July 8, 2019

Asad Zaman marches with the Zeitgeist down a blind alley

Comment on Asad Zaman/Tom Hickey on ‘My Journey from Theory to Reality’


The philosopher Tom Hickey sketches the great trends of history: “Many of the traditional worldviews are embedded in a religious contexts that have become cultural. Even in secular China, President Xi is resurrecting Confucius as a cultural icon, and in the supposedly secular US, dominant religious groups are asserting influence more openly, with science itself subject to challenge when it is perceived to conflict with tradition. Asad Zaman’s post is good example of this rising trend, as well as what a highly educated person asking such questions might do about it. This process is an iteration of the historical dialectic as liberal and traditionalism interact to forge a complementary Zeitgeist that moves history forward a step.”

What are the new insights of the new Zeitgeist? “Since most fancy assumptions we make in statistics and econometrics are wrong, we need to learn how to do simple and basic inferences, which actually makes life much easier for students of the subject ― we need to teach them basic and intuitive things, not complex models and math …”

The problem with simple and intuitive things is that they regularly turned out to be false as science progressed. This is why J. S. Mill had no friendly word for the bigots and votaries of common sense: “People fancied they saw the sun rise and set, the stars revolve in circles round the pole. We now know that they saw no such thing; what they really saw was a set of appearances, equally reconcileable with the theory they held and with a totally different one. It seems strange that such an instance as this, ... , should not have opened the eyes of the bigots of common sense, and inspired them with a more modest distrust of the competency of mere ignorance to judge the conclusions of cultivated thought.”

Common sense has never been a convincing argument in the scientific sphere but it has always been a very effective rhetorical tool in the political sphere. All religious and political fraud in the last 3000 years has been performed by telling simple stories and by appealing to elementary emotions.

Science is different. Scientific truth is defined by material and formal consistency and not by what makes life easier for students. Lazy students have not developed aircraft and life-saving heart surgery. Neither have retarded political economists produced anything of scientific value. Walrasianism, Keynesianism, Marxianism, Austrianism, MMT are provably false. Economics is not a body of certain knowledge but a heap of inconsistent opinions.

Asad Zaman resumes: “Regarding social, political and economic thought, many if not most of the foremost authorities equate economic liberalism with Western capitalism as the dominant mode of production and also view political liberalism in the form of representative democracy being determined by capitalism as economic liberalism.”

Obviously, liberalism and democracy are political concepts or ideologies. They have nothing to do with science. Economics as a science does NOT deal with ideologies but with how the economic system works. Political agenda pushers like Adam Smith or Karl Marx cannot by any stretch of the imagination be accepted as scientists. They were nothing but brain-dead political storytellers.

Asad Zaman is correct in his criticism of political economics. It is fake science. However, as long as he teaches his students “basic and intuitive things” economics will not rise above the proto-scientific level.#2 To replace one BS with another BS does not count as scientific progress.

The macroeconomic Profit Law reads Q≡Yd+(I−S)+(G−T)+(X−M) and it holds for Capitalism and Communism and Socialism independently of whether the dominant belief is Islamic, Christian, Hinduistic, Confucian, Atheistic, or Pagan. Science is universal.

History tells one that human progress comes alone from science and neither from religious beliefs nor from political economics nor from philosophical Zeitgeist blather.

Egmont Kakarot-Handtke

#1 Why J. S. Mill had no friendly word for the bigots and votaries of common sense
#2 Zamanomics