October 29, 2016

Not big news: political economics is a failure

Comment on Lars Syll and Joseph Stiglitz on ‘Economics — the triumph of ideology over science’


The founding fathers called themselves Political Economists. Now, take Smith and Newton as reference points. How much knowledge did science produce and how much did political economics produce in roughly 200 years? The plain fact is that neither orthodox nor heterodox economists have produced much, if anything, of scientific value.

Jevons renamed Political Economy to Economics. But economists never institutionalized the proper separation of politics and science and never really got out of politics. There is still political economics (= agenda pushing) and theoretical economics (= science) and the former dominates the latter.

What Stiglitz calls the ‘triumph of ideology over science’ is not big news. What he implies, though, is that Keynes and other heterodox economists are real scientists, and this is NOT the case. Keynes, too, was more a political economist than a scientist and he never rose above the proto-scientific level.*

It does not matter whether an economist’s agenda is more rightist or more leftist. Agenda pushing AS SUCH is incompatible with science, no matter how the agenda pusher defines his political mission. Stiglitz could know this from J. S. Mill: “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.”

The fact of the matter is that Stiglitz is not a better scientist than his fellow economists but just another agenda pusher.

Egmont Kakarot-Handtke

* See ‘What Keynes really meant but could not really prove