October 1, 2020

Not all academic pursuits are science

Comment on Gerald Holtham on ‘The problems of economics as an academic pursuit have a sociological origin’

Gerald Holtham maintains “The problems of economics as an academic pursuit have a sociological origin.” And “This situation has created a strong form of credentialism among academic economists, evidenced by the use in the USA of the term “PHD economist” i.e. distinguishing a ‘real’ economist from an economic journalist or mere informed commentator. This desire to define and secure a profession of economists has led not only to credentialism but to formalism. There must be hoops to jump through, filters to pass, if ‘real’ economists are to be distinguished. An emphasis on mathematical technique is just such a filter.”

First, what is the core problem of economics? The problem is that economics is a failed science. Everybody knows it but nobody knows how to get out of the mess “There is another alternative: to formulate a completely new research program and conceptual approach. As we have seen, this is often spoken of, but there is still no indication of what it might mean.” (Ingrao et al.)#1

So, economics is fake science or, in the words of Feynman, cargo cult science: “They’re doing everything right. The form is perfect. ... But it doesn’t work. ... So I call these things cargo cult science because they follow all the apparent precepts and forms of scientific investigation, but they’re missing something essential.”#2

The lack of scientific competence can hardly be overstated. Walrasianism, Keynesianism, Marxianism, Austrianism, MMT, Pluralism are mutually contradictory, axiomatically false, and materially/formally inconsistent. Economics is a failed science.#3 All the usual signifiers of science, though, from peer review to formalization to the EconNobel are in place. What is lacking is the true theory.

“In order to tell the politicians and practitioners something about causes and best means, the economist needs the true theory or else he has not much more to offer than educated common sense or his personal opinion.” (Stigum)

So the “problems of economics as an academic pursuit” are (i) for 200+ years now, economics has not risen above the proto-scientific level#3, #4, and (ii), economists are not scientists but clowns and useful idiots in the political Circus Maximus.

Academic economists are not selected and employed and paid and promoted and honored for scientific achievements but for their political usefulness. The sociology of economics is indeed quite simple: economics has always been agenda-pushing for the Oligarchy.#5

Egmont Kakarot-Handtke

#3 Sovereign Economics, Ch. 13, The indelible scientific disgrace of economics

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