January 12, 2020

The problem with economics as a discipline

Comment on Lars Syll/Tom Hickey on ‘Economics — too important to be left to economists’*


Tom Hickey maintains: “The problem with economics as a discipline, and this generally includes all forms of economics including heterodox economics to some extent, is ‘economics.’ That is is to say, economists assume that economics is chiefly or exclusively about economic behavior when economic behavior is embedded in social and political behavior and includes the entire ‘human condition.’ The only ‘economist’ that really grasped this in depth was Karl Marx, and he was a philosopher coming from a Hegelian background rather than being an ‘economist’ in today’s terminology.”

This is a typical Hickey-hallucination. He overlooks that J. S Mill was quite explicit about economic methodology: “What is now commonly understood by the term ‘Political Economy’ is not the science of speculative politics, but a branch of that science. It does not treat of the whole of man’s nature as modified by the social state, nor of the whole conduct of man in society. It is concerned with him solely as a being who desires to possess wealth, and who is capable of judging of the comparative efficacy of means for obtaining that end. It predicts only such of the phenomena of the social state as take place in consequence of the pursuit of wealth. It makes entire abstraction of every other human passion or motive; except those which may be regarded as perpetually antagonizing principles to the desire of wealth, namely, aversion to labour, and desire of the present enjoyment of costly indulgences.” and “Not that any political economist was ever so absurd as to suppose that mankind are really thus constituted, but because this is the mode in which science must necessarily proceed.”

So, the triviality that economic behavior is embedded in the entire ‘human condition’ was certainly known to economists long before the philosopher Marx came along. On the other hand, the philosopher Marx never understood how the monetary economy works. Marx got profit and exploitation wrong and because of this the whole analytical superstructure of Marxianism has no sound scientific foundations.#1, #2 This does not matter for politics, though, because in the whole history of mankind politics NEVER depended on scientific insights but on beliefs of obvious socio-pathological quality. Obvious, for an emotionally detached clinical observer, that is.

The common methodological blunder of both J. S. Mill and Marx consisted of the rather commonsensical belief that economics is about human behavior, i.e. that economics is a social science. NO, economics is NOT a social science but a systems science and the system is NOT the social system but the economic system.#3 It was Niklas Luhmann who put sociology on systemic foundations.#4 The economic system, on the other hand, is an ABSTRACT entity that is defined by the objective relationships of economic variables, e.g. employment, output, income, profit, saving, wealth, etcetera. Nobody can see or touch or smell ‘the economy’ or deduce its functioning by observing individual/social behavior.

The problem of economics is to this day that economists waffle about Human Nature/motives/behavior/action which is NOT their subject matter but have NO idea what profit, i.e. the foundational magnitude of their subject matter, is. Neither J. S. Mill nor Marx had any idea of the macroeconomic Profit Law. And things have not improved with Keynes, or MMT, or Lars Syll, or Tom Hickey.#5

The problem with economics as a discipline is that economics is NOT a science, and economists are NOT scientists but clowns/useful idiots/agenda-pushers in the political Circus Maximus. Most of them are directly or indirectly on the payroll of the Oligarchy. J. S. Mill was for the better part of his life an employee of the East India Company, Marx was sponsored by the Capitalist Engels. To present Marx as a philosopher, by the way, is a bit euphemistic. He was a journalist, which, in turn, is a euphemism for propagandist or, in modern parlance, troll.#6

Economics is fake science beginning with Econ 101 to textbooks to the peer-review process to methodology to the history of economic thought#7 to the EconNobel. Marxians have always been an integral part of the greatest scientific fraud in modern times.

Egmont Kakarot-Handtke

* Lars P. Syll Blog
#1 Marx and Marxists ― too stupid for the elementary algebra of profit
#2 Links on Karl Marx
#3 Cross-references NOT a Science of Behavior
#4 See on Amazon Social Systems
#5 Lars Syll, MMT, and the other failures of New Economic Thinking
#6 Marx started as editor-in-chief of the Rheinische Zeitung “ein von der preussischen Regierung gefördertes Unternehmen” [an enterprise sponsored by the Prussian government]. For more details see Waldner, Kindle edition, p. 45 ff. Later he wrote for the New York Tribune and other bourgeois newspapers.
#7 Macroeconomics and the fake History of Economic Thought

Related 'ASSA2020 has been a success ― sorta kinda' and 'Circus Maximus: Economics as entertainment, personality gossip, virtue signaling, and lifestyle promotion'.


REPLY to Matt Franko on Jan 13

You say: “They’re not clowns they are operating as typical Liberal Art trained people... ie Thesis + AntiThesis = Synthesized Thesis”

Education is a serious problem but not the most important one. The lack of scientific integrity is the primary problem of economics.#1, #2

There is no difference between Mainstream and Heterodoxy in this regard and MMT is no exception.#3 Economics is one large swamp.#4

To recall, economics is about the economy and NOT about economists. That academic economics is rotten is a problem for science policy and NOT for economics.

So let us do economics: which of the two sectoral balances equations is true
(a) (I−S)+(G−T)+(X−M)=0

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