November 13, 2016

A new curriculum for swampies?

Comment on Lars Syll on ‘The need for a new economics curriculum without the present suicidal formalism’

Blog-References and Blog-Reference and Blog-Reference on Nov 18 and Blog-Reference on Apr 25, 2017 adapted to context

A new economics curriculum is needed, no doubt about this. But why exactly? Some say, because there is too much mathematics. Other say, there is not enough history/ psychology/ sociology/ philosopy. Still others demand that heterodox economists like Schumpeter or Marx should be given more weight.

There is some superficial plausibility in all of this, but these popular arguments miss the crucial point. The fact of the matter is that there are four main approaches ― Walrasianism, Keynesianism, Marxianism, Austrianism ― and ALL FOUR are provable false. What economics needs is a scientifically valid curriculum, but there is none because there is no scientifically valid economic theory. After 200+ years economics is still at the level of a proto-science or what Feynman called a cargo cult science.

So, when Keynesian and Marxian economists argue that the Walrasian curriculum is false, or unrealistic, or biased then one can readily agree. The problem is that Keynesian or Marxian economics is not one iota better, it is only false in a different way. Actually, both Keynesian and Marxian profit theory is provable false (2013; 2014), just like Walrasian profit theory.

To mix a new curriculum of Walrasian, Keynesian, Marxian, Austrian contents is an idea of unsurpassable idiocy. The true theory does not emerge from a mixture of provable false theories.

The state of economics is this: there is political economics and theoretical economics. The founding fathers called themselves political economists, that is, they left no doubt that their main business was agenda pushing. Economists never got out of political economics. In other words, theoretical economics (= science) ultimately could not emancipate itself from political economics (= agenda pushing). And this is how economics became a failed science.

What is entirely missing among economists is an understanding of what science is all about. Science is digital = binary = true/false and NOTHING in between. There is NO such thing in science as roughly right or roughly wrong, there is only materially/formally true/false. All the rest of human communication is storytelling, gossip, sitcom, rhetoric, opinion. Vague blather, untestable wish-wash, inconclusive either-or and preaching has always been the hallmark of political economists.

So, there are the hard rocks of true and false and the swamp between them where “nothing is clear and everything is possible” (Keynes). The swamp is the natural habitat of morons, agenda pushers, confused confusers, trolls, and incompetent scientists.

Economists are natural born swampies. In marked contrast, scientists drive the question under discussion to the point of a clear-cut decision between true and false. And they do not touch questions that cannot be decided by the accepted means, that is, by logic and testing.

The Brotherhood of Orthodox and Heterodox Swampies has no genuine interest in a definite true/false outcome but seeks to stay in the swamp. Their common enemy is science. Swampies have produced the gigantic heap of toxic scientific waste that is called economics.

Have swampies learned anything from their abysmal failure? Only that they want more than ever to stay in the swamp: “Economics should not be taught as if it were about the discovery of timeless laws. Those who champion the discipline must remember that, at its core, it is about human behaviour, with all the messiness and disorder that this implies.” (Financial Times)

Economists never understood what their subject matter is. Economics is NOT a social science that deals with the behavior of people, but a system science that deals with the behavior of the economic system.#1 Human behavior does not follow timeless laws but the economic system does. The fact of the matter is that neither orthodox nor heterodox economists have figured out the fundamental systemic laws (the Profit Law for example) until this very day.

Two hundred years of failure are enough. Time to expel the swampies from the scientific community. And, of course, high time to install a scientifically valid economics curriculum.#2

Egmont Kakarot-Handtke

Kakarot-Handtke, E. (2013). Why Post Keynesianism is Not Yet a Science. Economic Analysis and Policy, 43(1): 97–106. URL or URL
Kakarot-Handtke, E. (2014). Profit for Marxists. SSRN Working Paper Series, 2414301: 1–25. URL

#1 See cross-references ‘Not a science of behavior
#2 See cross-references ‘New curriculum

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