theoretical economics has from the very beginning been dominated by the agenda pushers of political economics. Smith and Mill fought for liberalism, Marx and Keynes were agenda pushers, so were Hayek and Friedman, and so are Krugman and Varoufakis.

Political economics is scientifically worthless. At the moment, orthodox economics does not satisfy scientific criteria, neither does Heterodoxy. For the detailed arguments see the posts ‘Lars Syll creatively destructs Wren-Lewis’ and ‘Economists’ last Hurrah

Egmont Kakarot-Handtke


ICYMI  What is economics?

Neither Classicals, nor Walrasians, nor Marshallians, nor Marxians, nor Keynesians, nor Institutionialists, nor Monetary Economists, nor MMTers, nor Austrians, nor Sraffaians, nor Evolutionists, nor Game theorists, nor EconoPhysicists, nor RBCers, nor New Keynesians, nor New Classicals ever came to grips with profit. Hence, they fail to capture the essence of the market economy.

Because of this, economists have nothing to offer in the way of a scientifically founded advice. See ‘How the intelligent non-economist can refute every economist hands down


REPLY  What are economists? comment on Bob on Jan 20

You say “Political economy is all tere is.”

If this is so, then elementary logic tells you that economics should give up the claim to be a science and leave academia. The first problem with economists is indeed that they never grasped what science is all about.*

This is remarkable because the great economist and methodologist J. S. Mill told them already more than 200 years ago “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.” (2006, p. 950)

The difference between political economics and theoretical economics is important because alone the latter is strictly committed to scientific standards: “A genuine inquirer aims to find out the truth of some question, whatever the color of that truth. ... A pseudo-inquirer seeks to make a case for the truth of some proposition(s) determined in advance. There are two kinds of pseudo-inquirer, the sham and the fake. A sham reasoner is concerned, not to find out how things really are, but to make a case for some immovably-held preconceived conviction. A fake reasoner is concerned, not to find out how things really are, but to advance himself by making a case for some proposition to the truth-value of which he is indifferent. (Haack, 1997, p. 1)

The fact of the matter is that the representative economist can, after more than 200 years of much political economics and virtually no proper theoretical economics, still not tell what profit is “A satisfactory theory of profits is still elusive.” (Desai, 2008, p. 10)

Let this sink in: people who are utterly confused about the pivotal concept of their discipline claim to be scientists and tell politicians and the general public how to run the economy. Scary, isn’t it.

Desai, M. (2008). Profit and Profit Theory. In S. N. Durlauf, and L. E. Blume (Eds.), The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics Online, pages 1–11. Palgrave Macmillan, 2nd edition. URL
Haack, S. (1997). Science, Scientism, and Anti-Science in the Age of Preposterism. Skeptical Inquirer, 21(6): 1–7. URL
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.

* See ‘Lousy scientists

Related 'Are economists natural born scientific failures?' and 'Confused Orthodoxy vs. confused Heterodoxy'

Immediately following post 'Agenda pushing or science?'