August 21, 2016

Nothing to choose between Orthodoxy and traditional Heterodoxy

Comment on Noah Smith on ‘Heterodox macro ― a reply to some replies’

Blog-Reference and Blog-Reference on Aug 22 adapted to context and Blog-Reference on Sep 17

All that has to be said about formalization/mathiness has already been said by the great heterodox economist Georgescu-Roegen: “Lest this position is misinterpreted again by some casual reader, let me repeat that my point is not that arithmetization of science is undesirable. Whenever arithmetization can be worked out, its merits are above all words of praise. My point is that wholesale arithmetization is impossible, that there is valid knowledge even without arithmetization, and that mock arithmetization is dangerous if peddled as genuine.” (1971, p. 15)

There are heterodox AND orthodox economists who cannot get their heads around this still valid summary. These are the retarded folks who do not understand that there is an essential difference between science and non-science. The former is the realm where the criterion true/false applies and NOTHING else (= theoretical economics), the latter is the vast realm of storytelling where anything goes (= political economics). So there are TWO kinds of Orthodoxy and TWO kinds Heterodoxy which have to be kept apart. For an overview of current economics see (2016b) plus description (2016a).

True/false in turn has TWO inseparable aspects: “Research is in fact a continuous discussion of the consistency of theories: formal consistency insofar as the discussion relates to the logical cohesion of what is asserted in joint theories; material consistency insofar as the agreement of observations with theories is concerned.” (Klant, 1994, p. 31)

Logical consistency is methodologically secured by the axiomatic-deductive method. This method presupposes firm ground to start with or, as Aristotle put it: “When the premises are certain, true, and primary, and the conclusion formally follows from them, this is demonstration, and produces scientific knowledge of a thing.”

The fact of the matter is that BOTH orthodox microfoundations and heterodox macrofoundations are false. Because of this, traditional Heterodoxy is not an acceptable replacement of Orthodoxy. The current state of economics is: Walrasianism, Keynesianism, Marxianism, Austrianism is materially/formally inconsistent. Economics is a failed science. This calls for a paradigm shift.

Heterodox macro has been formalized. This is praiseworthy. The problem is that there are different versions of heterodox macro, e.g. Keynes, Kalecki, Minsky, Keen, which are INCONSISTENT. So traditional macrofounded Heterodoxy is formal garbage (2015) (2016c) just as microfounded Orthodoxy. Because there cannot be a pluralism of false theories BOTH approaches have to be replaced by the correct macrofoundations. Nothing less will do. Inconsistency is lethal in science. Game over for Orthodoxy and traditional Heterodoxy.

Egmont Kakarot-Handtke

E.K-H (2015). Heterodoxy, too, is scientific junk. Blog post. URL
E.K-H (2016a). From Orthodoxy to Heterodoxy to Sysdoxy. Blog post. URL
E.K-H (2016b). From proto-science to science. Wikimedia. URL
E.K-H (2016c). Where advanced Heterodoxy — represented by Steve Keen — took the wrong turn. Blog post. URL
Georgescu-Roegen, N. (1971). The Entropy Law and the Economic Process. Cambridge, MA:
Cambridge University Press.
Klant, J. J. (1994). The Nature of Economic Thought. Aldershot, Brookfield, VT: Edward Elgar.

COMMENT on Barkley Rosser on Aug 22

Georgescu-Roegen said: “What particular reality is described by a given theory can be ascertained only from that theory’s axiomatic foundation.” (1966, p. 361)

And: “In fact, the history of every science, including that of economics, teaches us that the elementary is the hotbed of the errors that count most.” (1970, p. 9)

Georgescu-Roegen was well aware that the axiomatic foundations of economics are defective. Neither Orthodoxy nor Heterodoxy got this pivotal methodological point until this day.

Georgescu-Roegen was also well aware of his fellow economists’ utter scientific incompetence: “Knight lamented that there are many members of the economic profession who are ‘mathematicians first and economists afterwards.’ The situation since Knights time has become much worse. There are endeavors that now pass for the most desirable kind of economic contributions although they are just plain mathematical exercises, not only without any economic substance but also without mathematical value. Their authors are not something first and something else afterwards; they are neither mathematicians nor economists.” (1979, p. 317)

This is the very definition of economics as cargo cult science.* The situation since Georgescu-Roegen’s time has become even worse.

Georgescu-Roegen, N. (1966). Analytical Economics, chapter Economic Theory and Agrarian Economics, pages 359–397. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Georgescu-Roegen, N. (1970). The Economics of Production. American Economic Review, Papers and Proceedings, 60(2): 1–9. URL
Georgescu-Roegen, N. (1979). Methods in Economic Science. Journal of Economic Issues, 13(2): 317–328. URL

* Wikipedia

COMMENT on Frances Coppola on Aug 22

Your argument is entirely beside the point because ‘Science does NOT predict the future’.

REPLY to Barkley Rosser on Aug 23

You write: “First of all, lots of economists, even including some fairly mainstream ones, are aware that a lot of the axioms of economics are flawed.”

Famously, Keynes was very aware of this 80 years ago. “The classical theorists resemble Euclidean geometers in a non-Euclidean world ...” (1973, p. 16). And he knew that the fault was in what today is called microfoundations: “For if orthodox economics is at fault, the error is to be found not in the superstructure, ... but ... in the premises. (1973, p. xxi)

Consequently, Keynes started the macrofoundations research program in the General Theory formally as follows: “Income = value of output = consumption + investment. Saving = income - consumption. Therefore saving = investment.” (1973, p. 63)

These formal foundations are conceptually and logically defective because Keynes never came to grips with profit and therefore “discarded the draft chapter dealing with it.” (Tómasson et al., 2010, p. 12).

This was how Heterodoxy started in earnest. The original task of Heterodoxy is NOT to criticize Orthodoxy and to improve it here and there but to REPLACE indefensible scientific garbage and to become the legitimate Orthodoxy. As we know today, Heterodoxy messed up the necessary paradigm shift.

Keynes’s original blunder kicked off a chain reaction of errors/mistakes: (i) all I=S/IS-LM models are false since Keynes and Hicks, (ii) Keynes’s profit conundrum has not been solved by After-Keynesians, (iii) employment and monetary theory is still false.

On the other hand, Orthodoxy went on with their flawed ‘euclidean’ axioms. As Krugman nicely put it “most of what I and many others do is sorta-kinda neoclassical because it takes the maximization-and-equilibrium world as a starting point.”

This is the current state of economics: the orthodox microfoundations are flawed since 140 years and the heterodox macrofoundations are flawed since 80 years. As a consequence, all models that contain maximization-and-equilibrium or I=S/IS-LM are a priori false and together this is roughly 90 percent of the content of peer-reviewed economic quality journals and 100 percent of textbooks. Economic policy guidance has NO sound scientific foundation but is plucked from thin air.

From this follows, firstly, that the word ‘sciences’ has to be eliminated from the “Bank of Sweden Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel”. The general public has to be informed that the 200 year old claim and the actual state of economics do not match. It follows, secondly, that incompetent scientists have to be expelled from economics regardless of their affiliation to either Walrasianism, Keynesianism, Marxianism, Austrianism or any other failed approach. It follows, thirdly, that the pathetic cargo cult ping-pong between brain-dead Orthodoxy and silly Heterodoxy ends: “So we really ought to look into theories that don’t work, and science that isn’t science.” (Feynman)

And this is what one REALLY sees: The orthodox microfoundations are flawed. The heterodox macrofoundations are flawed. Economics is a failed science. Economists are incompetent scientists.

Keynes, J. M. (1973). The General Theory of Employment Interest and Money. London, Basingstoke: Macmillan.
Tómasson, G., and Bezemer, D. J. (2010). What is the Source of Profit and Interest? A Classical Conundrum Reconsidered. MPRA Paper, 20557: 1–34. URL