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 and crystal-clear scientific standards.
The fact of the matter is that theoretical economics has from the very beginning been hijacked 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 economists of all stripes are characterized by four common traits:
(i) They are mainly occupied with sociology, psychology, anthropology, political science, history, etcetera. That is, they miss the essentials of economics proper.#1
(ii) They use theoretical economics as a means/support for their agenda. By this, they abuse science unknowingly or knowingly.
(iii) As far as they have tried to underpin their agenda theoretically it can be rigorously demonstrated in each case that their approaches lack formal and material consistency.#2
(iv) They have no idea about how the actual economy works.#3
It is not decisive what the political agenda is: ALL of political economics is worthless cargo cult science.
The difference between a theoretical economist and a political economist is this: “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)
Political economics has NOT produced anything of real scientific value since Adam Smith. After more than 200 years of dilettantism and failure there is no place for the political economists of Walrasianism, Keynesianism, Marxianism, and Austrianism in the scientific community.
Haack, S. (1997). Science, Scientism, and Anti-Science in the Age of Preposterism. Skeptical Inquirer, 21(6): 1–7. URL
#1 See ‘Economists’ three-layered scientific incompetence’
#2 See ‘On economists’ stupidity’
#3 See ‘How the intelligent non-economist can refute every economist hands down’
Related 'Scientists and science actors' and 'Scientific suicide in the revolving door'. For details of the bigger picture see cross-references Political Economics and cross-references Incompetence.
REPLY comment on Ken Zimmerman on Feb 16
You ask ‘How do the “intelligent non-economists” explain profit? What meanings do they attach to profit?’
This is the wrong question. The right question is ‘How do people who call themselves economists explain profit?’ And the answer is that neither Walrasians, nor Keynesians, nor Marxians, nor Austrians can explain what profit is. And this is a rather bad situation because if one does not know what profit is one cannot understand how the market economy works. And then one only produces peer reviewed garbage and talks nonsense on blogs.
My post ‘How the intelligent non-economist can refute every economist hands down’#1 enables the general public to readily debunk incompetent economists. This is the precondition to get them out of positions where they have a lever to wreck greater havoc.#2
#1 See here
#2 See for example ‘Free the academy from economics’ and ‘Economists are a menace to their fellow citizens’
REPLY comment on Ken Zimmerman on Feb 17
You say ‘I have a slightly different take on profit.’ From the rest of your post it is pretty obvious that you have no idea of profit at all.
Profit for the economy as a whole is not a subjective concept but an objectively measurable variable. So it is irrelevant what the individual agent knows or opines about it.
For a physicist who thinks about gravity it is irrelevant what the man who falls from a skyscraper thinks about gravity. The physicist is after the Law of Falling Bodies.
Likewise for the economist who thinks about profit. He is after the Profit Law.
From the fact that your take on profit is subjective instead of objective follows immediately that you have not grasped the basics of scientific methodology.
Here is the Profit Law. It is testable and you or somebody who is more competent can try to empirically refute it. It should be evident that waffling about profit or second-guessing agents has not yielded any worthwhile results in the last 200+ years.
Immediately following post 'What heterodox economists are embarrassed to admit'