April 24, 2016

Why don’t economists simply shut up for a while?

Comment on Noah Smith on ‘Policy recommendations and wishful thinking’


You say “You shouldn’t prefer Model B over Model A just because one leads to ‘hope’ and the other to ‘hopelessness’.

Let us put it more bluntly: economists should not do political economics. The distinction between political and theoretical economics is of utmost importance. 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.

Theoretical economics has to be judged according to the criteria true/false and NOTHING else. Scientific truth is well-defined as formal and material consistency (Klant, 1994, p. 31).

Political economics (= non-science, opinion) and theoretical economics (= science, knowledge) are based on different modes of thinking “A genuine inquirer aims to find out the truth of some question, whatever the color of that truth. ... A pseudo-inquirer seeks to make a case for the truth of some proposition(s) determined in advance. There are two kinds of pseudo-inquirer, the sham and the fake. A sham reasoner is concerned, not to find out how things really are, but to make a case for some immovably-held preconceived conviction. A fake reasoner is concerned, not to find out how things really are, but to advance himself by making a case for some proposition to the truth-value of which he is indifferent.” (Haack, 1997, p. 1)

The pseudo-inquirers of political economics use economic theory as a means to push an agenda. Thus, they corrupt economics. Political economists like Smith, Ricardo, Marx, Keynes, Hayek, or M. Friedman have produced not much, if anything, of scientific value. What we have is Walrasianism, Keynesianism, Marxianism, and Austrianism. Neither of these approaches satisfies the scientific criteria of formal and material consistency.

The task of theoretical economics is to figure out how the actual monetary economy works — not less, not more. Political economists of all colors have failed at this task. The current discussion between G. Friedman, Romer, DeLong, Krugman, Mason, and other agenda pushers is a case in point. Because theoretical economics has been materially/formally inconsistent since the founding fathers, economic policy guidance NEVER has had sound scientific foundations.

J. S. Mill had a clear idea of the economist as a scientist: “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.” (2006, p. 950)

He forgot to add: economists who have not done their scientific homework are asked to keep their opinions for themselves because we have already more than enough of this low-IQ stuff.

Egmont Kakarot-Handtke

Haack, S. (1997). Science, Scientism, and Anti-Science in the Age of Preposterism. Skeptical Inquirer, 21(6): 1–7. URL
Klant, J. J. (1994). The Nature of Economic Thought. Aldershot, Brookfield: Edward Elgar.
Mill, J. S. (2006). A System of Logic Ratiocinative and Inductive. Being a Connected View of the Principles of Evidence and the Methods of Scientific Investigation, Vol. 8 of Collected Works of John Stuart Mill. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund.

Related: 'Wikipedia, economics, scientific knowledge, or political agenda pushing?' and 'Your economics is refuted on all counts: here is the real thing'.

REPLY to Kaleberg

You cannot compare “the standard model and general relativity” with the proto-scientific state of economics. Economists have not even arrived at something like the Law of the Lever which Archimedes has developed 2200+ years ago.

The representative economist ― and this includes you ― cannot tell the difference between income and profit and this means that he does not understand the pivotal concept of his subject matter (2014), which in turn means that he has NO idea how the economy works.

It is #PeakStupidity when incompetent scientists argue that the two most advanced physical theories are “false”. Economics is false already at the scientific kindergarten level of supply-demand-equilibrium.

Schumpeter tried in vain to put some lipstick on the pig “The primitive apparatus of the theory of supply and demand is scientific. But the scientific achievement is so modest, and common sense and scientific knowledge are logically such close neighbors in this case, that any assertion about the precise point at which the one turned into the other must of necessity remain arbitrary.” (1994, p. 9)

Economics is proto-scientific garbage from supply-demand-equilibrium to DSGE.

Kakarot-Handtke, E. (2014). The Profit Theory is False Since Adam Smith. What About the True Distribution Theory? SSRN Working Paper Series, 2511741: 1–23. URL
Schumpeter, J. A. (1994). History of Economic Analysis. New York: Oxford  University Press.

REPLY to Dane Van Dyck

Science is NOT about trust or credibility or belief, science is about proof. The criteria of proof are well-known: logical and material consistency.

The royal road for non-economists to economics starts with profit theory, see How the Intelligent Non-Economist Can Refute Every Economist Hands Down.

REPLY to Kain on Apr 27

Not so! The profit theories of, for example, Keynes, Kalecki, Minsky, Keen are different. They cannot all be correct at the same time. But they can all be false. And this is actually the case. See Heterodoxy, too, is proto-scientific garbage.

REPLY to Anonymous on Apr 27

You say “I’ve been reading Krugman for years and I find him hard to trust completely, even though I like him, find him fascinating, and find he’s often right.”

Note: (i) Science is NOT about trust or credibility or belief, (ii) Science is NOT about like/dislike, (iii) science is about true/false, (iv) scientific criteria are well-defined as formal and material consistency.

Krugman’s policy proposals have NO sound scientific foundation. His underlying models are PROVABLY false, see Mr. Keynes, Prof. Krugman, IS-LM, and the End of Economics as We Know It.

Your sitcom-assessment of Krugman (fascinating, likable) is beside the point and itself a reliable indicator of scientific incompetence.

Immediately following Economic recommendations out of the swamp between true and false.

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