October 24, 2016

Heterodoxy ― a new paradigm or just another political sect?

Comment on Ken Zimmerman and Dean Baker on ‘The old debt and entitlement charade’


There is the political realm and there is the scientific realm. Roughly speaking, the issue in the political realm is the realization of the Good Society and the issue in the scientific realm is to gain knowledge about how the universe or one of its numerous subdomains works. Knowledge takes the form of a theory that fits the criteria of material/formal consistency. In politics, open questions are decided by the legitimate sovereign, in science they are decided by proof/disproof. Who the legitimate sovereign is, is taken here as historically given as ‘We, the people’.

In the ideal case, the legitimate sovereign decides all political questions, that is, how society is organized and how the economy as a subsystem is organized/institutionalized. In the ideal case, the legitimate sovereign keeps entirely out of science because science works according to its own principles. Therefore, the legitimate sovereign decides about war/peace or the size/composition of the national budget but has NO voice in deciding whether E=mc2 or a2+b2=c2 is true or false.

It is obvious that what is historically given at the moment is far from the ideal state of a neat separation of politics and science. Economics is a case in point. Hence it is of overriding importance to always clearly 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.
(iii) Political economics is about opinion/rhetoric; theoretical economics is about knowledge/proof. Opinion is subjective, knowledge is objective. Opinion is scientifically worthless.

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 Ricardo fought against the pre-capitalistic order, Marx and Keynes were agenda pushers, so were Hayek and Friedman, and so are Krugman and Varoufakis.

Note well that it does not matter at all what the agenda is. More precisely, it does not matter whether the agenda is more rightist or more leftist. Agenda pushing AS SUCH is incompatible with science, no matter how the agenda pusher defines the Good Society. This definition has to be discussed and decided in the political realm.

Political economics is scientifically worthless. Both, orthodox and heterodox economics has achieved not much, if anything, of scientific value in the last 200+ years. Walrasianism, Keynesianism, Marxianism, Austrianism is provably false. This is the actual problem of economics and not which party wins the next election.

From the standpoint of science, Heterodoxy means to refute the actual paradigm and to replace it by a superior paradigm. This is also called a scientific revolution. Obviously, a scientific revolution is something quite different from a political revolution.

But, just as Orthodoxy has been hijacked by readily to identify political agenda pushers like Hayek, Friedman, Krugman et al. Heterodoxy, too, is currently in danger of being defined in political terms as movement/party.

Agenda pushers/non-scientists/anti-scientists of all stripes are easily recognizable by:
― appeal to emotion and common sense,
― storytelling and ad hominem argumentation,
― replacement of material/formal consistency as guiding principle by anything goes,
― non-acceptance of scientific standards, yet posing as science,
― populism, i.e., appeal to the majority of scientific retards,
― putting unprovable beliefs or mere speculations on the same level as proven/testable theories.

With Ken Zimmerman, Assad Zaman, Robert Locke et al. as methodological loudspeakers, RWER-Heterodoxy is going down the political drain instead of climbing higher on the scientific ladder.

Egmont Kakarot-Handtke

Related 'Go, Heterodoxy, move on!' and 'Stuck with the economics prisoner’s dilemma' and 'The Cambridge crap curriculum'