December 30, 2014

Economics — an intelligence test?

Comment on Lars Syll on  'Mainstream macroeconomics distorts our understanding of economic reality'


You ask ... “why should intelligent people look to economists at all to learn about how economies function?”

I have no idea what intelligent people should or should not do. What is well known, however, is that people with some generally accepted scientific qualifications have looked at economics for enlightenment. And this is what they came up with:

•  “Economics is a perplexing subject. Though I have spent the better part of my academic career thinking about its aims and methods, I have never been confident that I or anyone else for that matter really understand its cognitive status. ... Without assurance about the cognitive status of the theory, there is no basis of confidence in it.” (Rosenberg, 1994, p. 216)

•  “The physicists were shocked at the assumptions the economists were making -- that the test was not a match against reality, but whether the assumptions were the common currency of the field. I can just see Phil Anderson, laid back with a smile on his face, saying, ‘You guys really believe that?’“ (Waldrop, 1993, p. 142)

Of course, we could go on for a while in this vein (see 2014b; 2014a; 2013).

People come to economics because they want to learn how the economy works (hopefully ― but then we may second-guess until we are blue in the face). In any case, what they realize is that economists have no true theory whatever. The intelligent observer invariably arrives at:
• Orthodoxy is a failure;
• Heterodoxy is a failure.

Egmont Kakarot-Handtke

Kakarot-Handtke, E. (2013). Confused Confusers: How to Stop Thinking Like an Economist and Start Thinking Like a Scientist. SSRN Working Paper Series, 2207598: 1–16. URL
Kakarot-Handtke, E. (2014a). Economics for Economists. SSRN Working Paper Series, 2517242: 1–29. URL
Kakarot-Handtke, E. (2014b). The Three Fatal Mistakes of Yesterday Economics: Profit, I=S, Employment. SSRN Working Paper Series, 2489792: 1–13. URL
Rosenberg, A. (1994). What is the Cognitive Status of Economic Theory? In R. E. Backhouse (Ed.), New Directions in Economic Methodology, 216–235. London, New York: Routledge.
Waldrop, M. M. (1993). Complexity. London: Viking.