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Fifth Column of Financial Oligarchy: Chicago School of Market Fundamentalism

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Invisible hand Robert Lucas  Thomas Sargent Gene Fama Freakonomist Levitt -- a one dimentional idiot Gary Becker Richard Posner
John Kenneth Galbraith Criminal negligence in financial regulation Cargo Cult Science Inflation vs Deflation Lysenkoism Humor Etc

Neoclassicism is the ideology of the plutocracy which still governs the USA

Lewis L. Smith

Neoclassical economics—and especially that derived from Milton Friedman’s pen—is mad, bad, and dangerous to know.

Steve Keen

"The only thing in common between noted [Chicago school] economists is sheer incompetence"

Willem Buiter

For those who buy into fairy tale about how markets operate independently of political power, and  state’s instruments of violence (the police and the military), I have a nice piece of oceanfront property in Arizona.

Chicago neoclassical economics school is a well known pseudo-science school, one of the pillars of Economic Lysenkoism (along with  Supply Side Economics).  This is an economic cult, an ideology of financial oligarchy. So it is more proper to this school not neoclassical, but as aptly suggested by Bill Black “theoclassical”   or  Chicago Ponzinomics.  It is a neoliberal phenomenon, not neoclassical. High level of support by financial oligarchy was crucial for it break into mainstream and even (despite compete absurdness of its postulates) make it dominant during 1980-2000. 

Like in Lysenkoism, and high demand sects anybody who strays from the cult is in danger of being ostracized. As Mark Thoma observed:

Some years ago, when I first presented an empirical paper questioning some of the conventional views on trade to a high profile economics conference, a member of the audience (a very prominent economist and a former co-author of mine) shocked me with the question "why are you doing this?

There is a useful part of neoclassical economy related to thinking about an aggregate social phenomena in terms of costs and benefits of individual participants, and that can be sometimes (but not always) as a useful supplementary approach. Bastartized version of this notion which tries to imply cost-benefit motives in all human interactions is called Freakonomics. Still you can view some choices people make as tradeoffs between desired goals and social constraints (which can interpreted as costs). 

Still neoclassical economics as practiced by Chicago school  is driven by ideology and financed by financial oligarchy.

And like  Trofim Lysenko and his followers those people are as close to criminals as one can get.  Like Rabbies and Catholic Priests can be criminals, the same is true about people in academic mantles. Corruption of academics is nothing new, but corruption of economists is a very dangerous mass form of  white-collar crime as close to Madoff  and his associates as one can get. This is the way we should look at the Chicago schools: kind of incarnation of Lysenko henchmen or, if you wish, Chicago mafia in a university environment. Actually similar way of thinking can be applied to Harvard (see Harvard Mafia, Andrei Shleifer and the economic rape of Russia ).

Is neoclassical economics a mafia? Sort of, says Christopher Hayes in a very well-written and very interesting piece in The Nation. He says orthodox economists are a close-knit group and are quick to penalize those among them or from outside who overstep the boundaries. Here is an excerpt:

So extreme is the marginalization of heterodox economists, most people don't even know they exist. Despite the fact that as many as one in five professional economists belongs to a professional association that might be described as heterodox, the phrase "heterodox economics" has appeared exactly once in the New York Times since 1981. During that same period "intelligent design," a theory endorsed by not a single published, peer-reviewed piece of scholarship, has appeared 367 times.

It doesn't take much to call forth an impressive amount of bile from heterodox economists toward their mainstream brethren. John Tiemstra, president of the Association for Social Economics and a professor at Calvin College, summed up his feelings this way: "I go to the cocktail parties for my old schools, MIT and Oberlin, and people are all excited about Freakonomics. I kind of wince and go off to another corner or have another drink." After the EPI gathering, Peter Dorman, an economist at Evergreen State College with a gentle, bearded air, related an e-mail exchange he once had with Hal Varian, a well-respected Berkeley economist who's moderately liberal but firmly committed to the neoclassical approach. Varian wrote to Dorman that there was no point in presenting "both sides" of the debate about trade, because one side--the view that benefits from unfettered trade are absolute--was like astronomy, while any other view was like astrology. "So I told him I didn't buy the traditional trade theory," Dorman said. "'Was I an astrologer?' And he said yes!"

Please note that some of the most close to Lysenkoism figures at Chicago, such as Cochrane and Fama, are in the business school rather than the econ department.   And they were key enablers of  Goldman Sacks and Co. looters. Deregulation wave was promoted by right wing extremists who recruited corrupted academicians like Milton Friedman to perform specific role of Trojan horse to undermine New Deal.  He managed to made the "invisible hand" a prefect pocket picker!  And the method of spreading influence was essentially borrowed from the Lysenko book: control the economic department and those who went to college and studied those theories in the 70’s and 80’s would then go to Wall St and Government and enact them. Control the key academic magazines and conferences and any aspiring economists need either to conform or leave the field.

Here is one telling comment about corruption of those modern day Lysenkoists in the blog Crooked Timber

ogmb 09.18.09 at 12:01 pm

...Cochrane is the AQR Capital Management Professor of Finance at the University of Chicago Booth [formerly Graduate] School of Business. Which incidentally also makes his whining that Krugman ‘accuses us literally of adopting ideas for pay, selling out for “sabbaticals at the Hoover institution” and fat “Wall street paychecks”’ a bit malnourished in the introspection department, coming from someone who holds a chair sponsored by a quantitative trading firm at a school sponsored by the founder of an EMH investment firm. (Nevermind that Krugman never, literally or otherwise, accused Cochrane and his peers of selling out to Wall Street…)

In this ideology Milton Friedman has playied the role of false prophet. Surrounded by "lesser giants" of neoclassical economics,  producing continued stream of detached from reality papers and speeches. It also includes several clown who as Krugman noted have some qualities of irritable adolescents, but actually are proper heirs of Academician Trofim Lysenko:

And that same adolescent quality was evident in the reactions to the Obama administration’s attempts to deal with the crisis — as Brad DeLong points out, people like Robert Lucas and John Cochrane (not to mention Richard Posner, who isn’t a macroeconomist but gets his take from his colleagues) didn’t say that when serious scholars like Christina Romer based policy recommendations on Keynesian economics, they were wrong; the freshwater crowd declared that anyone with Keynesian views was, by definition, either a fool or intellectually dishonest. So the freshwater outrage over finding their own point of view criticized is, you might think, a classic case of people who can dish it out but can’t take it.
But it’s actually even worse than that.
When freshwater macro came in, there was an active purge of competing views: students were not exposed, at all, to any alternatives. People like Prescott boasted that Keynes was never mentioned in their graduate programs. And what has become clear in the recent debate — for example, in the assertion that Ricardian equivalence rules out any effect from government spending changes, which is just wrong — is that the freshwater side not only turned Keynes into an unperson, but systematically ignored the work being done in the New Keynesian vein. Nobody who had read, say, Obstfeld and Rogoff would have been as clueless about the logic of temporary fiscal expansion as these guys have been. Freshwater macro became totally insular.And hence the most surprising thing in the debate over fiscal stimulus: the raw ignorance that has characterized so many of the freshwater comments. Above all, we’ve seen the phenomenon of well-known economists “rediscovering” Say’s Law and the Treasury view (the view that government cannot affect the overall level of demand), not because they’ve transcended the Keynesian refutation of these views, but because they were unaware that there had ever been such a debate.It’s a sad story. And the even sadder thing is that it’s very unlikely that anything will change: freshwater macro will get even more insular, and its devotees will wonder why nobody in the real world of policy and action pays any attention to what they say.

The proper label for neo-classical economics might be "theological voluntarism", the term which has some academic aura... There are several issues here:

  1. Excessive dependence or even open prostitution to the financial oligarchy. It's deplorable but probably unavoidable as the grip of financial community of economic profession does not requires any additional commentary. Also there are always exceptions to the rule.
  2. Mathematical masturbation instead of science (Mathiness). When, for example, a paper that propose even a linear equation (or God forbid differential equation) does not provide any estimate of errors of input data such a paper in a narrow sense can be called mathematical masturbation. Classic example here would be any paper that has inflation as an input variable. In a more broad sense this occurs when research paper contains results or mathematical model which rely on idealised, with little connections to reality postulates about the structure of economic activities. Many supply/demand models belong to this category as they rely on existence of equilibrium between supply and demand and/or are ignoring Minsky instability hypothesis. Most neo-classical economics can be called a theory in a desperate search for suitable reality.
  3. Relying on discredited and openly anti-scientific assumptions or hypothesis. Examples include, but not limited to "supply side voodoo", "monetarism", "Taylor rule", "permanent equilibrium fallacy", "invisible hand" (both as a postulate about absence of manipulation of the markets and the idea that "free markets lead to efficient outcomes" disregarding the role of government and almost permanent government intervention as well as issues of economic rent and taxation of participants to support an aristocracy or oligarchy).

Chicago (or as some called it freshwater) school specializes in deification of the market (often in the form of "invisible hand" deification, see The Invisible Hand, Trumped by Darwin - NYTimes.com). 

The Measured Version of My Screaming
John Quiggin finally makes explicit What Everyone Knows: that the clusterfuck that has been made of Macroeconomics is due largely to an attempt to leverage (insufficiently robust) Microeconomic Theory:
the search for a macroeconomic theory founded on (roughly) neoclassical micro, which has been the main direction of macro research for 40 years or so, was a wrong turning, forcing us to retrace our steps and look for another route.
Think Lucas and Prescott as Mirror-Moses, leading gullible Macroites further and further from the Promised Land, themselves evermore unable to ask for directions.* Couldn't have said it better, or with so few expletives, myself. But then, that's why he has a book contract.

Read the Whole Thing.

Here are some postulates of Chicago school as described in  Economics: A Clandestine Religion Masquarading As A Science ( The American Monetary Institute):

As Wikipedia noted

...Chicago School economists are associated with Washington Consensus,[12][13] which John Williamson says is "disappointing".[14]

The history of Chicago school is complex (THE CHICAGO SCHOOL):

The "Chicago School" is perhaps one of the better known American "schools" of economics.   In its strictest sense, the "Chicago School"  refers to the approach of the members of the Department of Economics at the University of Chicago over the past century.  In a looser sense, the term "Chicago School" is associated with a particular brand of economics which adheres strictly to Neoclassical price theory in its economic analysis, "free market" libertarianism in much of its policy work and a methodology which is relatively averse to too much mathematical formalism and willing to forego careful general equilibrium reasoning in favor of more results-oriented partial equilibrium analysis.  In recent years, the "Chicago School" has  been associated with "economic imperialism", i.e. the application of economic reasoning to areas traditionally considered the prerogative of other fields such as political science, legal theory, history and sociology.  

The "Chicago School" has had various phases with quite different characteristics.  Nonetheless, the main consistent factor seems to be that it has always held a unique,distinct and influential place in the realm of economics at any time.  In the modern day, under the "Chicago School" umbrella, we can count various further schools of thought which are discussed in more detail elsewhere:  e.g. Monetarism in the 1960s, New Classical/Real Business Cycle macroeconomics from the 1970s until today, and more recently, the New Institutionalism, New Economic History and Law-and-Economics movements.

The University of Chicago was founded in 1892 by oil magnate John D. Rockefeller.   Its initial economics department, under the leadership of the American apologist, J. Laurence Laughlin, counted radical American Institutionalists such as Thorstein Veblen, Wesley Mitchell and John Maurice Clark among its faculty.  In this period, the department was like any other in the United States.

The "Chicago School" really began in the 1920s with the diumvurate of Frank H. Knight and Jacob Viner.  They were, for the most part, theoreticians (Knight more in the Jevonian-Austrian tradition, Viner leaning towards the Marshallian).  In an age when empiricism ruled most of American economics, Knight and Viner set up the economics department at Chicago as a bastion of counter-institutionalism and, as such, the department soon acquired something of a "siege" mentality.    Also at Chicago during this time were the "Mathematical Trio" --   Oskar Lange, Henry Schultz and Paul H. Douglas -- economists with a particular bent for the theoretical approach of the Lausanne School.   Younger faculty included monetary theorists Henry C. Simons and Lloyd Mints.

The characteristics of the early Chicago School of 1920-1950 differ considerably from the later Chicago School.  They were highly suspicious of "positivistic" economic methodology and denounced economic imperialism, arguing for a confined role for economic analysis (esp. Knight).  They were suspicious of the efficiency claims of laissez-faire economics, arguing for it only on a "non-consequential" basis.  They welcomed active government policies to cure recessions (esp. Viner's recommendations on "reinflating" the economy, and Simons's  "Chicago Plan" for counter-cyclical monetary policy), and counted a fully-fledged  socialist in their ranks (Lange).   Furthermore, most of the faculty was not averse to rigorous, theoretical general equilibrium reasoning, but were leading practitioners of the art (Lange, Schultz, Douglas).

However, like the later Chicago School, the early Chicago School was hostile to "alternative" economic paradigms.  For the most part, they did not welcome the Keynesian Revolution in macroeconomics and denounced the Monopolistic Competition approach in microeconomic theory.  To a good extent, the issues these "alternative" paradigms purported to solve, they felt could be handled reasonably well within the confines of Neoclassical theory. 

The economics department underwent an upheaval during the 1940s.  Schultz died with tragic suddenness, Viner left for Princeton, Lange left for political life in Poland and Douglas became a U.S. Senator.  Knight, whose interests were moving away from economic theory, went into semi-retirement, handing the reigns of the department over to Simons, Mints and Director.

There was a new injection of blood during this period as the department tried to regain its bearings.  The first lurch was towards Walrasian economics.  Several students associated with the departed Lange and Schultz remained -- such as Yntema and Mosak -- and Chicago went on to welcome Jacob Marschak, Tjalling Koopmans and the the Cowles Commission right next door.  The Walrasian period lasted until 1955, when it moved (was hounded off?) to Yale.

The 1940s also saw the appointment of development theorists H. Gregg Lewis and Bert F. Hoselitz. These appointments were accompanied by a group of agricultural economists, Theodore W. Schultz, D. Gale Johnson and Walter Nicholls, who had been left Iowa State in protest over one of the most famous violations of academic freedom. Apparently, the powers-that-be of Iowa, home of the American dairy industry, had pressured the university to force a young economist to recant a study in which he had concluded that margarine was no less nutritious than butter.

In the 1960s, the department began to congeal into a new shape, led by George J. Stigler and Milton Friedman.   This is what became the "Second" Chicago School, which is perhaps the most famous and polemical one.  Stigler and Friedman were avowed Marshallians, and eschewed the methodology of the now-departed Walrasians of the Cowles Commission.  As the contemporary ditty went:

"I read my Marshall completely through
From beginning to end and backward too
I read my Marshall so carefully
That now I am Professor at U of C". 

The Stigler-Friedman period was characterized by faithful adherence to Neoclassical economics and maintained itself dead against the concept of market failures, reinforcing the Chicago School stance against  imperfect competition and Keynesian economics. Through their influential journals -- notably, the Journal of Political Economy and the Journal of Law and Economics -- the research programme of the Chicago School was advanced and diffused.  It was the Second Chicago School that is often accused of being the modern version of  Manchester School liberalism (or, as some maintain, the more conservative tradition of  American apologism).

In microeconomics, led by George Stigler, the guiding maxim in the Chicago approach was to preserve the Neoclassical paradigm whenever possible, never to doubt it. When there is no obvious solution to a particular problem, the recommended course was to extend the Neoclassical paradigm by incorporating new concepts into it that would make the subject matter amenable to economic analysis. Examples of extensions to the Neoclassical paradigm conceived by Chicago economists are search theory (due to George Stigler), human capital theory (due to Gary Becker and T.W. Schultz) and property rights/transaction cost theory (due to Ronald H. Coase).  

The Chicago School's impulse for extension of Neoclassical price theory is largely responsible for the "imperialist" character of which it is often accused.   Business and finance, previously the prerogative of practitioners and business schools, were brought into the economic spotlight by Chicago economists such as A.W. Wallis, Harry Markowitz, Merton H. Miller and Eugene F. Fama.  Further afield, political science and institutional theory were brought into Neoclassical economics by Chicago School economists such as G.J. Stigler, R.H. Coase, James Buchanan, Armen Alchian and Harold Demsetz.  Economic history were given a Neoclassical reading by Robert W. Fogel and Douglas C. North, while the Chicago Law School (esp. Richard Posner and William M. Landes) used economics to rethink swathes of legal theory.  Perhaps most famously, sociological issues like addiction, family and even marriage were given a thoroughly economic interpretation in the hands of Gary S. Becker and Jacob Mincer.

[Naturally, not all the "Chicago School" economists are at the University of Chicago, e.g. Alchian, Mincer, North, etc., but it is not unreasonable to argue that they are part of that school of thought.]

[George P. Shultz, better known as the Secretary of Labor and subsequently of the Treasury under Richard Nixon and later Secretary of State under Ronald Reagan, Shultz was also professor of industrial relations and later dean of the Business School at Chicago during the 1960s.]

[It is revealing that the adamantly anti-imperialist Friedrich A. von Hayek,  who was at Chicago during the 1950s, was confined to an appointment on an interdisciplinary "Committee on Social Thought", rather than the economics department proper.  Walrasian theory, which has tended to be of more limited scope, has also had very little presence at Chicago over the past half-century: the only theorist to have successfully infiltrated the Chicago citadel was Hugo Sonnenschein, but then he came as president of the university.  With the exception of the work of Lester Telser, the "alternative" paradigm of game theory has also been conspicuously absent until recently.]

In macroeconomics, the most renowned phase of the Chicago School has been that of "Monetarism" under the leadership of Milton Friedman, its best-known advocate. For the longest time, Chicago was the only school in America not swept by the Keynesian Revolution (the presence of Lloyd A. Metzler  for a brief period on the faculty was exceptional). This does not mean that the old Chicago School was opposed to government intervention - indeed, Viner's policy conclusions are at times hard to distinguish from Keynes'sBut in Friedman's Monetarism, it found a theoretical and empirical means by which to begin rolling back the Keynesian revolution. Although prominent in the 1960s, Friedman has always claimed that the main tenets of Monetarism can be found in the work of early Chicago School economists such as Henry Simons.  (see our  survey of Monetarism).

Monetarism has since given way to the more mathematically rigorous "New Classical" economics of Robert E. Lucas in the 1970s and 1980s.  The quantitatively-oriented "Walrasian" flavor of New Classicism meant that the appointments of Robert Lucas, Thomas Sargent, Michael Woodford and Robert Townsend at Chicago met with quite some opposition from the older hands.  Nonetheless, in its policy conclusions and rigorous adherence to Neoclassical theory, the New Classical school remains by most accounts the natural inheritor of the Chicago School mantle in modern macroeconomics.

Despite, or perhaps as a result of, its mischievous but always unique perspective, the University of Chicago has taken in a lion's share of Nobel Prizes in economics: Milton Friedman, T.W. Schultz, G.J.Stigler, R.H. Coase, G.S. Becker, M.H. Miller, R.W. Fogel and R.E.Lucas were all on the Chicago faculty when they received their awards.  If we were to add  Chicago-trained economists, the list of Nobelists would expand to include Hebert Simon, James Buchanan, Harry Markowitz and Myron Scholes.

Early Chicago of 1892 - 1920s

The First Chicago School of 1920-1945

Post-War Chicago of the 1945-1960

The Second Chicago School of the 1960s-1970s

The Third Chicago School (1970s-Today)

Chicago Business and Finance

Resources on the Chicago School


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[Apr 08, 2019] Economists are ideologically biased

Sometime neoliberal economics act as the Thought Police. Peddling neoclassic economy bullshit create a dreadful environments of a cult and there are enforces on each corner to ensure students indoctrination.
Apr 08, 2019 | www.moonofalabama.org
vk , Apr 7, 2019 5:50:27 PM | 55 ">link

From Michael Roberts' facebook:

Economists are ideologically biased - finds a survey of their views on modern economies conducted by Mark Horowitz, Associate Professor of Sociology at Seton Hall University, New Jersey, entitled Political Identity and Economists' Perceptions of Capitalist Crises.

Economists' Politics Loom Large in their Views of Capitalist Crises

"Surveying academic economists in the United States, we find the field quite skeptical of the prospects of capitalist crises. Despite considerable consensus, political orientation is a highly significant predictor of respondents' outlooks."

"economists are generally skeptical of the prospects of capitalist crises. Very few see mass structural unemployment on the horizon due to automation (Q2) or incompatibility between capitalism and secure or meaningful employment (Q4, Q5). Only a third or so anticipates global financial contagion (Q1), while even fewer affirm a systemic tendency toward monopoly (Q11). Finally, at least two-thirds believe the global economy will likely be capitalist in 200 years (Q8)".

Marx on 'vulgar political economy': "It was henceforth no longer a question, whether this theorem or that was true, but whether it was useful to capital or harmful, expedient or inexpedient, politically dangerous or not. In place of disinterested enquirers, there were hired prize-fighters; in place of genuine scientific research, the bad conscience and the evil intent of apologetic"

[Apr 05, 2019] I felt mathematicians were not examining the role of their discipline in the crisis; they were not behaving ethically.

Apr 05, 2019 | magic-maths-money.blogspot.com
I frequently refer to Gillian Tett's Fools' Gold as an account of ethical mathematical practice. Tett explains how J.P. Morgan came out of the 2008-2009 Financial Crisis because it used mathematics critically rather than blindly accepting the outputs of "black boxes". I felt the approach Tett described was oddly discordant with the attitude of mathematicians. During the crisis, I co-ordinated a response from UK mathematicians, through the Council of Mathematical Sciences, to criticism of the use of mathematics in finance, this information was also passed onto the UK Science Minister of the time.

The standard response from (senior) UK mathematicians was along the lines that finance hadn't used mathematics but abused it.

The solution was to have "more" and "better" mathematicians. This was underpinned by some adopting a logical positivist line, attributed to Hume, that the role of mathematicians is to describe the world as it is, not as it ought to be.

At the time I felt mathematicians were not examining the role of their discipline in the crisis; they were not behaving ethically. This was the start of my journey that transformed me from an "uncritical" (unethical?) mathematician to someone who feels mathematics is vital, so long as it is critical.

[Mar 22, 2019] Responding to some of the critiques of our paper on secular stagnation and fiscal policy

Mar 22, 2019 | larrysummers.com

My paper with Lukasz Rachel on secular stagnation and fiscal policy summarized here has attracted a number of interesting responses including from Martin Wolf , David Leonhardt , Martin Sandbu and Brad DeLong and also many participants at the Brookings conference.

I'm gratified that there seems to be general acceptance of the core secular stagnation argument. "Normal" policy settings of real interest rates in the 2 percent range, balanced primary budgets and stable financial markets are a prescription for stagnation and underemployment. Such economic success as the industrial world has enjoyed in recent decades has reflected a combination of very low real rates, big budget deficits, private leveraging up and asset bubbles.

No one from whom I have heard doubts the key conclusion that a combination of meaningfully positive real interest rates and balanced budgets would likely be a prescription for sustained recession if not depression in the industrial world.

Notice that this is a much more fundamental argument than the suggestion that the some effective lower bound on interest rates may impede stabilizing the economy. The argument is that because of chronic private sector tendency towards oversaving, economies may be prone to underemployment and financial stability absent policy responses which are themselves problematic.

This is an argument much more in the spirit of Keynes, the early Keynesians, and today's Post-Keynesians than the New Keynesians who have set the terms for much of contemporary macroeconomic discourse both in academia and in the world's central banks.

The central feature of New Keynesian models is an idea that economies have an equilibrium to which they naturally revert independent of policies pursued. Good central bank policy achieves a desired inflation target (assumed to be feasible) while minimizing the amplitude of fluctuations around that equilibrium.

In contrast contemporary experience, where inflation has been below target almost throughout the industrial world for a decade and is expected by markets to remain below target for decades, and where output is sustained only by large budget deficits or extraordinary monetary policies, suggest that central banks acting alone cannot necessarily attain inflation targets and that misguided policy could easily not just raise the volatility of output but also reduce its average level.

While there seems to be little doubt that real interest rates–short and long, ex ante and ex post -- have declined very substantially even as (other things equal) budget deficits and expanded social security programs should have increased them, there remains debate about how to analyze these trends. Lukasz and I argue that adjustment to balance saving and investment is the best way understand declining real rates. DeLong wonders about changing risk premiums and Wolf cites BIS work arguing that low rates reflect the monetary policy regime. There is no reason why there needs to be only one cause of low real rates so these factors may enter. But as I expect we will illustrate in the revised version of the paper, the largest part of the low frequency variation in ex ante real returns is accounted for by a downward trending factor common to all asset prices. This is illustrated for the US in the figure below. So risk premiums or factors specific to Treasuries are likely not high order.

Figure: Decline in US real asset returns

Granting that secular stagnation is a problem, there is the question of policy response. The right policy response will be the one that assures that full employment is maintained with a minimum of collateral problems. Sandbu argues against the notion of secular stagnation in part because he thinks it may lead in unconstructive directions like protectionism and because he believes that stagnation issues can be feasibly and relatively easily addressed by lowering rates. Wolf, relying on the BIS, is alarmed by the toxic effects of very low rates on financial stability in the short run and economic performance in the long run, and prefers fiscal stimulus. Leonhardt prefers a broad menu of measures to absorb saving and promote investment.

I am not certain of the right approach and I wish there was more evidence to bring to bear on the question. I can certain see the logic of the "zero is just another number" view, that holds that the current environment poses no new fundamental issues but just may require technical changes to make more negative interest rates possible. I am skeptical because (i) I am not sure how large the stimulus effect of rates going more negative is because of damage to banks, reduced interest income for consumers, and because capital cost is already not the barrier to investment; (ii) I wonder about the quality of any investment that was not made at a zero rate but was made at a negative rate; and (iii) I suspect that a world of significantly negative nominal rates if sustained will be a world of leveraging, risk seeking and bubbles. I have trouble thinking about behavior in situations where people and firms are paid to borrow!

I am inclined to prefer more reliance on reasonably managed fiscal policies as a response to secular stagnation: government borrowing at negative real rates and investing seems very attractive in a world where there are many projects with high social returns. Moreover, we are accustomed to thinking in terms of debt levels but it may be more appropriate to think in terms of sustained debt service levels. With near zero rates these are below average in most industrial countries. The content of fiscal policies is crucial. Measures which run up government debt without stimulating demand like large parts of the Trump tax cut are ill advised. In contrast measures which promote investment and raise the tax base down the road are much more attractive.

There are of course other measures beyond stabilization policies like fighting monopolies, promoting a more equal income distribution, and strengthening retirement security for which the desire to maintain macroeconomic stability provides an additional rationale.

[Mar 16, 2019] Martin Wolf Why Economists Failed as "Experts" -- and How to Make Them Matter Again

That's what neoliberal bottomfeeders like Summers, Krugman and Dejong should read and memorize
Notable quotes:
"... Neoclassical economics became important in large measure to show that markets delivered efficient outcomes, and efficiency was seen as tantamount to socially desirable. That's before considering that highly efficiency almost always comes at the expense of safety and robustness, and that efficient solutions may not be equitable. ..."
"... So, maybe the proper distinction to be made is between "trustworthy" experts and "untrustworthy" ones. The question then become what makes experts trustworthy -- not, I should stress, intrinsically trustworthy, but rather perceived by the public to be so. ..."
"... The third point is that trust in expertise seems to be quite generally declining. This is partly perhaps because education is more widespread, which makes possession of an education appear in itself less authoritative. It is also partly because of the rapid dissemination of information. It is partly because of the easy formation of groups of the disaffected and dissemination of conspiracy theories. The internet and the new social media it has spawned have turned out to be powerful engines for the spreading of disinformation aimed at manipulation of the unwary. ..."
Mar 14, 2019 | www.nakedcapitalism.com
Yves here. Even though Martin Wolf's post makes many important observations, I feel the need to take issue with his conclusion. Economists have been and continue to be enormously successful as experts. PhDs in economics make roughly twice as much as those in other social sciences. Economists are the only social scientists to have a seat at the policy table. And they continue to do so, despite their colossal failure in the global financial crisis, with no serious change in the discipline and no loss of reputation of any prominent economists.

Neoclassical economics became important in large measure to show that markets delivered efficient outcomes, and efficiency was seen as tantamount to socially desirable. That's before considering that highly efficiency almost always comes at the expense of safety and robustness, and that efficient solutions may not be equitable.

The importance of economists as policy advisers grew in the post World War II era, after the USSR managed the impressive feat of industrializing in the 20th century. US officials were concerned that a command and control economy could beat a messy, consumer oriented capitalist one, and turned to economists to give guidance on how to achieve high growth rates so as to produce enough guns and butter.

As for the specific impetus for Wolf's article, it appears to be due to voters ignoring the dire warnings made by the Remain campaign during the Brexit referendum campaign that Brexit would have large economic costs. But based on reports after the vote came in, that repudiation came not just because the public might well have good reason not to believe economists as a result of the crisis, but how the Remain campaign carried itself in the debates. That side apparently made arrogant-seeming, data heavy arguments, while the Leavers made stirring appeals about sovereignty .a UK version of MAGA.

By Martin Wolf, Associate Editor and Chief Economics Commentator, Financial Times. Originally published at the Institute for New Economic Thinking website

"I think people in this country have had enough of experts."
-Michael Gove

Michael Gove, winner of the Brexit referendum (though loser in the game of politics, having failed to become leader of his party, and so, maybe, no true expert either) hit the nail on the head. The people of this country have, it seems, had enough of those who consider themselves experts, in some domains. The implications of this rejection of experts seem enormous. That should be of particular significance for economists, because economists were, after all, the "experts" against whom Mr. Gove was inveighing.

Yet it is not really true that the people of this country have had enough of experts. When they fall ill, they still go to licensed doctors. When they fly, they trust qualified pilots. When they want a bridge, they call upon qualified engineers. Even today, in the supposed "post-fact" world, such people are almost universally recognized as experts.

So, maybe the proper distinction to be made is between "trustworthy" experts and "untrustworthy" ones. The question then become what makes experts trustworthy -- not, I should stress, intrinsically trustworthy, but rather perceived by the public to be so.

One might make three, admittedly speculative, points about this distinction between experts deemed by the public to be deserving of trust and those who are not.

The first is that some forms of expertise appear simply to be more solidly based than others in a body of theory and/or evidence, with recognizable successes to their credit. By and large, doctors are associated with cures, pilots with keeping airplanes in the sky and engineers with bridges that stay up. Such successes -- and there are many other comparable fields of expertise -- self-evidently make people with the relevant expertise appear trustworthy.

The second is that some forms of expertise are more politically contentious than others. Nearly everybody, for example, agrees that curing people, flying airplanes and building bridges are good things. Social and political arrangements -- and economics is inescapably about social and political arrangements -- are always and everywhere contentious. They affect not only how people think the human world works, but also how it ought to work. These forms of expertise are about values.

The third point is that trust in expertise seems to be quite generally declining. This is partly perhaps because education is more widespread, which makes possession of an education appear in itself less authoritative. It is also partly because of the rapid dissemination of information. It is partly because of the easy formation of groups of the disaffected and dissemination of conspiracy theories. The internet and the new social media it has spawned have turned out to be powerful engines for the spreading of disinformation aimed at manipulation of the unwary.

It might be encouraging for economists that they are not the only experts who are mistrusted. Consider the anti-vaccination movement, hostility to evolutionary theory, or rejection of climate science. All these are the products of doubts fueled by a combination of core beliefs and suspicion of particular forms of expertise. The anti-vaccination movement is driven by parents' concerns about their children. The hostility to evolution is driven by religion. The rejection of climate science is clearly driven by ideology. Every climate denier I know is a free marketeer. Is this an accident? No. The desire to believe in the free market creates an emotional justification for denying climate science. In principle, after all, belief in free markets and in the physics of the climate system have absolutely nothing to do with each other.

So economists are in good company with other forms of politically or socially contentious expertise. But they have a special difficulty. Not only are they engaged in an essentially controversial, because political, arena, and so also an inherently ideological one, but they suffer to a high degree from the first point I made above: their "science", if science it is, just does not look to the public to be solidly based. It does not work as well as the public wants and economists have claimed. Economists claim a certain scientific status. But much of it looks to the outsider more like "scientism" -- the use of an incomprehensible intellectual apparatus to obscure ignorance rather than reveal truth.

This does not mean that economists don't know useful things. It is quite clear that they do. Markets are extraordinary institutions, for example. Economists' elucidation of markets or of the principle of comparative advantage is a great intellectual achievement. Yet suspicion of economics and economists is both long-standing and understandable.

The problem became far more serious after the financial crisis. The popular perception is that the experts -- macroeconomists and financial economists -- did not appreciate the dangers before the event and did not understand the longer-run consequences after it. Moreover, the popular perception seems to be in large part correct. This has damaged the acceptance of the expertise of economists to a huge extent.

So how, in this suspicious contemporary environment, might economists persuade the public they are experts who deserve to be listened to?

I decided to ask my colleagues this question. One answered that:

1. Good economists have a clear (if incomplete) understanding of how the world works. This is a pre-requisite to making it a better place.

2. Economists have a sense of scale. They understand the difference between big and small and how to make that distinction. This is vital for policy.

3. Economics is all about counterfactuals. It understands the relevant comparators even if they are difficult to work out.

4. Economists are experts on incentives and motivations and empirically try to measure them rather than relying on wishful thinking.

5. Generally, good economists are expert in understanding the limits of their knowledge and forecasting abilities.

Another colleague added:

The general public usually associate economists with:
-A small set of macroeconomic forecasts (growth, inflation mainly), and
-A belief that markets always produce perfect outcomes

And they attribute failure to them if either:
-point forecasts (inevitably) prove wrong, or
-markets produce some bad outcomes

Whereas the expertise of economists is really in the building blocks that enable you to construct sensible forecasts and to understand how people are likely to behave and respond to a given set of circumstances/policies. This structure for understanding the world allows economists to take on board new developments, understand whether they reflect a rejection of their existing theories or merely a (possibly tail) outcome that was consistent with their "model," and push forward their understanding of the world from there. Rather than throwing away all existing wisdom when circumstances change somewhat.

I agree with these propositions. Properly understood, economics remains very useful. One realizes this as soon as one is engaged with someone who knows nothing at all about the subject. But I still have four qualifications to make.

First, a large part of what economists actually do, namely forecasting, is not very soundly based. It would be a good idea if economists stated that loudly, strongly, and repeatedly. Indeed, there should be ceaseless public campaigning by the professional bodies, emphasizing what economists don't know. Of course, that would not -- as economists might predict -- be in their interests.

Second, in important areas of supposed economic expertise, the analytical basis is really weak. This is true of the operation of the monetary and financial systems. It is also true of the determinants of economic growth.

Third, economists are not disinterested outsiders. They are part of the political process. It is crucial to remember that certain propositions favor the interests of powerful people and groups. Economists can find themselves easily captured by such groups. "Invisible hand" theorems are particularly open to such abuse.

Finally, the division between economic aspects of society and the rest is, in my view, analytically unsound. The relationship between, say, economics and sociology or anthropology is not like that between physics and chemistry. The latter rests upon the former. But economics and anthropology lie side by side. I increasingly feel that the educated economist, certainly those engaged in policy, must also understand political science, sociology, anthropology, and sociology. Otherwise, they will fail to understand what is actually happening.

If I am right, the challenge is not just to purify economics of exaggerated claims, though that is indeed needed. It is rather to recognize the limited scope of economic knowledge. This does not mean there is no such thing as economic expertise: there is. But its scope and generality are more limited than many suppose.

Michael Gove was wrong, in my view, about expertise applied in the Brexit debate. But he was not altogether wrong about the expertise of economists. If we were more humble and more honest, we might be better recognized as experts able to contribute to public debate.

With this in mind, what should be the goal of an education in economics at the university level? A part of the answer will come from developments within the field. In time, the incorporation of new ideas and techniques may make the academic discipline better at addressing the intellectual and policy challenges the world now confronts.

Another part of the answer, however, must come from asking what an undergraduate education ought to achieve. The answer should not be to produce apprentices in a highly technical and narrow discipline taught as a branch of applied mathematics. For the great majority of those who learn economics, what matters is appreciation of both a few core ideas and of the complexity of the economic reality.

At bottom, economics is a field of inquiry and a way of thinking. Among its valuable core concepts are: opportunity cost, marginal cost, rent, sunk costs, externalities, and effective demand. Economics also allows people to make at least some sense of debates on growth, taxation, monetary policy, economic development, inequality, and so forth.

It is unnecessary to possess a vast technical apparatus to understand these ideas. Indeed the technical apparatus can get in the way of such an understanding. Much of the understanding can also be acquired in a decent, but not inordinately technical, undergraduate education. That is what I was fortunate enough to acquire in my own years studying philosophy, politics and economics at Oxford in the late 1960s. Today, I believe, someone with my background in the humanities would never become an economist. I am absolutely sure I would not have done so. It might be arrogant to make this claim. But I think that would have been a pity -- and not just for me.

In addition, it would be helpful to expose students to some of the heterodox alternatives to orthodox economics. This can only be selective. But exposure to the ideas of Hyman Minsky, for example, would be very helpful to anybody seeking to understand the macroeconomic implications of liberalized finance.

The teaching of economics to undergraduates must focus on core ideas, essential questions, and actual realities. Such a curriculum might not be the best way to produce candidates for PhD programs. So be it. The study of economics at university must not be seen through so narrow a lens. Its purpose is to produce people with a broad economic enlightenment. That is what the public debate needs. It is what education has to provide.


greg , March 14, 2019 at 1:14 am

I am afraid a worse problem with economists is that they don't seem interested in anyone's opinions except their own.

They even hold ecology in disdain, not having any interest in learning what is, in fact, the foundational system of their own 'science.' The booms and busts of capitalism show familiar patterns to ecologists. Why, ecologists even have equations for them!

But I guess ecology is just too simple for the attentions of economists : Stupid animals. They don't even use money! What kind of economy can that be?

So economists look for models everywhere except where to find them. The hubris of humanity, not needing to give due attention to the economies of 'animal' societies.

Sanxi , March 14, 2019 at 7:04 am

To Yves. Well, I nearly lack the heart to respond, but I feel I must. Taking yesterday's NC's lessons of looking at a human facing and having eye contact to remain human online, I now do both – a human sits next to me. I read aloud to her.

Ok, you are a strong advocate of becoming a certified economist. Because 1.they make a lot of money and 2. only they sit at the policy table.

Further claims made in your preamble: in no particular order of importance: something about efficient outcomes that may not be equitable; command & control and guns and butter; and sadly an analysis of Brexit voters in either camp.

(One exception to all that I say is those using MMT, certified, with a degree or not. Again something I first learned about on NC.)

Yesterday, somewhere in the NC collective was the notion that the above mentioned economists tell tho' we may be so out of balance with the world that our extinction as a species is a legitimate issue to discuss, that in the end there ain't any money to not only not fix the problem but not even deal with it. And these guys/gals you laud? I and others have argued this gang provided the intellectual nonsense that put us where we are now.

What is your point that Econ grads make the most amount of money compared to what? Philosophy majors? True or not I still say it's a waste of a life. Not the knowing, but the being of one. I don't see what value there is for civilization in general but specifically that just because they make a lot of money, it's good?

All social science grads you say v Econ grads make more money. I doubt that. Seems every school district requires a PhD in Education, and a PhD in Business is very lucrative (not saying useful, just pays well).

The policy table. I'm truly baffled as to what you refer. If they are the only ones at said table then it follows they are the only ones at it. In my long life I'm trying to think were we ever let an economist have the final say, or even a moderate say in any political, governmental, or military policy. Some input yes, but deterministic, no. If they were sitting at their own table, when asked they came to table with those that had the votes, give their opinion and then left. Sociological impact statements had far bigger influence on policy. And policy is no more then the data we can agree on to make decisions.

Sure, many governments, NGOs, multinationals all have jobs for economists but in someway this is self serving, not a necessity. Kuhn's book on "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions", does a good job of explain how authority gets established, vested, and in the end becomes useless. That it exists is not an argument that it is necessary or good. That there needs to be some way to define and explain things economic I no have issue with, that outside of MMT that is has been, using system theory I don't see it.

As to efficient outcomes that may not be equitable that speaks for itself. It doesn't. No 'may not' about it, said with respect.

As to command & control and guns and butter, seems like a long time ago. A long time ago, using science to help in making decisions was new and it took awhile to get it right, or at least to get it working.

(Small note, I have dual US & UK citizenships)

An analysis of Brexit voters in either camp. I can tell you why I voted the way I did but I need to make an appeal to Stephen Pinker's, "The Blank Slate". Either I have the free will to make a decision and accept responsibility for it or I don't. I believe I do and did. I voted to leave and yes their are economic impacts, as well as social, political, historical, psychological, and philosophical. As did in electing Trump. As did the 1776 revolution, as in the US Civil War, almost anything. Money is not everything nor the only thing. And the future isn't what it used to be. The Long Emergency is here.

skippy , March 14, 2019 at 7:15 am

Hayek liked banding around watery terms like freedom and liberty its when he stopped being an economist [political theory in times past] and jointed the ranks of ideologues .

Pay check included oops and health care .

Yves Smith Post author , March 14, 2019 at 1:17 pm

Boy are you shooting the messenger. I'm not saying the way the economics discipline has become influential is a good thing, but that is the way it is. How economics operates as a discipline is great for economists, so why should they change? So what if their prescription fail way too often? For instance, there haven't been any bad consequences to anyone who didn't see the crisis coming and (even worse) advocated bank deregulation, starting with Larry Summers (but he had plenty of company).

And you are simply wrong about the influence economists have. In the US, CBO budget scoring is fundamental to how Congress views various proposed programs, even though we have described how the CBOs methods are crap and the CBO operates as an a big enforcer of deficit hysteria (as in they play a politicized role). The Fed and other central banks, the most powerful single government economic actors, are all run by monetary economists. The IMF, another very powerful institution, has deeply embraced and implements neoliberal policies, namely, balanced budgets and squeezing labor (labor "reforms"). In the US, economists in op eds and even in Congressional testimony (see Bernanke for instance) argue for balanced budgets and argue the supposed necessity of cutting Social Security and Medicare and NEVER mention cutting military spending. They are acting not just as enforcers of overall spending, but by advocating what to cut, are influencing priorities.

Avery T , March 14, 2019 at 9:53 am

Back in my former life as an economist-in-training, I ran into ecological economics as a branch of natural resource economics. It was completely backwards – the extent ecological theory was brought in didn't extend beyond simple predator-prey-plant models, and the goal was to find the macroeconomic general equilibrium of biomass in the ecosystem.

That was probably just the most striking example of the institutional close-mindedness I saw back among the economists.

deplorado , March 14, 2019 at 3:08 am

Mr Wolf says, among the important concepts are "externalities" Like everything that supports economic activity. Economics reduces the real world to "externalities" and simple equations about things measured in crude tokens – money. How good can it be then.

Also, "Such a curriculum might not be the best way to produce candidates for PhD programs" – is that a goal in itself? Like, the world needs a certain amount of economics PhDs produced? What for?

Prof. Michael Hudson, Prof. Richard Wolff and others have long ago explained what's wrong with mainstream economics, but that can't be said in FT.

This reminds me of the party press during the Perestroika in the 80ies talking about reform in a similar soft and obfuscatory of the truth way, full of wishful recommendations, striking a demurely optimistic tone supposed to convey integrity. It was bullshit and when the real things started happening, everybody forgot about it, because it had no depth and no bearing on real life.

diptherio , March 14, 2019 at 10:40 am

It seems obvious to most people that not all values are commensurable with each other. For instance, things like literary and artistic quality, friendships, and human lives cannot defensibly be measured in dollar terms. However, this is just what economics attempts to do. Hence, environmental economics simply aims to put a dollar value on environmental quality (or degredation). Hence, the entirety of my Labor Economics course was focused on how you place a monetary value on a human life, when the human happens to die because of their job.

So, I tend to agree with you. The whole discipline is of questionable value, so long as economists refuse to accept some very basic truths and incorporate much more than money into their analyses.

JEHR , March 14, 2019 at 12:31 pm

That comment strikes me as strange because one of the weaknesses of classical economic models was the fact that how money works was not part of their inquiry.

The Rev Kev , March 14, 2019 at 4:00 am

In trying to judge the abilities of an expert, the best that most people can do is to see the results on what they practice. If a doctor has a reputation of getting his patients drug-addicted, then you would not go to them. If an engineer built a building but the roof constantly leaked, you would think twice about giving them another contract. But let us think about how well economists are judged. You might say that a lot of people in the UK discounted their advice during Brexit but it has been noted that a lot of the Leave campaign was based in depressed areas. Why were so many areas depressed? Because the people knew that the government was using the advice of economists as to which areas to prioritize for resources. And usually that meant London and its outer areas – which voted Remain.
People are fully aware of what happens too when WTO economists go into a country – social services are cut, public transport is cut way back, the cost of living for the poor skyrocket while the rich seem to be protected. And take a look at the economic state of the United States. Wages have flatlined since the 70s, infrastructure is falling into disrepair, whole swathes of the country are abandoned to their own devices, de-industrialisation is a fact, etc, etc etc but the point is that the people that were giving all the advice to have this done were economists like Ken Rogoff and his wonky austerity study. It may have been the politicians that pulled the trigger but it was economists that were loading the gun.
if you want a breed of economists more grounded in reality, then I would suggest having them work in a fulfillment center for a week to show the the consequences of what happens when you get priorities wrong. Certainly they need to study the work of economists like Hyman Minsky and Susan Strange who had gone out of fashion before the crash but the long and short of it is to see what works and what does not work. I do not mean to be insulting here but as far as I can see, modern economic theory has really been a theory for the top 20% and not for the rest of the population. And now we are seeing the result up close and personal and until this changes, people will not feel the need to take the advice of economist, even when they should. Martin Wolf is fortunate in having also a humanities background but how true is that nowadays?

Jos Oskam , March 14, 2019 at 4:04 am

The sentence " So, maybe the proper distinction to be made is between "trustworthy" experts and "untrustworthy" ones " is important. Unfortunately, in the article I miss a key aspect in making that distinction.

I seem to notice that the "trustworthy" areas of expertise in general tend to be removed from political ideas or preferences. Left or right, liberal or conservative, democrat or republican, it does not affect the way in which trustworthy experts go about their business. It does not influence the way in which a doctor cures patients, a pilot flies a plane or an engineer constructs a bridge. However, as soon as we start discussing things like the economy, talk is full of "liberal" or "left" economists as opposed to "conservative" or "right" economics. I have never heard of one bridge being more at risk of collapse because it was designed by a liberal engineer versus a conservative one, or the other way round. When discussing the strength of a bridge political leanings simply do not come into play, it is not a factor like the strength of the steel used. But for all economic debate, these leanings often seem to be the essence of the discussion.

Given the general public's intensifying distrust of politicians and all things political, it does not surprise me that disciplines tainted by political colouring (like economics) are considered "untrustworthy" compared to disciplines where political colouring is not a factor (like the aforementioned doctors, pilots and engineers).

Since economics *is* in fact very interwoven with politics, I think the general public will always treat economists the same way they treat politicians, that is with a healthy dose of distrust. And who can blame them?

Ptb , March 14, 2019 at 9:07 am

Yes, ability vs integrity.
And you can take 10 of the most honest and well meaning people, dedicated to the public good and advancement of learning, employ them in a structure set up to profit first and ask questions second, and the whole is going to be not the same as the sum of the parts.

bruce wilder , March 14, 2019 at 10:45 am

I'd say an unhealthy dose of distrust is more likely and more common.

People tend to treat conventional econospeak as so much blah, blah, blah and then turn around and credit or discredit what has been said on the basis of the tone with which it was said.

Economists working for the kleptocracy get a lot of mileage out of sounding serious, while talking complete rubbish. And, sadly, many economists working the left, get away with lame one-liners and a rudderless iconoclasm.

SJ , March 14, 2019 at 4:32 am

I had an e-mail exchange with Mr. Wolf many years ago – before the 2008 crash – where he basically told me that we live in the best of all possible worlds and that nothing needs to change – he has changed his tune since then, I suppose to try to avoid looking like a complete idiot and also to try to deflect criticism on to others. Maybe he has öearned something in the meantime, but maybe he is just faking for the sake of appearences.

deplorado , March 14, 2019 at 11:02 am

I think he is faking it. It's the party line. It is the beginning of the neoliberal Perestroika (see also Brad DeLong).

I quite like to look at it this way – it is very clarifying (as I lived in the Perestroika) and I recommend it. Don't for a moment trust the Perestroika – it is half-measures at best and purposeful deception at worst.

johnf , March 14, 2019 at 5:24 am

" The answer should not be to produce apprentices in a highly technical and narrow discipline taught as a branch of applied mathematics ." With apologies to Mr. Richter, economics is taught more like a branch of mathematical sophistry, and that is slighting the original sophists.

I was an undergraduate studying applied mathematics at the time and place, present day neoclassical economics was being developed, published and starting to be taught. I can think of just one economics-and-finance classmate who continued to study mathematics beyond first year calculus – which everyone had to take.

Our introductory numerical analysis professor was scathing about his colleagues at the other side of the Quads. He made it quite plain that we could not skip the rigor and "try to prove something like an economist". Pretty much all the econ students dropped his course when they discovered that. The specific problem they could not address, can be simply stated. If you know a number but don't know its error, you don't know the number. The difficulty the great mass of economists have with just that, excludes economics as a branch of applied mathematics.

bruce wilder , March 14, 2019 at 10:50 am

interesting insight

pretty much the sum total of neoclassical economics is trying to work out the counterfactual of how the economy would work if everyone had more-or-less complete information to work with.

introduce genuine uncertainty, and pretty much the whole apparatus turns topsy-turvy and all the "laws" of economics disappear or become highly contingent on circumstances unlikely to obtain.

Thuto , March 14, 2019 at 5:40 am

"Fixing" economics must start with a wholesale divestment from the idea of this profession being a "science", said divestment openly promoted by economists themselves. All manner of hardwired, warped thinking, to say nothing of obstinacy in changing one's views when confronted with contradictory evidence, results from people believing that they're scientists practising a real science. When such thinking seeps into the subconscious, the obstinacy is locked into place and even events of the scale of the GFC aren't enough to shake loose the erroneous biases held by the mainstream profession.

How else would an entire profession place so much faith in the predictive powers of its models if not having such faith resting on a (supposed) firm foundation of science? An engineer designing a beam for a bridge has justifiable faith in continuum mechanics (a real science) as a sound foundation for their work, economics is devoid of such sound foundations and its time the profession loudly and publicly declared this in an unprecedented act of intellectual honesty.

Additionally, we see weak to non-existent culpability enforcement when policy recommendations put on the table by economists wreck lives (as they have over decades), this in stark contrast with e.g. an engineer designing a bridge that collapses and kills hundreds. In other words, economists have outsized influence in matters of policy out of proportion with the amount of actual skin they have in the game. On the other side, this "economics is a science" narrative disarms a public already deficient in the marginal capacity for independent, critical thinking to question anything economists say, said public including politicians who, as aptly put by the Rev Kev, pull the trigger of a policy gun loaded by economists.

cnchal , March 14, 2019 at 8:50 am

>. . . economics is devoid of such sound foundations and its time the profession loudly and publicly declared this in an unprecedented act of intellectual honesty.

Not one economist, with their ass planted firmly on their throne at the policy table, will admit to that. The operating principle is venality.

Now that they have lost the respect of the peasants, I don't want them to matter again. What I would like to see is mass firings of eclownomists, so they can experience life as lived by the peasants, just once. It may even free up resources to pay people to actually do good things instead of perpetuating one failure after another, and being grossly rewarded for those failures.

dearieme , March 14, 2019 at 6:35 am

I think he gets the wrong end of the stick here: "Consider the anti-vaccination movement, hostility to evolutionary theory, or rejection of climate science."

No doubt there are occasions when vaccinations can do serious harm: a niece of mine was excused a standard vaccination because of a contra-indication in her family medical history.The anti-vaxers, though, seem to have elevated some small kernel of truth into a stupid all-encompassing doctrine without giving the matter enough critical thought.

The anti-evolutionists seem to have failed to devote any critical thought to the matter at all.

But the sceptics about "climate science" have deployed critical thinking to identify this new religion as being composed largely of incompetence, dishonesty, and hysteria. It's the likes of old Wolfie who are lacking in critical thought on this issue. Maybe he's one of those people who is uneducated in science, and so too easily swayed by chaps shouting excitedly about models, measurements, and so forth.

It's very odd. Goebbels Warming is now old enough that you can check the historical record of its predictions of dreadful tipping points, of the disappearance of snow from Britain, of the flooding of this and that Pacific island group, and so on. All false. So why should anyone rational believe a word of it? After all, almost from the beginning its proponents believed that the science was settled – it was inarguable. In which case why have their predictions proved so lousy?

Consult a poet: humankind cannot bear very much reality.
Consult an economist: incentives matter.

mle detroit , March 14, 2019 at 8:01 am

Dearie me, Dearieme, your comment appears to lack sources, citations, examples. Please provide.

Steve Ruis , March 14, 2019 at 8:38 am

So, Yves, you are saying ("Economists are the only social scientists to have a seat at the policy table," etc.) that economists are like weathermen. They still have a time slot on the evening news and are respected, even though their accuracy is abysmal. They make a lot of money doing this.

Basically, this is because we expect very little of economists and because they have stopped using ordinary language professionally, they have the status equivalent to someone actually helpful.

I think economics has become an asocial science with too many economists willing to provide some sort of academic cover for whatever the plutocrats want to do.

Arthur Dent , March 14, 2019 at 11:24 am

I think the analogy to meteorologists is interesting. As an engineer, I have some perspective on this.

In engineering design, frequent failure of what we design is generally undesirable. So we have our analytical tools based on both scientific theory and empirical data, and then apply a factor of safety (sometimes called factor of ignorance, but more accurately is a recognition that there is a probabilistic distribution of outcomes and the factors of safety shift the design towards success instead of high probability of failure).

Airline pilots operate similar to engineers in that they aren't flying close to the edge of the airplane's flight characteristics. Instead they stay in a zone quite a ways away from what the airplane could potentially do. This is one of the reasons that airplane travel is very safe, especially compared to car travel.

Meteorologists are trying to make predictions of the most likely scenario which means they are trying to hit the center of the distribution of the potential outcomes. As a results, they frequently are shown to have "missed" in that some other lower probability event occurred instead. Over the past couple of decades, we have gotten used to seeing weather forecasts with probabilities or ranges of outcomes.

I think the public presentation of economics has two separate problems, but both undermine economics credibility.

First, economics is a field that is trying to predict the most likely event and the range of potential outcomes, similar to the weather forecasts, but does not present the predictions this way. So people don't cut economists slack because their public presentations don't recognize the range of potential outcomes and the frank recognition of the inaccuracy of their predictions that we are used to with the weather people, especially once they get past 24 hrs of predictions.

Second, many of the economists that make public predictions are funded by interest groups. When we see a lawyer on TV, we know that he is being paid by a client to be an advocate and that is his job as a lawyer. So we may disregard what he has to say but we understand the context he is speaking in. However, the economists don't say who they are being paid by and so they are presumed to be independent experts when they are sometimes not. I believe this is a fundamental ethical issue within the economics profession.

So when the economics predictions (e.g. effects of tax cuts) fail to be accurate, it needs to be parsed out if it was simply a lower probability event or if the predictions were intentionally biased to begin with. None of this is well-addressed by the economics profession, which greatly undermines credibility.

JEHR , March 14, 2019 at 12:40 pm

+1

jfleni , March 14, 2019 at 8:55 am

I was just getting used to the idea that economists are like clocks: right twice a
day -- at Noon and sundown!

Ptb , March 14, 2019 at 9:14 am

Economists also use the term 'efficiency' to denote pareto optimality, which causes much confusion.

Especially when communicating with both analytical people of a hard-sciencey or engineering background (efficiency = a context specific figure, some-measure-of-output/some-measure-of-input, strict limits in how far you can generalize), and business people (efficient = low cost)

bruce wilder , March 14, 2019 at 11:00 am

economists also routinely distinguish the allocative efficiency they focus upon almost exclusively from the kinds of technical or managerial efficiency that most of the rest of the world focuses upon, but they rarely admit that their focus is so narrow and does not generalize to encompass common sense notions of cost and efficiency -- it is almost as if they want to avoid the critical examination engineering enables while providing double-talk as cover for business people trying to privatize the profits while socializing the costs.

Matthew G. Saroff , March 14, 2019 at 9:50 am

Let me start by saying that I object to the term "Dismal Science" for economics.

This is not because of the "dismal" part, it's because of the "science" part.

That being said, the devaluing of expertise is due in large part to something not mentioned by Mr. Wolf: corruption, particularly for the field of macroeconomics.

We have seen this repeatedly in the past few decades, where nominally independent researchers have been found to slant their research to accommodate the results desired by their patrons. (The sad state of pharma and medical research come to mind as well)

In fact, ACCORDING TO THEIR OWN "RATIONAL ACTOR" THEORIES , academics in general, and economists in particular,will behave in ways that will most strongly benefit themselves, and not in ways that serve the truth or reality. (Studies have shown that economists are the most selfish academics )

I believe that if you discuss the devaluation of knowledge and expertise without discussing the pervasive corruption in western society, you are ignoring the proverbial elephant in the room.

john Wright , March 14, 2019 at 3:04 pm

I object to the "Dismal" part.

Economic Science is very optimistic that what they characterize as "economic growth" in using up the world's resources in its pursuit, is a "good thing".

Economists are selling a limitless planet on which humans will always "pull the rabbit out of the hat", to solve any resource issue, including climate change and overpopulation.

That being said, I view the economic profession, as largely practiced by its well-paid members, as a mechanism to justify what the political and business elite want to do.

The elite are simply getting what they pay to hear.

Steven Greenberg , March 14, 2019 at 10:02 am

I worked on simulation software for integrated circuits. My friend studied economics with all the famous people. When I described to him what I did if there seemed to be a discrepancy between what my simulator said and how the integrated circuit behaved in real life or the intuition that an electrical engineer had about how it would behave in real life he was amazed. I was amazed that he was amazed. How could you possibly believe a simulator that necessarily has bugs in it, if you don't track down discrepancies to understand which is right, your intuition or the simulator?

Sometimes, I had to be very inventive to find another way to make a complex calculation in a way that would test out if the simulator was right. If economics students are taught the math, but not how to check their work, and the necessity of checking their work, then they shouldn't be in positions to make policy recommendations.

bruce wilder , March 14, 2019 at 11:09 am

Yes!

Many economists avoid operational modeling of the processes of the actual, institutional economy. And, that which does take place in narrowly conceived research by specialists is never allowed to feed back on the methods or theories embodied in the core doctrines.

WobblyTelomeres , March 14, 2019 at 3:32 pm

Other than setting Friedman's Chicago Boys upon Chile, isn't it very difficult to model/test anything macro in the real world?

bruce wilder , March 14, 2019 at 5:35 pm

One way mainstream macroeconomics defeats its own feeble efforts at empiricism is to set the problems in a frame of time-series regression analysis of highly aggregated data: national GDP and its high-level components year-by-year or quarter-by-quarter.

The behavior of tens or hundreds of millions of people reduced to statistics for largely formless accounting conventions relating to a single somewhat amorphous entity (a country) over time. History, however it happens, only ever happens one way, so there's always zero degrees of freedom in the aggregate time-series.

There is so little information left in the data, even the most clever econometricians would need a thousand years of data to "test" the most basic hypotheses. It is absurd to approach the task in the way they do.

Is it necessarily as difficult a task as they make it, to learn something useful about the way the economy works?

The problems of statistical aggregation and time-series are not rooted in the object of study -- the actual political economy -- so much as they are created by the conceptual apparatus.

In short form, economists have an analytic theory -- in form and epistemic status, something akin to Euclid's geometry. A geometry is not itself a map of the world and no one doing geometry confuses geometry with cartography or land surveying, but most economists do not understand that their theory is not itself a model of the actual political economy. Someone like Paul Krugman actually thinks he has "a map" of the political economy in, say, IS/LM . No student of geometry expects to find a dimensionless point in the bathroom or an isoceles triangle growing in the garden. Yet, economists regularly purport to casually observe perfectly competitive markets in equilibrium or the natural interest rate.

I think economists could do as well as, say, meteorologists or geologists in developing an empirically grounded understanding of the observable political economy, if they focused their attention on concrete and measurable mechanisms of the institutional economy and stopped talking meaninglessly about formless "markets" that have no existence.

Reality Bites , March 14, 2019 at 10:12 am

This article reminds me of why I stopped reading The Economist after the GFC. The Economist was quite explicit in advocating for a weak regulatory environment. I remember articles talking about how great it was for the Office of Thrift Supervision to regulate banks alongside others like the Fed because regulatory competition was good. After the GFC they were writing articles about how they opposed this all along.
It's not just that so many economists are wrong. It's that many times their models and predictions are wrong and they claim that it is either not what they argued for or 'externalities' intervened. Of course they never mentioned such externalities before. Many just outright conjure up unicorns. There were no shortage of economists claiming that the housing bubble was not a problem and the economy will grow to the point where things just naturally level off. Of course there was no accountability for those peddling these falsehoods.

Candy , March 14, 2019 at 11:01 am

I love the way people shrink down what Michael Gove said.

Here is his full exchange with his interviewer:

Gove: I think the people in this country have had enough of experts, with organizations from acronyms, saying --

Interviewer: They've had enough of experts? The people have had enough of experts? What do you mean by that?

Gove: People from organizations with acronyms saying that they know what is best and getting it consistently wrong.

Inteviewer: The people of this country have had enough of experts?

Gove: Because these people are the same ones who got consistently wrong what was happening.

shinola , March 14, 2019 at 12:04 pm

Perhaps it's changed since I started out as an econ. major in the mid '70's, but what disillusioned me was the total disregard for actual human behavior. Real people do NOT always behave rationally or honestly. Emotions/psychology do figure greatly in real people making "economic" decisions – just ask anyone who makes their living based on selling something.

Every economic model should be prefaced with "In an ideal world " (or perhaps more honestly "In an economist's construct of an ideal world )

Arizona Slim , March 14, 2019 at 12:18 pm

I share your disillusionment, shinola. I was a late 1970s econ major. By the time I graduated, I was done with economics.

hunkerdown , March 14, 2019 at 4:42 pm

Real people don't, but they should, say those who hire economists. If the algorithm doesn't work, change the inputs.

Wukchumni , March 14, 2019 at 12:09 pm

How many brand name economists up and quit in disgust 11 years ago when the powers that be decided to go against everything they stood for, and bailed out those that deserved to go down in financial flames?

not a one

bruce wilder , March 14, 2019 at 12:47 pm

A parenthetical lifted from Randy Wray's post responding to DeLong on MMT:

an exasperated Wynne Godley came into my office a couple of decades ago and announced that every [mainstream model] he had looked at was incoherent

That's the base problem, imho: economists are very successful as "experts" in a sociological sense, slotting into the role with firm claims on salary, status and ritual respect, as Yves Smith observed, but economics as a civic doctrine and a common frame of reference for political discourse is incoherent and economics as a scholarly discipline or "social science" fails methodological or epistemic standards.

There is a history of imperviousness to absolutely devastating critiques that isn't explained. Is that persistent "wrongness" related to professional success or only a by-product of an unfortunate pedagogy? Who puts the dogmatism into a dogma . . . and keeps it there?

(disclosure: i was a professional economist myself many years ago -- neither ambitious nor particularly successful, but I did attend ruling class schools for what that was worth)

deplorado , March 14, 2019 at 2:51 pm

Prof. Richard Werner has a fantastic talk (at the Russian Academy of Sciences) about, among other things, "the unresolved puzzles of modern economics" – to me the most striking there was how he dispenses with concept of "equilibrium".
He talks about the "puzzles" ~30 min in.

It is enough to see that and know that mainstream economists are little more than the high priests of the peculiar modern religion guiding our society.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Um9wR46Ir4

Adam1 , March 14, 2019 at 3:21 pm

"The teaching of economics to undergraduates must focus on core ideas, essential questions, and actual realities."

Sadly Mr. Wolf suffers from the same delusions that so many mainstream economist suffer. They think they have actually considered "actual realities".

Yet the foundations of mainstream economics ignores these ACTUAL REALITIES
– Assumes Loanable Funds yet the Bank of England & the Bundesbank both publicly published research say endogenous money is correct. Loans create Deposits. They are clueless as to how finance works. I recall the infamous intro to econ question "If I double you income and double prices for beer, how much beer can you now purchase?" The standard econ answer is the same amount of beer. But in the real world the correct answer is you don't know. The professor never told you how large the fixed debt payments of the person were which most definitely impacts the amount of disposable income you have to buy beer. But then again most economists would likely fail any advanced accounting class. Long gone are the days when undergraduate economics students in economics had to take 2 or 3 semesters of accounting. Even my alma mater which is definitely heterodox in faculty and has MMT / UMKC taught faculty only require 1 these days. You need a strong foundation in accounting to be stock flow consistent in your modeling of a highly monetary modern economy.
– Assumes upward sloping supply curve is the market norm. At least 3 economic studies have attempted to measure this on large cross industry scales and every time concludes that over 1/2 of all businesses face downward sloping cost curves (natural monopoly stuff, and we wonder why industry concentration is the norm) and another 1/3 face flat cost curves. An upward sloping supply curve, for those not taking advanced or graduate level economics IS the assumed upward sloping marginal cost curve of the industry or nation if you're crazy enough to apply it at the macro level.

There are dozens more piss pore assumptions that underpin mainstream economics. In this day and age far more EMPIRICAL, real word data can be used to confirm what really makes an economy work, but sadly what we teach in college is garbage where the ACTUAL REALITIES are ignored.

Steven , March 14, 2019 at 5:07 pm

Soddy (paraphrasing John Ruskin) yet again:

a logical definition of wealth is absolutely needed for the basis of economics if it is to be a science."

Frederick Soddy, WEALTH, VIRTUAL WEALTH AND DEBT,
2nd edition, p. 102
Economists and financiers seem to be incapable of understanding we live on a finite planet. Nor do they seem to be able to get beyond equating money with wealth. It is much easier to just put a price on something like a Beethoven symphony (or call it 'priceless') than to attempt a definition of wealth. But for most of us the ingredients of a definition are much simpler. Topping the list has to be energy. You can't create it but you can dissipate it, i.e. render it useless, by for example manufacturing useless junk that falls apart quickly enough for people who run or own the business to make a lot of money.

Or if your customers can no longer afford the junk because you have automated or off-shored their jobs, you can sell guns and bombs to your wholly owned government – to use in blowing up people who stand in the way of your accumulating more of the money created by your bankers, financiers and politicians. Then there is the basic intelligence required to run the machinery and discern better – i.e. more energy and resource efficient – ways of doing things. With real wealth creation comes power. The Chinese may have figured this out. The West's 1%, its economists, bankers and politicians don't appear to have a clue.

RBHoughton , March 14, 2019 at 11:19 pm

Did Kenneth Rogoff apologise for his hit on Iceland and his subsequent dismay defense in Ferguson's "Inside Job"? At least one of the Chicago boys (Jonathan Sachs) has resiled from the opinions of Friedman and rejoined the human race but only after a raft of countries were ground down by the mill of the moneymen. Chile and Poland seem to have survived at horrible social cost but what of the others?

The plaint is partly true. When governments were advised by economists, they replaced the wishes of the electorate. The economist brought along their army of lawyers who instantly appeared as mercenary terrorists to browbeat and coerce officials with various threats to do as the moneymen asked and cease attending to the people. This is still the state of play in UK and USA and those core paper-issuers drag the 'also rans' along with carrots and sticks.

I believe the fault lies in lazy officials who seldom run trials on new ideas in limited areas but drop the entire country into one speculative foray after another. Its a shame that its not mentioned. There is no good reason why the whole country has to be volunteered for these new scheme. Why has the UK Treasury shut down every competing form of banking to the high street banks – the trust banks, coop bank, post office bank, municipal banks, mutuals – all thrown away as infringers of the BoE's monopoly. The country needs an Oliver Cromwell or Napoleon to lead it not the present bunch of ragamuffins and hooligans.

That brings me to the second problem the disastrous state of the representation. It is mainly due to the control factions have brought to bear on the selection of candidates for office. That has to stop and the way to do it to have primary assemblies of every 200-300 people who select one of their number to represent them. He's a school friend or neighbor and a known quantity. Several primary assemblies select a chap to represent them and so on up this new structure of democracy to the top.

The business community have sought to keep everyone's nose to the grindstone with statistics justifying under payment by understating inflation. That has to stop. The economics trade belongs with astrology and weather forecasting until it acknowledges the fundamentals that drive prices.

Yves Smith Post author , March 14, 2019 at 11:30 pm

It wasn't Ken Rogoff but Frederic Mishkin. He was on the Fed Board of Governors and had been vice chairman.

RBHoughton , March 15, 2019 at 4:00 am

Apologies to Mr Rogoff and grateful thanks to Yves for the correction. I'll take a pill now

Cal2 , March 15, 2019 at 12:29 am

It seems to me from my citizen's non-professional perspective that the only real economists are experts in resource extraction, manufacturing and end use of same.

IOW, a forester, mining, petroleum, construction engineer and even a naval admiral, sitting around a table, all beholden to and obeying the supreme chairmanship of an ecologist, would be a better and less destructive thing for the world than a bunch of money only maximum value extraction Wall Streeters controlling the engineers mentioned above.

Can there even be an economy without resource extraction? It seems like most new economic schemes are attempting this with humans bodies, credit ratings and bank accounts being the last available commodity.

Sound of the Suburbs , March 15, 2019 at 7:07 am

The economists got Ricardo's theory of comparative advantage, but they missed this:

"The interest of the landlords is always opposed to the interest of every other class in the community" Ricardo 1815 / Classical Economist

What does our man on free trade mean?
He was an expert on the small state, unregulated capitalism he observed in the world around him. He was part of the new capitalist class and the old landowning class were a huge problem with their rents that had to be paid both directly and through wages.

Disposable income = wages – (taxes + the cost of living)

Employees get less disposable income after the landlords rent has gone.
Employers have to cover the landlord's rents in wages reducing profit.

Ricardo is just talking about housing costs, employees all rented in those days.

Employees get their money from wages and so the employer pays through wages.

Look at the US cost of living:
The cost of living = housing costs + healthcare costs + student loan costs + food + other costs of living

Employees get their money from wages, so it is the employer that pays through wages, reducing profit and driving off shoring from the US.

Maximising profit requires minimising labour costs; i.e. wages.

China, Asia and Mexico look good, the US is awful.

(This is Michael Hudson's argument in a slightly different from)

There are some fundamental problems with today's economics, like this and the fact it doesn't look at money, debt or banks.

Also, it hasn't worked out financial markets are not like other markets.

The supply of stocks stays fairly fixed and central banks can create a "wealth effect" by just adding liquidity. More money is now chasing a fairly fixed number of financial assets and the price (e.g. stock market) goes up.

[Mar 11, 2019] The university professors, who teach but do not learn: neoliberal shill DeJong tries to prolong the life of neoliberalism in the USA

Highly recommended!
DeJong is more dangerous them Malkin... It poisons students with neoliberalism more effectively.
Mar 11, 2019 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

Kurtismayfield , , March 10, 2019 at 10:52 am

Re:Wall Street Democrats

They know, however, that they've been conned, played, and they're absolute fools in the game.

Thank you Mr. Black for the laugh this morning. They know exactly what they have been doing. Whether it was deregulating so that Hedge funds and vulture capitalism can thrive, or making sure us peons cannot discharge debts, or making everything about financalization. This was all done on purpose, without care for "winning the political game". Politics is economics, and the Wall Street Democrats have been winning.

notabanker , , March 10, 2019 at 12:26 pm

For sure. I'm quite concerned at the behavior of the DNC leadership and pundits. They are doubling down on blatant corporatist agendas. They are acting like they have this in the bag when objective evidence says they do not and are in trouble. Assuming they are out of touch is naive to me. I would assume the opposite, they know a whole lot more than what they are letting on.

urblintz , , March 10, 2019 at 12:49 pm

I think the notion that the DNC and the Democrat's ruling class would rather lose to a like-minded Republican corporatist than win with someone who stands for genuine progressive values offering "concrete material benefits." I held my nose and read comments at the kos straw polls (where Sanders consistently wins by a large margin) and it's clear to me that the Clintonista's will do everything in their power to derail Bernie.

polecat , , March 10, 2019 at 1:00 pm

"It's the Externalities, stupid economists !" *should be the new rallying cry ..

rd , , March 10, 2019 at 3:26 pm

Keynes' "animal spirits" and the "tragedy of the commons" (Lloyd, 1833 and Hardin, 1968) both implied that economics was messier than Samuelson and Friedman would have us believe because there are actual people with different short- and long-term interests.

The behavioral folks (Kahnemann, Tversky, Thaler etc.) have all shown that people are even messier than we would have thought. So most macro-economic stuff over the past half-century has been largely BS in justifying trickle-down economics, deregulation etc.

There needs to be some inequality as that provides incentives via capitalism but unfettered it turns into France 1989 or the Great Depression. It is not coincidence that the major experiment in this in the late 90s and early 2000s required massive government intervention to keep the ship from sinking less than a decade after the great unregulated creative forces were unleashed.

MMT is likely to be similar where productive uses of deficits can be beneficial, but if the money is wasted on stupid stuff like unnecessary wars, then the loss of credibility means that the fiat currency won't be quite as fiat anymore. Britain was unbelievably economically powerfully in the late 1800s but in half a century went to being an economic afterthought hamstrung by deficits after two major wars and a depression.

So it is good that people like Brad DeLong are coming to understand that the pretty economic theories have some truths but are utter BS (and dangerous) when extrapolated without accounting for how people and societies actually behave.

Chris Cosmos , , March 10, 2019 at 6:43 pm

I never understood the incentive to make more money -- that only works if money = true value and that is the implication of living in a capitalist society (not economy)–everything then becomes a commodity and alienation results and all the depression, fear, anxiety that I see around me. Whereas human happiness actually comes from helping others and finding meaning in life not money or dominating others. That's what social science seems to be telling us.

Oregoncharles , , March 10, 2019 at 2:46 pm

Quoting DeLong:

" He says we are discredited. Our policies have failed. And they've failed because we've been conned by the Republicans."

That's welcome, but it's still making excuses. Neoliberal policies have failed because the economics were wrong, not because "we've been conned by the Republicans." Furthermore, this may be important – if it isn't acknowledged, those policies are quite likely to come sneaking back, especially if Democrats are more in the ascendant., as they will be, given the seesaw built into the 2-Party.

The Rev Kev , , March 10, 2019 at 7:33 pm

Might be right there. Groups like the neocons were originally attached the the left side of politics but when the winds changed, detached themselves and went over to the Republican right. The winds are changing again so those who want power may be going over to what is called the left now to keep their grip on power. But what you say is quite true. It is not really the policies that failed but the economics themselves that were wrong and which, in an honest debate, does not make sense either.

marku52 , , March 10, 2019 at 3:39 pm

"And they've failed because we've been conned by the Republicans.""

Not at all. What about the "free trade" hokum that DeJong and his pal Krugman have been peddling since forever? History and every empirical test in the modern era shows that it fails in developing countries and only exacerbates inequality in richer ones.

That's just a failed policy.

I'm still waiting for an apology for all those years that those two insulted anyone who questioned their dogma as just "too ignorant to understand."

Glen , , March 10, 2019 at 4:47 pm

Thank you!

He created FAILED policies. He pushed policies which have harmed America, harmed Americans, and destroyed the American dream.

Kevin Carhart , , March 10, 2019 at 4:29 pm

It's intriguing, but two other voices come to mind. One is Never Let a Serious Crisis Go To Waste by Mirowski and the other is Generation Like by Doug Rushkoff.

Neoliberalism is partially entrepreneurial self-conceptions which took a long time to promote. Rushkoff's Frontline shows the Youtube culture. There is a girl with a "leaderboard" on the wall of her suburban room, keeping track of her metrics.

There's a devastating VPRO Backlight film on the same topic. Internet-platform neoliberalism does not have much to do with the GOP.

It's going to be an odd hybrid at best – you could have deep-red communism but enacted for and by people whose self-conception is influenced by decades of Becker and Hayek? One place this question leads is to ask what's the relationship between the set of ideas and material conditions-centric philosophies? If new policies pass that create a different possibility materially, will the vise grip of the entrepreneurial self loosen?

Partially yeah, maybe, a Job Guarantee if it passes and actually works, would be an anti-neoliberal approach to jobs, which might partially loosen the regime of neoliberal advice for job candidates delivered with a smug attitude that There Is No Alternative. (Described by Gershon). We take it seriously because of a sense of dread that it might actually be powerful enough to lock us out if we don't, and an uncertainty of whether it is or not.

There has been deep damage which is now a very broad and resilient base. It is one of the prongs of why 2008 did not have the kind of discrediting effect that 1929 did. At least that's what I took away from _Never Let_.

Brad DeLong handing the baton might mean something but it is not going to ameliorate the sense-of-life that young people get from managing their channels and metrics.

Take the new 1099 platforms as another focal point. Suppose there were political measures that splice in on the platforms and take the edge off materially, such as underwritten healthcare not tied to your job. The platforms still use star ratings, make star ratings seem normal, and continually push a self-conception as a small business. If you have overt DSA plus covert Becker it is, again, a strange hybrid,

Jeremy Grimm , , March 10, 2019 at 5:13 pm

Your comment is very insightful. Neoliberalism embeds its mindset into the very fabric of our culture and self-concepts. It strangely twists many of our core myths and beliefs.

Raulb , , March 10, 2019 at 6:36 pm

This is nothing but a Trojan horse to 'co-opt' and 'subvert'. Neoliberals sense a risk to their neo feudal project and are simply attempting to infiltrate and hollow out any threats from within.

There are the same folks who have let entire economics departments becomes mouthpieces for corporate propaganda and worked with thousands of think tanks and international organizations to mislead, misinform and cause pain to millions of people.

They have seeded decontextualized words like 'wealth creators' and 'job creators' to create a halo narrative for corporate interests and undermine society, citizenship, the social good, the environment that make 'wealth creation' even possible. So all those take a backseat to 'wealth creator' interests. Since you can't create wealth without society this is some achievement.

Its because of them that we live in a world where the most important economic idea is protecting people like Kochs business and personal interests and making sure government is not 'impinging on their freedom'. And the corollary a fundamental anti-human narrative where ordinary people and workers are held in contempt for even expecting living wages and conditions and their access to basics like education, health care and living conditions is hollowed out out to promote privatization and become 'entitlements'.

Neoliberalism has left us with a decontextualized highly unstable world that exists in a collective but is forcefully detached into a context less individual existence. These are not mistakes of otherwise 'well meaning' individuals, there are the results of hard core ideologues and high priests of power.

Dan , , March 10, 2019 at 7:31 pm

Two thumbs up. This has been an ongoing agenda for decades and it has succeeded in permeating every aspect of society, which is why the United States is such a vacuous, superficial place. And it's exporting that superficiality to the rest of the world.

VietnamVet , , March 10, 2019 at 7:17 pm

I read Brad DeLong's and Paul Krugman's blogs until their contradictions became too great. If anything, we need more people seeing the truth. The Global War on Terror is into its 18th year. In October the USA will spend approximately $6 trillion and will have accomplish nothing except to create blow back. The Middle Class is disappearing. Those who remain in their homes are head over heels in debt.

The average American household carries $137,063 in debt. The wealthy are getting richer.

The Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffett and Bill Gates families together have as much wealth as the lowest half of Americans. Donald Trump's Presidency and Brexit document that neoliberal politicians have lost contact with reality. They are nightmares that there is no escaping. At best, perhaps, Roosevelt Progressives will be reborn to resurrect regulated capitalism and debt forgiveness.

But more likely is a middle-class revolt when Americans no longer can pay for water, electricity, food, medicine and are jailed for not paying a $1,500 fine for littering the Beltway.

A civil war inside a nuclear armed nation state is dangerous beyond belief. France is approaching this.

[Mar 05, 2019] On origin of the phase There ain't no such thing as a free lunch

Mar 20, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com

RC AKA Darryl, Ron -> mulp ... "...TANSTAAFL" March 20, 2017 at 04:59 AM

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/There_ain%27t_no_such_thing_as_a_free_lunch

"There ain't no such thing as a free lunch" (alternatively, "There is no such thing as a free lunch" or other variants) is a popular adage communicating the idea that it is impossible to get something for nothing.

The acronyms TANSTAAFL, TINSTAAFL, and TNSTAAFL, are also used. Uses of the phrase dating back to the 1930s and 1940s have been found, but the phrase's first appearance is unknown.[1]

The "free lunch" in the saying refers to the nineteenth-century practice in American bars of offering a "free lunch" in order to entice drinking customers.

The phrase and the acronym are central to Robert Heinlein's 1966 science-fiction novel The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, which helped popularize it.[2][3]

The free-market economist Milton Friedman also popularized the phrase[1] by using it as the title of a 1975 book,[4] and it is used in economics literature to describe opportunity cost.[5]

Campbell McConnell writes that the idea is "at the core of economics".

[I was a bigger fan of Robert Heinlein's than I was of Milton Friedman and even then it was "Stranger in a Strange Land" and "The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag" rather than later works that appealed to me.]

[Mar 05, 2019] Milton Friedman now firmly belongs to the dustbin of history

Mar 05, 2019 | crookedtimber.org

reason 02.15.19 at 8:12 am 21 (no link)

Just as an aside. It is worth remembering where the current globalization came from historically.

It started with the 1970s inflation, (caused partly by the oil crisis) and the coincident abuse of monopoly power by a number of unions (please those on the outer left don't try to pretend it didn't happen, it did).

Uncle Milton came along with plausible sounding solutions (monetarism and increasing foreign competition). Increasing foreign competition worked for a while – until the mergers starting being international and industry concentration increased on an international scale (and so was harder to combat).

Uncle Milton has since been proved wrong about almost everything. His one big idea that never got tried (negative income tax – which could implemented more simply and effectively as a universal basic income) ironically is the only one I think was good.

[Mar 05, 2019] Hurrah ! Mankiw to Leave Flagship Harvard Ec 10 Course News by Molly C. McCafferty

One neoliberal jerk less...
The Harvard Crimson

After more than a decade at the helm of one of Harvard's largest courses, Economics Professor N. Gregory Mankiw announced in an email to graduate students Monday that he will step down from teaching Economics 10: "Principles of Economics" at the end of this semester.

[Feb 13, 2019] Mathiness and game thoery

Any good mathematical theory can be misapplied and perverted if there is social pressure and money to do so..
Feb 13, 2019 | www.alternet.org

Game Theory:

A glossary of exploitive economics 'Lean in' and 8 other bad business buzzwords that should be phased out – Alternet.org

The use of mathematics to model human reality; one of the more bizarre offshoots that followed the mathematization of economic thought in the 20th century.

Game theory focuses on strategies used by competing actors to make rational decisions. What should I do given my opponent may subsequently decide A, B, C, or D? It was pioneered by John von Neumann, John Nash, and Oskar Morgenstern. The assumption that social life is a game of logic between conniving actors is foundational to this view of economics. But do we really behave in such a "me versus you" manner?

Game Theory's rational individualism closely resonates with neoliberal capitalism because it reconceptualizes everyone as mini corporations who are totally selfish.

Individuals compete rather than share; seek to outsmart the next person rather than empathize. Proponents of the approach often use the "as if" defense. The model might not perfectly match reality, but we can approximate how someone behaves in the real world by assuming they act "as if" they're Nashian plotters.

It's the normative assumptions underlying this "as if" that are problematic that at bottom we're all greedy and impatient bankers. One could just as well argue that people act "as if" they're trusting and altruistic socialists, but Game Theory won't have any of that.

[Jan 30, 2019] The Natural Rate of Interest Is Anything But

Notable quotes:
"... By Enrico Sergio Levrero, Associate Professor of Economics, Roma Tre University. Originally published at the Institute for New Economic Thinking website ..."
Jan 30, 2019 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

By Enrico Sergio Levrero, Associate Professor of Economics, Roma Tre University. Originally published at the Institute for New Economic Thinking website

In contrast to Keynes's emphasis on the monetary nature of interest rates, the modern theory of central banking focuses on a benchmark rate for monetary policy that reflect "fundamental forces" supposedly unaffected by monetary factors. Its theoretical underpinning stems from Wicksell's analysis of the relationship between market and natural interest rates as restated in the so-called New Keynesian theory which combines real-business-cycle general equilibrium models with imperfect competition and nominal rigidities.

Here, at least in the short run, discrepancies between the actual and natural interest rate are deemed to lead to a rate of price inflation different from the desired and expected one. If some kind of price rigidity is present, the interest rate difference will also lead to a discrepancy between actual and potential output. The resulting rule for monetary policy is that authorities should credibly commit themselves to following the natural rate of interest (NRI). They must therefore forecast this "neutral" rate, namely, the real rate that, if maintained, would keep the economy at its production potential over time.

Despite the mainstream consensus on this approach, determining the "equilibrium interest rate" is a murky business . A first problem is that, while the "benchmark rate" ought to be based on sound theoretical foundations that allow a meaningful interpretation of its behaviour, all sorts of definitions of it appear in the literature when assuming real shocks away from balanced growth. They reflect the theory's reliance on notions of perfect or imperfect competition in commodities and factor markets as well as the possible influence of transitory or only permanent components of the natural rate.

The result is usually a view in which we have a "short-run" natural rate of interest that varies (usually pro-cyclically) during the cycle, resembling Dennis Robertson's old prescription that monetary policies should follow temporary shifts of the demand for and supply of loanable funds, along with a long run natural rate that corresponds to potential output for a given degree of market imperfections when both causal shocks and lags of adjustment are averaged out.

The two approaches lead to divergent monetary policies. If you try to conduct policy by reference to the long run notion of the natural rate determined by the steady state IS curve when all the lags and random shocks disappear, you will not favour sharp changes in the short-term interest rate during the cycle. By contrast, if you rely on a "short run" natural rate that could fall during a crisis, you would see a slow decrease in the policy rates as too little to stimulate economic activity.

Compounding these difficulties is the variability induced by the estimation methods of the natural rate of interest. The benchmark rate of the monetary policy should in fact be readily computable from observable economic data, but its counterfactual nature inevitably leads to a variety of estimation methods with results that recall the early criticism by Myrdal and Lindahl that Wicksell's natural rate is not an operational notion in the sense that it was incapable of practical application. With each the econometric method raising special problems of its own, the resulting variety and uncertainty of the value of the natural rate cannot but pose significant challenges for practical monetary policy.

The divergent estimates of the NRI advanced during the recent 2008 crisis are a case in point. The estimates vary hugely, with model-based and filtering methods producing higher volatility than semi-structural approaches or peak-to-peak averages. Some estimates of the NRI provided negative values on average and not only as a possible (short-lived) effect of temporary shocks, whereas others suggested that the NRI remained close to but higher than zero. These differences imply drastically different evaluations of the stance of monetary policy as policymakers weighed whether it made sense to drive the nominal policy rates towards their zero lower bound.

But the limits of the NRI as a benchmark for monetary policy are not only statistical or related to the difficulty of distinguishing among the kind and persistency of economic shocks. They pertain to the theory itself, specifically to model specification and the alleged independence of the average or normal interest rate from monetary policy.

Firstly, New-Classical and New-Keynesian models focus on the volatility of output, that is, its variance, on the assumption that the output gap will be closed by market forces. This hides the fact that potential output may fall during the crisis due to the destruction of productive capacity stemming from a fall in effective demand. This would break down the distinction between short-lived demand shocks on the one hand and supply shocks on the other, thus complicating any estimate of the NRI and raising questions about its theoretical relevance.

Secondly, in both the theoretical models and estimate procedures, an inverse relation between the interest rates and components of aggregate demand is postulated as well as between the former and the price level, although such relations are acknowledged as being weak and doubtful. In practice, output elasticity with respect to interest rates appears low and asymmetric, and investments in fixed capital are determined mainly by expected changes in aggregate demand. Moreover, the Gibson paradox and its modern restatement in the price puzzle suggest that a direct relation between prices and the interest rate may exist due to prices adjusting to the monetary costs of production which include the pure remuneration of capital, that is interest costs. All this implies that, if, after a fall in the interest rate, we observe a fall in prices (or una tantum a lower rate of inflation), this would not signal that the NRI should be lower. Nor should a low elasticity of output to the interest rate be interpreted as a reliable sign that the natural rate of interest has fallen.

But a more fundamental criticism can be advanced concerning the sheer existence of a natural rate of interest determined by "productivity and thrift" independent of the monetary policy. New-Keynesian models restate the loanable funds theory, viewing the market rate of interest as determined by the supply of and demand for credit, with the natural rate of interest set by the supply of and demand for savings when output is at its potential level. This theory was already criticised by Keynes, who questioned whether investments adjust to savings through changes in interest rates. On the grounds of the principle of effective demand, Keynes argued that savings equalise investments by means of income changes and considered the notion of the NRI as not useful. He instead viewed the rate of interest as a monetary phenomenon to which capital profitability would adjust. He also argued that credit is not an alternative to savings but the necessary preparation for them and that until potential output is achieved, investments are financed by the finance process and income changes rather than by any previous saving supply.

This criticism of Keynes and his idea that there is no mechanical tendency to full employment was strengthened later by the Cambridge capital controversy which showed that it was impossible to derive a decreasing demand curve for investments with regard to the interest rate -- a decreasing curve which is at the root of the neoclassical mechanism guaranteeing the tendency of actual output toward potential output. Unless a single commodity economy is assumed, a surrogate production function cannot in fact be derived due to the phenomena of re-switching and reverse capital deepening. Moreover, in the market for savings and investment, there may be multiple equilibria, the capital-labour ratio is not necessarily higher for a lower interest rate, and changes in the rate of interest out of equilibrium may be so strong that they question the validity of the theory.

If we put aside the loanable funds theory, due prominence can be given to Keynes's idea that the rate of interest is a highly conventional phenomenon. It opens the way for levels of rates of interest that are shaped by monetary authorities that affect income distribution, and this possibility casts a different light on the purposes and channels of transmission of the monetary policies. Of course, monetary policy is not advanced in a vacuum but takes into account the course of money wages and, more generally, the economic and financial conditions of the country involved. Yet, the benchmark rate to which monetary authorities anchor their decisions does not appear to reflect "fundamental forces" acting independently of monetary factors, and therefore those decisions cannot be conceived simply as a technical device used to find out the "true" natural interest rate.

Summing up, estimates of the NRI are misleading both on empirical and theoretical grounds and monetary policy is not neutral, primarily because it may influence the division of the surplus product among different classes and social groups. Quite paradoxically, however, the tricky nature of those estimates, with their consequent downward revision during the crisis due to their sensitivity to current economic conditions, has been used by Central Banks to pursue a regime of low interest rates that was required by the macroeconomic situation of industrialized countries after the 2008 crisis. The cost of doing this has been to hide the asymmetric effects and delay in the transmission of monetary policy, since the scant reactivity of output to the fall in interest rates has been explained precisely by appeals to an alleged fall in the natural rate of interest even to negative values due to reaching the zero-lower bound for policy nominal interest rates. This makes a murky business even more opaque.


Synoia , January 29, 2019 at 12:03 pm

I can provide an interest rate dartboard.

Bring you own darts.

Is the natural rate of interest that of Home loans, Student loans, or Credit Cards?

That's my world.

Susan the Other , January 29, 2019 at 12:04 pm

"production potential" = return on investment potential and/or debt service potential?

Ignacio , January 29, 2019 at 12:34 pm

All this econospeak naturally wakes up assasin instincts. Anyway, any recommendation?

ape , January 29, 2019 at 12:42 pm

"A first problem is that, while the "benchmark rate" ought to be based on sound theoretical foundations that allow a meaningful interpretation of its behaviour, all sorts of definitions of it appear in the literature when assuming real shocks away from balanced growth."

Has anyone ever shown that in fact the diff eqs being used actually are insensitive to small perturbations? That the solutions are actually numerically stable? If they're not -- and in general, this is something that has to be shown for the constrained parameters -- the rest is a waste.

If it's not a concave system, but the solutions are saddle points, for example given the number of parameters and the equations steady state solutions don't require "shocks" at all to be unstable but are inherently unstable. And most systems are unstable

Synoia , January 29, 2019 at 1:43 pm

And most systems are unstable

All systems with non-linear feedback (eg: Fear and Greed), are Chaotic, not Unstable. A system with Unstable but not Chaotic behavior falls to a predictable state.

It is arguable that Greed is feed-forward, possibly in all cases. Fear is both, feed forward and feedback. For example fear of the unknown is feed forward, fear of loss generally feedback.

A classic fear which is both, feed forward and feedback, is fear of unwanted pregnancy. It is well know that fears of unwanted pregnancy are always handled rationally. /s.

JEHR , January 29, 2019 at 2:51 pm

Exactly how I felt after reading a paragraph.

d , January 29, 2019 at 5:47 pm

dont really see the difference in chaotic and unstable. different words that describe the same thing

anon y'mouse , January 29, 2019 at 8:09 pm

Chaotic would mean no discernible pattern. Unstable would mean it has patterns that lurch from some state to some other state, but which are discernible.

Gavin , January 29, 2019 at 1:47 pm

I'm very rusty, but I do believe that money, or capital, is itself a good, so it follows that an interest rate is little more than the price of money. And which rate is the natural rate, the inter bank rate, mortgage rates, brokers call, maybe the whatever a payday lender charges? All those rates just reflect different markets, or am I really wrong?

Grebo , January 29, 2019 at 3:09 pm

This article is implying that there is no natural rate of interest.
That would imply that money is not subject to the laws of supply and demand so is not a good.

Accepting that would kick away one of the pillars of Liberalism and neoclassical economics. It would also reveal that money and capital are not equivalent, except to a banker.

hemeantwell , January 29, 2019 at 3:27 pm

He gets close to saying that the idea is sheer ideology, serving a normalizing function kind of like the "state of nature" in classical political theory, e.g. Rousseau or Locke, that would be used to justify a set of political institutions. But he won't allow himself a paragraph to step away from econospeak long enough for the point to become fully salient.

Grebo , January 29, 2019 at 3:53 pm

He's only an associate professor. Maybe when he gets tenure

Massinissa , January 29, 2019 at 2:01 pm

Guys, I think there might actually be a natural rate of interest.

I think its 0%.

coboarts , January 29, 2019 at 2:20 pm

I think it was something about money left alone fornicating in dark vaults to produce interest that was considered unnatural.

JEHR , January 29, 2019 at 2:52 pm

"Fornicating Money"–a nice picture I must say.

paulmeli , January 29, 2019 at 2:54 pm

I think its 0%

so does Warren Mosler among others:

http://www.cfeps.org/pubs/wp-pdf/WP37-MoslerForstater.pdf

Joey , January 29, 2019 at 10:41 pm

Amen. The fundamental flaw is the concept of perpetual growth. Lots of fancy words for a pseudo science. At least meteorological predictions get judged, not fudged.

d , January 29, 2019 at 5:48 pm

how can there be a natural state for some thing that is man made?

anon y'mouse , January 29, 2019 at 8:07 pm

You could write that question as the epitaph to the entire field of what we know as Standard Economics. Real question:does anyone care?

[Jan 04, 2019] Michael Hudson describes the Orwellian approach of today's mainstream economics: "Viewing the economic vocabulary as propaganda, I saw that we can understand how the words you hear as largely propaganda words..."

Jan 04, 2019 | economistsview.typepad.com

JohnH -> anne... , December 31, 2018 at 02:45 PM

Top 5 professional journals (T5) serve as gatekeepers for professional advancement of academic economists: "strong evidence for the influence of the T5. Without doubt, publication in the T5 is a powerful determinant of tenure and promotion in academic economics."
https://www.ineteconomics.org/perspectives/blog/the-tyranny-of-the-top-five-journals

When this happens, acceptable research and discourse tend to get established and limited … Chinese economists probably need not apply...as well as unorthodox views in the US.

Michael Hudson describes the Orwellian approach of today's mainstream economics: "Viewing the economic vocabulary as propaganda, I saw that we can understand how the words you hear as largely propaganda words. They’ve changed the meaning to the opposite of what the classical economists meant. But if you untangle the reversal of meaning and juxtapose a more functional vocabulary you can better understand what ís actually happening."
https://michael-hudson.com/2018/12/guns-butter-the-vocabulary-of-economic-deception/

[Jan 04, 2019] Krugman as a neoliberal stooge

Notable quotes:
"... Hard core neoliberals say Social Security is a ponzi scheme because too few workers can't pay too many retirees, it should have bought stocks and bonds. Ok, if all the boomers had bought stocks and bonds instead of paying FICA, would too many boomers selling stocks relative to the younger workers saving for retirement buying stocks magically keep share prices rising? Was the crash the day before Chriistmas caused by too many buyers of stocks and bonds, or too many sellers? ..."
"... Hard core neoliberals have been pushing free lunch economics for several decades by erasing the connection between labor and money and real value. ..."
Jan 04, 2019 | economistsview.typepad.com

mulp -> anne... , December 31, 2018 at 06:51 PM

Why oh why can't Krugman explain economics, and especially how "voodoo" conservative free lunch economics is.

First, why has Krugman self lobotomized and remove the economic basic axiom that everything is about labor, especially money.

Money is labor, labor in the past or labor in the future. Eliminate work, ie, robots completely replace all workers, then someone will tell their robot to build more robots and tell those robots to do the same until everyone can be given as many robots as they want for free to produce as much as the new own want, whether to consume or not, so no one will be willing to pay anything for any thing.

So, until someone can explain how money has value without human labor, and "property" is not the reason because I will order my robots to build an army to kill you if you refuse to vacate the land I want as my own. And I'll build the biggest robot army to fight off any "government" that tries to take the liberty I have gained with my robots eliminating any requirement for me to work for what I consume or desire.

So, again, money is past or future labor, just as goods and capital are past labor, the Fed merely ensures liquidity of labor IOUs, but if no one will pay workers to work with these IOUs, no one will get a job no matter how many labor IOUs the Fed prints.

And it i give you labor IOUs, but no one will produce anything by work in exchange for those labor IOUs, they are worthless. Like in Venezuela where you buy stuff paying in eggs or fuel or other things produced by workers with capital, ie, labor.

And Trump never sees any value in money because he never works. He'll promise you money, but if you believe he'll do any work to make his promise honest, you are a fool. And thats true for pretty muchh all Hard core neoliberals these days.

Hard core neoliberals tell you to work more than the money paid in exchange for other working to produce stuff for you in the future. First it was by pensions. But now they refuse. Then is was by government IOUs, but now they are saying "nope" to redeeming the bonds.

Anyone think the businesses with skyhigh share prices are going to pay dividends, or buy back shares at sky high prices when sellers exceed buyers?

Hard core neoliberals say Social Security is a ponzi scheme because too few workers can't pay too many retirees, it should have bought stocks and bonds. Ok, if all the boomers had bought stocks and bonds instead of paying FICA, would too many boomers selling stocks relative to the younger workers saving for retirement buying stocks magically keep share prices rising? Was the crash the day before Chriistmas caused by too many buyers of stocks and bonds, or too many sellers?

Hard core neoliberals have been pushing free lunch economics for several decades by erasing the connection between labor and money and real value.

Hard core neoliberals see work as too costly, and paying workers to crushingly costly, but they want others to give them both stuff and money. A free lunch.

And they cleverly created clever lines like, "cutting taxes puts money in yoour pockets" and "costly givernment regulations kills jobs" and "we must cut costs to create jobs".

So, voters who just got told GM is cutting costs by eliminating 10,000 jobs and closing 5 factories listen to Trump promise to cut costs to bring back factories and jobs end up voting for Trump???

So genious Krugman can't point out the lie Trump and the GOP are telling by simply pointing outt to those workers they lost their job because of cost cutting.

Why can't workers understand that anytime a politician says "cut" he means "fire" or "impoverish"???

[Jan 04, 2019] Bad Faith, Pathos and G.O.P. Economics: On professionals who sold their integrity, and got nothing in return.

Jan 04, 2019 | economistsview.typepad.com

anne , December 31, 2018 at 06:07 PM

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/27/opinion/republican-economists-bad-faith.html

December 27, 2018

Bad Faith, Pathos and G.O.P. Economics: On professionals who sold their integrity, and got nothing in return.
By Paul Krugman

As 2018 draws to an end, we're seeing many articles about the state of the economy. What I'd like to do, however, is talk about something different -- the state of economics, at least as it relates to the political situation. And that state is not good: The bad faith that dominates conservative politics at every level is infecting right-leaning economists, too.

This is sad, but it's also pathetic. For even as once-respected economists abase themselves in the face of Trumpism, the G.O.P. is making it ever clearer that their services aren't wanted, that only hacks need apply.

What you need to know when talking about economics and politics is that there are three kinds of economist in modern America: liberal professional economists, conservative professional economists and professional conservative economists.

By "liberal professional economists" I mean researchers who try to understand the economy as best they can, but who, being human, also have political preferences, which in their case puts them on the left side of the U.S. political spectrum, although usually only modestly left of center. Conservative professional economists are their counterparts on the center right.

Professional conservative economists are something quite different. They're people who even center-right professionals consider charlatans and cranks; they make a living by pretending to do actual economics -- often incompetently -- but are actually just propagandists. And no, there isn't really a corresponding category on the other side, in part because the billionaires who finance such propaganda are much more likely to be on the right than on the left.

But let me leave the pure hacks on one side for a moment, and talk about the people who at least used to seem to be trying to do real economics.

Do economists' political preferences shape their research? They surely affect the choice of subject: Liberals are more likely to be interested in rising inequality or the economics of climate change than conservatives. And human nature being what it is, some of them -- O.K., of us -- occasionally engage in motivated reasoning, reaching conclusions that cater to their politics.

I used to believe, however, that such lapses were the exception, not the rule, and the liberal economists I know try hard to avoid falling into that trap, and apologize when they do.

But do conservative economists do the same? Increasingly, the answer seems to be no, at least for those who play a prominent role in public discourse.

Even during the Obama years, it was striking how many well-known Republican-leaning economists followed the party line on economic policy, even when that party line was in conflict with the nonpolitical professional consensus.

Thus, when a Democrat was in the White House, G.O.P. politicians opposed anything that might mitigate the costs of the 2008 financial crisis and its aftermath; so did many economists. Most famously, in 2010 a who's who of Republican economists denounced the efforts of the Federal Reserve to fight unemployment, warning that they risked "currency debasement and inflation."

Were these economists arguing in good faith? Even at the time, there were good reasons to suspect otherwise. For one thing, those terrible, irresponsible Fed actions were pretty much exactly what Milton Friedman prescribed for depressed economies. For another, some of those Fed critics engaged in Donald Trump-like conspiracy theorizing, accusing the Fed of printing money, not to help the economy, but to "bail out fiscal policy," i.e., to help Barack Obama.

It was also telling that none of the economists who warned, wrongly, about looming inflation were willing to admit their error after the fact.

But the real test came after 2016. A complete cynic might have expected economists who denounced budget deficits and easy money under a Democrat to suddenly reverse position under a Republican president.

And that total cynic would have been exactly right. After years of hysteria about the evils of debt, establishment Republican economists enthusiastically endorsed a budget-busting tax cut. After denouncing easy-money policies when unemployment was sky-high, some echoed Trump's demands for low interest rates with unemployment under 4 percent -- and the rest remained conspicuously silent.

What explains this epidemic of bad faith? Some of it is clearly ambition on the part of conservative economists still hoping for high-profile appointments. Some of it, I suspect, may be just the desire to stay on the inside with powerful people.

But there's something pathetic about this professional self-abasement, because the rewards center-right economists long for haven't come, and never will.

It's not just that Trump has assembled an administration of the worst and the dimmest. The truth is that the modern G.O.P. doesn't want to hear from serious economists, whatever their politics. It prefers charlatans and cranks, who are its kind of people.

So what we've learned about economics these past two years is that many conservative economists were, in fact, willing to compromise their professional ethics for political ends -- and that they sold their integrity for nothing.

[Dec 31, 2018] Academic bottomfeeders at service of financial oligarchy by George Monbiot

Notable quotes:
"... By abetting the ad industry, universities are leading us into temptation, when they should be enlightening us ..."
Dec 31, 2018 | www.theguardian.com

Originally from: Advertising and academia are controlling our thoughts. Didn't you know- - George Monbiot - Opinion - The Guardian

By abetting the ad industry, universities are leading us into temptation, when they should be enlightening us

... ... ...

I ask because, while considering the frenzy of consumerism that rises beyond its usual planet-trashing levels at this time of year, I recently stumbled across a paper that astonished me . It was written by academics at public universities in the Netherlands and the US. Their purpose seemed to me starkly at odds with the public interest. They sought to identify "the different ways in which consumers resist advertising, and the tactics that can be used to counter or avoid such resistance".

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Among the "neutralising" techniques it highlighted were "disguising the persuasive intent of the message"; distracting our attention by using confusing phrases that make it harder to focus on the advertiser's intentions; and "using cognitive depletion as a tactic for reducing consumers' ability to contest messages". This means hitting us with enough advertisements to exhaust our mental resources, breaking down our capacity to think.

Intrigued, I started looking for other academic papers on the same theme, and found an entire literature. There were articles on every imaginable aspect of resistance, and helpful tips on overcoming it. For example, I came across a paper that counsels advertisers on how to rebuild public trust when the celebrity they work with gets into trouble. Rather than dumping this lucrative asset, the researchers advised that the best means to enhance "the authentic persuasive appeal of a celebrity endorser" whose standing has slipped is to get them to display "a Duchenne smile", otherwise known as "a genuine smile". It precisely anatomised such smiles, showed how to spot them, and discussed the "construction" of sincerity and "genuineness": a magnificent exercise in inauthentic authenticity.

ss="rich-link tone-news--item rich-link--pillar-news"> Facebook told advertisers it can identify teens feeling 'insecure' and 'worthless' Read more

Another paper considered how to persuade sceptical people to accept a company's corporate social responsibility claims, especially when these claims conflict with the company's overall objectives. (An obvious example is ExxonMobil's attempts to convince people that it is environmentally responsible, because it is researching algal fuels that could one day reduce CO2 – even as it continues to pump millions of barrels of fossil oil a day ). I hoped the paper would recommend that the best means of persuading people is for a company to change its practices. Instead, the authors' research showed how images and statements could be cleverly combined to "minimise stakeholder scepticism".

A further paper discussed advertisements that work by stimulating Fomo – fear of missing out . It noted that such ads work through "controlled motivation", which is "anathema to wellbeing". Fomo ads, the paper explained, tend to cause significant discomfort to those who notice them. It then went on to show how an improved understanding of people's responses "provides the opportunity to enhance the effectiveness of Fomo as a purchase trigger". One tactic it proposed is to keep stimulating the fear of missing out, during and after the decision to buy. This, it suggested, will make people more susceptible to further ads on the same lines.

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Yes, I know: I work in an industry that receives most of its income from advertising, so I am complicit in this too. But so are we all. Advertising – with its destructive impacts on the living planet, our peace of mind and our free will – sits at the heart of our growth-based economy. This gives us all the more reason to challenge it. Among the places in which the challenge should begin are universities, and the academic societies that are supposed to set and uphold ethical standards. If they cannot swim against the currents of constructed desire and constructed thought, who can?

• George Monbiot is a Guardian columnist

[Dec 25, 2018] The destiny of the USA is now tied to the destiny of neoliberalism (much like the USSR and Bolshevism)

Highly recommended!
Notable quotes:
"... The USA hegemony is based on ideological hegemony of neoliberalism. And BTW both Russia and China are neoliberal countries. That's probably why President Putin calls the USA administration "partners," despite clearly anti-Russian policies of all US administrations since 1991. ..."
"... One fascinating fact that escapes my understanding is why the USA elite wasted colossal advantage it got after the collapse of the USSR in just 25 years or so. I always thought that the USA elite is the most shrewd out of all countries. ..."
"... May be because they were brainwashed by neocon "intellectuals." I understand that most neocons are simply lobbyists of MIC, and MIC has huge political influence, but still neocon doctrine is so primitive that no civilized elite can take it seriously. ..."
"... I also understand Eisenhower hypocritical laments that "train with MIC left the station" and that the situation can't be reversed (lament disguised as a "warning"; let's remember that it was Eisenhower who appointed Allen Dulles to head the CIA. ..."
Dec 25, 2018 | www.unz.com

likbez , says: December 25, 2018 at 8:02 am GMT

@guitarzan

>US hegemony is imposed militarily, both covertly and overtly, throughout the world. It is maintained through the petrodollar, corporate power, and the Federal Reserve Bank and its overseas counterparts

All true, but the key element is missing. The USA hegemony is based on ideological hegemony of neoliberalism. And BTW both Russia and China are neoliberal countries. That's probably why President Putin calls the USA administration "partners," despite clearly anti-Russian policies of all US administrations since 1991.

Ability to use military is important but secondary. Without fifth column of national elites which support neoliberalism that would be impossible, or at least more difficult to use. Like it was when the USSR existed (Vietnam, Cuba, etc). The USSR has had pretty powerful military, which was in some narrow areas competitive, or even superior to the USA, but when the ideology of Bolshevism collapsed, the elite changed sides and adopted a neoliberal ideology. This betrayal led to the collapse of the USSR and all its mighty military and the vast KGB apparatus proved to be useless.

In this sense, the article is weak, and some comments are of a higher level than the article itself in the level of understanding of the situation (Simon in London at December 21, 2018, at 9:23 am one example; longevity of neoliberalism partially is connected to the fact that so far there is no clear alternative to it and without the crisis similar to Great Depression adoption of New Deal style measures is impossible )

It is really sad that the understanding that the destiny of the USA is now tied to the destiny of neoliberalism (much like the USSR and Bolshevism) is foreign for many.

So it might well be that the main danger for the US neoliberal empire now is not China or Russia, but the end of cheap oil, which might facilitate the collapse of neoliberalism as a social system based on wasteful use on commodities (and first of all oil)

One fascinating fact that escapes my understanding is why the USA elite wasted colossal advantage it got after the collapse of the USSR in just 25 years or so. I always thought that the USA elite is the most shrewd out of all countries.

May be because they were brainwashed by neocon "intellectuals." I understand that most neocons are simply lobbyists of MIC, and MIC has huge political influence, but still neocon doctrine is so primitive that no civilized elite can take it seriously.

I also understand Eisenhower hypocritical laments that "train with MIC left the station" and that the situation can't be reversed (lament disguised as a "warning"; let's remember that it was Eisenhower who appointed Allen Dulles to head the CIA.

[Dec 14, 2018] Hidden neoliberal inner party : US chamber of commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers and The Business Roundtable

Notable quotes:
"... The American Chamber of Commerce subsequently expanded its base from around 60,000 firms in 1972 to over a quarter of a million ten years later. Jointly with the National Association of Manufacturers (which moved to Washington in 1972) it amassed an immense campaign chest to lobby Congress and engage in research. The Business Roundtable, an organization of CEOs 'committed to the aggressive pursuit of political power for the corporation', was founded in 1972 and thereafter became the centrepiece of collective pro-business action. ..."
"... Nearly half the financing for the highly respected NBER came from the leading companies in the Fortune 500 list. Closely integrated with the academic community, the NBER was to have a very significant impact on thinking in the economics departments and business schools of the major research universities. ..."
"... In order to realize this goal, businesses needed a political class instrument and a popular base. They therefore actively sought to capture the Republican Party as their own instrument. The formation of powerful political action committees to procure, as the old adage had it, 'the best government that money could buy' was an important step. ..."
"... The Republican Party needed, however, a solid electoral base if it was to colonize power effectively. It was around this time that Republicans sought an alliance with the Christian right. The latter had not been politically active in the past, but the foundation of Jerry Falwell's 'moral majority' as a political movement in 1978 changed all of that. The Republican Party now had its Christian base. ..."
"... It also appealed to the cultural nationalism of the white working classes and their besieged sense of moral righteousness. This political base could be mobilized through the positives of religion and cultural nationalism and negatively through coded, if not blatant, racism, homophobia, and anti feminism. ..."
"... The alliance between big business and conservative Christians backed by the neoconservatives consolidated, not for the first time has a social group been persuaded to vote against its material, economic, and class interests ..."
"... Any political movement that holds individual freedoms to be sacrosanct is vulnerable to incorporation into the neoliberal fold. ..."
"... Neoliberal rhetoric, with its foundational emphasis upon individual freedoms, has the power to split off libertarianism, identity politics, multiculturalism, and eventually narcissistic consumerism from the social forces ranged in pursuit of social justice through the conquest of state power. ..."
"... By capturing ideals of individual freedom and turning them against the interventionist and regulatory practices of the state, capitalist class interests could hope to protect and even restore their position. Neoliberalism was well suited to this ideological task. ..."
"... Neoliberalization required both politically and economically the construction of a neoliberal market-based populist culture of differentiated consumerism and individual libertarianism. As such it proved more than a little compatible with that cultural impulse called 'postmodernism' which had long been lurking in the wings but could now emerge full-blown as both a cultural and an intellectual dominant. This was the challenge that corporations and class elites set out to finesse in the 1980s. ..."
"... Powell argued that individual action was insufficient. 'Strength', he wrote, 'lies in organization, in careful long-range planning and implementation, in consistency of action over an indefinite period of years, in the scale of financing available only through joint effort, and in the political power available only through united action and national organizations'. The National Chamber of Commerce, he argued, should lead an assault upon the major institutions––universities, schools, the media, publishing, the courts––in order to change how individuals think 'about the corporation, the law, culture, and the individual'. US businesses did not lack resources for such an effort, particularly when they pooled their resources together. ..."
Nov 27, 2018 | discussion.theguardian.com

Themiddlegound -> Themiddlegound , 11 Jun 2013 05:42

The American Chamber of Commerce subsequently expanded its base from around 60,000 firms in 1972 to over a quarter of a million ten years later. Jointly with the National Association of Manufacturers (which moved to Washington in 1972) it amassed an immense campaign chest to lobby Congress and engage in research. The Business Roundtable, an organization of CEOs 'committed to the aggressive pursuit of political power for the corporation', was founded in 1972 and thereafter became the centrepiece of collective pro-business action.

The corporations involved accounted for 'about one half of the GNP of the United States' during the 1970s, and they spent close to $900 million annually (a huge amount at that time) on political matters. Think-tanks, such as the Heritage Foundation, the Hoover Institute, the Center for the Study of American Business, and the American Enterprise Institute, were formed with corporate backing both to polemicize and, when necessary, as in the case of the National Bureau of Economic Research, to construct serious technical and empirical studies and political-philosophical arguments broadly in support of neoliberal policies.

Nearly half the financing for the highly respected NBER came from the leading companies in the Fortune 500 list. Closely integrated with the academic community, the NBER was to have a very significant impact on thinking in the economics departments and business schools of the major research universities. With abundant finance furnished by wealthy individuals (such as the brewer Joseph Coors, who later became a member of Reagan's 'kitchen cabinet') and their foundations (for example Olin, Scaife, Smith Richardson, Pew Charitable Trust), a flood of tracts and books, with Nozick's Anarchy State and Utopia perhaps the most widely read and appreciated, emerged espousing neoliberal values. A TV version of Milton Friedman's Free to Choose was funded with a grant from Scaife in 1977. 'Business was', Blyth concludes, 'learning to spend as a class.

In singling out the universities for particular attention, Powell pointed up an opportunity as well as an issue, for these were indeed centers of anti-corporate and anti-state sentiment (the students at Santa Barbara had burned down the Bank of America building there and ceremonially buried a car in the sands). But many students were (and still are) affluent and privileged, or at least middle class, and in the US the values of individual freedom have long been celebrated (in music and popular culture) as primary. Neoliberal themes could here find fertile ground for propagation. Powell did not argue for extending state power. But business should 'assiduously cultivate' the state and when necessary use it 'aggressively and with determination'

In order to realize this goal, businesses needed a political class instrument and a popular base. They therefore actively sought to capture the Republican Party as their own instrument. The formation of powerful political action committees to procure, as the old adage had it, 'the best government that money could buy' was an important step. The supposedly 'progressive' campaign finance laws of 1971 in effect legalized the financial corruption of politics.

A crucial set of Supreme Court decisions began in 1976 when it was first established that the right of a corporation to make unlimited money contributions to political parties and political action committees was protected under the First Amendment guaranteeing the rights of individuals (in this instance corporations) to freedom of speech.15 Political action committees could thereafter ensure the financial domination of both political parties by corporate, moneyed, and professional association interests. Corporate PACs, which numbered eighty-nine in 1974, had burgeoned to 1,467 by 1982.

The Republican Party needed, however, a solid electoral base if it was to colonize power effectively. It was around this time that Republicans sought an alliance with the Christian right. The latter had not been politically active in the past, but the foundation of Jerry Falwell's 'moral majority' as a political movement in 1978 changed all of that. The Republican Party now had its Christian base.

It also appealed to the cultural nationalism of the white working classes and their besieged sense of moral righteousness. This political base could be mobilized through the positives of religion and cultural nationalism and negatively through coded, if not blatant, racism, homophobia, and anti feminism.

The alliance between big business and conservative Christians backed by the neoconservatives consolidated, not for the first time has a social group been persuaded to vote against its material, economic, and class interests the evangelical Christians eagerly embraced the alliance with big business and the Republican Party as a means to further promote their evangelical and moral agenda.

Themiddlegound -> Themiddlegound , 11 Jun 2013 05:23

Any political movement that holds individual freedoms to be sacrosanct is vulnerable to incorporation into the neoliberal fold.

The worldwide political upheavals of 1968, for example, were strongly inflected with the desire for greater personal freedoms. This was certainly true for students, such as those animated by the Berkeley 'free speech' movement of the 1960s or who took to the streets in Paris, Berlin, and Bangkok and were so mercilessly shot down in Mexico City shortly before the 1968 Olympic Games. They demanded freedom from parental, educational, corporate, bureaucratic, and state constraints. But the '68 movement also had social justice as a primary political objective.

Neoliberal rhetoric, with its foundational emphasis upon individual freedoms, has the power to split off libertarianism, identity politics, multiculturalism, and eventually narcissistic consumerism from the social forces ranged in pursuit of social justice through the conquest of state power. It has long proved extremely difficult within the US left, for example, to forge the collective discipline required for political action to achieve social justice without offending the the Construction of Consent desire of political actors for individual freedom and for full recognition and expression of particular identities. Neoliberalism did not create these distinctions, but it could easily exploit, if not foment, them.

In the early 1970s those seeking individual freedoms and social justice could make common cause in the face of what many saw as a common enemy. Powerful corporations in alliance with an interventionist state were seen to be running the world in individually oppressive and socially unjust ways. The Vietnam War was the most obvious catalyst for discontent, but the destructive activities of corporations and the state in relation to the environment, the push towards mindless consumerism, the failure to address social issues and respond adequately to diversity, as well as intense restrictions on individual possibilities and personal behaviors by state-mandated and 'traditional' controls were also widely resented. Civil rights were an issue, and questions of sexuality and of reproductive rights were very much in play.

For almost everyone involved in the movement of '68, the intrusive state was the enemy and it had to be reformed. And on that, the neoliberals could easily agree. But capitalist corporations, business, and the market system were also seen as primary enemies requiring redress if not revolutionary transformation: hence the threat to capitalist class power.

By capturing ideals of individual freedom and turning them against the interventionist and regulatory practices of the state, capitalist class interests could hope to protect and even restore their position. Neoliberalism was well suited to this ideological task. But it had to be backed up by a practical strategy that emphasized the liberty of consumer choice, not only with respect to particular products but also with respect to lifestyles, modes of expression, and a wide range of cultural practices. Neoliberalization required both politically and economically the construction of a neoliberal market-based populist culture of differentiated consumerism and individual libertarianism. As such it proved more than a little compatible with that cultural impulse called 'postmodernism' which had long been lurking in the wings but could now emerge full-blown as both a cultural and an intellectual dominant. This was the challenge that corporations and class elites set out to finesse in the 1980s.

In the US case a confidential memo sent by Lewis Powell to the US Chamber of Commerce in August 1971. Powell, about to be elevated to the Supreme Court by Richard Nixon, argued that criticism of and opposition to the US free enterprise system had gone too far and that 'the time had come––indeed it is long overdue––for the wisdom, ingenuity and resources of American business to be marshaled against those who would destroy it'.

Powell argued that individual action was insufficient. 'Strength', he wrote, 'lies in organization, in careful long-range planning and implementation, in consistency of action over an indefinite period of years, in the scale of financing available only through joint effort, and in the political power available only through united action and national organizations'. The National Chamber of Commerce, he argued, should lead an assault upon the major institutions––universities, schools, the media, publishing, the courts––in order to change how individuals think 'about the corporation, the law, culture, and the individual'. US businesses did not lack resources for such an effort, particularly when they pooled their resources together.

[Dec 09, 2018] The fatal flaw of neoliberalism: it s bad economics: Neoliberalism and its usual prescriptions – always more markets, always less government – are in fact a perversion of mainstream economics by Dani Rodrik

Notable quotes:
"... The term is used as a catchall for anything that smacks of deregulation, liberalisation, privatisation or fiscal austerity. Today it is routinely reviled as a shorthand for the ideas and practices that have produced growing economic insecurity and inequality, led to the loss of our political values and ideals, and even precipitated our current populist backlash ..."
"... The use of the term "neoliberal" exploded in the 1990s, when it became closely associated with two developments, neither of which Peters's article had mentioned. One of these was financial deregulation, which would culminate in the 2008 financial crash and in the still-lingering euro debacle . The second was economic globalisation, which accelerated thanks to free flows of finance and to a new, more ambitious type of trade agreement. Financialisation and globalisation have become the most overt manifestations of neoliberalism in today's world. ..."
"... That neoliberalism is a slippery, shifting concept, with no explicit lobby of defenders, does not mean that it is irrelevant or unreal. ..."
"... homo economicus ..."
"... A version of this article first appeared in Boston Review ..."
"... Main illustration by Eleanor Shakespeare ..."
Nov 14, 2017 | www.theguardian.com
As even its harshest critics concede, neoliberalism is hard to pin down. In broad terms, it denotes a preference for markets over government, economic incentives over cultural norms, and private entrepreneurship over collective action. It has been used to describe a wide range of phenomena – from Augusto Pinochet to Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, from the Clinton Democrats and the UK's New Labour to the economic opening in China and the reform of the welfare state in Sweden.

The term is used as a catchall for anything that smacks of deregulation, liberalisation, privatisation or fiscal austerity. Today it is routinely reviled as a shorthand for the ideas and practices that have produced growing economic insecurity and inequality, led to the loss of our political values and ideals, and even precipitated our current populist backlash .

We live in the age of neoliberalism, apparently. But who are neoliberalism's adherents and disseminators – the neoliberals themselves? Oddly, you have to go back a long time to find anyone explicitly embracing neoliberalism. In 1982, Charles Peters, the longtime editor of the political magazine Washington Monthly, published an essay titled A Neo-Liberal's Manifesto . It makes for interesting reading 35 years later, since the neoliberalism it describes bears little resemblance to today's target of derision. The politicians Peters names as exemplifying the movement are not the likes of Thatcher and Reagan, but rather liberals – in the US sense of the word – who have become disillusioned with unions and big government and dropped their prejudices against markets and the military.

The use of the term "neoliberal" exploded in the 1990s, when it became closely associated with two developments, neither of which Peters's article had mentioned. One of these was financial deregulation, which would culminate in the 2008 financial crash and in the still-lingering euro debacle . The second was economic globalisation, which accelerated thanks to free flows of finance and to a new, more ambitious type of trade agreement. Financialisation and globalisation have become the most overt manifestations of neoliberalism in today's world.

That neoliberalism is a slippery, shifting concept, with no explicit lobby of defenders, does not mean that it is irrelevant or unreal. Who can deny that the world has experienced a decisive shift toward markets from the 1980s on? Or that centre-left politicians – Democrats in the US, socialists and social democrats in Europe – enthusiastically adopted some of the central creeds of Thatcherism and Reaganism, such as deregulation, privatisation, financial liberalisation and individual enterprise? Much of our contemporary policy discussion remains infused with principles supposedly grounded in the concept of homo economicus , the perfectly rational human being, found in many economic theories, who always pursues his own self-interest.

But the looseness of the term neoliberalism also means that criticism of it often misses the mark. There is nothing wrong with markets, private entrepreneurship or incentives – when deployed appropriately. Their creative use lies behind the most significant economic achievements of our time. As we heap scorn on neoliberalism, we risk throwing out some of neoliberalism's useful ideas.

The real trouble is that mainstream economics shades too easily into ideology, constraining the choices that we appear to have and providing cookie-cutter solutions. A proper understanding of the economics that lie behind neoliberalism would allow us to identify – and to reject – ideology when it masquerades as economic science. Most importantly, it would help us to develop the institutional imagination we badly need to redesign capitalism for the 21st century.


N eoliberalism is typically understood as being based on key tenets of mainstream economic science. To see those tenets without the ideology, consider this thought experiment. A well-known and highly regarded economist lands in a country he has never visited and knows nothing about. He is brought to a meeting with the country's leading policymakers. "Our country is in trouble," they tell him. "The economy is stagnant, investment is low, and there is no growth in sight." They turn to him expectantly: "Please tell us what we should do to make our economy grow."

The economist pleads ignorance and explains that he knows too little about the country to make any recommendations. He would need to study the history of the economy, to analyse the statistics, and to travel around the country before he could say anything.

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Tony Blair and Bill Clinton: centre-left politicians who enthusiastically adopted some of the central creeds of Thatcherism and Reaganism. Photograph: Reuters

But his hosts are insistent. "We understand your reticence, and we wish you had the time for all that," they tell him. "But isn't economics a science, and aren't you one of its most distinguished practitioners? Even though you do not know much about our economy, surely there are some general theories and prescriptions you can share with us to guide our economic policies and reforms."

The economist is now in a bind. He does not want to emulate those economic gurus he has long criticised for peddling their favourite policy advice. But he feels challenged by the question. Are there universal truths in economics? Can he say anything valid or useful?

So he begins. The efficiency with which an economy's resources are allocated is a critical determinant of the economy's performance, he says. Efficiency, in turn, requires aligning the incentives of households and businesses with social costs and benefits. The incentives faced by entrepreneurs, investors and producers are particularly important when it comes to economic growth. Growth needs a system of property rights and contract enforcement that will ensure those who invest can retain the returns on their investments. And the economy must be open to ideas and innovations from the rest of the world.

But economies can be derailed by macroeconomic instability, he goes on. Governments must therefore pursue a sound monetary policy , which means restricting the growth of liquidity to the increase in nominal money demand at reasonable inflation. They must ensure fiscal sustainability, so that the increase in public debt does not outpace national income. And they must carry out prudential regulation of banks and other financial institutions to prevent the financial system from taking excessive risk.

Now he is warming to his task. Economics is not just about efficiency and growth, he adds. Economic principles also carry over to equity and social policy. Economics has little to say about how much redistribution a society should seek. But it does tell us that the tax base should be as broad as possible, and that social programmes should be designed in a way that does not encourage workers to drop out of the labour market.

By the time the economist stops, it appears as if he has laid out a fully fledged neoliberal agenda. A critic in the audience will have heard all the code words: efficiency, incentives, property rights, sound money, fiscal prudence. And yet the universal principles that the economist describes are in fact quite open-ended. They presume a capitalist economy – one in which investment decisions are made by private individuals and firms – but not much beyond that. They allow for – indeed, they require – a surprising variety of institutional arrangements.

So has the economist just delivered a neoliberal screed? We would be mistaken to think so, and our mistake would consist of associating each abstract term – incentives, property rights, sound money – with a particular institutional counterpart. And therein lies the central conceit, and the fatal flaw, of neoliberalism: the belief that first-order economic principles map on to a unique set of policies, approximated by a Thatcher/Reagan-style agenda.

Consider property rights. They matter insofar as they allocate returns on investments. An optimal system would distribute property rights to those who would make the best use of an asset, and afford protection against those most likely to expropriate the returns. Property rights are good when they protect innovators from free riders, but they are bad when they protect them from competition. Depending on the context, a legal regime that provides the appropriate incentives can look quite different from the standard US-style regime of private property rights.

This may seem like a semantic point with little practical import; but China's phenomenal economic success is largely due to its orthodoxy-defying institutional tinkering. China turned to markets, but did not copy western practices in property rights. Its reforms produced market-based incentives through a series of unusual institutional arrangements that were better adapted to the local context. Rather than move directly from state to private ownership, for example, which would have been stymied by the weakness of the prevailing legal structures, the country relied on mixed forms of ownership that provided more effective property rights for entrepreneurs in practice. Township and Village Enterprises (TVEs), which spearheaded Chinese economic growth during the 1980s, were collectives owned and controlled by local governments. Even though TVEs were publicly owned, entrepreneurs received the protection they needed against expropriation. Local governments had a direct stake in the profits of the firms, and hence did not want to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs.

China relied on a range of such innovations, each delivering the economist's higher-order economic principles in unfamiliar institutional arrangements. For instance, it shielded its large state sector from global competition, establishing special economic zones where foreign firms could operate with different rules than in the rest of the economy. In view of such departures from orthodox blueprints, describing China's economic reforms as neoliberal – as critics are inclined to do – distorts more than it reveals. If we are to call this neoliberalism, we must surely look more kindly on the ideas behind the most dramatic poverty reduction in history.

One might protest that China's institutional innovations were purely transitional. Perhaps it will have to converge on western-style institutions to sustain its economic progress. But this common line of thinking overlooks the diversity of capitalist arrangements that still prevails among advanced economies, despite the considerable homogenisation of our policy discourse.

What, after all, are western institutions? The size of the public sector in OECD countries varies, from a third of the economy in Korea to nearly 60% in Finland. In Iceland, 86% of workers are members of a trade union; the comparable number in Switzerland is just 16%. In the US, firms can fire workers almost at will; French labour laws have historically required employers to jump through many hoops first. Stock markets have grown to a total value of nearly one-and-a-half times GDP in the US; in Germany, they are only a third as large, equivalent to just 50% of GDP.

Facebook Twitter Pinterest 'China turned to markets, but did not copy western practices ... ' Photograph: AFP/Getty

The idea that any one of these models of taxation, labour relations or financial organisation is inherently superior to the others is belied by the varying economic fortunes that each of these economies have experienced over recent decades. The US has gone through successive periods of angst in which its economic institutions were judged inferior to those in Germany, Japan, China, and now possibly Germany again. Certainly, comparable levels of wealth and productivity can be produced under very different models of capitalism. We might even go a step further: today's prevailing models probably come nowhere near exhausting the range of what might be possible, and desirable, in the future.

The visiting economist in our thought experiment knows all this, and recognises that the principles he has enunciated need to be filled in with institutional detail before they become operational. Property rights? Yes, but how? Sound money? Of course, but how? It would perhaps be easier to criticise his list of principles for being vacuous than to denounce it as a neoliberal screed.

Still, these principles are not entirely content-free. China, and indeed all countries that managed to develop rapidly, demonstrate the utility of those principles once they are properly adapted to local context. Conversely, too many economies have been driven to ruin courtesy of political leaders who chose to violate them. We need look no further than Latin American populists or eastern European communist regimes to appreciate the practical significance of sound money, fiscal sustainability and private incentives.


O f course, economics goes beyond a list of abstract, largely common-sense principles. Much of the work of economists consists of developing stylised models of how economies work and then confronting those models with evidence. Economists tend to think of what they do as progressively refining their understanding of the world: their models are supposed to get better and better as they are tested and revised over time. But progress in economics happens differently.

Economists study a social reality that is unlike the physical universe. It is completely manmade, highly malleable and operates according to different rules across time and space. Economics advances not by settling on the right model or theory to answer such questions, but by improving our understanding of the diversity of causal relationships. Neoliberalism and its customary remedies – always more markets, always less government – are in fact a perversion of mainstream economics. Good economists know that the correct answer to any question in economics is: it depends.

Does an increase in the minimum wage depress employment? Yes, if the labour market is really competitive and employers have no control over the wage they must pay to attract workers; but not necessarily otherwise. Does trade liberalisation increase economic growth? Yes, if it increases the profitability of industries where the bulk of investment and innovation takes place; but not otherwise. Does more government spending increase employment? Yes, if there is slack in the economy and wages do not rise; but not otherwise. Does monopoly harm innovation? Yes and no, depending on a whole host of market circumstances.

Facebook Twitter Pinterest 'Today [neoliberalism] is routinely reviled as a shorthand for the ideas that have produced growing economic inequality and precipitated our current populist backlash' Trump signing an order to take the US out of the TPP trade pact. Photograph: AFP/Getty

In economics, new models rarely supplant older models. The basic competitive-markets model dating back to Adam Smith has been modified over time by the inclusion, in rough historical order, of monopoly, externalities, scale economies, incomplete and asymmetric information, irrational behaviour and many other real-world features. But the older models remain as useful as ever. Understanding how real markets operate necessitates using different lenses at different times.

Perhaps maps offer the best analogy. Just like economic models, maps are highly stylised representations of reality . They are useful precisely because they abstract from many real-world details that would get in the way. But abstraction also implies that we need a different map depending on the nature of our journey. If we are travelling by bike, we need a map of bike trails. If we are to go on foot, we need a map of footpaths. If a new subway is constructed, we will need a subway map – but we wouldn't throw out the older maps.

Economists tend to be very good at making maps, but not good enough at choosing the one most suited to the task at hand. When confronted with policy questions of the type our visiting economist faces, too many of them resort to "benchmark" models that favour the laissez-faire approach. Kneejerk solutions and hubris replace the richness and humility of the discussion in the seminar room. John Maynard Keynes once defined economics as the "science of thinking in terms of models, joined to the art of choosing models which are relevant". Economists typically have trouble with the "art" part.

This, too, can be illustrated with a parable. A journalist calls an economics professor for his view on whether free trade is a good idea. The professor responds enthusiastically in the affirmative. The journalist then goes undercover as a student in the professor's advanced graduate seminar on international trade. He poses the same question: is free trade good? This time the professor is stymied. "What do you mean by 'good'?" he responds. "And good for whom?" The professor then launches into an extensive exegesis that will ultimately culminate in a heavily hedged statement: "So if the long list of conditions I have just described are satisfied, and assuming we can tax the beneficiaries to compensate the losers, freer trade has the potential to increase everyone's wellbeing." If he is in an expansive mood, the professor might add that the effect of free trade on an economy's longterm growth rate is not clear either, and would depend on an altogether different set of requirements.

This professor is rather different from the one the journalist encountered previously. On the record, he exudes self-confidence, not reticence, about the appropriate policy. There is one and only one model, at least as far as the public conversation is concerned, and there is a single correct answer, regardless of context. Strangely, the professor deems the knowledge that he imparts to his advanced students to be inappropriate (or dangerous) for the general public. Why?

The roots of such behaviour lie deep in the culture of the economics profession. But one important motive is the zeal to display the profession's crown jewels – market efficiency, the invisible hand, comparative advantage – in untarnished form, and to shield them from attack by self-interested barbarians, namely the protectionists . Unfortunately, these economists typically ignore the barbarians on the other side of the issue – financiers and multinational corporations whose motives are no purer and who are all too ready to hijack these ideas for their own benefit.

As a result, economists' contributions to public debate are often biased in one direction, in favour of more trade, more finance and less government. That is why economists have developed a reputation as cheerleaders for neoliberalism, even if mainstream economics is very far from a paean to laissez-faire. The economists who let their enthusiasm for free markets run wild are in fact not being true to their own discipline.


H ow then should we think about globalisation in order to liberate it from the grip of neoliberal practices? We must begin by understanding the positive potential of global markets. Access to world markets in goods, technologies and capital has played an important role in virtually all of the economic miracles of our time. China is the most recent and powerful reminder of this historical truth, but it is not the only case. Before China, similar miracles were performed by South Korea, Taiwan, Japan and a few non-Asian countries such as Mauritius . All of these countries embraced globalisation rather than turn their backs on it, and they benefited handsomely.

Defenders of the existing economic order will quickly point to these examples when globalisation comes into question. What they will fail to say is that almost all of these countries joined the world economy by violating neoliberal strictures. South Korea and Taiwan, for instance, heavily subsidised their exporters, the former through the financial system and the latter through tax incentives. All of them eventually removed most of their import restrictions, long after economic growth had taken off.

But none, with the sole exception of Chile in the 1980s under Pinochet, followed the neoliberal recommendation of a rapid opening-up to imports. Chile's neoliberal experiment eventually produced the worst economic crisis in all of Latin America. While the details differ across countries, in all cases governments played an active role in restructuring the economy and buffering it against a volatile external environment. Industrial policies, restrictions on capital flows and currency controls – all prohibited in the neoliberal playbook – were rampant.

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Protest against Nafta in Mexico City in 2008: since the reforms of the mid-90s, the country's economy has underperformed. Photograph: EPA

By contrast, countries that stuck closest to the neoliberal model of globalisation were sorely disappointed. Mexico provides a particularly sad example. Following a series of macroeconomic crises in the mid-1990s, Mexico embraced macroeconomic orthodoxy, extensively liberalised its economy, freed up the financial system, sharply reduced import restrictions and signed the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta). These policies did produce macroeconomic stability and a significant rise in foreign trade and internal investment. But where it counts – in overall productivity and economic growth – the experiment failed . Since undertaking the reforms, overall productivity in Mexico has stagnated, and the economy has underperformed even by the undemanding standards of Latin America.

These outcomes are not a surprise from the perspective of sound economics. They are yet another manifestation of the need for economic policies to be attuned to the failures to which markets are prone, and to be tailored to the specific circumstances of each country. No single blueprint fits all.


A s Peters's 1982 manifesto attests, the meaning of neoliberalism has changed considerably over time as the label has acquired harder-line connotations with respect to deregulation, financialisation and globalisation. But there is one thread that connects all versions of neoliberalism, and that is the emphasis on economic growth . Peters wrote in 1982 that the emphasis was warranted because growth is essential to all our social and political ends – community, democracy, prosperity. Entrepreneurship, private investment and removing obstacles that stand in the way (such as excessive regulation) were all instruments for achieving economic growth. If a similar neoliberal manifesto were penned today, it would no doubt make the same point.

ss="rich-link"> Globalisation: the rise and fall of an idea that swept the world Read more

Critics often point out that this emphasis on economics debases and sacrifices other important values such as equality, social inclusion, democratic deliberation and justice. Those political and social objectives obviously matter enormously, and in some contexts they matter the most. They cannot always, or even often, be achieved by means of technocratic economic policies; politics must play a central role.

Still, neoliberals are not wrong when they argue that our most cherished ideals are more likely to be attained when our economy is vibrant, strong and growing. Where they are wrong is in believing that there is a unique and universal recipe for improving economic performance, to which they have access. The fatal flaw of neoliberalism is that it does not even get the economics right. It must be rejected on its own terms for the simple reason that it is bad economics.

A version of this article first appeared in Boston Review

Main illustration by Eleanor Shakespeare

[Dec 03, 2018] Neoliberalism is a secular religion because it relies of beliefs (which in this case are presented using the mathematical notation of neoclassic economics)

Like bolshevism this secular regions is to a large extent is a denial of Christianity. While Bolshevism is closer to the Islam, Neoliberalism is closer to Judaism.
The idea of " Homo economicus " -- a person who in all his decisions is governed by self-interest and greed is bunk.
Notable quotes:
"... There is not a shred of logical sense in neoliberalism. You're doing what the fundamentalists do... they talk about what neoliberalism is in theory whilst completely ignoring what it is in practice. ..."
"... In theory the banks should have been allowed to go bust, but the consequences where deemed too high (as they inevitable are). The result is socialism for the rich using the poor as the excuse, which is the reality of neoliberalism. ..."
"... Neoliberalism is based on the thought that you get as much freedom as you can pay for, otherwise you can just pay... like everyone else. In Asia and South America it has been the economic preference of dictators that pushes profit upwards and responsibility down, just like it does here. ..."
"... We all probably know the answer to this. In order to maintain the consent necessary to create inequality in their own interests the neoliberals have to tell big lies, and keep repeating them until they appear to be the truth. They've gotten so damn good at it. ..."
"... Neoliberalism is a modern curse. Everything about it is bad and until we're free of it, it will only ever keep trying to turn us into indentured labourers. ..."
"... It's acolytes are required to blind themselves to logic and reason to such a degree they resemble Scientologists or Jehovah's Witnesses more than people with any sort of coherent political ideology, because that's what neoliberalism actually is... a cult of the rich, for the rich, by the rich... and it's followers in the general population are nothing but moron familiars hoping one day to be made a fully fledged bastard ..."
"... Who could look at the way markets function and conclude there's any freedom? Only a neoliberal cult member. They cannot be reasoned with. They cannot be dissuaded. They cannot be persuaded. Only the market knows best, and the fact that the market is a corrupt, self serving whore is completely ignored by the ideology of their Church. ..."
Dec 03, 2018 | discussion.theguardian.com
TedSmithAndSon -> theguardianisrubbish , 8 Jun 2013 12:24
@theguardianisrubbish -

Unless you are completely confused by what neoliberalism is there is not a shred of logical sense in this.

There is not a shred of logical sense in neoliberalism. You're doing what the fundamentalists do... they talk about what neoliberalism is in theory whilst completely ignoring what it is in practice.

In theory the banks should have been allowed to go bust, but the consequences where deemed too high (as they inevitable are). The result is socialism for the rich using the poor as the excuse, which is the reality of neoliberalism.

Savers in a neoliberal society are lambs to the slaughter. Thatcher "revitalised" banking, while everything else withered and died.

Neoliberalism is based on the thought of personal freedom, communism is definitely not. Neoliberalist policies have lifted millions of people out of poverty in Asia and South America.

Neoliberalism is based on the thought that you get as much freedom as you can pay for, otherwise you can just pay... like everyone else. In Asia and South America it has been the economic preference of dictators that pushes profit upwards and responsibility down, just like it does here.

I find it ironic that it now has 5 year plans that absolutely must not be deviated from, massive state intervention in markets (QE, housing policy, tax credits... insert where applicable), and advocates large scale central planning even as it denies reality, and makes the announcement from a tractor factory.

Neoliberalism is a blight... a cancer on humanity... a massive lie told by rich people and believed only by peasants happy to be thrown a turnip. In theory it's one thing, the reality is entirely different. Until we're rid of it, we're all it's slaves. It's an abhorrent cult that comes up with purest bilge like expansionary fiscal contraction to keep all the money in the hands of the rich.

Jacobsadder , 8 Jun 2013 11:35
Bloody well said Deborah!

Why, you have to ask yourself, is this vast implausibility, this sheer unsustainability, not blindingly obvious to all?

We all probably know the answer to this. In order to maintain the consent necessary to create inequality in their own interests the neoliberals have to tell big lies, and keep repeating them until they appear to be the truth. They've gotten so damn good at it.

iluvanimals54 , 8 Jun 2013 07:58
Today all politicians knee before the Altar that is Big Business and the Profit God, with his minions of multinational Angels.
TedSmithAndSon , 8 Jun 2013 06:01
Neoliberalism is a modern curse. Everything about it is bad and until we're free of it, it will only ever keep trying to turn us into indentured labourers.

It's acolytes are required to blind themselves to logic and reason to such a degree they resemble Scientologists or Jehovah's Witnesses more than people with any sort of coherent political ideology, because that's what neoliberalism actually is... a cult of the rich, for the rich, by the rich... and it's followers in the general population are nothing but moron familiars hoping one day to be made a fully fledged bastard.

Who could look at the way markets function and conclude there's any freedom? Only a neoliberal cult member. They cannot be reasoned with. They cannot be dissuaded. They cannot be persuaded. Only the market knows best, and the fact that the market is a corrupt, self serving whore is completely ignored by the ideology of their Church.

It's subsumed the entire planet, and waiting for them to see sense is a hopeless cause. In the end it'll probably take violence to rid us of the Neoliberal parasite... the turn of the century plague.

[Nov 05, 2018] How neoliberals destroyed University education and then a large part of the US middle class and the US postwar social order by Edward Qualtrough

Notable quotes:
"... Every academic critique of neoliberalism is an unacknowledged memoir. We academics occupy a crucial node in the neoliberal system. Our institutions are foundational to neoliberalism's claim to be a meritocracy, insofar as we are tasked with discerning and certifying the merit that leads to the most powerful and desirable jobs. Yet at the same time, colleges and universities have suffered the fate of all public goods under the neoliberal order. We must therefore "do more with less," cutting costs while meeting ever-greater demands. The academic workforce faces increasing precarity and shrinking wages even as it is called on to teach and assess more students than ever before in human history -- and to demonstrate that we are doing so better than ever, via newly devised regimes of outcome-based assessment. In short, we academics live out the contradictions of neoliberalism every day. ..."
"... Whereas classical liberalism insisted that capitalism had to be allowed free rein within its sphere, under neoliberalism capitalism no longer has a set sphere. We are always "on the clock," always accruing (or squandering) various forms of financial and social capital. ..."
Aug 24, 2016 | www.amazon.com

From: Amazon.com Neoliberalism's Demons On the Political Theology of Late Capital (9781503607125) Adam Kotsko Books

Every academic critique of neoliberalism is an unacknowledged memoir. We academics occupy a crucial node in the neoliberal system. Our institutions are foundational to neoliberalism's claim to be a meritocracy, insofar as we are tasked with discerning and certifying the merit that leads to the most powerful and desirable jobs. Yet at the same time, colleges and universities have suffered the fate of all public goods under the neoliberal order. We must therefore "do more with less," cutting costs while meeting ever-greater demands. The academic workforce faces increasing precarity and shrinking wages even as it is called on to teach and assess more students than ever before in human history -- and to demonstrate that we are doing so better than ever, via newly devised regimes of outcome-based assessment. In short, we academics live out the contradictions of neoliberalism every day.

... ... ...

On a more personal level it reflects my upbringing in the suburbs of Flint, Michigan, a city that has been utterly devastated by the transition to neoliberalism. As I lived through the slow-motion disaster of the gradual withdrawal of the auto industry, I often heard Henry Ford s dictum that a company could make more money if the workers were paid enough to be customers as well, a principle that the major US automakers were inexplicably abandoning. Hence I find it [Fordism -- NNB] to be an elegant way of capturing the postwar model's promise of creating broadly shared prosperity by retooling capitalism to produce a consumer society characterized by a growing middle class -- and of emphasizing the fact that that promise was ultimately broken.

By the mid-1970s, the postwar Fordist order had begun to breakdown to varying degrees in the major Western countries. While many powerful groups advocated a response to the crisis that would strengthen the welfare state, the agenda that wound up carrying the day was neoliberalism, which was most forcefully implemented in the United Kingdom by Margaret Thatcher and in the United States by Ronald Reagan. And although this transformation was begun by the conservative part)', in both countries the left-of-centcr or (in American usage) "liberal"party wound up embracing neoliberal tenets under Tony Blair and Bill Clinton, ostensibly for the purpose of directing them toward progressive ends.

With the context of current debates within the US Democratic Party, this means that Clinton acolytes are correct to claim that "neoliberalism" just is liberalism but only to the extent that, in the contemporary United States, the term liberalism is little more than a word for whatever the policy agenda of the Democratic Party happens to be at any given time. Though politicians of all stripes at times used libertarian rhetoric to sell their policies, the most clear-eyed advocates of neoliberalism realized that there could be no simple question of a "return" to the laissez-faire model.

Rather than simply getting the state "out of the way," they both deployed and transformed state power, including the institutions of the welfare state, to reshape society in accordance with market models. In some cases creating markets where none had previously existed, as in the privatization of education and other public services. In others it took the form of a more general spread of a competitive market ethos into ever more areas of life -- so that we are encouraged to think of our reputation as a "brand," for instance, or our social contacts as fodder for "networking." Whereas classical liberalism insisted that capitalism had to be allowed free rein within its sphere, under neoliberalism capitalism no longer has a set sphere. We are always "on the clock," always accruing (or squandering) various forms of financial and social capital.

[Nov 05, 2018] Publishing and Promotion in Economics The Tyranny of the Top Five by James Heckman

Notable quotes:
"... By James Heckman, Henry Schultz Distinguished Service Professor of Economics, University of Chicago; Founding Director, Center for the Economics of Human Development and Sidharth Moktan, Predoctoral Fellow, Center for the Economics of Human Development, University of Chicago. Originally published at VoxEU ..."
"... Anecdotal evidence suggests that the 'Top Five' economics journals have a strong influence on tenure and promotion decisions, but actual evidence on their influence is sparse. This column uses data on employment and publication histories for tenure-track faculty hired by the top US economics departments between 1996 and 2010 to show that the impact of the Top Five on tenure decisions dwarfs that of non-Top Five journals. A survey of US economics department faculties confirms the Top Five's outsized influence. ..."
"... American Economic Review ..."
"... Journal of Political Economy ..."
"... Quarterly Journal of Economics ..."
"... Review of Economic Studies ..."
"... We find that the Top Five has a large impact on tenure decisions within the top 35 US departments of economics, dwarfing the impact of publications in non-Top Five journals. A survey of current tenure-track faculty hired by the top 50 US economics departments confirms the Top Five's outsize influence. ..."
"... Review of Economics and Statistics ..."
"... Journal of Political Economy ..."
"... Review of Economic Studies ..."
"... Definition of journal abbreviations ..."
"... See original post for references ..."
Nov 02, 2018 | www.nakedcapitalism.com
Yves here. In case you hadn't noticed it, the economics discipline has doctrinal norms. Academics who stray too far from it find themselves welcome only at the small number of colleges and universities, such as the University of Missouri – Kansas City and the University of Massachusetts – Amherst, that embrace heterodox views.

The top five economics journals play a large role in enforcing the orthodoxy. Jamie Galbraith has described how he'd submit suitably mathed-up papers to one of the heavyweights, get an initial positive response, but when they understood where he was going, they'd alway reject the paper. The reviewers would claim that the mathematics were flawed, when that was not the case. But being published by the top five is essential to advancing in prestigious economics faculties, such as Harvard, Chicago, Princeton, and MIT.

It should be noted that no real science has a rigid hierarchy of journals like this. The article documents disfunction among the editors at these journals, such as incest and clientelism.

By James Heckman, Henry Schultz Distinguished Service Professor of Economics, University of Chicago; Founding Director, Center for the Economics of Human Development and Sidharth Moktan, Predoctoral Fellow, Center for the Economics of Human Development, University of Chicago. Originally published at VoxEU

Anecdotal evidence suggests that the 'Top Five' economics journals have a strong influence on tenure and promotion decisions, but actual evidence on their influence is sparse. This column uses data on employment and publication histories for tenure-track faculty hired by the top US economics departments between 1996 and 2010 to show that the impact of the Top Five on tenure decisions dwarfs that of non-Top Five journals. A survey of US economics department faculties confirms the Top Five's outsized influence.

Anyone who talks with young economists entering academia about their career prospects and those of their peers cannot fail to note the importance they place on publication in the so-called Top Five journals in economics: the American Economic Review , Econometrica ,the Journal of Political Economy ,the Quarterly Journal of Economics , and the Review of Economic Studies .The discipline's preoccupation with the Top Five is reflected in the large number of scholarly papers that study aspects of the these journals, many of which acknowledge the Top Five's de facto role as arbiter in tenure and promotion decisions (e.g. Ellison 2002, Frey 2009, Card and DellaVigna 2013, Anauti et al. 2015, Hamermesh 2013, 2018, Colussi 2018).

While anecdotal evidence suggests that the Top Five has a strong influence on tenure and promotion decisions, actual evidence on such influence is sparse. Our paper (Heckman and Moktan 2018) fills this gap in the literature. We find that the Top Five has a large impact on tenure decisions within the top 35 US departments of economics, dwarfing the impact of publications in non-Top Five journals. A survey of current tenure-track faculty hired by the top 50 US economics departments confirms the Top Five's outsize influence.

Our empirical and survey-based findings of the Top Five's influence beg the question: is the Top Five an adequate filter of quality? Extending the analysis of Hamermesh (2018), we show that appearance of an article in the Top Five is a poor predictor of quality as measured by citations. Substantial variation in the citations accrued by papers published in the Top Five and overlap in article quality across journals outside the Top Five make aggregate measures of journal quality such as the Top Five label and Impact Factors poor measures of individual article quality. This is a view expressed by many economists and non-economists alike. 1

There are many consequences of the discipline's reliance on the Top Five. It subverts the essential process of assessing and rewarding original research. Using the Top Five to screen the next generation of economists incentivises professional incest and creates clientele effects whereby career-oriented authors appeal to the tastes of editors and biases of journals. It diverts their attention away from basic research toward strategising about formats, lines of research, and favoured topics of journal editors, many with long tenures. It raises the entry costs for new ideas and persons outside the orbits of the journals and their editors. An over-emphasis on Top Five publications perversely incentivises scholars to pursue follow-up and replication work at the expense of creative pioneering research, since follow-up work is easier to judge, is more likely to result in clean publishable results, and is hence more likely to be published. 2 This behaviour is consistent with basic common sense: you get what you incentivise.

In light of the many adverse and potentially severe consequences associated with current practices, we believe that it is unwise for the discipline to continue using publication in the Top Five as a measure of research achievement and as a predictor of future scholarly potential. The call to abandon the use of measures of journal influence in career advancement decisions has already gained momentum in the sciences. As of the time of the writing of this column, 667 organisations and 13,019 individuals have signed the San Francisco Declaration of Research Assessment, a declaration denouncing the use of journal metrics in hiring, career advancement, and funding decisions within the sciences. 3 Economists should take heed of these actions. We provide suggestions for change in the concluding portion of this column.

Documenting the Power of the Top Five

We find strong evidence of the influence of the Top Five. Without doubt, publication in the Top Five is a powerful determinant of tenure and promotion in academic economics. We analyse longitudinal data on employment and publication histories for tenure-track faculty hired by the top 35 US economics department between 1996 and 2010. We find that Top Five publications greatly increase the probability of receiving tenure during the first spell of tenure-track employment (see Figure 1). This is true if we limit samples to the first seven years of employment. Estimates from duration analyses of time to tenure show that publishingthree Top Five articles is associated with a 370% increase in the rate of receiving tenure, compared to candidates with similar levels of publication in non-Top Five journals. The estimated effects of publication in non-Top Five journals pale in comparison.

Figure 1 Predicted probabilities for receipt of tenure in the first spell of tenure-track employment

Notes : The figures plot the predicted probabilities associated with different levels of publications by authors in different journal categories, where the predictions are obtained from a logit model. White diamonds on the bars indicate that the prediction is significantly different than zero at the 5% level.

A survey of current assistant and associate professors hired by the top 50 US economics departments corroborates these findings. On average, junior faculty rank Top Five publications as being the single most influential determinant of tenure and promotion outcomes (see Figure 2). 4

Figure 2 Ranking of performance areas based on their perceived influence on tenure and promotion decisions

Notes : The figure summarises respondents' rankings of either performance areas. Responses are summarised by type of career advancement: tenure receipt, promotion to assistant professor, and promotion to associate professor. The bars present mean responses for each performance area. Respondents were given the option to not rank any or all of the eight performance areas. As a result, the number of respondents varies across the performance areas.

Responses to our survey reveal a widespread belief among junior faculty that the effect of the Top Five on career advancement operates independently of differences in article quality. To separate quality effects from a Top Five placement effect, we ask respondents to report the probability that their department awards tenure or promotion to an individual with Top Five publications compared to an individual identical to the first individual in every way except that he/she has published the same number and quality of articles in non-Top Five journals. If the Top Five influence operates solely through differences in article impact and quality, the expected reported probability would be 0.5. The results in Figure 3 show large and statistically significant deviations from 0.5 in favour of Top Five publication. On average, respondents from top 10 departments believe that the Top Five candidate would receive tenure with a probability of 0.89. The mean probability increases slightly for lower-ranked departments.

Figure 3 Probability that a candidate with Top Five publications receives tenure or promotion instead of an identical candidate with non-Top Five publications, ceteris paribus

Notes : The figure summarises respondents' perceptions about the probability that a candidate with Top Five publications is granted tenure or promotion by the respondent's department instead of a candidate with non-Top Five publications, ceteris paribus. Responses are summarised by type of career advancement: tenure receipt, promotion to assistant professor, and promotion to associate professor. The bars present mean responses for each performance area. White diamonds indicate that the mean response is significantly different than 50% at the 10% level.

The Top Five as a Filter of Quality

The current practice of relying on the Top Five has weak empirical support if judged by its ability to produce impactful papers as measured by citation counts. Extending the citation analysis of Hamermesh (2018), we find considerable heterogeneity in citations within journals and overlap in citations across Top Five and non-Top Five journals (see Figure 4). Moreover, the overlap increases considerably when one compares non-Top Five journals to the less-cited Top Five journals. For instance, while the median Review of Economics and Statistics article ranks in the 38thpercentile of the overall Top Five citation distribution, the same article outranks the median-cited article in the combined Journal of Political Economy and Review of Economic Studies distributions.

Figure 4 Distribution of residualalog citations for articles published between 2000 and 2010 (as at July 2018)

Source : Scopus.com (accessed July 2018)
Note : a The table plots distributions of residual log citations obtained from a model that estimates log(citations+1) as a function of third-degree polynomial for years elapsed between the date of publication and 2018, the year citations were measured. This residualisation adjusts log citations for exposure effects, thereby allowing for comparison of citations received by papers from different publication cohorts.

Definition of journal abbreviations : QJE–Quarterly Journal Of Economics, JPE–Journal Of Political Economy, ECMA–Econometrica, AER–American Economic Review, ReStud–Review Of Economic Studies, JEL–Journal Of Economic Literature, JEP–Journal Of Economic Perspectives, ReStat–Review Of Economics And Statistics, JEG–Journal Of Economic Growth, JOLE–Journal Of Labor Economics, JHR–Journal Of Human Resources, EJ–Economic Journal, JHE–Journal Of Health Economics, ICC–Industrial And Corporate Change, WBER–World Bank Economic Review, RAND–Rand Journal Of Economics, JDE–Journal Of Development Economics, JPub–Journal Of Public Economics, JOE–Journal Of Econometrics, HE–Health Economics, ILR–Industrial And Labor Relations Review, JEEA–Journal Of The European Economic Association, JME–Journal Of Monetary Economics, JRU–Journal Of Risk And Uncertainty, JInE–Journal Of Industrial Economics, JOF–Journal Of Finance, JFE–Journal Of Financial Economics, ReFin–Review Of Financial Studies, JFQA–Journal Of Financial And Quantitative Analysis, and MathFin–Mathematical Finance.

Restricting the citation analysis to the top of the citation distribution produces the same conclusion. Among the top 1% most-cited articles in our citations database, 5 13.6% were published by three non-Top Five journals. 6

Low Editorial Turnover and Incest

Figure 5 Density plot of the number of years served by editors between 1996 and 2016

Source : Brogaard et al. (2014) for data up to 2011. Data for subsequent years collected from journal front pages.

Compounding the privately rational incentive to curry favour with editors is the phenomenon of longevity of editorial terms, especially at house journals (see Figure 5). Low turnover in editorial boards creates the possibility of clientele effects surrounding both journals and their editors. We corroborate the literature that documents the inbred nature of economics publishing (Laband and Piette 1994, Brogaard et al. 2014, Colussi 2018) by estimating incest coefficients that quantify the degree of inbreeding in Top Five publications. We show that network effects are empirically important – editors are likely to select the papers of those they know. 7

Table 1 Incest coefficients: Publications in Top Five between 2000 and 2016, by author affiliation listed during publication

Source : Elsevier, Scopus.com.

Notes : The table reports three columns for each Top Five journal. The left most columns report the number of articles that were affiliated to each university. The middle columns present the percentage of articles published in the journal that were affiliated to the university out of all articles affiliated to the list top universities. The right most columns present the percentage of articles published in the journal that were affiliated to the university out of all articles published in the journal. An author is defined as being affiliated with a university during a given year if he/she listed the university as an affiliation in any publication that was made during that specific year. An article is defined as being affiliated with a university during a specific year if at least one author was affiliated to the university during the year.

Discussion

Reliance on the Top Five as a screening device raises serious concerns. Our findings should spark a serious conversation in the economics profession about developing implementable alternatives for judging the quality of research. Such solutions necessarily de-emphasise the role of the Top Five in tenure and promotion decisions, and redistribute the signalling function more broadly across a range of high-quality journals.

However, a proper solution to the tyranny will likely involve more than a simple redefinition of the Top Five to include a handful of additional influential journals. A better solution will need to address the flaw that is inherent in the practice of judging a scholar's potential for innovative work based on a track record of publications in a handful of select journals. The appropriate solution requires a significant shift from the current publications-based system of deciding tenure to a system that emphasises departmental peer review of a candidate's work. Such a system would give serious consideration to unpublished working papers and to the quality and integrity of a scholar's work. By closely reading published and unpublished papers rather than counting placements of publications, departments would signal that they both acknowledge and adequately account for the greater risk associated with scholars working at the frontiers of the discipline.

A more radical proposal would be to shift publication away from the current journal system with its long delays in refereeing and publication and possibility for incest and favoritism, towards an open source arXiv or PLOS ONE format. 8 Such formats facilitate the dissemination rate of new ideas and provide online real-time peer review for them. Discussion sessions would vet criticisms and provide both authors and their readers with different perspectives within much faster time frames. Shorter, more focused papers would stimulate dialogue and break editorial and journal monopolies. Ellison (2011 )notes that online publication is already being practiced by prominent scholars. Why not broaden the practice across the profession and encourage spirited dialogue and rapid dissemination of new ideas? This evolution has begun with a recently launched economics version of arXiv .

Under any event, the profession should reduce incentives for crass careerism and promote creative activity. Short tenure clocks and reliance on the Top Five to certify quality do just the opposite. In the long run, the profession will benefit from application of more creativity-sensitive screening of its next generation.

See original post for references

[Oct 02, 2018] Randy Wray Modern Monetary Theory How I Came to MMT and What I Include in MMT naked capitalism

Notable quotes:
"... By L. Randall Wray, Professor of Economics at Bard College. Originally published at New Economic Perspectives ..."
"... Treatise on Money ..."
"... State Theory of Money ..."
"... Money and Credit in Capitalist Economies ..."
"... Understanding Modern Money ..."
"... Modern Money Theory ..."
"... Payback: Debt and the shadow side of wealth ..."
"... Reclaiming the State ..."
"... Austerity: The History of a Dangerous Idea ..."
"... permanent Zirp (zero interest rate policy) is probably a better policy since it reduces the compounding of debt and the tendency for the rentier class to take over more of the economy. ..."
"... that one of the consequences of the protracted super-low interest rate regime of the post crisis era was to create a world of hurt for savers, particularly long-term savers like pension funds, life insurers and retirees. ..."
"... income inequality ..."
"... even after paying interest ..."
"... It seems to me that the US macroeconomic policy has been operating under MMT at least since FDR (see for example Beardsley Ruml from 1945). ..."
"... After learning MMT I've occasionally thought I should get a refund for the two economics degree's I originally received. ..."
"... See: https://mythfighter.com/2018/08/27/ten-answers-that-are-contrary-to-popular-wisdom/ ..."
"... There is no avoiding bad government. ..."
"... "Taxes or other obligations (fees, fines, tribute, tithes) drive the currency." ..."
"... "JG is a critical component of MMT. It anchors the currency and ensures that achieving full employment will enhance both price and financial stability." ..."
Oct 02, 2018 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

Randy Wray: Modern Monetary Theory – How I Came to MMT and What I Include in MMT Posted on October 2, 2018 by Yves Smith By L. Randall Wray, Professor of Economics at Bard College. Originally published at New Economic Perspectives

I was asked to give a short presentation at the MMT conference. What follows is the text version of my remarks, some of which I had to skip over in the interests of time. Many readers might want to skip to the bullet points near the end, which summarize what I include in MMT.

I'd also like to quickly respond to some comments that were made at the very last session of the conference -- having to do with "approachability" of the "original" creators of MMT. Like Bill Mitchell, I am uncomfortable with any discussion of "rockstars" or "heroes". I find this quite embarrassing. As Bill said, we're just doing our job. We are happy (or, more accurately pleasantly surprised) that so many people have found our work interesting and useful. I'm happy (even if uncomfortable) to sign books and to answer questions at such events. I don't mind emailed questions, however please understand that I receive hundreds of emails every day, and the vast majority of the questions I get have been answered hundreds, thousands, even tens of thousands of times by the developers of MMT. A quick reading of my Primer or search of NEP (and Bill's blog and Warren's blogs) will reveal answers to most questions. So please do some homework first. I receive a lot of "questions" that are really just a thinly disguised pretense to argue with MMT -- I don't have much patience with those. Almost every day I also receive a 2000+ word email laying out the writer's original thesis on how the economy works and asking me to defend MMT against that alternative vision. I am not going to engage in a debate via email. If you have an alternative, gather together a small group and work for 25 years to produce scholarly articles, popular blogs, and media attention -- as we have done for MMT -- and then I'll pay attention. That said, here you go: wrayr@umkc.edu .

******************************************************************************

As an undergraduate I studied psychology and social sciences -- but no economics, which probably gave me an advantage when I finally did come to economics. I began my economics career in my late 20's studying mostly Institutionalist and Marxist approaches while working for the local government in Sacramento. However, I did carefully read Keynes's General Theory at Sacramento State and one of my professors -- John Henry -- pushed me to go to St. Louis to study with Hyman Minsky, the greatest Post Keynesian economist.

I wrote my dissertation in Bologna under Minsky's direction, focusing on private banking and the rise of what we called "nonbank banks" and "off-balance sheet operations" (now called shadow banking). While in Bologna, I met Otto Steiger -- who had an alternative to the barter story of money that was based on his theory of property. I found it intriguing because it was consistent with some of Keynes's Treatise on Money that I was reading at the time. Also, I had found Knapp's State Theory of Money -- cited in both Steiger and Keynes–so I speculated on money's origins (in spite of Minsky's warning that he didn't want me to write Genesis ) and the role of the state in my dissertation that became a book in 1990 -- Money and Credit in Capitalist Economies -- that helped to develop the Post Keynesian endogenous money approach.

What was lacking in that literature was an adequate treatment of the role of the state–which played a passive role -- supplying reserves as demanded by private bankers -- that is the Post Keynesian accommodationist or Horzontalist approach. There was no discussion of the relation of money to fiscal policy at that time. As I continued to read about the history of money, I became more convinced that we need to put the state at the center. Fortunately I ran into two people that helped me to see how to do it.

First there was Warren Mosler, who I met online in the PKT discussion group; he insisted on viewing money as a tax-driven government monopoly. Second, I met Michael Hudson at a seminar at the Levy Institute, who provided the key to help unlock what Keynes had called his "Babylonian Madness" period -- when he was driven crazy trying to understand early money. Hudson argued that money was an invention of the authorities used for accounting purposes. So over the next decade I worked with a handful of people to put the state into monetary theory.

As we all know, the mainstream wants a small government, with a central bank that follows a rule (initially, a money growth rate but now some version of inflation targeting). The fiscal branch of government is treated like a household that faces a budget constraint. But this conflicts with Institutionalist theory as well as Keynes's own theory. As the great Institutionalist Fagg Foster -- who preceded me at the University of Denver–put it: whatever is technically feasible is financially feasible. How can we square that with the belief that sovereign government is financially constrained? And if private banks can create money endogenously -- without limit -- why is government constrained?

My second book, in 1998, provided a different view of sovereign spending. I also revisited the origins of money. By this time I had discovered the two best articles ever written on the nature of money -- by Mitchell Innes. Like Warren, Innes insisted that the dollar's value is derived from the tax that drives it. And he argued this has always been the case. This was also consistent with what Keynes claimed in the Treatise, where he said that money has been a state money for the past four thousand years, at least. I called this "modern money" with intentional irony -- and titled my 1998 book Understanding Modern Money as an inside joke. It only applies to the past 4000 years.

Surprisingly, this work was more controversial than the earlier endogenous money research. In my view it was a natural extension -- or more correctly, it was the prerequisite to a study of privately created money. You need the state's money before you can have private money. Eventually our work found acceptance outside economics -- especially in law schools, among historians, and with anthropologists.

For the most part, our fellow economists, including the heterodox ones, attacked us as crazy.

I benefited greatly by participating in law school seminars (in Tel Aviv, Cambridge, and Harvard) on the legal history of money -- that is where I met Chris Desan and later Farley Grubb, and eventually Rohan Grey. Those who knew the legal history of money had no problem in adopting MMT view -- unlike economists.

I remember one of the Harvard seminars when a prominent Post Keynesian monetary theorist tried to argue against the taxes drive money view. He said he never thinks about taxes when he accepts money -- he accepts currency because he believes he can fob it off on Buffy Sue. The audience full of legal historians broke out in an explosion of laughter -- yelling "it's the taxes, stupid". All he could do in response was to mumble that he might have to think more about it.

Another prominent Post Keynesian claimed we had two things wrong. First, government debt isn't special -- debt is debt. Second, he argued we don't need double entry book-keeping -- his model has only single entry book-keeping. Years later he agreed that private debt is more dangerous than sovereign debt, and he's finally learned double-entry accounting. But of course whenever you are accounting for money you have to use quadruple entry book-keeping. Maybe in another dozen years he'll figure that out.

As a student I had read a lot of anthropology -- as most Institutionalists do. So I knew that money could not have come out of tribal economies based on barter exchange. As you all know, David Graeber's book insisted that anthropologists have never found any evidence of barter-based markets. Money preceded market exchange.

Studying history also confirmed our story, but you have to carefully read between the lines. Most historians adopt monetarism because the only economics they know is Friedman–who claims that money causes inflation. Almost all of them also adopt a commodity money view -- gold was good money and fiat paper money causes inflation. If you ignore those biases, you can learn a lot about the nature of money from historians.

Farley Grubb -- the foremost authority on Colonial currency -- proved that the American colonists understood perfectly well that taxes drive money. Every Act that authorized the issue of paper money imposed a Redemption Tax. The colonies burned all their tax revenue. Again, history shows that this has always been true. All money must be redeemed -- that is, accepted by its issuer in payment. As Innes said, that is the fundamental nature of credit. It is written right there in the early acts by the American colonies. Even a gold coin is the issuer's IOU, redeemed in payment of taxes. Once you understand that, you understand the nature of money.

So we were winning the academic debates, across a variety of disciplines. But we had a hard time making progress in economics or in policy circles. Bill, Warren, Mat Forstater and I used to meet up every year or so to count the number of economists who understood what we were talking about. It took over decade before we got up to a dozen. I can remember telling Pavlina Tcherneva back around 2005 that I was about ready to give it up.

But in 2007, Warren, Bill and I met to discuss writing an MMT textbook. Bill and I knew the odds were against us -- it would be for a small market, consisting mostly of our former students. Still, we decided to go for it. Here we are -- another dozen years later -- and the textbook is going to be published. MMT is everywhere. It was even featured in a New Yorker crossword puzzle in August. You cannot get more mainstream than that.

We originally titled our textbook Modern Money Theory , but recently decided to just call it Macroeconomics . There's no need to modify that with a subtitle. What we do is Macroeconomics. There is no coherent alternative to MMT.

A couple of years ago Charles Goodhart told me: "You won. Declare victory but be magnanimous about it." After so many years of fighting, both of those are hard to do. We won. Be nice.

Let me finish with 10 bullet points of what I include in MMT:

1. What is money: An IOU denominated in a socially sanctioned money of account. In almost all known cases, it is the authority -- the state -- that chooses the money of account. This comes from Knapp, Innes, Keynes, Geoff Ingham, and Minsky.

2. Taxes or other obligations (fees, fines, tribute, tithes) drive the currency. The ability to impose such obligations is an important aspect of sovereignty; today states alone monopolize this power. This comes from Knapp, Innes, Minsky, and Mosler.

3. Anyone can issue money; the problem is to get it accepted. Anyone can write an IOU denominated in the recognized money of account; but acceptance can be hard to get unless you have the state backing you up. This is Minsky.

4. The word "redemption" is used in two ways -- accepting your own IOUs in payment and promising to convert your IOUs to something else (such as gold, foreign currency, or the state's IOUs).

The first is fundamental and true of all IOUs. All our gold bugs mistakenly focus on the second meaning -- which does not apply to the currencies issued by most modern nations, and indeed does not apply to most of the currencies issued throughout history. This comes from Innes and Knapp, and is reinforced by Hudson's and Grubb's work, as well as by Margaret Atwood's great book: Payback: Debt and the shadow side of wealth .

5. Sovereign debt is different. There is no chance of involuntary default so long as the state only promises to accept its currency in payment. It could voluntarily repudiate its debt, but this is rare and has not been done by any modern sovereign nation.

6. Functional Finance: finance should be "functional" (to achieve the public purpose), not "sound" (to achieve some arbitrary "balance" between spending and revenues). Most importantly, monetary and fiscal policy should be formulated to achieve full employment with price stability. This is credited to Abba Lerner, who was introduced into MMT by Mat Forstater.

In its original formulation it is too simplistic, summarized as two principles: increase government spending (or reduce taxes) and increase the money supply if there is unemployment (do the reverse if there is inflation). The first of these is fiscal policy and the second is monetary policy. A steering wheel metaphor is often invoked, using policy to keep the economy on course. A modern economy is far too complex to steer as if you were driving a car. If unemployment exists it is not enough to say that you can just reduce the interest rate, raise government spending, or reduce taxes. The first might even increase unemployment. The second two could cause unacceptable inflation, increase inequality, or induce financial instability long before they solved the unemployment problem. I agree that government can always afford to spend more. But the spending has to be carefully targeted to achieve the desired result. I'd credit all my Institutionalist influences for that, including Minsky.

7. For that reason, the JG is a critical component of MMT. It anchors the currency and ensures that achieving full employment will enhance both price and financial stability. This comes from Minsky's earliest work on the ELR, from Bill Mitchell's work on bufferstocks and Warren Mosler's work on monopoly price setting.

8. And also for that reason, we need Minsky's analysis of financial instability. Here I don't really mean the financial instability hypothesis. I mean his whole body of work and especially the research line that began with his dissertation written under Schumpeter up through his work on Money Manager Capitalism at the Levy Institute before he died.

9. The government's debt is our financial asset. This follows from the sectoral balances approach of Wynne Godley. We have to get our macro accounting correct. Minsky always used to tell students: go home and do the balances sheets because what you are saying is nonsense. Fortunately, I had learned T-accounts from John Ranlett in Sacramento (who also taught Stephanie Kelton from his own, great, money and banking textbook -- it is all there, including the impact of budget deficits on bank reserves). Godley taught us about stock-flow consistency and he insisted that all mainstream macroeconomics is incoherent.

10. Rejection of the typical view of the central bank as independent and potent. Monetary policy is weak and its impact is at best uncertain -- it might even be mistaking the brake pedal for the gas pedal. The central bank is the government's bank so can never be independent. Its main independence is limited to setting the overnight rate target, and it is probably a mistake to let it do even that. Permanent Zirp (zero interest rate policy) is probably a better policy since it reduces the compounding of debt and the tendency for the rentier class to take over more of the economy. I credit Keynes, Minsky, Hudson, Mosler, Eric Tymoigne, and Scott Fullwiler for much of the work on this.

That is my short list of what MMT ought to include. Some of these traditions have a very long history in economics. Some were long lost until we brought them back into discussion. We've integrated them into a coherent approach to Macro. In my view, none of these can be dropped if you want a macroeconomics that is applicable to the modern economy. There are many other issues that can be (often are) included, most importantly environmental concerns and inequality, gender and race/ethnicity. I have no problem with that.

Hilary Barnes , October 2, 2018 at 3:01 am

Out of my depth: "7. For that reason, the JG is a critical component of MMT." The JG?

BillC , October 2, 2018 at 3:07 am

Job guarantee (especially as distinguished from a basic income guarantee). See here for fairly recent coverage by Lambert.

Epistrophy , October 2, 2018 at 6:16 am

I had exactly the same question. Thank you.

skippy , October 2, 2018 at 7:04 am

A JG is to discontinue NAIRU or structural under-unemployment with attendant monetarist/quasi inflation views. Something MMT has be at pains to point out wrt fighting a nonexistent occurrence due to extended deflationary period.

dcrane , October 2, 2018 at 5:31 am

The paragraph on "double entry book-keeping" is also a bit too inside-baseball. Otherwise I enjoyed the essay.

PlutoniumKun , October 2, 2018 at 6:11 am

Yup, he lost me on quadruple entry book-keeping, thats the first time I ever heard of that concept.

Quanka , October 2, 2018 at 8:02 am

Its double entry accounting counting both sides of the equation. Fed deposits money into bank requires 4 entries, a double entry for the Fed and for the bank. Typical double entry accounting only looks at the books of 1 entity at a time. Quadruple Entry accounting makes the connection between the government monetary policy and private business accounting. I'm not an accountant, I may have butchered that.

todde , October 2, 2018 at 12:15 pm

that's pretty much it

Peter Pan , October 2, 2018 at 1:37 pm

Does Steve Keen's "Minsky" program utilize quadruple-entry bookkeeping?

Todde , October 2, 2018 at 1:47 pm

Double entry

Grebo , October 2, 2018 at 3:12 pm

Yes it does. Double entry for each party to the transaction.

todde , October 2, 2018 at 3:29 pm

you are right – it does give each parties transactions.

horostam , October 2, 2018 at 8:43 am

think about banks and reserves, your money is on the bank's liability side (and your asset), while the reserves are on the bank's asset side (and gov't or fed's liability.)

i think its the reserves that quadruple it, reserves are confusing because when you move $5 from a bank account to buy ice cream its not just one copy of the $5 that moves between checking accounts, there is another $5 that moves "under the hood" so to speak in reserve world

HotFlash , October 2, 2018 at 12:10 pm

Very briefly, double entry bookkeeping keeps track of how money comes in/out, and where it came from/went. Cash is the determining item (although there may be a few removes). Hence, say I buy a $20 dollar manicure from you. I record my purchase as "Debit (increase) expense: manicure $20, credit (decrease) cash, $20". Bonus! If my bookkeeping is correct, my debits and credits are equal and if I add them up (credits are minus and debits are plus) the total is zero – my books "balance". So, double-entry bookkeeping is also a hash-total check on my accounting accuracy. But I digress.

On your books, the entry would be "Debit (increase) cash $20, credit (decrease) sales, $20".

So, your double-entry book plus my double-entry books would be quadruple-entry accounting.

JCC , October 2, 2018 at 9:40 am

#7 was my immediate stopper, too. It drives me nuts when people introduce 2-3-4 letter acronyms with no explanation (I work for the DoD and I'm surrounded by these "code words". I rarely know what people are talking about and when I ask, the people talking rarely know what these TLAs – T hree L etter A cronyms – stand for either!).

Next question regarding #7: What is ELR?

Other than #7, I really appreciate this article. NC teaches and/or clarifies on a daily basis.

Mel , October 2, 2018 at 10:11 am

Employer of Last Resort? (Wikipedia)

Matthew Platte , October 2, 2018 at 11:29 am

DoD?

JCC , October 2, 2018 at 2:45 pm

Guilty as charged :-)

For non-US readers, DoD is D epartment o f D efense, the undisputed-by-many home of TLAs.

lyman alpha blob , October 2, 2018 at 3:10 pm

Ha! I really love this blog.

somecallmetim , October 2, 2018 at 12:51 pm

NC?

;)

Bill C , October 2, 2018 at 3:02 am

Thank you for this post!

This quick, entertaining read is IMHO nothing less than a "Rosetta Stone" that can bring non-specialists to understand MMT: not just how , but why it differs from now-conventional neoliberal economics. I hope it finds a wide readership and that its many references to MMT's antecedents inspire serious study by the unconvinced (and I hope they don't take Wray's invitation to skip the 10 bullet points).

This piece is a fine demonstration of why I've missed Wray as he seemed to withdraw from public discourse for the last few years.

HotFlash , October 2, 2018 at 12:14 pm

No no! He said "Many readers might want to skip to the bullet points near the end, which summarize what I include in MMT."

el_tel , October 2, 2018 at 4:55 am

Thank you! The (broad) analogies with my own experience are there. I had a decidedly "mainstream" macro education at Cambridge (UK); though many of the "old school" professors/college Fellows who, although not MMT people as we'd currently understand (or weren't at *that* stage – Godley lectured a module I took but this was in the early 1990s) were still around, in hindsight the "university syllabus" (i.e. what you needed to regurgitate to pass exams) had already steered towards neoliberalism. I never really understood why I never "got" macro and it was consistently my weakest subject.

It was later, having worked in the City of London, learned accountancy in my actuarial training, and then most crucially starting reading blogs from people who went on to become MMT leading lights, that I realised the problem wasn't ME, it was the subject matter. So I had to painfully unlearn much of what I was taught and begin the difficult process of getting my head around a profoundly different paradigm. I still hesitate to argue the MMT case to friends, since I don't usually have to hand the "quick snappy one liners" that would torpedo their old discredited understanding.

I'm still profoundly grateful for the "old school" Cambridge College Fellows who were obviously being sidelined by the University and who taught me stuff like the Marxist/Lerner critiques, British economic history, political economy of the system etc. Indeed whilst I had "official" tutorials with a finance guy who practically came whenever Black-Scholes etc was being discussed, an old schooler was simultaneously predicting that it would blow the world economy up at some point (and of course he was in the main , correct). I still had to fill in some gaps in my knowledge (anthropology was not a module, though Marxist economics was), with hindsight I appreciate so much more of what the "old schoolers" said on the sly during quiet points in tutorials – Godley being one, although he wasn't ready at that time to release the work he subsequently published and was so revolutionary. Having peers educated elsewhere during my Masters and PhD who knew nothing of the subjects that – whilst certainly not the "key guide" to "proper macro" described in the article – began to horrify me later in my career.

skippy , October 2, 2018 at 5:07 am

Thanks for your efforts Mr Wray, your provide a rich resource to familiarize most and in some cases refute doctrinaire attitudes. Kudos.

BTW completely agree with the perspective against PR marketing of the topic or individuals wrt MMT or PK.

Lambert Strether , October 2, 2018 at 5:23 am

This is really great. Thanks a ton, as Yves would say.

I know I have used to "rock star" metaphor on occasion, so let me explain that to me what is important in excellent (i.e., live) rock and roll is improvisational interplay among the group members -- the dozen or so who understood MMT in the beginning, in this case -- who know the tune, know each other, and yet manage to make the song a little different each time. It's really spectacular to see in action. Nothing to do with spotlights, or celebrity worship, or fandom!

DavidEG , October 2, 2018 at 5:54 am

I'm no MMT expert, but I think this article does a good job of juxtaposing MMT with classic (non-advanced) macroeconomics. I quote:

In the language of Tinbergen (1952), the debate between MMT and mainstream macro can be thought of as a debate over which instrument should be assigned to which target. The consensus assignment is that the interest rate, under the control of an independent central bank, should be assigned to the output gap target, while the fiscal position, under control of the elected budget authorities, should be assigned to the debt sustainability target. [ ] The functional finance assignment is the reverse -- the fiscal balance under the budget authorities is assigned to the output target, while any concerns about debt sustainability are the responsibility of the monetary authority.

What about interest rate fixing? The central bank would remain in charge of that, but in an MMT context this instrument would lose most of its relevance:

[W]hile a simple swapping of instruments and targets is one way to think about functional finance, this does not describe the usual MMT view of how the policy interest rate should be set. What is generally called for, rather, is that the interest rate be permanently kept at a very low level, perhaps zero. In an orthodox policy framework, of course, this would create the risk of runaway inflation; but keep in mind that in the functional framework, the fiscal balance is set to whatever level is consistent with price stability.

It may be a partial reconstruction of MMT, but to me this seems to be a neat way to present MMT to most people. Saying that taxes are there just to remove money from the economy or to provide incentives is a rather extreme statement that is bound to elicit some fierce opposition.

Having said that, I've never seen anyone address what I think are two issues to MMT: how to make sure that the power to create money is not exploited by a political body in order to achieve consensus, and how to assure that the idea of unlimited monetary resources do not lead to misallocation and inefficiencies (the bloated, awash-with-money US military industry would probably be a good example).

larry , October 2, 2018 at 6:14 am

The best comparison of MMT with neoliberal neoclassical economics, in my view, is Bill Mitchell's blog post, "How to Discuss Modern Monetary Theory" ( http://bilbo.economicoutlook.net/blog/?p=25961 ). I especially recommend the table near the end as a terrific summary of the differences between the mainstream narrative and MMT.

el_tel , October 2, 2018 at 8:53 am

Thanks! I have enormous respect for Mitchell, given the quantity and quality of his blogging. However, my only nitpick is that a lot of his blog entries are quite long and "not easily digestible". I have long thought that one of those clever people who can do those 3 minute rapid animation vids we see on youtube is needed to "do a Lakoff" and change the metaphors/language. But this post of Mitchell (which I missed, since I don't read all his stuff) is, IMHO, his best at "re-orienting us".

kgw , October 2, 2018 at 11:15 am

I get this "http's server IP address could not be found." I'll try, gasp, googling it

el_tel , October 2, 2018 at 11:24 am

FWIW I mucked around with the link in Firefox (although I typically use Opera, which gave me that same error) and could read it.

Epistrophy , October 2, 2018 at 6:34 am

Saying that taxes are there just to remove money from the economy or to provide incentives is a rather extreme statement that is bound to elicit some fierce opposition.

Yes this is a frightening statement. The power to tax is the power to destroy. If this is a foundation point of the proposal then

Having said that, I've never seen anyone address what I think are two issues to MMT: how to make sure that the power to create money is not exploited by a political body in order to achieve consensus, and how to assure that the idea of unlimited monetary resources do not lead to misallocation and inefficiencies (the bloated, awash-with-money US military industry would probably be a good example).

Bingo. My thoughts exactly. Too much power in the hands of the few. Easy to slide into Orwell's Animal Farm – where some people are more equal than others.

MMT is based upon very good intentions but, in my view, there is a moral rot at the root of the US of A's problems, not sure this can be solved by monetary policy and more centralized control.

And the JG? Once the government starts to permanently guarantee jobs

skippy , October 2, 2018 at 7:12 am

I suggest you delve into what is proposed by the MMT – PK camp wrt a JG because its not centralized in the manner you suggest. It would be more regional and hopefully administrated via social democratic means e.g. the totalitarian aspect is moot.

I think its incumbent on commenters to do at least a cursory examination before heading off on some deductive rationalizations, which might have undertones of some book they read e.g. environmental bias.

Epistrophy , October 2, 2018 at 7:38 am

Skippy, I read the article, plus the links, including those links of the comments. I will admit that I am a little more right of center in my views than many on the website.

The idea is interesting, but the administration of such a system would require rewriting the US Constitution, or an Amendment to it if one thinks the process through, would it not? I think of the Amendment required to create the Federal Reserve System when I say this.

skippy , October 2, 2018 at 7:45 am

I think WWII is instructive here.

Clive , October 2, 2018 at 7:58 am

One thing I really don't like at all -- and I've crossed swords with many over this -- is that we do tend to take (not just in the US, this is prevalent in far too many places) things like the constitution, or cultural norms, or traditions or other variants of "that's the way we've always done this" and elevate them to a level of sacrosanctity.

Not for one moment am I suggesting that we should ever rush into tweaking such devices lightly nor without a great deal of analysis and introspective consultations.

Constitutions get amended all the time. The Republic of Ireland changed its to renounce a territorial claim on Northern Ireland. The U.K. created a right for Scotland to secede from the Union. There's even a country in Europe voting whether to formally change its name right now. Britain "gave up" its empire territories (not, I would add speedily, without a lot of prodding, but still, we got there in the end). All of which were, at one time or another, "unthinkable". Even the US, perhaps the most inherently resistant to change country when it thinks it's being "forced" to do so, begrudgingly acknowledged Cuba.

If something is necessary, it should be done.

vlade , October 2, 2018 at 8:06 am

Human laws (any and all, for simplicity I include culture, customs etc.. here) are not laws of nature.

They change over time to survive. The easy way, or the hard way.

Or they don't survive at all, that's an option too.

witters , October 2, 2018 at 9:09 am

"Human laws (any and all, for simplicity I include culture, customs etc.. here) are not laws of nature."

Wave Function Collapse?

voteforno6 , October 2, 2018 at 8:14 am

Why would a jobs guarantee require a constitutional amendment? The federal government creates jobs all the time, with certain defined benefits. This would merely expand upon that, to potentially include anyone who wants a job.

Epistrophy , October 2, 2018 at 8:26 am

I was thinking of implementing the whole concept of MMT, of which the JG is but one part, with this statement. Perhaps I did not make that clear.

voteforno6 , October 2, 2018 at 8:36 am

There are a couple different aspects of this that people are getting mixed together, I think. The core of MMT is not a proposal for government to implement. Rather, it is simply a description of how sovereign currencies actually operate, as opposed by mainstream economics, which has failed in this regard. In other words, we don't need any new laws to implement MMT – we need a paradigm shift.

The Jobs Guarantee is a policy proposal that flows from this different paradigm.

skippy , October 2, 2018 at 3:16 pm

It has been stated many times that it is to inform policy wrt to potential and not some booming voice from above dictating from some ridged ideology.

Persoanly as a capitalist I can't phantom why anyone would want structural under – unemployment. Seems like driving around with the hand brake on and then wondering why performance is restricted or parts wear out early.

todde , October 2, 2018 at 4:37 pm

Power.

I want 12 people lined up at the door to take your job, and then you will know where the power lies

Carla , October 2, 2018 at 11:18 am

Re-writing the U.S. Constitution is something people think about and talk about all the time, FYI.

todde , October 2, 2018 at 1:08 pm

the Amendment required to create the Federal Reserve System

What Amendment was that?

And since the Constitution gives Congress the power to coin money I am unaware of any reason an amendment would be necessary.

Epistrophy , October 2, 2018 at 3:43 pm

Thinking of the Federal Reserve Act being enabled by the Federal Income Tax of the 16th Amendment.

Using Federal taxes to fund the JG; I do not think that this aspect of it (and others) would survive a Constitutional challenge. Therefore ultimately an Amendment might be needed.

Then again I may be wrong. Technically Obamacare should have been implemented by an Amendment were strict Constitutional law applied.

Rights to health care and jobs are not enumerated in either the Constitution or Bill of Rights, as far as I am aware.

todde , October 2, 2018 at 4:05 pm

16th Amendment had nothing to do with the Federal Reserve.

And I think you are confusing 'you must buy health insurance or face a tax", with "You have a right to have healthcare".

If the government forced you to work, you may have a case.

There are 3 things the feds can spend federal funds on, pay debt, provide for the common defense, and the general welfare clause.

The General Welfare clause has been interpreted very widely in regards to Government spending.

New Deal, Social Security, Medicare/aid all survived court challenges, or if they lost, they lost on regulatory issues, and not 'spending' issues

Epistrophy , October 2, 2018 at 7:28 am

Not opposed to some of the principles of MMT, just don't understand, in this modern age where effectively all currency is electronic digits in a banking computer system, the issue of a currency must be tied to taxes. In years past, where currency was printed and in one's pocket, or stuffed under a mattress, or couriered by stagecoach, then yes – taxes would be needed. But today can we not just print (electronically) the cash needed for government operations each year based upon a fixed percentage of private sector GDP? Why therefore do we need government debt? Why do we need an income tax?

skippy , October 2, 2018 at 7:37 am

A. GDP is non distributional.

B. Had taxation not been promoted as theft in some camps Volcker would have not had to jack IR to such a upper bound during the Vietnam war.

C. Government Debt allocated to socially productive activities is a long term asset with distributional income vectors.

D. Ask the Greeks.

Epistrophy , October 2, 2018 at 7:48 am

Skippy, I have lived and worked in countries without income tax (but instead indirect tax) and where government operating revenue was based upon a percentage of projected national revenue. I have been involved in the administration of such budgets.

I am in favor of government spending, or perhaps more accurately termed investing, public money on long-term, economically beneficial projects. But this is not happening. The reality is that government priorities can easily be hijacked by political interests, as we currently witness.

larry , October 2, 2018 at 7:58 am

While I agree that political highjacking is possible and must be dealt with, this is not strictly speaking part of an economic theory, which is what MMT is. While MMT authors may take political positions, the theory itself is politically neutral.

Income taxes, tithes, or any other kind of driver is what drives the monetary circuit. Consider it from first principles. You have just set up a new government with a new currency where this government is the monopoly issuer. No one else has any money yet. So, the government must be the first spender. However, how is this nascent government going to motivate anyone to use this new currency? Via taxation, or like means, that can only be met by using the national currency, whatever form that currency may take, marks on a stick, paper, an entry in a ledger, or the like.

Epistrophy , October 2, 2018 at 8:34 am

Thank you for this explanation. I understand that, for example, this is why the Federal Reserve Act of 1913, I believe, created the Federal Reserve and Federal Income Tax at the same time.

But the US economy functioned adequately, survived a civil war, numerous banking crises, experienced industrialization, national railways, etc without a central bank or federal income tax from the 1790's to 1913.

To me, the US's state of perpetual war is enabled by Federal Income Tax. Without it the MIC would collapse, I am certain.

John k , October 2, 2018 at 10:31 am

Functioned adequately
During the 150 yr hard money period we had recessions/depressions that we're both far more frequent (every three years) and on avg far deeper than what we have had since fdr copied the brits and took us off the gold standard. Great deprecession was neither the longest or deepest.
Two reasons
Banks used to fail frequently, a run on one bank typically leading to runs on other banks, spreading across regions like prairie fires if your bank failed you lost all your money. Consequences were serious.
During GR so many banks failed in the Midwest, leading to farm foreclosures, the region was near armed insurrection in 1932. Fiat meant that the fed can supply unlimited liquidity. Since then banks have failed but immediately taken over by another. Critically, no depositor has lost a penny, even those with far more exposed than the deposit insurance limit. No runs on us banks since 1933.
Second, we now have auto stabilizers, spending continues during downturns because gov has no spending limit. Note previously in an emergency gov borrowed. 10 mil from J.P. Morgan.

Brian , October 2, 2018 at 11:30 am

But at what cost? no depositor loses money, yet huge amounts are required to be printed, thus devaluing the "currency". So is the answer inflation that must by necessity become hyperinflation?
I don't understand why it is important to protect a bank vs. making it perform its function without risking collapse. This is magical thinking as we have found very few banks in this world not ready and willing to pillage their clients, be it nations or just the little folk.
Why would anyone trust a government to do the right thing by its population? When has that ever worked out in favor of the people?
I can not understand the trust being demanded by this concept. It wants trust for the users, but in no way can it expect trust or virtue from the issuer of the "currency"

also, I can't help but think MMT is for growth at all costs. Hasn't the growth shown that it is pernicious in itself? Destroy the planet for the purpose of stabilizing "currency".

Our federal reserve gave banks trillions of dollars, and then demanded they keep much of it with the Fed and are paid interest not to use it. It inflated the "currency" in circulation yet again and now it is becoming clear a great percentage of people in our country can no longer eat, no longer purchase medications, a home, a business

If being on a hard money system as we were causes recessions and depressions, would we find that it was a natural function to cut off the speculators at their knees?

How does MMT promote and retain value for the actual working and producing people that have no recourse with their government? I would like to read about what is left out of this monumental equation.

TroyMcClure , October 2, 2018 at 12:10 pm

Money is not a commodity and does not "lose value" the more of it there is.

todde , October 2, 2018 at 12:57 pm

we used to protect the banks depositors and the government put the the bank in receivership.

That went away in the 21st century for some reason.

Now we protect the bank and put the Government in receivership (Greece).

todde , October 2, 2018 at 12:08 pm

Some points:

US had a federal income tax during the civil war and for a decade or so after.

I have always assumed that mass conscription and the Dreadnought arms race led to the implementation of the modern taxing/monetary system. (gov't needed both warfare and welfare)

Taxes, just as debt, create an artificial demand for currency as one must pay back their taxes in {currency}, and one must pay back debt in {currency}. It doesn't have to be an income tax, and I think a sales tax would be a better driver of demand than an income tax.

The US had land sales that helped fund government expenditures in the 1800s.

HotFlash , October 2, 2018 at 12:32 pm

Not all taxes are income taxes. Back in the day (20's/30's/40's),my grandfather could pay off the (county) property taxes on his farm by plowing snow for the county in the winter -- and he was damned careful to make sure that the county commissioners' driveways were plowed out as early as possible after a storm.

In the 30's/40's the property tax laws were changed to be payable only in dollars.

So Grandpa had to make cash crops. Things changed and money became necessary.

Benjamin Wolf , October 2, 2018 at 7:44 am

But today can we not just print (electronically) the cash needed for government operations each year based upon a fixed percentage of private sector GDP?

The élites could, but it would be totally undemocratic and the economics profession's track record of forecasting growth is no better than letting a cat choose a number written on an index card.

Why therefore do we need government debt?

There is no government debt. It's just a record of interest payments Congress has agreed to make because the wealthy wanted another welfare program.

Why do we need an income tax?

The only logically consistent purpose is because people have too much income.

voteforno6 , October 2, 2018 at 8:19 am

I think the point they're driving at, is that by requiring the payment of taxes in a particular currency, a government creates demand for that currency. There are other uses for federal taxes, not the least of which is to keep inflation in check.

Government debt is not needed, at least not at the federal level. My understanding of it is that it's a relic from the days of the gold standard. It's also very useful to some rather large financial institutions, so eliminating it would be politically difficult.

WobblyTelomeres , October 2, 2018 at 9:23 am

Wray has said in interviews that the debt (and associated treasury bonds), while not strictly necessary in a fiat currency, is of use in that it provides a safe base for investment, for pensioners and retirees, etc.

Sure, it could be eliminated by (a) trillion dollar platinum coins deposited at the Federal Reserve followed by (b) slowly paying off the existing debt when the bonds mature or (c) simply decreeing that the Fed must go to a terminal and type in 21500000000000 as the US Gov account balance (hope I got the number of zeroes correct!).

It could be argued that the US doesn't strictly need taxes to drive currency demand as long as our status as the world reserve currency is maintained (see oft-discussed petrodollar, Libya, etc). If that status is imperiled, say by an push by a coalition of nations to establish a different currency as the "world reserve currency") taxes would be needed to drive currency demand.

I think most of this is covered in one way or another here:

http://neweconomicperspectives.org/modern-monetary-theory-primer.html

HotFlash , October 2, 2018 at 12:39 pm

Government debt is not actually a 'real thing'. It is a residue of double-entry bookkeeping, as is net income (income minus expenses, that's a credit in the double-entry system). It could as well be called 'retained earnings (also a 'book' credit in the double-entry system). If everybody had to take bookkeeping in high school there would be far few knickers in knots!

Todde , October 2, 2018 at 3:10 pm

Its real if you pay an interest rate on it

Grebo , October 2, 2018 at 3:48 pm

There are two kinds of government 'debt': the accumulated deficit which is the money in circulation not a real debt, and outstanding bonds which is real in the sense that it must be repaid with interest.

However, the government can choose the interest rate and pay it (or buy back the bonds at any time) with newly minted money at no cost to itself, cf. QE.

Neither kind warrant bunched panties.

todde , October 2, 2018 at 4:39 pm

no panties bunched.

horostam , October 2, 2018 at 8:51 am

seems to me that the guaranteed jobs would be stigmatized, and make it harder for people to get private sector jobs. "once youre in the JG industry, its hard to get out" etc.

how much of a guarantee is the job guarantee supposed to be? ie. at what point can you get fired from a guaranteed job?

Epistrophy , October 2, 2018 at 9:31 am

Yes, my mind wandered into the same territory. While I agree that something needs to be done, it also has the potential to strike at the heart of a lean, merit-based system by introducing another layer of bureaucracy. In principle, I am not against the idea, but as they say, "God (or the Devil – take your pick) is in the details ".

The Rev Kev , October 2, 2018 at 9:48 am

Is there any point in working for a jobs guarantee when the only sort of jobs that would probably be guaranteed would be MacJobs and Amazon workers?

Newton Finn , October 2, 2018 at 11:23 am

If you haven't already read it, "Reclaiming the State" by Mitchell and Fazi (Pluto Press 2017) provides a detailed and cogent analysis of how neoliberalism came into ascendency, and how the principles of MMT can be used to pave the way to a more humane and sustainable economic system. A new political agenda for the left, drawing in a different way upon the nationalism that has energized the right, is laid out for those progressives who understand the necessity of broadening their appeal. And the jobs guarantee that MMT proposes has NOTHING to do with MacJobs and Amazon workers. It has to do with meeting essential human and environmental needs which are not profitable to meet in today's private sector.

HotFlash , October 2, 2018 at 12:51 pm

Job guarantee, or govt as employer of last resort -- now there is a social challenge/opportunity if there ever was one.

Well managed, it would guarantee a living wage to anyone who wants to work, thereby setting a floor on minimum wages and benefits that private employers would have to meet or exceed. These minima would also redound to the benefit of self-employed persons by setting standards re income and care (health, vacations, days off, etc) *and* putting money in the pockets of potential customers.

Poorly managed it could create the 'digging holes, filling them in' programs of the Irish Potato Famine ore worse (hard to imagine, but still ). It has often been remarked that the potato blight was endemic across Europe, it was only a famine in Ireland -- through policy choices.

So, MMT aside (as being descriptive, rather than prescriptive), we are down to who controls policy. And that is *really* scary.

Todde , October 2, 2018 at 3:11 pm

Government job guarantees is an idea as old as the pyramids.

Frankly so is mmt

Mel , October 2, 2018 at 11:34 am

In terms of power, the government has the power to shoot your house to splinters, or blow it up, with or without you in it. We say they're not supposed to, but they have the ability, and it has been done.
The question of how to hold your government to the things it's supposed to do applies to issues beyond money. We'd best deal with government power as an issue in itself. I should buckle down and get Mitchell's next-to-newest book Reclaiming the State .

HotFlash , October 2, 2018 at 12:56 pm

Ding ding ding!

Grebo , October 2, 2018 at 3:23 pm

Bill Mitchell was not too impressed with the INET paper: Part 1 .
There's three parts! Mitchell rarely has the time to be brief.

Tinky , October 2, 2018 at 6:02 am

I don't claim to fully understand MMT yet, but I find Wray's use of the derogatory term "gold bugs" to be both disappointing and revealing. To lump those, some of whom are quite sophisticated, who believe that currencies should be backed by something of tangible value (and no, "the military" misses the point), or those who hold physical gold as an insurance policy against political incompetence, and the inexorable degradation of fiat currencies, in with those who promote or hold gold in the hopes of hitting some type of lottery, is disingenuous at best.

Wukchumni , October 2, 2018 at 7:06 am

OMT seemingly has no reason to exist being old school, but for what it's worth, the almighty dollar has lost over 95% of it's value when measured against something that matters, since the divorce in 1971.

I found this passage funny, as in flipping the dates around to 1791, is when George Washington set an exchange rate of 1000-1 for old debauched Continental Currency, in exchange for newly issued specie. (there was no Federal currency issued until 1861)

So yeah, they burned all of their tax revenue, because the money wasn't worth jack.

Farley Grubb -- the foremost authority on Colonial currency -- proved that the American colonists understood perfectly well that taxes drive money. Every Act that authorized the issue of paper money imposed a Redemption Tax. The colonies burned all their tax revenue.

skippy , October 2, 2018 at 7:30 am

Gold bug is akin to money crank e.g. money = morals. That's not to mention all the evidence to date does not support the monetarist view nor how one gets the value into the inanimate object or how one can make it moral.

Benjamin Wolf , October 2, 2018 at 8:01 am

Gold doesn't historically perform as a hedge but as a speculative trade. Those who think it can protect them from political events typically don't realize that a gold standard means public control of the gold industry, thereby cutting any separation from the political process off at the knees.

When a government declares that $20 is equal in value to one ounce of gold, it also declares an ounce of gold is equal to $20 dollars. It is therefore fixing, through a political decision subject to political changes, the price of the commodity.

Tinky , October 2, 2018 at 9:44 am

Nonsense. When fiat currencies invariably degrade, and especially at a fast rate, gold has proven to be a relative store of value for millennia . All one need do is to look at Venezuela, Argentina, Turkey, etc., to see that ancient dynamic in action today.

You, and others who have replied to my comment, are using the classical gold standard as a straw man, as well. Neither I, nor many other gold "bugs" propose such a simple solution to the obviously failed current economy, which is increasingly based on mountains of debt that can never be repaid.

WobblyTelomeres , October 2, 2018 at 9:48 am

gold has proven to be a relative store of value for millennia.

As long as one is mindful that gold is just another commodity, subject to the same speculative distortions as any other commodity (see Hunt brothers and silver).

Tinky , October 2, 2018 at 9:54 am

But that is obviously false, given that no other commodity has remotely performed with such stability over such a long period of time.

It is true that over short periods distortions can appear, and the *true* value of gold has been suppressed in recent years through the use of fraudulent paper derivatives. But again, I'm not arguing for the return of a classical gold standard.

Wukchumni , October 2, 2018 at 10:13 am

The only way the gold standard returns, is if it's forced on the world on account of massive fraud in terms of fiat money, but that'll never happen.

WobblyTelomeres , October 2, 2018 at 10:56 am

Tinky:

I'm curious as to what you consider the "*true* value of gold". Could you elaborate?

I'm dense/obtuse and thus not an economist!

Tinky , October 2, 2018 at 11:18 am

Don't worry, I'm likely to be at least equally dense!

I didn't mean to suggest that there is some formula from which a *true* value of precious metals might be derived. I simply meant that gold has clearly been the object of price suppression in recent years through the use of paper derivatives (i.e. future contracts). The reason for such suppression, aside from short-term profits to be made, is that gold has historically acted as a barometer relating to political and economic stability, and those in power have a particular interest in suppressing such warning signals when the system becomes unstable.

So, while the Central Banks created previously unimaginable mountains of debt, it was important not to alarm the commoners.

The suppression schemes have become less effective of late, and will ultimately fail when the impending crisis unfolds in earnest.

Wukchumni , October 2, 2018 at 10:00 am

As long as one is mindful that gold is just another commodity, subject to the same speculative distortions as any other commodity

It sounds good in theory, but history says otherwise.

The value remained more or less the same for well over 500 years as far as an English Pound was concerned, the weight and value of a Sovereign hardly varied, and the exact weight and fineness of one struck today or any time since 1817, is the same, no variance whatsoever.

Thus there was no speculative distortions in terms of value, the only variance being the value of the Pound (= 1 Sovereign) itself.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sovereign_(British_coin)

Benjamin Wolf , October 2, 2018 at 12:23 pm

When fiat currencies invariably degrade, and especially at a fast rate, gold has proven to be a relative store of value for millennia.

Currencies do not degrade. Political systems degrade.

Bridget , October 2, 2018 at 8:25 am

" who believe that currencies should be backed by something of tangible value"

As I understand it, MMT also requires that currency be backed by something of tangible value: a well managed and productive economy. It doesn't matter in the least if your debt is denominated in your own currency if you have the economy of Zimbabwe.

Tinky , October 2, 2018 at 9:48 am

Sounds reasonable in theory, but that was supposed to be the case with the current economic system, as well, and we can all see where that has led.

I'm not arguing that there isn't a theoretically better way to create and use "modern" money, but rather doubt that those empowered to create it out of thin air will ever do so without abusing such power.

Bridget , October 2, 2018 at 10:10 am

Oh, I agree with you. In no universe that I am aware of would the temptation to create money beyond the productive capacity of the economy to back it up be resisted. I think Zimbabwe is a pretty good example of where the theory goes in practice.

TroyMcClure , October 2, 2018 at 12:20 pm

That's exactly wrong. Zimbabwe had a production collapse. Same amount of money to buy a much smaller amount of goods. The gov responded not by increasing goods, but increasing money supply.

Bridget , October 2, 2018 at 1:30 pm

Maybe because the economy did not have the productive capacity to increase goods? It takes more than a magic wand and wishful thinking.

voteforno6 , October 2, 2018 at 8:29 am

Mark Blyth has a good discussion of the gold standard in his book Austerity: The History of a Dangerous Idea . He makes the point that, in imposing the adjustments necessary to keep the balance of payments flowing, the measures imposed by a government would be so politically toxic, that no elected official in his or her right mind would implement them, and expect to remain in office. In short, you can have either democracy, or a gold standard, but you can't have both.

Also, MMT does recognize that there are real world constraints on a currency, and that is represented by employment, not some artificially-imposed commodity such as gold (or bitcoin, or seashells, etc). The Jobs Guarantee flows out of this.

Tinky , October 2, 2018 at 9:50 am

As mentioned above, you, among others who have replied to my original comment, are using the classical gold standard as a straw manl. Neither I, nor many other gold "bugs", propose such a simple solution for the failed current economic system, which is increasingly based on mountains of debt that can never be repaid.

WobblyTelomeres , October 2, 2018 at 11:35 am

increasingly based on mountains of debt that can never be repaid.

Huh? I listed two ways they could be repaid above. In the US, the national debt is denominated in dollars, of which we have an infinite supply (fiat). In addition, the Federal Reserve could buy all the existing debt by [defer to quad-entry accounting stuff from Wray's primer] and then figuratively burn it. Sure, the rest of the world would be pissed and inflation *may* run amok, but "can never" is just flat out wrong.

Tinky , October 2, 2018 at 1:59 pm

Of course it can be extinguished through hyperinflation. I didn't think that it would be necessary to point that out. No "may" about it, though, as if the U.S. prints tens of trillions of dollars to extinguish the debt, hyperinflation will be assured.

todde , October 2, 2018 at 2:14 pm

not if it would be done over time, as the debt comes due.

We could also tax the excess dollars from the system with a large capital gains tax rate.

todde , October 2, 2018 at 3:04 pm

so I don't believe there will be a hyper-inflation of goods, but in asset prices. That is why I would raise the capital gains rate.

The failure of MMT is when the hyper-inflation occurs in goods and services.

Taxing a middle class person while his cost of living is rising will be a tough political act to do.

WobblyTelomeres , October 2, 2018 at 2:19 pm

I didn't think that it would be necessary to point that out.

Sorry, but I'm an old programmer; logic rules the roost. When one's software is expected to execute billions of times a day without fail for years (and this post is very likely routed through a device running an instance of something I've written). Always means every time, no exceptions; never means not ever, no matter what.

You said never.

Tinky , October 2, 2018 at 3:30 pm

Yes I did. I was simply being lazy, as I typically do add "except via hyperflation", when discussing debts that can only be repaid in that manner.

That "solution" is obviously no solution at all, as it would lead to chaos.

Interpret it any way that you wish.

todde , October 2, 2018 at 11:37 am

So what is the new solution proposed by 'gold bugs'?

Tinky , October 2, 2018 at 2:06 pm

I'm sure that there is no one solution proposed, though an alternative to the current system which seems plausible would be a currency backed by a basket of commodities, including gold.

todde , October 2, 2018 at 2:26 pm

and when commodity prices fluctuate you will still have government printing and eliminating money to maintain the price.

I would say, if that was the argument, stick to gold as it is one of the more stable commodities.

AlexHache , October 2, 2018 at 11:43 am

Can I ask what your solution would be? I don't think you've mentioned it.

HotFlash , October 2, 2018 at 1:08 pm

Hi Tinky, much late but still. Gold will have value as long as people believe it has value. But what will they trade it for? The bottom line is your life.

I don't have any gold, too expensive, and it really has no use. But I remember Dimitri Orlov's advice : I am long in needles, pins, thread, nails and screws, drill bits, saws, files, knives, seeds, manual tools of many sorts, mechanical skills and beer recipes. Plus I can sing.

Bridget , October 2, 2018 at 1:31 pm

Don't forget a nice supply of 30 year old single malt scotch!

Tinky , October 2, 2018 at 2:04 pm

The vast majority of people who hold physical gold are well aware of the value of having skills and supplies, etc., in case of a serious meltdown. But it's not a zero-sum game, as you suggest. Gold will inexorably rise sharply in value when today's fraudulent markets crash, and there will be plenty of opportunities for those who own it to trade it for other assets.

Furthermore, as previously mentioned, gold's utility is already on full display, to those who are paying attention, and not looking myopically through a USD lens.

Wukchumni , October 2, 2018 at 2:19 pm

Why not the GOILD standard?, one mineral moves everything, while the other just sits around gathering dust, after being extracted.

David Swan , October 2, 2018 at 2:28 pm

"Mountains of debt that can never be repaid" is a propaganda statement with no reference to any economic fact. Why do you feel that this "debt" needs to be "repaid"? It is simply an accounting artifact. The "debt" is all of the dollars that have been spent *into* the economy without having been taxed back *out*. The word "debt" activates your feels, but has no intrinsic meaning in this context. Please step back from your indoctrinated emotional reaction and understand that the so-called national "debt" is nothing more than money that has been created via public spending, and "repaying" it would be an act of destruction.

WobblyTelomeres , October 2, 2018 at 3:27 pm

THIS!!!

I keep telling (boring, annoying, infuriating) people that, in the simplest terms, the national debt is the money supply and they won't grasp that simple declaration. When I said it to my Freedom Caucus congress critter (we were seated next to each other on an exit aisle) his head started spinning, reminding me of Linda Blair in The Exorcist.

Tinky , October 2, 2018 at 3:44 pm

The debt may not have to be repaid, but the interest does have to be serviced. Good luck with that in the long run.

WobblyTelomeres , October 2, 2018 at 4:18 pm

As I said to my congress critter, if the debt bother's y'all so much, why not just pay it off, dust off your hands, and be done with it?

Personally, if I were President for a day, I'd have the mint stamp out 40 or so trillion dollar platinum coins just to fill the top right drawer of the Resolute desk. Would give me warm fuzzy feelings all day long.

p.s. I also told him that the man with nothing cares not about inflation. He didn't like that either.

MisterMr , October 2, 2018 at 8:46 am

"those, some of whom are quite sophisticated, who believe that currencies should be backed by something of tangible value (and no, "the military" misses the point), or those who hold physical gold as an insurance policy against political incompetence, and the inexorable degradation of fiat currencies"

I suspect that Wray exactly means that these people are the goldbugs, not the ones who speculate on gold.

The whole point that currencies should be backed by something of tangible value IMO is wrong, and I think the MMTers agree with me on this.

Tinky , October 2, 2018 at 9:56 am

If so, then he should clarify his position, as again, lumping the billions – literally – of people who consider gold to be economically important, together as one, is disingenuous.

skippy , October 2, 2018 at 3:55 pm

I think people that consider gold to be a risk hedge understand its anthro, per se an early example of its use was a fleck of golds equal weight to a few grains of wheat e.g. the gold did not store value, but was a marker – token of the wheat's value – labour inputs and utility. Not to mention its early use wrt religious iconography or vis-à-vis the former as a status symbol. Hence many of the proponents of a gold standard are really arguing for immutable labour tokens, problem here is scalability wrt high worth individuals and resulting distribution distortions, unless one forwards trickle down sorts of theory's.

Not to mention in times of nascent socioeconomic storms many that forward the idea of gold safety are the ones selling it. I think as such the entire thing is more a social psychology question than one of factual natural history e.g. the need to feel safe i.e. like commercials about "peace of mind". I think a reasonably stable society would provide more "peace of mind" than some notion that an inanimate object could lend too – in an atomistic individualistic paradigm.

WobblyTelomeres , October 2, 2018 at 4:26 pm

I once had an co-worker that was a devout Christian. When he realized I wasn't religious, he asked me, incredulously, how I was able to get out of bed in the morning. Meaning, he couldn't face a world without meaning.

I think a lot of people feel that same way about money. They fight over it, lie for it, steal it, kill for it, go to war over it, and most importantly, slave for it. Therefore, it must have intrinsic value. I think gold bugs are in this camp.

Fried , October 2, 2018 at 6:06 am

Talking about Warren's blog ( http://moslereconomics.com/ ), everytime I try to go there, Cloudflare asks me to prove that I am human. Anyone know what's up with that? It's the only website I've ever seen do that.

Tinky , October 2, 2018 at 6:13 am

No such prompt for me (using Mac desktop computer, OS 10.11.6 and Safari browser.

Fried , October 2, 2018 at 7:35 am

Thanks. It seems to be blocking my IP address, no idea why. Not sure why I have to be human to look at a website.

Epistrophy , October 2, 2018 at 8:46 am

Try running your IP address through a blacklist checker maybe it's been flagged

Fried , October 2, 2018 at 10:03 am

Hm, I can't find anything that would explain it. Maybe the website just generally blocks Austrians. ;-)

el_tel , October 2, 2018 at 10:10 am

That's a good suggestion. Unfortunately, as I sometimes find, you can pass ALL the major test-sites but something (a minor, less-used site using out-of-date info?) can give you grief. NC site managers once (kindly) took the time to explain to me why I might have problems that they had no ability to address at their end. I had to muck around with a link given earlier to Bill Mitchell's blog before my browser would load it.
I think there can be quirks that are beyond our control (unfortunately) – for instance I think a whole block of IP addresses (including mine) used by my ISP have been flagged *somewhere* – no doubt due to another customer doing stuff that the checker(s) don't like. (The issue I mentioned above was more likely due to a strict security protocol in my browser, however.)

kgw , October 2, 2018 at 11:57 am

I ended up physically typing in the url to Bill Mitchell's blog: that worked.

el_tel , October 2, 2018 at 12:43 pm

yeah think that's what I did

larry , October 2, 2018 at 6:45 am

Monetary policy in terms of interest rates is not just weak, it also tends to treat all targets the same. Fiscal policy can be targetted to where it is felt it can do the most good.

William Beyer , October 2, 2018 at 7:00 am

Christine Desan's book, "Making Money," exhaustively documents the history of money as a creature of the state. Recall as well that creating money and regulating its value are among the enumerated POWERS granted to our government by we, the people. Money, indeed, is power.

Grumpy Engineer , October 2, 2018 at 8:26 am

Hmmm Randy Wray states that " permanent Zirp (zero interest rate policy) is probably a better policy since it reduces the compounding of debt and the tendency for the rentier class to take over more of the economy. "

But just last week, Yves stated that " that one of the consequences of the protracted super-low interest rate regime of the post crisis era was to create a world of hurt for savers, particularly long-term savers like pension funds, life insurers and retirees. " [ https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2018/09/crisis-caused-pension-train-wreck.html ]

So are interest rates today too high, or too low? We're getting mixed messages here.

IMO, interest rates are too low . Beyond the harmful effect to savers, it also drives income inequality . How? When interest rates are less than inflation, it is trivial to borrow money, buy some assets, wait for the assets to appreciate, sell the assets, repay the debt, and still have profit left over even after paying interest . Well, it's trivial if you're already rich and have a line of credit that is both large and low-interest. If you're poor with a bad FICO score, you don't get to play the asset appreciation game at all.

I can't think of another reason inequality skyrocketed so badly during the Obama years: https://www.newsweek.com/2013/12/13/two-numbers-rich-are-getting-richer-faster-244922.html . Other than interest rates, his policies weren't all that different from Clinton or Bush.

Tinky , October 2, 2018 at 10:38 am

Not to mention that interest rates are designed to reflect risk . Artificially suppressed rates mask risk, and inevitably lead to gross malinvestment.

todde , October 2, 2018 at 12:31 pm

The rates between riskier and less risky borrowers will still be reflected in the different rates given to each.

The low rates encourage greater risk taking to increase the reward(a higher rate of return). This is what leads to the gross malinvestment.

Case in point: the low rates led to more investments into the stock market, where the returns are unlimited. This is what led to the income inequality of Obama's term, as mentioned above.

todde , October 2, 2018 at 3:07 pm

if government creates money to lend to borrowers it should be at a zero interest rate.

The loans would be based on public policy decisions, and not business decisions.

HotFlash , October 2, 2018 at 1:36 pm

I cannot speak for Yves, nor or Randy, but IMO, interest rates are too low for people who depend on interest for their living -- as an old person, I have seen my expected income drop to about zilch when I had expected 7 to 10% on my savings. Haha! So yeah, too low for us who saved for 'retirement'.

Too high for people financing on credit, since a decent mortgage on a modestly-priced house will cost you almost the same as the house . And that doesn't even begin to look at unsecured consumer credit (ie, credit card debt), which is used in the US and other barbaric countries for medical expenses, not to mention student debt. The banks can create the principal with their keystrokes, but they don't create the interest. Where do you suppose that comes from? Hint: nowhere, as in foreclosures and bankruptcies.

Adam1 , October 2, 2018 at 3:12 pm

Wray's statement reflects his preferences from an operational policy perspective. Sovereign government debt cares no risk and therefore should not pay interest. The income earned from that interest is basically a subsidy and all income when spent caries a risk of inflation induced excess demand. Therefore who unnecessarily add the risk to the economy and potential risk needing to reduce other policy objectives to accommodate unnecessary interest income subsidies to mostly rich people?

Yves comment reflects the reality of prior decades of economic history. Even if Wray's policy perspective is optimal, there are decades of people with pensions and retirement savings designed around the assumption of income from risk-free government debt. It's this legacy that Yves is commenting on and is a real problem that current policy makers are just ignoring.

As for your comments on how low cost credit can be abused, I believe you'll find most MMT practitioners would recommend far more regulation on the extension of credit for non-productive purposes.

michael hudson , October 2, 2018 at 8:38 am

I just wrote a note to Randy:
The origin of money is not merely for accounting, but specifically for accounting for DEBT -- debt owed to the palatial economy and temples.
I make that clear in my Springer dictionary of money that will come out later this year: Origins of Money and Interest: Palatial Credit, not Barter

horostam , October 2, 2018 at 8:57 am

The Babylonian Madness is contagious thanks prof hudson

gramsci , October 2, 2018 at 9:22 am

Can somebody help me out here? It seems to me that the US macroeconomic policy has been operating under MMT at least since FDR (see for example Beardsley Ruml from 1945).

Since then, insofar as I understand MMT, fiat has been printed and distributed to flow primarily through the MIC and certain other periodically favored sectors (e.g. the Interstate Highway System). Then, rather than destroying this fiat through taxation, the sectoral balances have been kept deliberately out of balance: Taxes on unearned income have been almost eliminated with an eye to not destroying fiat, but to sequestering as much as possible in the private hands of the 1%. This accumulating fiat cannot be productively invested because that would cause overproduction, inflation, and reduce the debt burden by which the 1% retains power over the 99%. So the new royalists, as FDR would have styled them, keep their hoard as a war chest against "socialists".

I get all this, more or less, and I appreciate that it is well and good and important that MMTers insistently point out that the emperor has no clothes. This is a necessary first step in educating the 99%.

But I don't see MMT types discussing the fact that US (and NATO) macroeconomic policy already has a Job Guarantee: if you don't want to work alongside undocumented immigrants on a roof or in a slaughterhouse or suffer the humiliation of US welfare, such as it is, you can always get a job with the army, or the TSA, or the police, or as a prison guard, or if you have some education, with a health unsurance company or pushing drone buttons. You only have to be willing to follow orders to kill–or at least help to kill–strangers.

(Okay, perhaps I overstate. If you're a medical doctor or an "educator" with university debt you don't have to actively kill. You can decline scant Medicaid payments and open a concierge practice, or you can teach to the test in order that nobody learns anything moral.)

It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it. Wouldn't it be clarified matters if MMTers acknowledged that we already have a JG?

Wukchumni , October 2, 2018 at 12:50 pm

We have been operating on MMT since the end of WW2, with 2 exceptions in 1968 when Silver Certificate banknotes no longer were redeemable for silver, and in 1971 when foreign central banks (not individuals!) weren't allowed to exchange FRN's for gold @ $35 an ounce anymore.

It's been full on fiat accompli since then and to an outsider looks absurd in that money is entirely a faith-based agenda, but it's worked for the majority of all of lives, so nobody squawks.

It's an economic "the emperor has no clothes" gig.

HotFlash , October 2, 2018 at 1:54 pm

It seems to me that the US macroeconomic policy has been operating under MMT at least since FDR (see for example Beardsley Ruml from 1945).

Yup, you are correct, IMO. And about the jobs guarantee, too. The point of MMT is not that we have to adopt, believe in, or implement it, but that *this is how things work* and we need to get a %&*^* handle on it *STAT* or they will ride it and us to the graveyard. The conservatives and neo-cons are already on to this, long-time.

I believe the chant is:

We can have anything we want that is available in our (sovereign) currency and for which there are resources

What we get depends on what we want and how well we convince/coerce our 'leaders' to make it so.

David Swan , October 2, 2018 at 2:43 pm

JG is geared toward community involvement to create an open-ended collection of potential work assignments, not top-down provision of a limited number of job slots determined by bureaucrats on a 1% leash.

Wukchumni , October 2, 2018 at 9:31 am

About every 80 years, there has been a great turning in terms of money in these United States

Might as well start with 1793 and the first Federal coins, followed in 1861 by the first Federal paper money, and then the abandonment of the gold standard (a misnomer, as it was one of many money standards @ era, most of them fiat) in 1933.

We're a little past our use-by date for the next incarnation of manna, or is it already here in the guise of the great giveaway orchestrated since 2008 to a selected few?

Adam1 , October 2, 2018 at 9:40 am

After learning MMT I've occasionally thought I should get a refund for the two economics degree's I originally received. One of the primary mainstream teachings that I now readily see as false is the concept of money being a vale over a barter economy. It's lazy, self-serving analysis. It doesn't even pass a basic logical analysis let alone archeological history. Even in a very primitive economy it would be virtually impossible for barter to be the main form of transaction. The strawberry farmer can't barter with the apple farmer. His strawberries will be rotten before the apples are ripe. He could give the apple farmer strawberries in June on the promise of receiving apples in October, but that's not barter that's credit. The apple farmer could default of his own free will or by happenstance (he dies, his apple harvest is destroyed by an act of god, etc ). How does the iron miner get his horse shoed if the blacksmith needs iron before he can make the horse show? Credit has to have always been a key component of any economy and therefore barter could never have been the original core.

HotFlash , October 2, 2018 at 2:00 pm

After learning MMT I've occasionally thought I should get a refund for the two economics degree's I originally received.

Agreed. Richard Wolff notes that in most Impressive Universities there are two schools, one for Economics (theory) and another for Business (practice). Heh. I say, go for the refund, you was robbed.

Wukchumni , October 2, 2018 at 10:11 am

Take Indians for instance

All the Rupee* has done over time is go down in value against other currencies, and up in the spot price measured in Rupees even as gold is trending down now, and that whole stupid demonetization of bank notes gig, anybody on the outside of the fiat curtain looking in, had to be laughing, and ownership there is no laughing matter, as it's almost a state financial religion, never seen anything like it.

* A silver coin larger than a U.S. half dollar pre-post WW2, now worth a princely 1.4 cents U.S.

Chauncey Gardiner , October 2, 2018 at 12:34 pm

Not an economist, but I appreciate both the applicability of MMT and the fierce, but often subtle resistance its proponents have encountered academically, institutionally and politically. However, I have questioned to what extent MMT is uniquely applicable to a nation with either a current account surplus or that controls access to a global reserve currency.

How does a nation that is sovereign in its own currency, say Argentina for example (there are many such examples), lose 60 percent of its value in global foreign exchange markets in a very short time period?

Is this due primarily to private sector debts denominated in a foreign currency (and if so, what sectors of the Argentine economy undertook those debts, for what purposes, and to whom are they owed?), foreign exchange market manipulation by external third parties, the effective imposition of sanctions by those who control the global reserve currency and international payments system, or some combination of those or other factors?

Mel , October 2, 2018 at 12:53 pm

Michael Hudson described some of it earlier this year:
https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2018/07/michael-hudson-argentina-gets-biggest-imf-loan-history.html

Rodger Malcolm Mitchell , October 2, 2018 at 3:48 pm

All hyperinflations are caused by shortages, usually shortages of food. See: https://mythfighter.com/2018/08/27/ten-answers-that-are-contrary-to-popular-wisdom/

There is no avoiding bad government.

PKMKII , October 2, 2018 at 1:57 pm

MMT makes more sense than orthodox neoliberal accounts of currency and sovereign spending to me, as it does a better job of acknowledging reality. MMT recognizes that currency is an artifice and that imagined limitations on it are just that, and real resources are the things which are limited. Neoliberal economics acts as if all sorts of byzantine factors mean currency must be limited, but we can think of resources, and the growth machine they feed, as being infinite.

Rodger Malcolm Mitchell , October 2, 2018 at 3:41 pm

"Taxes or other obligations (fees, fines, tribute, tithes) drive the currency."

Specifically, what does "drive" mean? Does it mean:
1. When taxes are reduced, the value of money falls?
2. If taxes were zero, the value of money would be zero?
3. Cryptocurrencies, which are not supported by taxes, have no value?

"JG is a critical component of MMT. It anchors the currency and ensures that achieving full employment will enhance both price and financial stability."

Specifically, what do "anchors" and "critical component" mean? Do they mean:
1. Since JG does not exist, the U.S. dollar is unanchored and MMT does not exist?
2. Providing college graduates with ditch-digging jobs enhances price and financial stability?
3. Forcing people to work is both morally and economically superior to giving them money and benefits?

Grebo , October 2, 2018 at 4:20 pm

"Drive" means "creates initial demand for":
1. No, not for an established currency.
2. See 1.
3. Crypto is worth what you can buy with it.

"Anchors" means it acts against inflation and deflation. "Critical component" means the economy works better if it has it.
1. Yes and no.
2. Yes, if no-one else will hire them.
3. No element of force is implied.

[Sep 29, 2018] Steve Keen How Economics Became a Cult

Highly recommended!
Notable quotes:
"... I still find it incredible that this video by Samuelson essentially acknowledging that a key part of his multi-decade "core" textbook is religion, not science, is not more widely shared. ..."
Sep 29, 2018 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

Steve Keen of Kingston University, London gives an important high-level talk on the considerable shortcomings of mainstream economics. Keen argues that a major objective of the discipline is to justify the virtues of markets, which in turn leads them to adopt a strongly ideological posture along with highly simplified models and narrow mathematical approaches to reach conclusions that they find acceptable.

Keen has many informative asides, like the introductory level texts he used in the 1970s were more advanced than many graduate level guides.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/JeplRmADW3E


el_tel , September 29, 2018 at 7:09 am

I still find it incredible that this video by Samuelson essentially acknowledging that a key part of his multi-decade "core" textbook is religion, not science, is not more widely shared.

OK the person who constructed the complete youtube vid has typos etc and editing probably didn't help the cause. but still

[Jun 28, 2018] Koch Money and the Unflappable Economist naked capitalism

Notable quotes:
"... By Philip E. Mirowski, Carl Koch Chair of Economics and the History and Philosophy of Science, University of Notre Dame. Originally published at the Institute for New Economic Thinking website ..."
"... Inside Job ..."
"... Philosophy. The neoliberal PR campaign of 'the market is the ultimate and true arbiter of all' has all the appearance of a regression to what I can only call inverted marxist dialectical-materialism as espoused by the old soviets; where anything, even scientific findings, that threatened the supremacy of the doctrine's claim of economic inevitability, was suppressed. ( No wonder the old soviet finally collapsed. ) The neoliberals substitutes a sort of libertarian dialectical-materialism that requires suppression of any theory that contradicts their claim of 'market infallibility' and inevitability. This is dogma, not science or even economics. ..."
Jun 27, 2018 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

Koch Money and the Unflappable Economist Posted on June 27, 2018 by Yves Smith By Philip E. Mirowski, Carl Koch Chair of Economics and the History and Philosophy of Science, University of Notre Dame. Originally published at the Institute for New Economic Thinking website

At the beginning of May 2018, there was a brief furor over donations from Koch family-affiliated philanthropies to fund the Mercatus Institute and the newly-named Antonin Scalia School of Law at George Mason University (GMU). Although articles concerning the admirable efforts of the GMU student organization UnKoch My Campus appeared in many of the prominent news outlets, the attention span of journalists seemed to barely outpace that of interest in one of Donald Trump's tweets, with even less consequence. But more to the point, the silence of the economics profession concerning the revelations was pretty deafening. Briefly, I would like to revisit why this was so and why it matters.

The details of the controversy can be briefly summarized: the assortment of Koch family foundations and allied charitable cutouts (which some libertarians have dubbed the "Kochtopus," but will henceforth here be shortened to 'the Kochs') have been making targeted donations to more than 300 schools since 2005, predominantly to economics departments. But George Mason University has been the most lavishly favored, garnering more than a third of the estimated $150 million bequeathed to universities from 2005-2015. The event that stirred campus resistance at GMU was a massive donation of $10 million from the Kochs tied to a $20 million donation from an anonymous benefactor to rename the Law School after Antonin Scalia, "formally" earmarked for "student scholarships." The first thing one notices was the budgetary legerdemain which obscured the relationship between faculty selection and line items in budgetary terms. Thus, the GMU Provost S. David Wu could tell his Faculty Senate in April 2016 that the bequest came with "no strings attached The entire $30M is for scholarships for students and nothing else." This narrative might have prevailed, if not for the document dump by UnKoch My Campus at the end of April, [1] a result of a FOIA suit by Transparency GMU , which detailed the series of negotiations with the Kochs (including the overwhelming role of figures from the Federalist Society as intermediaries: another Koch funded arm), including stipulations of how designated representatives would have input into GMU hiring decisions. This forced GMU President Angel Cabrera to reverse earlier statements that existing donor arrangements had not been allowed to influence internal academic matters. This, in turn, was the trigger which attracted the national press. As Inside Higher Ed put it: "academic values have long held that donors don't get to pick who holds chairs, or evaluate them."

"It's now abundantly clear that the administration of Mason, in partnership with the Mercatus Center and private donors, violated principles of academic freedom, academic control and ceded faculty governance to private donors," said Bethany Letiecq, President of GMU's chapter of the AAUP. But this reaction might underestimate the scope of the problem, reducing it to a mere matter of moral integrity. I shall argue instead that this event has more structural underpinnings, touching upon the very conception of education in relation to markets, and involve some crucial aspects of economic theory.

Broadly speaking, economists greeted this controversy with a big yawn: this sort of thing happens all the time, so don't get your panties in a twist. Indeed, the Kochs have been making similar grants to many universities for more than a decade, as have other philanthropies. The attitude was that the GMU case was nothing special.

How do economists justify the unflappable lightness of their nonchalance?

First off, many opine that the donors don't really interfere in academic matters; it is just the optics that are less than optimal. There are some crucial details which mitigate this pronouncement when it comes to the GMU case, which are dealt with in a footnote. [2] Nevertheless, in general, most economists are quick to denounce the idea that there are subtle procedural moves attached to donations that substantially alter the practices of universities, as well as the composition of what is taught and researched.

Secondly, for most economists, there are no such things as conflicts of interest, at least when it comes to economic thinking. They regularly declare with ardor that no one is compromising their pronouncements or perverting their beliefs for money. Years ago, I documented this attitude with regard to the culpability of economists for the Great Crash of 2007-8, even in the face of embarrassments such as the scathing portrayal of certain figures in the documentary Inside Job , or the prospect of a code of ethics for economists by the American Economics Association (AEA), a point to which I will return. [3] In the GMU case, the prescription for disclosure was rejected -- hence the need for FOIA requests. The economists generally argued that the people involved had long ago settled upon their personal political beliefs; they were just being selected by the donors to provide a coherent curriculum in "free market doctrine." I shall argue below that this imprecision over the criteria of which doctrines have been selected allow this sense that the ecology of knowledge persists unaltered in the face of concerted Koch intervention.

Third, the orthodox economist would be inclined point out that all potential donors, just like all fledgling academics, possess their own prior interests and convictions, which will be subject to further selection one way or another. It is not the money that makes the difference in the larger scheme of things. As the late Craufurd Goodwin of Duke University used to say, "The only tainted money is the money that t'aint [ sic ] mine." In other words, the sociology of knowledge pretty much works independently of the wishes of any funders involved, since everyone is selfishly scrambling for support. Money as such never taints the well of human inquiry, or so most economists postulate. Of course, one's appreciation for this putative conservation rule might be qualified when one learns that Goodwin had himself been a Program Officer for European and International Affairs under McGeorge Bundy at the Ford Foundation during the Cold War. [4]

Finally, although they might not say this out loud in front of journalists, many economists tend to suspect that all the complaints about the Kochs are just sour grapes, an ideological reaction deriving from the wailers' disdain for the politics of the Koch brothers and their minions. After all, what's so suspicious about wanting to "rectify the bias" of academics hostile to free markets and freedom of speech? That sounds like something most economists would voluntarily support in any event, independent of whomever was fronting the funding. But, just as in the previous cases, this ignores the actual content of the doctrines that the Koch brothers, as well as that of many of their fellow travelers and cooperating philanthropists, [5] seek to promote through their initiatives.

It will come as no surprise to realize that public education is being brutally weaned from state support across the developed world in the recent past, and that private funding has been touted as the deliverance for cash-strapped universities. In this regard, it is pivotal to realize the significance of the fact that George Mason University is a public and not a private university. Far from being a mere shifting of sources of sustenance, this trend itself constitutes one of the prime prescriptions of the political doctrine that motivates the Kochs, namely, neoliberalism. [6] Neoliberalism shouldn't be confused with actual libertarianism; it is predicated upon intervention to bring about the types of government and markets that the neoliberals believe are necessary for the success of capitalism: it just won't happen by itself. One of their central doctrines relevant to the current controversy is their belief that an efficient market is one that processes and validates information, and conveys it to the appropriate agents when and where they need it. Human knowledge is thus first and foremost a market phenomenon.

A direct consequence of this doctrine is that the state should not control public education: the purpose of education is the personal accumulation of human capital, and not the creation of the common denominator of an educated citizenry. Hence many of the major figures of the Neoliberal Thought Collective -- Milton Friedman, James Buchanan, Charles Koch -- long ago proposed that education be "privatized" in most of its various manifestations. Knowledge is paltry if not put up for sale, as they see it. This is the major consideration which dictates that the points at issue at GMU and elsewhere are not merely some symmetrical offsetting response to left wing donations to universities; rather, the whole point of the Koch brothers' intervention is to produce a different kind of university , one which renders government-run education much more responsive to market signals and market dictates. It is a world where people of means can freely buy the kinds of doctrines that they wish to be conveyed to the young, without being coy or ambagious about it. Hence the Koch's doctrines and their philanthropic behaviors are tightly bound into a single package, displaying a coherence not found in the motives of lesser philanthropists. This explains why the Kochs are willing to conduct their negotiations with universities in secret, to carry out their stipulations through cutouts and hard to trace intermediaries and foundations, to package their offers with other rich (and anonymous) donors en banc and to impose conditions upon their bequests that effectively neutralize all previous principles of academic freedom in the long run.

There is a different implication of neoliberal conceptions of knowledge, and that extends to the ideas which constitute the microeconomic orthodoxy. Once information was introduced into the standard pricing model, it was discovered there was no single correct way to formalize epistemology. Through a sequence of different models, the profession moved from the agent as capable of super-cognition, to the portrait of the agent as a flawed vessel for knowledge, offset by a neoliberal notion of the market as super-information processor. [7] Truth became a function of the skewed and arbitrary ability to pay; and consequently, economists were deemed to have possessed superior wisdom concerning whom should get to know what under which circumstances. As self-appointed Engineers of the Human Soul, this reinforced their conviction that there was no need to worry about conflicts of interest, nor indeed, about the increasing prevalence of unashamed mendacity and fake news. [8] Thus, the Koch interventions were therefore regarded as essentially harmless.

Of course, economists would be most interested in the ways this promotes the careers of other economists, but the ambitions of the neoliberal thought collective extends well beyond the social sciences, even unto the realm of the natural sciences. Neoliberalism is supremely hostile to expertise, which is the flip side of its hostility to old-school universities. Hayek denounced intellectuals as 'second-hand dealers in ideas', and modern neoliberals extrapolate that inclination to the limit. In their view, even natural scientists need to learn to subordinate their own research to "the market," and accept that tomorrow the market might devalue their own expertise in favor of the beliefs of less trained participants. "Freedom" is in this instance made manifest as the ability to insert your own 2 cents at will; let the market sort it out. This insight prompts another reconstruction of university life, this time in the direction of so-called 'open science' and 'citizen science'. [9] The literal construction of a 'marketplace of ideas' leads directly to the elevation of the market as the ultimate validator of truth in most dimensions, and the subordination of professional researchers to a less central role, surrounded by platforms that harvest the unremunerated labor of the reserve army of the undereducated. This is creative destruction with a vengeance, which further diminishes the role of the university.

Consequently, while economists tend to think they come equipped to understand all the implications of a thoroughgoing marketplace of ideas, the four conventional ideas sketched above reveal that they currently are far from having a comprehensive appreciation of the "economics of information" as it plays out in the world.

An example of this inadequate approach is a very brief code of professional conduct ratified in April 2018 by the AEA. Its actual wording is significant. It states, "Integrity demands honesty, care and transparency in conducting and presenting research; disinterested assessment of ideas; acknowledgement of the limits of expertise; and disclosure of real and perceived conflicts of interest." [10] There was nothing in the statement proposing that the AEA or any other institution should promote or enforce disclosure, nor indeed define what should be disclosed; it says absolutely nothing at all about "academic freedom." "Integrity" is apparently conceived as personal virtue, although a subsequent paragraph promotes "a professional environment with equal opportunity and fair treatment for all economists." This species of "environment" seems be more concerned with employment of economists than the preservation of academic inquiry as such.

This is why the GMU incident deserves far more scrutiny than it has received from economists, and academics in general.

[1] http://www.unkochmycampus.org/charles-koch-foundation-george-mason-mercatus-donor-influence-exposed

[2] Some sources report the document dump reveals that 'the Kochs' reserved the right of designation of members on faculty selection committees and veto rights in earlier gifts to Mercatus, but in the Scalia School case, the agreement stated that they would have no power over retention or promotion. On this, see https://www.nationalreview.com/2018/05/washington-post-koch-brothers-scoop-falls-apart/ . However, the situation at GMU was far more complex than that, because the emails independently stipulated whom among existing Koch-financed GMU faculty and the Federalist society would make such decisions for the Law School; and furthermore, the Kochs reserved the right to withdraw from the agreement without notice or just cause. Clearly, this Sword of Damocles allowed them to veto any subsequent choices, all the while asserting formally in the document that they unreservedly supported academic freedom. The Kochs, after decades of experience, have gotten good at circumventing faculty who don't understand how the takeover of universities actually works.

[3] See Philip Mirowski, Never Let a Serious Crisis Go to Waste (Verso, 2013), pp. 218-223.

[4] See, for instance, James Petras, "The Ford Foundation and the CIA," at: https://www.ratical.org/ratville/CAH/FordFandCIA.html .

[5] See, for instance, the fascinating case of BB&T: Douglas Beets, "BB&T, Atlas Shrugged, and the ethics of corporation influence on college curricula," Journal of Academic Ethics , 2015, (13):311-344.

[6] This is not the place to explicate fine points of political doctrine. However, see Mirowski, Never Let.. (op. cit.) as well as: https://www.ineteconomics.org/research/research-papers/the-political-movement-that-dared-not-speak-its-own-name-the-neoliberal-thought-collective-under-erasure .

[7] This is described in detail in: Philip Mirowski and Edward Nik-Khah, The Knowledge we Have Lost in Information , (Oxford, 2017).

[8] See, for instance, Matthew Gentzkow & Jesse Shapiro, "Competition and Truth in the Market for News," Journal of Economic Perspectives , (2008) 22:133-154. On his later work, "A reader of our study could very reasonably say, based on our set of facts, that it is unlikely that fake news swayed the election," said Gentzkow. At: https://news.stanford.edu/2017/01/18/stanford-study-examines-fake-news-2016-presidential-election .

[9] For a greater elaboration of this argument, see Philip Mirowski, "The Future(s) of Open Science," Social Studies of Science , 2018 at: http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0306312718772086

[10] https://www.aeaweb.org/about-aea/code-of-conduct


JTMcPhee , June 27, 2018 at 10:39 am

The New Golden Rule: "Them as has the gold (or money and influence) rules." (re-cast to avoid any charge that I am a Gold Bug )

I recall other actions by many sociopathic malefactors of great wealth to control the larger narrative and school curricula through history, like "supporting" the Catholic Church in all its machinations. The Reformation opened the door, along with common understandings of Darwin's notions, to Calvinism. I was bred up in the Presbyterian church, where TULIP blossomed in the young minds of the catechism classes and was reinforced in every bit of the Westminster Fellowship youth group's activities (the Total Depravity proven by all the efforts of young hormone sufferers to get into each others; pants). A pretty sick set of doctrines, http://www.auburn.edu/~allenkc/openhse/calvinism.html , when one gets on a little bit in life, and sees how humans really interact, and how "the Calvinist economics" actually work. https://marketmonetarist.com/2011/10/20/calvinist-economics-the-sin-of-our-times/

So the ho-hum economists and the media midgets are sort of right, at least in pointing out that there's nothing new in what the Kochtopus and all the other wealthy individuals and their "philanthropies" are about. Huge amounts are spent to control the content of Texas lower-grade text books, because as those go, so goes all the curricula of most of the country. http://www.nybooks.com/articles/2012/06/21/how-texas-inflicts-bad-textbooks-on-us/

"If only the people were aware of what is being done to them, they would __________________."

allan , June 27, 2018 at 11:02 am

The fact that the evergreen Glenn Hubbard interview from Inside Job didn't make Hubbard a pariah
in the economics community tells us all we need to know about
the intersectionality of integrity and academic economics.

Patrick , June 27, 2018 at 11:22 am

How ironic that economists are arguing that monetary incentives don't matter.

Larry Motuz , June 27, 2018 at 4:17 pm

Oh, they don't argue that. They know that monetary incentives work. They just don't want to agree that money isn't neutral in terms of what it 'incentivises' any more than does how money is distributed in terms of macroeconomic 'growth'.

This allows them to pretend that money is neutral.

chuck roast , June 27, 2018 at 11:34 am

Back in day, our Economics faculty used to tell us that the study of economics was "value free." What was presented was simply a reflection of real world conditions. No value judgements were to be made. These fellows, like many of our parents, were all deeply scared products of the Great Depression and committed Keynesians (public policy anyone?) to a man. Of course, all we had to do was pick up a copy of Theory of the Leisure Class, and if Veblen's prose didn't hurt our hair to badly, we knew this was a bunch of nonsense.
The worthy successors to this faculty now offer two different Bachelor of Science in Economics degrees. Indeed, the profession has gone entirely through the looking-glass. If we see the past (economic anthropology) or the future (post-capitalism), history will be destroyed. Now we all know that the Red Queen has a cock-eyed head and the royal crown would never fit her. Moreover, the Red Queen ate the stolen tart and is beyond redemption in any case. Are we to believe the Jabberwocky? Is time itself in danger? Can we recapture the Chronosphere? Can we get back through the looking-glass? And if we do, will we all wake up in mental hospitals?

Synoia , June 27, 2018 at 11:49 am

Antonin Scalia School of Law at George Mason University

Hmm.. ASSoL at George Mason University.
Can these people be that stupid?
I'm enrolled in ASSoL at GMU, or
I'm an ASSoL Graduate

One could not have chosen a better name working for Monty Python.

Secondly, for most economists, there are no such things as conflicts of interest,

Because each item, pronouncement, thesis, or work product is to ensure the Economist's Master that their view of the universe is correct, then, obviously there is no Conflict of Interest.

Moe N. DeLawn , June 27, 2018 at 4:01 pm

The internet already got to that.

They changed it to the Antonin Scalia Law School in response .

teacup , June 27, 2018 at 2:21 pm

"The Corruption of Economics" by Mason Gaffney dives deep into this. "False Education in our Colleges and Universities" by Emil O. Jorgensen referenced within this gem gives an example – ' in the 1924 Professor Richard T. Ely was the director of the Institute for Research in Land Economics and Public Utilities at the University of Wisconsin at Madison but relocated over questions of it being entirely financed by certain corporations and economic groups seeking to have privilege and monopoly taxed less and industry and consumption taxed more Although it was denied that the removal of Prof. Ely was in any way due to compulsion, it is a curious fact that no sooner had Prof. Ely gone than the Board of Regents voted that no more money "shall in the future be accepted by or in behalf of the University of Wisconsin from any incorporated educational endowments or organizations of like character." But Prof. Ely with his old-time shrewdness and skill had dodged the descending ax. Suspecting evidently that such a resolution would sooner or later be passed, the Professor began in the early part of the year to cast about for a safe place to escape and picked out as his refuge Northwestern University in Evanston – a privately endowed institution noted for its conservatism and its close affiliation with the powers that be Having definitely laid his plans Prof. Ely then added Frank O. Lowden (former governor of Illinois) and Nathan W. MacChesney (General Counsel for the National Association of Real Estate Boards as well as a trustee of Northwestern University) to his own board of trustees Very grateful for the welcome extended to him by Northwestern University, Prof. Ely commences his activities in that institution with larger plans, wider ambitions and a harder determination than ever to build up a great national machine that will promote, under the cloak of "disinterested research," not the welfare of all, but the special interests of a few '

Left in Wisconsin , June 27, 2018 at 6:23 pm

Ely had a complicated history. Business interests tried to drive him out of the Univ of Wisconsin in the 1890s not because he was a corrupt neoclassical economist but because he was argued to be a socialist. (He wasn't.) He was responsible for bringing JR Commons, one of the great institutional economists, to Wisconsin and at least partly responsible for the quality of the economics faculty at Wisconsin that developed in the 1910s many of the state programs (unemployment insurance, workers compensation) that ultimately became models for the New Deal.

But he became more right-wing as he got older. He campaigned to have Robert LaFollette removed from the Senate because LaFollette was anti-WW1 and then went off to Northwestern as a pretty conventional rightwing economist.

Interestingly, a number of pro-labor New Deal economists followed a similar trajectory. For example, Leo Wolman.

flora , June 27, 2018 at 4:38 pm

Thanks very much for this post. This has been playing out at my uni for some time now.

2 thoughts:

Money. The Kochs certainly appear to hate taxes almost as much as regulation. Public universities and colleges require adequate funding from the public(taxes) to support the mission of education – as opposed to just training.

A good education requires good teachers; professors who are paid well enough to make a career in academia – not a king's ransom but not a church mouse salary either – and the freedom to research into all areas.

So, the neoliberals get a huge tax cut passed in states and at the federal level; then claim there's not enough state/federal money to support higher ed (please, no MMT talk here, I'm making a different point); as higher ed struggles financially, pretend to be a white knight riding in with grant money to save the day. It's cheaper than taxes for the grantors, since the "white knight" controls how much and how often they give money. And, it gives them leverage over the curriculum. There are many tricks to claim a "chaired" position isn't "really in the department", so the grants are "not changing the quality of education" they will argue. It's a vicious financial circle for higher ed .

Philosophy. The neoliberal PR campaign of 'the market is the ultimate and true arbiter of all' has all the appearance of a regression to what I can only call inverted marxist dialectical-materialism as espoused by the old soviets; where anything, even scientific findings, that threatened the supremacy of the doctrine's claim of economic inevitability, was suppressed. ( No wonder the old soviet finally collapsed. )
The neoliberals substitutes a sort of libertarian dialectical-materialism that requires suppression of any theory that contradicts their claim of 'market infallibility' and inevitability. This is dogma, not science or even economics.

Just my opinion, of course.

Summer , June 27, 2018 at 5:30 pm

We're about to get to see Koch money and the unflappable Supreme Court Judges.

greg , June 27, 2018 at 11:38 pm

People who are paid to think, think what they are paid to think.

The Kochs, and those like them, seem to labor under under the delusion that reality will conform to their beliefs. Since they are powerful, they are able to inflict this delusion on society.

The return to the real world from the world of delusion is always extremely costly. We will all pay.

[Jun 06, 2018] Neoliberal Economics has a lot of similarities with Theology

Jun 06, 2018 | discussion.theguardian.com

Carlosthepossum -> innercity leftie , 3 Jun 2018 19:10

Economics has a lot of similarities with Theology.
People can believe whatever interpretation fits with their own indoctrination.
The difference being there is a truth to economics that seems to be invisible to most people, major economists included.
Your post highlights some of the stark realities that people just refuse to accept for some inexplicable reason.
Maybe the better economic managers will come to the rescue or maybe there will be a collective awakening when in a moment of clarity we start to realise how badly we have been conned.

[May 31, 2018] Meet the Economist Behind the One Percent's Stealth Takeover of America by Lynn Parramore

Highly recommended!
This looks like Ann Rand philosophy: "The people who needed protection were property owners, and their rights could only be secured though constitutional limits to prevent the majority of voters from encroaching on them, an idea Buchanan lays out in works like Property as a Guarantor of Liberty (1993). MacLean observes that Buchanan saw society as a cutthroat realm of makers (entrepreneurs) constantly under siege by takers (everybody else) His own language was often more stark, warning the alleged "prey" of "parasites" and "predators" out to fleece them."
Notable quotes:
"... By Lynn Parramore, Senior Research Analyst, Institute for New Economic Thinking. Originally published at the Institute for New Economic Thinking website ..."
"... The Limits of Liberty ..."
"... Property as a Guarantor of Liberty ..."
"... Brown v. Board of Education ..."
"... Calhoun, called the "Marx of the Master Class" by historian Richard Hofstadter, saw himself and his fellow southern oligarchs as victims of the majority. Therefore, as MacLean explains, he sought to create "constitutional gadgets" to constrict the operations of government ..."
"... She argues out that unlike even the most property-friendly founders Alexander Hamilton and James Madison, Buchanan wanted a private governing elite of corporate power that was wholly released from public accountability. ..."
"... Suppressing voting, changing legislative processes so that a normal majority could no longer prevail, sowing public distrust of government institutions -- all these were tactics toward the goal. But the Holy Grail was the Constitution: alter it and you could increase and secure the power of the wealthy in a way that no politician could ever challenge. ..."
"... MacLean observes that the Virginia school, as Buchanan's brand of economic and political thinking is known, is a kind of cousin to the better-known, market-oriented Chicago and Austrian schools -- proponents of all three were members of the Mont Pelerin Society, an international neoliberal organization which included Milton Friedman and Friedrich Hayek. But the Virginia school's focus and career missions were distinct. In an interview with the Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET), MacLean described Friedman and Buchanan as yin and yang: "Friedman was this genial, personable character who loved to be in the limelight and made a sunny case for the free market and the freedom to choose and so forth. Buchanan was the dark side of this: he thought, ok, fine, they can make a case for the free market, but everybody knows that free markets have externalities and other problems. So he wanted to keep people from believing that government could be the alternative to those problems." ..."
"... Buchanan's school focused on public choice theory, later adding constitutional economics and the new field of law and economics to its core research and advocacy. The economist saw that his vision would never come to fruition by focusing on who rules. It was much better to focus on the rules themselves , and that required a "constitutional revolution." ..."
"... MacLean describes how the economist developed a grand project to train operatives to staff institutions funded by like-minded tycoons, most significantly Charles Koch, who became interested in his work in the '70s and sought the economist's input in promoting "Austrian economics" in the U.S. and in advising the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank. ..."
"... With Koch's money and enthusiasm, Buchanan's academic school evolved into something much bigger. By the 1990s, Koch realized that Buchanan's ideas -- transmitted through stealth and deliberate deception, as MacLean amply documents -- could help take government down through incremental assaults that the media would hardly notice. The tycoon knew that the project was extremely radical, even a "revolution" in governance, but he talked like a conservative to make his plans sound more palatable. ..."
"... At the 1997 fiftieth anniversary of the Mont Pelerin Society, MacLean recounts that Buchanan and his associate Henry Manne, a founding theorist of libertarian economic approaches to law, focused on such affronts to capitalists as environmentalism and public health and welfare, expressing eagerness to dismantle Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare as well as kill public education because it tended to foster community values. Feminism had to go, too: the scholars considered it a socialist project. ..."
"... To put the success into perspective, MacLean points to the fact that Henry Manne, whom Buchanan was instrumental in hiring, created legal programs for law professors and federal judges which could boast that by 1990 two of every five sitting federal judges had participated. "40 percent of the U.S. federal judiciary," writes MacLean, "had been treated to a Koch-backed curriculum." ..."
"... Buchanan's role in the disastrous Pinochet government of Chile has been underestimated partly because unlike Milton Friedman, who advertised his activities, Buchanan had the shrewdness to keep his involvement quiet. With his guidance, the military junta deployed public choice economics in the creation of a new constitution, which required balanced budgets and thereby prevented the government from spending to meet public needs. Supermajorities would be required for any changes of substance, leaving the public little recourse to challenge programs like the privatization of social security. ..."
"... The Limits of Liberty ..."
"... MacLean is not the only scholar to sound the alarm that the country is experiencing a hostile takeover that is well on its way to radically, and perhaps permanently, altering the society. Peter Temin, former head of the MIT economics department, INET grantee, and author of The Vanishing Middle Class ..."
"... The One Percent Solution ..."
"... She observes, for example, that many liberals have missed the point of strategies like privatization. Efforts to "reform" public education and Social Security are not just about a preference for the private sector over the public sector, she argues. You can wrap your head around, even if you don't agree. Instead, MacLean contents, the goal of these strategies is to radically alter power relations, weakening pro-public forces and enhancing the lobbying power and commitment of the corporations that take over public services and resources, thus advancing the plans to dismantle democracy and make way for a return to oligarchy. The majority will be held captive so that the wealthy can finally be free to do as they please, no matter how destructive. ..."
"... MacLean argues that despite the rhetoric of Virginia school acolytes, shrinking big government is not really the point. The oligarchs require a government with tremendous new powers so that they can bypass the will of the people. This, as MacLean points out, requires greatly expanding police powers "to control the resultant popular anger." The spreading use of pre-emption by GOP-controlled state legislatures to suppress local progressive victories such as living wage ordinances is another example of the right's aggressive use of state power. ..."
"... They could, and have ..."
"... Getting it done ..."
"... Why I, Too, Am Not a Conservative ..."
May 31, 2018 | www.nakedcapitalism.com
May 31, 2018 By Lynn Parramore, Senior Research Analyst, Institute for New Economic Thinking. Originally published at the Institute for New Economic Thinking website

Nobel laureate James Buchanan is the intellectual lynchpin of the Koch-funded attack on democratic institutions, argues Duke historian Nancy MacLean

Ask people to name the key minds that have shaped America's burst of radical right-wing attacks on working conditions, consumer rights and public services, and they will typically mention figures like free market-champion Milton Friedman, libertarian guru Ayn Rand, and laissez-faire economists Friedrich Hayek and Ludwig von Mises.

James McGill Buchanan is a name you will rarely hear unless you've taken several classes in economics. And if the Tennessee-born Nobel laureate were alive today, it would suit him just fine that most well-informed journalists, liberal politicians, and even many economics students have little understanding of his work.

The reason? Duke historian Nancy MacLean contends that his philosophy is so stark that even young libertarian acolytes are only introduced to it after they have accepted the relatively sunny perspective of Ayn Rand. (Yes, you read that correctly). If Americans really knew what Buchanan thought and promoted, and how destructively his vision is manifesting under their noses, it would dawn on them how close the country is to a transformation most would not even want to imagine, much less accept.

That is a dangerous blind spot, MacLean argues in a meticulously researched book, Democracy in Chains , a finalist for the National Book Award in Nonfiction. While Americans grapple with Donald Trump's chaotic presidency, we may be missing the key to changes that are taking place far beyond the level of mere politics. Once these changes are locked into place, there may be no going back.

An Unlocked Door in Virginia

MacLean's book reads like an intellectual detective story. In 2010, she moved to North Carolina, where a Tea Party-dominated Republican Party got control of both houses of the state legislature and began pushing through a radical program to suppress voter rights, decimate public services, and slash taxes on the wealthy that shocked a state long a beacon of southern moderation. Up to this point, the figure of James Buchanan flickered in her peripheral vision, but as she began to study his work closely, the events in North Carolina and also Wisconsin, where Governor Scott Walker was leading assaults on collective bargaining rights, shifted her focus.

Could it be that this relatively obscure economist's distinctive thought was being put forcefully into action in real time?

MacLean could not gain access to Buchanan's papers to test her hypothesis until after his death in January 2013. That year, just as the government was being shut down by Ted Cruz & Co., she traveled to George Mason University in Virginia, where the economist's papers lay willy-nilly across the offices of a building now abandoned by the Koch-funded faculty to a new, fancier center in Arlington.

MacLean was stunned. The archive of the man who had sought to stay under the radar had been left totally unsorted and unguarded. The historian plunged in, and she read through boxes and drawers full of papers that included personal correspondence between Buchanan and billionaire industrialist Charles Koch. That's when she had an amazing realization: here was the intellectual lynchpin of a stealth revolution currently in progress.

A Theory of Property Supremacy

Buchanan, a 1940 graduate of Middle Tennessee State University who later attended the University of Chicago for graduate study, started out as a conventional public finance economist. But he grew frustrated by the way in which economic theorists ignored the political process.

Buchanan began working on a description of power that started out as a critique of how institutions functioned in the relatively liberal 1950s and '60s, a time when economist John Maynard Keynes's ideas about the need for government intervention in markets to protect people from flaws so clearly demonstrated in the Great Depression held sway. Buchanan, MacLean notes, was incensed at what he saw as a move toward socialism and deeply suspicious of any form of state action that channels resources to the public. Why should the increasingly powerful federal government be able to force the wealthy to pay for goods and programs that served ordinary citizens and the poor?

In thinking about how people make political decisions and choices, Buchanan concluded that you could only understand them as individuals seeking personal advantage. In interview cited by MacLean, the economist observed that in the 1950s Americans commonly assumed that elected officials wanted to act in the public interest. Buchanan vehemently disagreed -- that was a belief he wanted, as he put it, to "tear down." His ideas developed into a theory that came to be known as "public choice."

Buchanan's view of human nature was distinctly dismal. Adam Smith saw human beings as self-interested and hungry for personal power and material comfort, but he also acknowledged social instincts like compassion and fairness. Buchanan, in contrast, insisted that people were primarily driven by venal self-interest. Crediting people with altruism or a desire to serve others was "romantic" fantasy: politicians and government workers were out for themselves, and so, for that matter, were teachers, doctors, and civil rights activists. They wanted to control others and wrest away their resources: "Each person seeks mastery over a world of slaves," he wrote in his 1975 book, The Limits of Liberty .

Does that sound like your kindergarten teacher? It did to Buchanan.

The people who needed protection were property owners, and their rights could only be secured though constitutional limits to prevent the majority of voters from encroaching on them, an idea Buchanan lays out in works like Property as a Guarantor of Liberty (1993). MacLean observes that Buchanan saw society as a cutthroat realm of makers (entrepreneurs) constantly under siege by takers (everybody else) His own language was often more stark, warning the alleged "prey" of "parasites" and "predators" out to fleece them.

In 1965 the economist launched a center dedicated to his theories at the University of Virginia, which later relocated to George Mason University. MacLean describes how he trained thinkers to push back against the Brown v. Board of Education decision to desegregate America's public schools and to challenge the constitutional perspectives and federal policy that enabled it. She notes that he took care to use economic and political precepts, rather than overtly racial arguments, to make his case, which nonetheless gave cover to racists who knew that spelling out their prejudices would alienate the country.

All the while, a ghost hovered in the background -- that of John C. Calhoun of South Carolina, senator and seventh vice president of the United States.

Calhoun was an intellectual and political powerhouse in the South from the 1820s until his death in 1850, expending his formidable energy to defend slavery. Calhoun, called the "Marx of the Master Class" by historian Richard Hofstadter, saw himself and his fellow southern oligarchs as victims of the majority. Therefore, as MacLean explains, he sought to create "constitutional gadgets" to constrict the operations of government.

Economists Tyler Cowen and Alexander Tabarrok, both of George Mason University, have noted the two men's affinities, heralding Calhoun "a precursor of modern public choice theory" who "anticipates" Buchanan's thinking. MacLean observes that both focused on how democracy constrains property owners and aimed for ways to restrict the latitude of voters. She argues out that unlike even the most property-friendly founders Alexander Hamilton and James Madison, Buchanan wanted a private governing elite of corporate power that was wholly released from public accountability.

Suppressing voting, changing legislative processes so that a normal majority could no longer prevail, sowing public distrust of government institutions -- all these were tactics toward the goal. But the Holy Grail was the Constitution: alter it and you could increase and secure the power of the wealthy in a way that no politician could ever challenge.

Gravy Train to Oligarchy

MacLean explains that Virginia's white elite and the pro-corporate president of the University of Virginia, Colgate Darden, who had married into the DuPont family, found Buchanan's ideas to be spot on. In nurturing a new intelligentsia to commit to his values, Buchanan stated that he needed a "gravy train," and with backers like Charles Koch and conservative foundations like the Scaife Family Charitable Trusts, others hopped aboard. Money, Buchanan knew, can be a persuasive tool in academia. His circle of influence began to widen.

MacLean observes that the Virginia school, as Buchanan's brand of economic and political thinking is known, is a kind of cousin to the better-known, market-oriented Chicago and Austrian schools -- proponents of all three were members of the Mont Pelerin Society, an international neoliberal organization which included Milton Friedman and Friedrich Hayek. But the Virginia school's focus and career missions were distinct. In an interview with the Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET), MacLean described Friedman and Buchanan as yin and yang: "Friedman was this genial, personable character who loved to be in the limelight and made a sunny case for the free market and the freedom to choose and so forth. Buchanan was the dark side of this: he thought, ok, fine, they can make a case for the free market, but everybody knows that free markets have externalities and other problems. So he wanted to keep people from believing that government could be the alternative to those problems."

The Virginia school also differs from other economic schools in a marked reliance on abstract theory rather than mathematics or empirical evidence. That a Nobel Prize was awarded in 1986 to an economist who so determinedly bucked the academic trends of his day was nothing short of stunning, MacLean observes. But, then, it was the peak of the Reagan era, an administration several Buchanan students joined.

Buchanan's school focused on public choice theory, later adding constitutional economics and the new field of law and economics to its core research and advocacy. The economist saw that his vision would never come to fruition by focusing on who rules. It was much better to focus on the rules themselves , and that required a "constitutional revolution."

MacLean describes how the economist developed a grand project to train operatives to staff institutions funded by like-minded tycoons, most significantly Charles Koch, who became interested in his work in the '70s and sought the economist's input in promoting "Austrian economics" in the U.S. and in advising the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank.

Koch, whose mission was to save capitalists like himself from democracy, found the ultimate theoretical tool in the work of the southern economist. The historian writes that Koch preferred Buchanan to Milton Friedman and his "Chicago boys" because, she says, quoting a libertarian insider, they wanted "to make government work more efficiently when the true libertarian should be tearing it out at the root."

With Koch's money and enthusiasm, Buchanan's academic school evolved into something much bigger. By the 1990s, Koch realized that Buchanan's ideas -- transmitted through stealth and deliberate deception, as MacLean amply documents -- could help take government down through incremental assaults that the media would hardly notice. The tycoon knew that the project was extremely radical, even a "revolution" in governance, but he talked like a conservative to make his plans sound more palatable.

MacLean details how partnered with Koch, Buchanan's outpost at George Mason University was able to connect libertarian economists with right-wing political actors and supporters of corporations like Shell Oil, Exxon, Ford, IBM, Chase Manhattan Bank, and General Motors. Together they could push economic ideas to public through media, promote new curricula for economics education, and court politicians in nearby Washington, D.C.

At the 1997 fiftieth anniversary of the Mont Pelerin Society, MacLean recounts that Buchanan and his associate Henry Manne, a founding theorist of libertarian economic approaches to law, focused on such affronts to capitalists as environmentalism and public health and welfare, expressing eagerness to dismantle Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare as well as kill public education because it tended to foster community values. Feminism had to go, too: the scholars considered it a socialist project.

The Oligarchic Revolution Unfolds

Buchanan's ideas began to have huge impact, especially in America and in Britain. In his home country, the economist was deeply involved efforts to cut taxes on the wealthy in 1970s and 1980s and he advised proponents of Reagan Revolution in their quest to unleash markets and posit government as the "problem" rather than the "solution." The Koch-funded Virginia school coached scholars, lawyers, politicians, and business people to apply stark right-wing perspectives on everything from deficits to taxes to school privatization. In Britain, Buchanan's work helped to inspire the public sector reforms of Margaret Thatcher and her political progeny.

To put the success into perspective, MacLean points to the fact that Henry Manne, whom Buchanan was instrumental in hiring, created legal programs for law professors and federal judges which could boast that by 1990 two of every five sitting federal judges had participated. "40 percent of the U.S. federal judiciary," writes MacLean, "had been treated to a Koch-backed curriculum."

MacLean illustrates that in South America, Buchanan was able to first truly set his ideas in motion by helping a bare-knuckles dictatorship ensure the permanence of much of the radical transformation it inflicted on a country that had been a beacon of social progress. The historian emphasizes that Buchanan's role in the disastrous Pinochet government of Chile has been underestimated partly because unlike Milton Friedman, who advertised his activities, Buchanan had the shrewdness to keep his involvement quiet. With his guidance, the military junta deployed public choice economics in the creation of a new constitution, which required balanced budgets and thereby prevented the government from spending to meet public needs. Supermajorities would be required for any changes of substance, leaving the public little recourse to challenge programs like the privatization of social security.

The dictator's human rights abuses and pillage of the country's resources did not seem to bother Buchanan, MacLean argues, so long as the wealthy got their way. "Despotism may be the only organizational alternative to the political structure that we observe," the economist had written in The Limits of Liberty . If you have been wondering about the end result of the Virginia school philosophy, well, the economist helpfully spelled it out.

A World of Slaves

Most Americans haven't seen what's coming.

MacLean notes that when the Kochs' control of the GOP kicked into high gear after the financial crisis of 2007-08, many were so stunned by the "shock-and-awe" tactics of shutting down government, destroying labor unions, and rolling back services that meet citizens' basic necessities that few realized that many leading the charge had been trained in economics at Virginia institutions, especially George Mason University. Wasn't it just a new, particularly vicious wave of partisan politics?

It wasn't. MacLean convincingly illustrates that it was something far more disturbing.

MacLean is not the only scholar to sound the alarm that the country is experiencing a hostile takeover that is well on its way to radically, and perhaps permanently, altering the society. Peter Temin, former head of the MIT economics department, INET grantee, and author of The Vanishing Middle Class , as well as economist Gordon Lafer of the University of Oregon and author of The One Percent Solution , have provided eye-opening analyses of where America is headed and why. MacLean adds another dimension to this dystopian big picture, acquainting us with what has been overlooked in the capitalist right wing's playbook.

She observes, for example, that many liberals have missed the point of strategies like privatization. Efforts to "reform" public education and Social Security are not just about a preference for the private sector over the public sector, she argues. You can wrap your head around, even if you don't agree. Instead, MacLean contents, the goal of these strategies is to radically alter power relations, weakening pro-public forces and enhancing the lobbying power and commitment of the corporations that take over public services and resources, thus advancing the plans to dismantle democracy and make way for a return to oligarchy. The majority will be held captive so that the wealthy can finally be free to do as they please, no matter how destructive.

MacLean argues that despite the rhetoric of Virginia school acolytes, shrinking big government is not really the point. The oligarchs require a government with tremendous new powers so that they can bypass the will of the people. This, as MacLean points out, requires greatly expanding police powers "to control the resultant popular anger." The spreading use of pre-emption by GOP-controlled state legislatures to suppress local progressive victories such as living wage ordinances is another example of the right's aggressive use of state power.

Could these right-wing capitalists allow private companies to fill prisons with helpless citizens -- or, more profitable still, right-less undocumented immigrants? They could, and have . Might they engineer a retirement crisis by moving Americans to inadequate 401(k)s? Done . Take away the rights of consumers and workers to bring grievances to court by making them sign forced arbitration agreements? Check . Gut public education to the point where ordinary people have such bleak prospects that they have no energy to fight back? Getting it done .

Would they even refuse children clean water? Actually, yes.

MacLean notes that in Flint, Michigan, Americans got a taste of what the emerging oligarchy will look like -- it tastes like poisoned water. There, the Koch-funded Mackinac Center pushed for legislation that would allow the governor to take control of communities facing emergency and put unelected managers in charge. In Flint, one such manager switched the city's water supply to a polluted river, but the Mackinac Center's lobbyists ensured that the law was fortified by protections against lawsuits that poisoned inhabitants might bring. Tens of thousands of children were exposed to lead, a substance known to cause serious health problems including brain damage.

Tyler Cowen has provided an economic justification for this kind of brutality, stating that where it is difficult to get clean water, private companies should take over and make people pay for it. "This includes giving them the right to cut off people who don't -- or can't -- pay their bills," the economist explains.

To many this sounds grotesquely inhumane, but it is a way of thinking that has deep roots in America. In Why I, Too, Am Not a Conservative (2005), Buchanan considers the charge of heartlessness made against the kind of classic liberal that he took himself to be. MacLean interprets his discussion to mean that people who "failed to foresee and save money for their future needs" are to be treated, as Buchanan put it, "as subordinate members of the species, akin to animals who are dependent.'"

Do you have your education, health care, and retirement personally funded against all possible exigencies? Then that means you.

Buchanan was not a dystopian novelist. He was a Nobel Laureate whose sinister logic exerts vast influence over America's trajectory. It is no wonder that Cowen, on his popular blog Marginal Revolution, does not mention Buchanan on a list of underrated influential libertarian thinkers, though elsewhere on the blog, he expresses admiration for several of Buchanan's contributions and acknowledges that the southern economist "thought more consistently in terms of 'rules of the games' than perhaps any other economist."

The rules of the game are now clear.

Research like MacLean's provides hope that toxic ideas like Buchanan's may finally begin to face public scrutiny. Yet at this very moment, the Kochs' State Policy Network and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a group that connects corporate agents to conservative lawmakers to produce legislation, are involved in projects that the Trump-obsessed media hardly notices, like pumping money into state judicial races. Their aim is to stack the legal deck against Americans in ways that MacLean argues may have even bigger effects than Citizens United, the 2010 Supreme Court ruling which unleashed unlimited corporate spending on American politics. The goal is to create a judiciary that will interpret the Constitution in favor of corporations and the wealthy in ways that Buchanan would have heartily approved.

"The United States is now at one of those historic forks in the road whose outcome will prove as fateful as those of the 1860s, the 1930s, and the 1960s," writes MacLean. "To value liberty for the wealthy minority above all else and enshrine it in the nation's governing rules, as Calhoun and Buchanan both called for and the Koch network is achieving, play by play, is to consent to an oligarchy in all but the outer husk of representative form."

Nobody can say we weren't warned.

[May 30, 2018] How Media Amnesia Has Trapped Us in a Neoliberal Groundhog Day

Highly recommended!
Notable quotes:
"... By Laura Basu, a Marie Curie Research Fellow at Cardiff School of Journalism, Media and Culture. Originally published at openDemocracy ..."
"... This ideology spread through the media from the 1980s ..."
"... Fast-forward to April 2009, barely 6 months after the announcement of a £500 billion bank bailout. A media hysteria was nowraging around Britain's deficit . While greedy bankers were still taking some of the blame, the systemic problems in finance and the problems with the free-market model had been forgotten. Instead, public profligacy had become the dominant explanation for the deficit. The timeline of the crisis was being erased and rewritten. ..."
"... These measures were a ramped-up version of the kinds of reforms that had produced the crisis in the first place. This fact, however, was forgotten. These 'pro-business' moves were enthusiastically embraced by the media, far more so than austerity. Of the 5 outlets analysed (The BBC, Telegraph, Sun, Guardian and Mirror), only the Guardian rejected them more frequently than endorsing them. ..."
"... "One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we've been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We're no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It's simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we've been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back." ..."
"... This post is disheartening in so many ways. Start with "media hysteria" -- adding yet another glib coinage to hide a lack of explanation behind a simple but innapt analogy like the endless "addictions" from which personifications of various abstract entities suffer. ..."
"... This coinage presupposes a media sufficiently free to be possessed by hysteria. Dancing puppets might with some art appear "hysterical". And the strange non-death of Neoliberalsm isn't so strange or poorly understood in 2018 though the detailed explanation hasn't reached as many as one might have hoped, including the authors of this brief post. Consider their unhappy mashup of thoughts in a key sentence of the first paragraph: "This power has been maintained with the help of a robust ideology centred on free markets (though in reality markets are captured by corporations and are maintained by the state) and the superiority of the private sector over the public sector." The tail of this sentence obviates the rest of the post. And we ought not ignore the detail that Neoliberalism believes in the Market as a solution to all problems -- NOT the 'free market' of neoclassical economics or libertarian ideology. ..."
"... From "media hysteria" the post postulates "amnesia" of a public convinced of "greedy bankers" who need regulation. In the U.S. the propaganda was more subtle -- at least in my opinion. We were fed the "bad apples" theory mocked in a brief series of media clips presented in the documentary film "Inside Job". Those clips suggest a better explanation for the swift media transitions from banking reform to balanced budgets and austerity with more tax cuts for the wealthy than "amnesia" or "hyper-amnesia". The media Corporations are tightly controlled by the same forces that captured Corporations and -- taking the phrase "the superiority of the private sector over the public sector" in the sense that a superior directs an inferior [rather than the intended(?) sense] -- direct and essentially own our governments. ..."
"... The remarkable thing about public discourse and political and economic news reporting is how superficial it has become, so devoid of a foundation of any kind in history or theory. You can not have an effective critique of society or the economy or anything, if you do not see a system with a history and think it matters. Neoliberalism has become what people say when they think none of it really matters; it is all just noise. ..."
"... "Neoliberalism has become what people say when they think none of it really matters; it is all just noise." ..."
"... I also think that the crisis of neoliberalism echos a problem caused by capitalism, itself. I think David Harvey stated that "capitalism doesn't solve problems, it often just moves them around". ..."
"... Matt Stoller tweet from August 2017, as germane now as ever: "The political crisis we are facing is simple. American commerce, law, finance, and politics is organized around cheating people." ..."
"... George Orwell noted that the middle class Left couldn't handle dealing with real working class people, although there isn't the same huge gulf these days, I believe there is still a vestige of it due to the British class system. The Fabians set up shop in the East End around the turn of the last century & directly rubbed shoulders with the likes of Coster Mongers – a combination that led to a strike that was one of the first success stories in the attempt to get a few more crumbs than what was usually allowed to fall from the top table. ..."
"... If Neoliberalism is now being noticed I imagine that it is because of it's success in working it's way up the food chain. After all these same Middle classes for the most part did not care much for the plight of the poor during those Victorian values. Many could not wait to employ maids of all work who slaved for up to fourteen hours a day with only Sunday afternoon's off. The Suffragettes had a real problem with this as their relatively comfortable lives would soon descend into drudgery without their servants. ..."
"... Coincidentally, the NYT article on Austerity Britain is the closest I have read to an accurate picture that I have seen for a good while. ..."
"... It's also not a new thing. British media worship of neoliberalism has been growing since the 1980s, at the same time as newspapers have been closing and media sources of all kinds laying off their staff. 2008 was a temporary blip, and since the average journalist has the attention span of a hamster, it was back to usual a few months later. Once the crash stopped being "news" old patterns reasserted themselves. I wonder, incidentally, how many economics journalists in the UK actually remember the time before neoliberalism? ..."
"... Consuming corporate media is increasingly a bizarro-world experience. Even something like the Trump scandal/constitutional crisis/investigation seems like the arrogant internecine warfare of corrupt factions of the establishment. Meanwhile, Americans are increasingly living out of their cars. ..."
"... 1. Oligarchs having captured thoroughly the media, the legislatures and the judiciary, (as well as large parts of what might be construed as "liberal" political organisations e.g. the Democratic Party of the USA) ..."
May 30, 2018 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

Posted on May 29, 2018 by Yves Smith Yves here. I'm sure readers could write a US version of this timeline despite the fact that we had a second crisis and bailout, that of way more foreclosures than were warranted, thanks to lousy incentives to mortgage servicers and lack of political will to intervene, and foreclosure fraud to cover up for chain of title failures.

By Laura Basu, a Marie Curie Research Fellow at Cardiff School of Journalism, Media and Culture. Originally published at openDemocracy

It hasn't escaped many people's attention that, a decade after the biggest economic crash of a generation, the economic model producing that meltdown has not exactly been laid to rest. The crisis in the NHS and the Carillion and Capital scandals are testament to that. Sociologist Colin Crouch wrote a book in 2011 about the 'strange non-death of neoliberalism', arguing that the neoliberal model is centred on the needs of corporations and that corporate power actually intensified after the 2008 financial meltdown. This power has been maintained with the help of a robust ideology centred on free markets (though in reality markets are captured by corporations and are maintained by the state) and the superiority of the private sector over the public sector. It advocates privatisation, cuts in public spending, deregulation and tax cuts for businesses and high earners.

This ideology spread through the media from the 1980s , and the media have continued to play a key role in its persistence through a decade of political and economic turmoil since the 2008 crash. They have done this largely via an acute amnesia about the causes of the crisis, an amnesia that helped make policies like austerity, privatisation and corporate tax breaks appear as common sense responses to the problems.

This amnesia struck at dizzying speed. My research carried out at Cardiff University shows that in 2008 at the time of the banking collapse, the main explanations given for the problems were financial misconduct ('greedy bankers'), systemic problems with the financial sector, and the faulty free-market model. These explanations were given across the media spectrum, with even the Telegraph and Sun complaining about a lack of regulation . Banking reform was advocated across the board.

Fast-forward to April 2009, barely 6 months after the announcement of a £500 billion bank bailout. A media hysteria was nowraging around Britain's deficit . While greedy bankers were still taking some of the blame, the systemic problems in finance and the problems with the free-market model had been forgotten. Instead, public profligacy had become the dominant explanation for the deficit. The timeline of the crisis was being erased and rewritten.

Correspondingly, financial and corporate regulation were forgotten. Instead, austerity became the star of the show, eclipsing all other possible solutions to the crisis. As a response to the deficit, austerity was mentioned 2.5 as many times as the next most covered policy-response option, which was raising taxes on the wealthy. Austerity was mentioned 18 times more frequently than tackling tax avoidance and evasion. Although coverage of austerity was polarized, no media outlet rejected it outright, and even the left-leaning press implicitly (and sometimes explicitly) backed 'austerity lite'.

In 2010, the Conservative-Lib Dem government announced £99 billion in spending cuts and £29 billion in tax increases per year by 2014-15. Having made these 'tough choices', from 2011 the coalition wanted to focus attention away from austerity and towards growth (which was, oops, being stalled by austerity). To do this, they pursued a zealously 'pro-business' agenda, including privatisation, deregulation, cutting taxes for the highest earners, and cutting corporation tax in 2011, 2012, 2013, and in 2015 and 2016 under a Conservative government.

These measures were a ramped-up version of the kinds of reforms that had produced the crisis in the first place. This fact, however, was forgotten. These 'pro-business' moves were enthusiastically embraced by the media, far more so than austerity. Of the 5 outlets analysed (The BBC, Telegraph, Sun, Guardian and Mirror), only the Guardian rejected them more frequently than endorsing them.

The idea behind these policies is that what's good for business is good for everyone. If businesses are handed more resources, freed from regulation and handed tax breaks, they will be encouraged to invest in the economy, creating jobs and growth. The rich are therefore 'job creators' and 'wealth creators'.

This is despite the fact that these policies have an impressive fail rate. Business investment and productivity growth remain low, as corporations spend the savings not on training and innovation but on share buy-backs and shareholder dividends. According to the Financial Times, in 2014, the top 500 US companies returned 95 per cent of their profits to shareholders in dividends and buybacks. Meanwhile, inequality is spiralling and in the UK more than a million people are using food banks .

Poverty and inequality, meanwhile, attracted surprising little media attention. Of my sample of 1,133 media items, only 53 had a primary focus on living standards, poverty or inequality. This confirms other researchshowing a lack of media attention to these issues . Of these 53 items, the large majority were from the Guardian and Mirror. The coverage correctly identified austerity as a primary cause of these problems. However, deeper explanations were rare. Yet again, the link back to the 2008 bank meltdown wasn't made, let alone the long-term causes of that meltdown. Not only that, the coverage failed even to identify the role of most of the policies pursued since the onset of the crisis in producing inequality – such as the bank bailouts, quantitative easing, and those 'pro-business' measures like corporation tax cuts and privatisation.

And so it seems we are living with a hyper-amnesia , in which it is increasingly difficult to reconstruct timelines and distinguish causes from effects. This amnesia has helped trap us in a neoliberal groundhog day. The political consensus around the free market model finally seems to be breaking. If we are to find a way out, we will need to have a lot more conversations about how to organise both our media systems and our economies.


Summer , May 29, 2018 at 10:31 am

Tick-Tock.
It depends. Do you believe the worst can be avoided or do you believe the world is already knee deep in all the things we're told to be afraid will happen? There is a big difference between organizing for reform and organizing to break capture.

makedoanmend , May 29, 2018 at 10:42 am

" Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand "

W.B. Yeats

I suppose we can take some succour from the fact that WWI (and the Spanish flu) seemed to be a harbinger of worse to come but we're still here

Doug , May 29, 2018 at 11:21 am

The hyper-amnesia ground hog problem described in the post happens, in part, because the 'centre continues to hold'. It demonstrates the center can, and does, hold. We don't want the centre to hold. We want it to disappear and get replaced by policies and perspectives keen on an economy (and society) that works for all, not just some

makedoanmend , May 29, 2018 at 11:33 am

I know what you're saying and I tend to agree. But the centre to Yeats (my interpretation, anyway) is that there is a cultural centre both apart from but also part of the social centre, and when that centre goes all hell breaks loose. Meaning of events becomes very confused or impossible to understand on many levels.

Then, it's often the little people (and don't go making jokes about leprechauns) that get crushed in the confusion.

Pam of Nantucket , May 29, 2018 at 10:32 am

We should reflect about the root causes of why our information is not informing us. How can decades go by with the meme "smoking has not been conclusively proven to cause cancer" or now "the science of climate change is inconclusive", not to mention countless similar horror stories in pharma. Bullshit about the effectiveness of supply side economics is no different.

Somehow we collectively need to expect and demand more objectivity from our information sources. We fall for the fox guarding hen houses scam over and over, from TARP bailouts, to FDA approvals to WMD claims. Not sure of the answer, but I know from talking with my boomer parents, skepticism about information sources is not in the DNA of many information consumers.

Isotope_C14 , May 29, 2018 at 11:52 am

"One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we've been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We're no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It's simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we've been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back."

― Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark

One of Sagan's best, I loaned this out to a not terribly thoughtful acquaintance and I was told it was "too preachy".

I guess Sagan proves himself correct time and time again.

Off The Street , May 29, 2018 at 2:56 pm

Bamboozlers often look to bezzle. That should give anyone pause.

steelhead23 , May 29, 2018 at 12:43 pm

It is also worth noting that a number of newspapers lauded Hitler's rise to power – they overlooked violence against Jews because the trains ran on time. Nor should we ignore disinformation campaigns, led by newspapers (e.g. Hearst and cannabis). In general, each media outlet is a reflection of its owners, most of whom are rich and adverse to any suggestion that we "tax the rich."

sharonsj , May 29, 2018 at 1:59 pm

I've come to the conclusion that we don't have a media anymore. I was watching MSNBC this AM discuss the "missing" 1500 immigrant children. The agency responsible says it calls the people who now have the kids, but most of the people don't call back within the 30-day requirement period.

Now the next logical questions to ask the rep would be: What happens after 30 days? Do you keep calling them? Do send out investigators?" But are these questions asked? No. Instead we get speculation or non-answers. It's the same with every issue.

The internet is not any better. Many articles are just repeating what appears elsewhere with no one checking the facts, even on respected sites. I also got a chain email today regarding petition for a Constitutional Convention. The impetus is a list of grievances ranging from "a congressman can retire after just one term with a full pension" to "children of congressmen don't have to pay back college loans." I already knew most of the claims weren't true but the 131 recipients of the organization I belong to didn't. I did find out that this chain email has been circulating on the internet for five years and it is the work of a conservative groups whose real aim is to stop abortion and make Christianity the law of the land. I was not surprised.

I have said for years that there is no news on the news. And I have repeated this meme for just as long: There is a reason why America is called Planet Stupid.

lewis e , May 29, 2018 at 2:43 pm

On the 1500

https://twitter.com/jduffyrice/status/1000927903759110144

JBird , May 29, 2018 at 3:38 pm

Now the next logical questions to ask the rep would be: What happens after 30 days? Do you keep calling them? Do send out investigators?" But are these questions asked? No. Instead we get speculation or non-answers. It's the same with every issue.

Even competent reporting takes practice, time, and effort, even money sometimes. The same with even half way competent governing. Neither is rewarded, and are often punished, for doing nowadays; asking as a follow-up question "did you call the local police or send over a pair of ICE officers just to politely knock on the door?" Police do people checks all the time. "I haven't see so and so for a week", or "my relative hasn't returned my calls for a month, can you?" It is possible that the paperwork just got lost and asking the guardians/family some questions personally would solve.

But all that is boring bovine excrement, which is just not done.

Jeremy Grimm , May 29, 2018 at 2:41 pm

This post is disheartening in so many ways. Start with "media hysteria" -- adding yet another glib coinage to hide a lack of explanation behind a simple but innapt analogy like the endless "addictions" from which personifications of various abstract entities suffer.

This coinage presupposes a media sufficiently free to be possessed by hysteria. Dancing puppets might with some art appear "hysterical". And the strange non-death of Neoliberalsm isn't so strange or poorly understood in 2018 though the detailed explanation hasn't reached as many as one might have hoped, including the authors of this brief post. Consider their unhappy mashup of thoughts in a key sentence of the first paragraph: "This power has been maintained with the help of a robust ideology centred on free markets (though in reality markets are captured by corporations and are maintained by the state) and the superiority of the private sector over the public sector." The tail of this sentence obviates the rest of the post. And we ought not ignore the detail that Neoliberalism believes in the Market as a solution to all problems -- NOT the 'free market' of neoclassical economics or libertarian ideology.

From "media hysteria" the post postulates "amnesia" of a public convinced of "greedy bankers" who need regulation. In the U.S. the propaganda was more subtle -- at least in my opinion. We were fed the "bad apples" theory mocked in a brief series of media clips presented in the documentary film "Inside Job". Those clips suggest a better explanation for the swift media transitions from banking reform to balanced budgets and austerity with more tax cuts for the wealthy than "amnesia" or "hyper-amnesia". The media Corporations are tightly controlled by the same forces that captured Corporations and -- taking the phrase "the superiority of the private sector over the public sector" in the sense that a superior directs an inferior [rather than the intended(?) sense] -- direct and essentially own our governments.

orangecats , May 29, 2018 at 10:09 pm

"skepticism about information sources is not in the DNA of many information consumers"

This.

bruce wilder , May 29, 2018 at 11:37 am

The essayist complains that poverty and the manifest failures of neoliberalism get little critical attention, but she leads off, "It hasn't escaped many people's attention . . ."

The remarkable thing about public discourse and political and economic news reporting is how superficial it has become, so devoid of a foundation of any kind in history or theory. You can not have an effective critique of society or the economy or anything, if you do not see a system with a history and think it matters. Neoliberalism has become what people say when they think none of it really matters; it is all just noise.

Summer , May 29, 2018 at 4:48 pm

"Neoliberalism has become what people say when they think none of it really matters; it is all just noise."

There is a connection there with movies like Deadpool 2.

JohnnyGL , May 29, 2018 at 1:35 pm

Another thing to recall was how quickly talk of nationalizing banks evaporated. Even Paul Krugman, among others were supporting the idea that "real capitalists nationalize".

Once LIBOR came down, and the lending channels began to reopen, the happy talk ensued and the amnesia kicked in strongly.

I also think that the crisis of neoliberalism echos a problem caused by capitalism, itself. I think David Harvey stated that "capitalism doesn't solve problems, it often just moves them around".

The financial crisis and austerity have now manifested themselves into a media crisis of elites and elite legitimacy (BREXIT, Trump's election, etc). The ability to manufacture consent is running into increased difficulty. I don't think the financial crisis narrative shift helped very much at all. A massive crime requires an equally massive cover-up, naturally.

WheresOurTeddy , May 29, 2018 at 1:41 pm

Why, it's almost as if 90% of all media outlets are owned by 5 multibillion dollar conglomerates, controlled by the top 0.1%, for the purposes of protecting their unearned parasitic power, and the employees making six-to-low-seven figures are on the Upton Sinclair "paycheck demands I not understand it" model.

Or it's amnesia.

Matt Stoller tweet from August 2017, as germane now as ever: "The political crisis we are facing is simple. American commerce, law, finance, and politics is organized around cheating people."

maria gostrey , May 29, 2018 at 2:13 pm

this is why frank sobotka got my vote in the 2016 election:

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=T-j5XWo1fPI#

KLG , May 29, 2018 at 9:56 pm

A big thumbs up for that! Sobotka was a hero in very dark times.

As my brother-in-law puts it: The American Dream used to be "work hard in a useful job, raise a family of citizens, retire with dignity, and hand the controls to the next generation." Now? It's just "Win the lottery."

Problem is, "The Lottery" is right out of Shirley Jackson.

hemeantwell , May 29, 2018 at 3:12 pm

Or it's amnesia.

Agreed. The author is inclined to interpret at the level of cumulative effect -- apparent forgetting -- and to ignore how fear -- of editors, of owners -- plays any role. Her proposed unveiling of a coercive process becomes yet another veiling of it.

precariat , May 29, 2018 at 3:16 pm

There is not a writer or thinker I agree with more than Matt Stoller.

Avalon Sparks , May 29, 2018 at 5:33 pm

He's one I agree with too. His writings on monopoly activity are excellent.

Pamela More , May 29, 2018 at 9:57 pm

This.

It's a feature, not a bug.

Alex morfesis , May 29, 2018 at 1:54 pm

Sadly the narrative of details is lost to history The German landesbanks who had guaranteed payments in loan pools in the USA were allowed to skirt thru crash and burn by the agencies (moody s&p and your little fitch too) fake and shake ratings process But all things German are magical Having lived thru NYC Mac Corp effective bankruptcy of man hat tan..

it was amusing watching the hand wave given when the city of Berlin actually defaulted .

Ah reality I remember it welll

Eustache De Saint Pierre , May 29, 2018 at 2:23 pm

My own view for what it is worth is that the Guardian pays some lip service to the plight of the UK's " Deplorables ", but like most of it's readership does not really give a damn. A state of being exacerbated by Brexit similar to the situation in the US with Trump. It's much easier to imagine hordes of racist morons who inhabit places that you have no direct experience of, than to actually go & take a look. It's also very easy to be in favour of mass immigration if it does not effect your employment, housing & never likely to spoil your early morning dawn chorus with a call to prayer.

Unfortunately it has been left to the Right to complain about such things as the Rotherham abuse scandal, which involved a couple of thousand young girls, who I suspect are worth less to some than perhaps being mistaken as a racist. There are also various groups made up of Muslim women who protest about Sharia councils behaviour to their sex, but nobody in the media is at all interested.

George Orwell noted that the middle class Left couldn't handle dealing with real working class people, although there isn't the same huge gulf these days, I believe there is still a vestige of it due to the British class system. The Fabians set up shop in the East End around the turn of the last century & directly rubbed shoulders with the likes of Coster Mongers – a combination that led to a strike that was one of the first success stories in the attempt to get a few more crumbs than what was usually allowed to fall from the top table.

As for Mirror readers, I suspect that the majority are either the voiceless or are too busy fighting to avoid the fate of those who find themselves availing of food banks, while being labelled as lazy scroungers all having expensive holidays, twenty kids, about thirty grand a year, while being subjected to a now updated more vicious regime of that which was illustrated by " I, Daniel Blake ".

If Neoliberalism is now being noticed I imagine that it is because of it's success in working it's way up the food chain. After all these same Middle classes for the most part did not care much for the plight of the poor during those Victorian values. Many could not wait to employ maids of all work who slaved for up to fourteen hours a day with only Sunday afternoon's off. The Suffragettes had a real problem with this as their relatively comfortable lives would soon descend into drudgery without their servants.

Coincidentally, the NYT article on Austerity Britain is the closest I have read to an accurate picture that I have seen for a good while.

David , May 29, 2018 at 2:39 pm

It's also not a new thing. British media worship of neoliberalism has been growing since the 1980s, at the same time as newspapers have been closing and media sources of all kinds laying off their staff. 2008 was a temporary blip, and since the average journalist has the attention span of a hamster, it was back to usual a few months later. Once the crash stopped being "news" old patterns reasserted themselves. I wonder, incidentally, how many economics journalists in the UK actually remember the time before neoliberalism?

precariat , May 29, 2018 at 2:54 pm

"And so it seems we are living with a hyper-amnesia"

Consuming corporate media is increasingly a bizarro-world experience. Even something like the Trump scandal/constitutional crisis/investigation seems like the arrogant internecine warfare of corrupt factions of the establishment. Meanwhile, Americans are increasingly living out of their cars.

The corporate media forgets the causes of the worst economic crisis since the Depression, and it put Trump in a position to be elected. Trump was the Republican nominee because he was relentlessly promoted by the media -- because ratings, because neoliberal rigged markets.

Break up the media monopolies, roll back Citizens United, enforce the fairness doctrine.

Pamela More , May 29, 2018 at 9:55 pm

Agree.

Slight edit

" Consuming corporate media is increasingly a bizarro-world experience the Trump scandal/constitutional crisis/investigation is nothing other than internecine warfare between corrupt factions of the establishment."

JBird , May 29, 2018 at 3:24 pm

I think there are several issues here for Americans, which can partially be applied to the Europeans.

First, the American nation as whole only has short term memory. It is our curse.

Second, those with the money spend a lot of money, time and effort the late 19th century covering up, massaging, or sometimes just creating lies about the past. American and British businesses, governments, and even private organizations are masters at advertising and propaganda. Perhaps the best on Earth.

Third, the people and the institutions that would counter this somewhat, independent unions, multiple independent media, tenured professors at functioning schools, even non-neoliberalized churches, and social organizations like bowling, crocheting, or heck, the Masons would all maintain a separate continuing body of memory and knowledge.

Lastly, we are all freaking terrified somewhere inside us. Those relative few who are not are fools, and most people, whatever their faults, truly are not fools. Even if they act like one. Whatever your beliefs, position, or knowledge, the knowing of the oncoming storm is in you. Money or poverty may not save you. The current set of lies, while they are lies, gives everyone a comfortable known position of supporting or opposing in the same old, same old while avoiding thinking about whatever catastrophe(s) and radical changes we all know are coming. The lies are more relaxing than the truth.

Even if you are one of society's homeless losers, who would welcome some changes, would you be comfortable thinking about just how likely it is to be very traumatic? Hiding behind begging for change might be more comfortable.

precariat , May 29, 2018 at 4:25 pm

"Even if you are one of society's homeless losers, who would welcome some changes, would you be comfortable thinking about just how likely it is to be very traumatic? Hiding behind begging for change might be more comfortable."

On the contrary, the upheaval the "losers" have been subjected to will be turned around and used as a just cause for rectification. Trumatic consequences can be unpredictable and this is why society should have socio-economic checks and balances to prevent an economic system running amok. Commonsense that necessitates amnesia for neoliberalism to seem viable.

Peter Phillips , May 29, 2018 at 4:54 pm

Facing the current scenario in which we have:

1. Oligarchs having captured thoroughly the media, the legislatures and the judiciary, (as well as large parts of what might be construed as "liberal" political organisations e.g. the Democratic Party of the USA)

2. the seemingly inexorable trend to wealth concentration in the hands of said oligarchs

..one asks oneself.."What is one to do?"

My own response, (and I acknowledge straight off its limited impact), is to do the following:

1. support financially in the limited ways possible media channels such as Naked Capitalism that do their level best to debunk the lies and deceptions perpetrated by the oligarchs

2. support financially social organisations and structures that are genuinely citizen based and focused on a sustainable future for all

3. Do very very limited monitoring of the oligarch's "lies and deceptions" (one needs to understand one's enemies to have a chance to counter them) and try on a personal level, in one's day to day interactions, to present counter arguments

We cannot throw in the towel. We must direct our limited financial resources and personal efforts to constructive change, as, for the 99%..there are no "bunker" to run to when the "proverbial" hits the fan..as it must in the fullness of time.

Spring Texan , May 29, 2018 at 8:21 pm

Yep. One has to go ahead and do what one can. It all makes a difference. Thanks for your strategy, Peter Phillips. Limited impact is not no impact, and we don't have the luxury of despairing because there is only a bit we can do.

sgt_doom , May 29, 2018 at 8:10 pm

Yet this has been going on forever – – this past Sunday, for the first time I recall, I finally heard an accurate Real News story filed on the Bobby Kennedy assassination (50th anniversary coming this June 6, 2018) by the BBC World Service.
They actually noted that there were multiple shooters, that Sen. Kennedy was shot from behind, not the front where Sirhan was located, etc., etc.
I guess we do occasionally witness Real News – – – just that it takes 50 years or so to be reported . . .

[May 27, 2018] How Institutional Dysfunction Has Enabled Poor Economic Policy Thinking by Rob Johnson

Notable quotes:
"... Democracy in America ..."
"... American Economic Review ..."
"... Journal of Political Economy ..."
"... Quarterly Journal of Economics ..."
"... Review of Economic Studies ..."
"... There is in the US a concerted effort to praise capitalism as some sort of god-given system and to defame all other systems. ..."
"... "Stocks have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau." ..."
"... "The problem this essay addresses can be framed in terms of two quotations from Alexis de Tocqueville. The first comes from his famous speech in the French Chamber of Deputies just prior to the outbreak of the Revolution of 1848: "We are sleeping on a volcano .do you not see that the earth is beginning to tremble. The wind of revolt rises; the tempest is on the horizon." The second is from Democracy in America: "When the past no longer illuminates the future, the spirit walks in darkness." ..."
"... "These fools in Wall Street think they can go on forever! They can't!" ..."
"... "a giant suction pump had by 1929 to 1930 drawn into a few hands an increasing proportion of currently produced wealth. This served then as capital accumulations. But by taking purchasing power out of the hands of mass consumers, the savers denied themselves the kind of effective demand for their products which would justify reinvestment of the capital accumulation in new plants. In consequence as in a poker game where the chips were concentrated in fewer and fewer hands, the other fellows could stay in the game only by borrowing. When the credit ran out, the game stopped" ..."
May 27, 2018 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

... ... ...

By Rob Johnson, Institute for New Economic Thinking President,
Senior Fellow and Director, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute and Thomas Ferguson, Director of Research, Institute for New Economic Thinking. Originally published at the Institute for New Economic Thinking website

...

The problem this essay addresses can be framed in terms of two quotations from Alexis de Tocqueville. The first comes from his famous speech in the French Chamber of Deputies just prior to the outbreak of the Revolution of 1848: "We are sleeping on a volcano .do you not see that the earth is beginning to tremble. The wind of revolt rises; the tempest is on the horizon." The second is from Democracy in America : "When the past no longer illuminates the future, the spirit walks in darkness."

In 2018, the darkness is all too palpable: A chain of economic reverses that no prominent economists, central bankers, or policymakers anticipated has combined with other shocks from technology, wars, and migrations to produce the political equivalent of the perfect storm. The world financial meltdown of 2008 set the cyclone spinning. As citizens watched helplessly while their livelihoods, savings, and hopes shriveled, states and central banks stepped in to rescue the big financial institutions most responsible for the disaster. But recovery for average citizens arrived only slowly and in some places barely at all, despite a wide variety of policy experiments, especially from central banks.

The cycle of austerity and policy failure has now reached a critical point. Dramatic changes in public opinion and voting behavior are battering long entrenched political parties in many countries. In many of the world's richest countries, more and more citizens are losing faith in the very ideas of science, expertise, and dispassionate judgment -- even in medicine, as witness the battles over vaccines in Italy, the US, and elsewhere. The failure of widely heralded predictions of immediate economic disaster when the UK voted to leave the European Union and Donald Trump became President of the United States has only fanned the skepticism.

Placing entire responsibility for this set of plagues on bad economic theory or deficient policy evaluation does not make sense. Power politics, contending interests, ideologies, and other influences all shaped events. But from the earliest days of the financial collapse, reflective economists and policymakers nourished some of the same suspicions as the general public. Like the Queen of England, they asked plaintively, "Why did no one see it coming?"

Answers were not long in arriving. Critics, including more than a few Nobel laureates in economics, pointed to a series of propositions and attitudes that had crystallized in economic theory in the years before the crisis hit. [1] Economists had closed ranks as though in a phalanx, but the crisis showed how fragile these tenets were. They included:

A resolute unwillingness to recognize that fundamental uncertainty shadows economic life in the real world. Neglect of the roles played by money, credit, and financial systems in actual economies and the inherent potential for instability they create. A fixation on economic models emphasizing full or nearly complete information and tendencies for economies either to be always in equilibrium or heading there, not just in the present but far into the indefinite future. A focus on supply as the key to economic growth and, increasingly after 1980, denials that economies could even in theory suffer from a deficiency of aggregate demand. Supreme confidence in the price system as the critical ordering device in economies and the conviction that getting governments and artificial barriers to their working out of the way was the royal road to economic success both domestically and internationally.

Initially, debates over this interlocking system of beliefs mostly sparked arguments about the usefulness of particular tools and analytical simplifications that embodied the conventional wisdom: Dynamic stochastic general equilibrium models; notions of a "representative agent" in macroeconomics and the long run neutrality of money; icy silence about interactions between monetary rates of interest and ruling rates of profit, or the failure of labor markets to clear.

Increasingly, however, skeptics wondered if the real problems with economics did not run deeper than that. They began to ask if something was not radically wrong with the structure of the discipline itself that conduced to the maintenance of a narrow belief system by imposing orthodoxies and throwing up barriers to better arguments and dissenting evidence.

The empirical evidence now seems conclusive: Yes.

"Top 5" Dominance for Promotion and Tenure

Studies by James Heckman demonstrate the critical gatekeeping role of five so-called "top journals" in recruitment and promotions within economics as a field. [2] Four of the journals -- the American Economic Review , the Journal of Political Economy , the Quarterly Journal of Economics , and the Review of Economic Studies -- are Anglo-American centered and published in the US or the UK as is the fifth, Econometrica , though it is sponsored by the Econometric Society, which has long involved scholars from Scandinavia and other countries.

Heckman's research shows that the number of Top 5 (T5) articles published by candidates plays a crucial role in the evaluation of candidates for promotion and tenure. This is true not only in leading departments but more generally in the field, though the influence of the count weakens in lower ranked institutions.

The Great Disjunction

Heckman compares citations in Top 5 journals with articles frequently cited by leading specialists in various fields and with publication histories of Nobel laureates and winners of the Clark Medal. He is crystal clear that many important articles appear in non-T5 journals -- a finding supported by other studies. [3] This evidence, he argues, highlights a "fundamental contradiction" within the whole field: "Specialists who themselves publish primarily in field journals defer to generalist journals to screen quality of their colleagues in specialty fields."

Citations as Pernicious Measures of Quality in Economics

Heckman draws attention to the increase in the number of economists over time and the relative stability of the T5. He argues that his findings imply that the discipline's "reluctance to distribute gatekeeping responsibility to high quality non-T5 Journals is inefficient in the face of increasing growth of numbers of people in the profession and the stagnant number of T5 publications."

Other scholars who have scrutinized what citations actually measure underscore this conclusion. Like Heckman, they know that citation indices originated from efforts by libraries to decide what journals to buy. They agree that transforming " journal impact factors" into measures of the quality of individual articles is a grotesque mistake, if only because of quality variation within journals and overlaps in average quality among them. Counts of journal articles also typically miss or undercount books and monographs, with likely serious effects on both individual promotion cases and overall publication trends in the discipline. As Heckman observes, the notion that books are not important vehicles for communication in economics is seriously mistaken.

Analytical efforts to explain who gets cited and why are especially thought provoking. All serious studies converge on the conclusion that raw counts can hardly be taken at face value. [4] They distort because they are hopelessly affected by the size of fields (articles in bigger fields get more citations) and bounced around by self-citations, varying numbers of co-authors, "halo effects" leading to over-citation of well-known scholars, and simple failures to distinguish between approving and critical references, etc. One inventory of such problems, not surprisingly by accounting professors, tabulates more than thirty such flaws. [5]

But cleaning up raw counts only scratches the surface. Heckman's study raised pointed questions about editorial control at top journals and related cronyism issues. Editorial control of many journals turns over only very slowly and those sponsored by major university departments accept disproportionately more papers from their own graduates. [6] Interlocking boards are also fairly common, especially among leading journals. [7] Carlo D'Ippoliti's study of empirical citation patterns in Italy also indicates that social factors within academia figure importantly: economists are prone to cite other economists who are their colleagues in the same institutions, independently of the contents of their work, but they are even more likely to cite economists closer to their ideological and political positions. [8] Other research confirms that Italy is not exceptional and that, for example, the same pattern shows up in the debates over macroeconomics in the US and the UK after 1975. [9]

Other work by Jakob Kapeller, et al., and D'Ippoliti documents how counting citations triggers a broad set of pathologies that produces major distortions. [10] Investing counts with such weighty significance, for example, affects how both authors and journal editors behave. Something uncomfortably close to the blockbuster syndrome characteristic of Hollywood movies takes root: Rather than writing one major article that would be harder to assimilate, individual authors have strong incentives to slice and dice along fashionable lines. They mostly strive to produce creative variations on familiar themes. Risk-averse gatekeepers know they can safely wave these products through, while the authors run up their counts. Journal editors have equally powerful incentives: They can drive up their impact factors by snapping up guaranteed blockbusters produced by brand names and articles that embellish conventional themes. Kapeller, et al. suggest that this and several other negative feedback loops they discuss lead to a form of crowding out, which has particularly pernicious effects on potential major contributions since those are placed at a disadvantage by comparison with articles employing safer, more familiar tropes. [11] The result is a strong impetus to conformism, producing a marked convergence of views and methods.

These papers, and George Akerlof in several presentations, also show that counting schemes acutely disadvantage out-of-favor fields, heterodox scholars, and anyone interested in issues and questions that the dominant Anglo-Saxon journals are not. [12] This holds true even though, as Kapeller et al. observe, articles that reference some contrary viewpoints actually attract more attention, conditioning on appearance in the same journal -- an indication that policing the field, not simply quality control, is an important consideration in editorial judgment. One consequence of this narrowing is its weirdly skewed international impact. Reliance on the current citations system originated in the US and UK, but has now spread to the rest of Europe and even parts of Asia, including China. But T5 journals concentrate on articles that deal with problems that economists in advanced Anglo-Saxon lands perceive to be important; studies of smaller countries or those at different stages of development face higher publication hurdles. The result is a special case of the colonial mind in action: economics departments outside the US and UK that rely on "international" standards advantage scholars who focus their work on issues relevant to other countries rather than their own.


Ed Walker , , May 26, 2018 at 6:20 am

I'm just stunned that this paper doesn't mention the seminal work on the problem, Marion Fourcade's paper The Superiority of Economists. https://www.aeaweb.org/articles?id=10.1257/jep.29.1.89

Oh wait, Fourcade and her colleagues are sociologists, not economists, so no reason to consider their research and thinking. Also, and not for nothing, she and they are French, and read Pierre Bourdieu who has done a lot of work on the sociology of academics, focused on France but widely applicable.

And here's something interesting; there is no mention of the funding of economics at universities and colleges. So, no mention of the hundreds of millions the filthy rich have poured into the field. Of course, they heatedly deny that matters. A recent tweet from a Geroge Mason/Mercatus prof was livid at the very suggestion that Koch money influenced hiring decisions.

And that's before we get into the gendered nature of economics, or it's political usage by ideologically-driven politicians looking for "experts" to support their preconceptions.

There is a lot more and someone needs to say it out loud in clear, uncoded language.

The Rev Kev , May 26, 2018 at 6:42 am

Just a thought line here. I have heard and read conservatives say that "Politics is downstream from culture" and I get what they are saying. You change the culture and that predetermines the politics that you get. In reading this article, the thought struck me that perhaps the reason that economics as a profession has been corrupted so badly is that maybe conservatives consider government to be downstream of economics. Thus you control what economics theories are permitted to be discussed and that gives them the governments that they want.

Steve Ruis , May 26, 2018 at 9:27 am

I support your contention. There is in the US a concerted effort to praise capitalism as some sort of god-given system and to defame all other systems. Venezuela's current problems are due to socialism, not bad management, of course. Of course, since the wealthy are doing oh so well under the status quo, they are bound to favor it, but they are not just favoring it, they are nailing it down onto our culture.

Andrew Watts , May 26, 2018 at 9:40 am

There is in the US a concerted effort to praise capitalism as some sort of god-given system and to defame all other systems.

The Marxist economist Richard Wolff made the claim that economists are simply cheerleaders for capitalism in an interview on Chapo Trap House, He elaborated and substantiated this claim by saying that business schools had to be founded because economics departments were useless as a method of educating a cohort of business specialists.

Norb , May 26, 2018 at 9:46 am

Very succinct and thoughtful indeed. Remember Ronald Reagan's now infamous, "Government is the Problem" mantra. The real cultural warriors were the neoliberal terrorists who are hell bent on commodifying the entire planet for their own exploitation- masked in the language of "freedom" and "democracy".

This line of thought is also important in that your framing cuts to the core of the cognitive problem attempting to deal with economics, namely, it is a religion. I would define a religion as a system of faith and worship that is driven by a particular interest. All the wordy-ness and arm waiving is just an attempt to obfuscate this simple truth. Persecution of the unfaithful is also a dead giveaway.

This whole notion that the current reigning economics profession is ready, or attempting to "see the light" is somewhat amusing, or in another sense should be insulting considering the social damage they have caused, and are continuing to inflict on the broader citizenry. Burning at the stake is more appropriate, and maybe these slight rumblings of contrition are a sign that some might be getting worried that their "economic" program has gone too far.

When what goes on in the human mind looses connection to events in the real world, changes must be made in order to remain sane. The current orthodoxy is also ultimately doomed to failure in that what is the point of creating and maintaining a deluded and demoralized citizenry? That is a recipe for internal stagnation and external conquest. It would only be a successful strategy if the elite are able to move on after the broader society falters and fails. That thought is almost too cynical to contemplate. But that might explain why the .001% remains the .001%. The current economic priests are starting to feel the pressure because their flocks are beginning to realize that their everyday experience no longer matches the sermons they receive.

Time for a new sermon.

animalogic , May 27, 2018 at 12:59 am

Time to throw out the "priests" and their vicious "gods"

mle detroit , May 26, 2018 at 9:52 am

Following Rev Kev's point and Ed Walker's third paragraph, have there been any studies of the sources of gifts, underwriting, and other purchases of academic work at the most "influential" economics and business economics departments?

John Wright , May 26, 2018 at 9:22 am

In the academic side of the economics profession, it would seem to be prudent to "go with the flow."

Even the economists who recognized problems in 2008, such as Steve Keen and Dean Baker, are not celebrated.

In our society, it seems more likely that some powerful group or individual wants to do something and then proceeds to find an economist to support that action, via an editorial or media appearance, perhaps it is "free" trade, more immigration, easy money, tight money, quantitative easing, outsourcing, insourcing, charter schools, or austerity.

I suspect there are economists who attempt to accurately anticipate economic events.

But they work for hedge funds and private wealth management firms.

And what is the incentive for a prominent public economist to warn of economic problems that may have been caused by government and well-connected interests?

If someone, such as Alan Greenspan, gave early notice of sub-prime/mortgage backed security issues how would he have been better off?

It suggests a central banker career strategy that, if one observes a large economic problem brewing, retire and publish your book before the SHTF.

If the career central banker actually warned/took actions to circumvent a financial bubble and the bubble popped anyway, they could be tagged as a goat for causing the crisis.

Maybe the economics profession is functioning as one would expect?

Michael C. , May 26, 2018 at 9:41 am

One has to wonder, if the elite economists who have defined the parochial and narrow scope of what capitalism is, how it works, and who wins and loses in the system, and maybe in particular it's late 20th Century form, neroliberalism, had maybe expanded their self-serving views to include a Marxian critique and analysis of they might not had been so stupid?

That's not to say the Marx had all the answers, but is only to say that if you presuppose the outcome you want and buttress it with only the information that supports (no matter how poorly) those outcomes, you end up with crisis and the contradictions within capitalism resulting in the failures described above.

Universities and Econ departments don't allow the wide critical view needed into their schools, and no matter what you think of Marx and his ideas, they should at least be the starting point in the discussion when approaching economic policy. The right wing shift in the governments and the people's of the world is not some unexpected outcome but is directly related to a system that builds in economic disparity, short-term planning (due to emphasis on next quarters profits and stock price), and an emphasis on winner take all rather than human needs.

It's not "the economy, stupid." It"s the stupid system.

Norb , May 26, 2018 at 10:15 am

The problem with the American system is that its founding principles, that all men are created equal, and are endowed with certain, God given, unalienable rights, runs in contradiction to the chosen economic models of building society. Slavery and Capitalism are antithetical to these sentiments. Capitalism might be workable if restrained and heavily regulated, but why bother with that because human corruption will always find a way to undermine such a system; it is inherently weak and guarantees suffering will be born by the masses- Brexit will provide the perfect example as predicted by Yves.

A heavily regulated capitalism is socialism by another name.

The same, self-serving arguments are also made about war. The thought that humans could live in peace is treated as some unrealistic and insane idea. Instead of selecting from the human population for cooporation and peace-loving sensibilities, the minority sociopathic murders are allowed to run wild.

Real human "progress" will be made when the peace faction gains supremacy. But that is impossible as long as the economic system upon which all human subsistence depends remains entrenched in competition and striving to hoard against fears of scarcity.

FDR had it right, although imperfect, society was moving in the right direction. We live in a world of abundance that is being squandered. The only way to avoid ultimate destruction is to embrace this abundance as stewards and conservators instead of fearful exploiters.

Conserve the world by embracing sustainable living. Now that is a powerful political message. So powerful, it will be met with the full force of the sociopathic murders currently in charge of human societies.

What else to say, but prepare yourself.

Ed Walker , May 26, 2018 at 5:53 pm

The equality stuff is in the Declaration of Independence, not the Constitution. The latter is specifically devoted to protecting the interests of property holders, specifically including slavers. This is not surprising. The Founders were heavily influenced by John Locke. Locke was a slaver himself https://www.jstor.org/stable/2709512?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents . And remember that Lockean ideas are based on protecting private property from the random predation of absolute monarchs.

Chris , May 26, 2018 at 12:19 pm

OMG, Michael C.

"Neroliberalism"

That's an amazing slip of the keys. It explains a ton too. I love that it combines the term which the people discussed in this article usually deride with the name of the last Roman emperor who is renowned for extravagance and tyranny.

Brilliant!

animalogic , May 27, 2018 at 1:20 am

I agree with your comment whole heartedly.
But:"the name of the last Roman emperor who is renowned for extravagance and tyranny."(& please forgive my quibble) Nero was certainly not the last emperor to have had such characteristics.
(Elagabalus springs to mind)

J Sterling , May 27, 2018 at 6:41 am

It's been said that you can tell how dominated economics is by a particular minority of society, by the economists' word for phenomena where workers are paid more for their labor being "disease". As in Baumol's Disease for example.

R. BAIRD , May 26, 2018 at 9:58 am

Both sides of the political divide often go awry simply because they refuse to acknowledge the role of human nature. We mere mortals know this as we are the full recipients of the "free market," the good, the bad, and the extremely ugly. The likes of Alan Greenspan in the rarified air strata were shocked, shocked, shocked! I bring you a small excerpt from Mr. Greenspan's testimony before the Government Oversight Committee of the House of Representatives. Still clueless, he does acknowledge a flaw:

Pressed by Waxman, Greenspan conceded a more serious flaw in his own philosophy that unfettered free markets sit at the root of a superior economy.

"I made a mistake in presuming that the self-interests of organizations, specifically banks and others, were such as that they were best capable of protecting their own shareholders and their equity in the firms," Greenspan said.

Waxman pushed the former Fed chief, who left office in 2006, to clarify his explanation.

"In other words, you found that your view of the world, your ideology, was not right, it was not working," Waxman said.

"Absolutely, precisely," Greenspan replied. "You know, that's precisely the reason I was shocked, because I have been going for 40 years or more with very considerable evidence that it was working exceptionally well."

Jesper , May 26, 2018 at 10:12 am

This bit:

In many of the world's richest countries, more and more citizens are losing faith in the very ideas of science, expertise, and dispassionate judgment – even in medicine, as witness the battles over vaccines in Italy, the US, and elsewhere.

Might be believed by some, others might believe that more and more citizens are sceptical about the practioners ability to provide expertise and dispassionate judgment. From my own perspective I do believe in science, expertise and dispassionate judgment but I don't believe that many professional economists have much expertise (outside of knowledge of basic statistics and statistics software) or that they practice dispassionate judgment.

As far as being sceptical of medicine then I'll post this link again:
https://medium.com/@drjasonfung/the-corruption-of-evidence-based-medicine-killing-for-profit-41f2812b8704

Pharmaceutical companies are not in business to heal people, they are in business -> They do whatever they legally can to make money and they even put pressure on the legislative to get more opportunities to legally make more money.
The article contains this link to the Lancet relating to "the reproducibility and reliability of biomedical research":
https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736%2815%2960696-1/fulltext

The case against science is straightforward: much of the scientific literature, perhaps half, may simply be untrue. Afflicted by studies with small sample sizes, tiny effects, invalid exploratory analyses, and flagrant conflicts of interest, together with an obsession for pursuing fashionable trends of dubious importance, science has taken a turn towards darkness.

Ted , May 26, 2018 at 11:25 am

The problem is widespread, and now well recognized. Here, for example, from psychology (also a juggernaut of social science influence)

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/massive-international-project-raises-questions-about-the-validity-of-psychology-research/

If we looked and any other (social) scientific discipline, we'd get the same result.

The articles from medium and The Lancet you link highlight the problems well enough, the system is corrupt from top to bottom. Another examples of where misguided emphasis on juicing "metrics" (for personal gain) rather than taking one's time to develop expertise and do things correctly is literally killing people, or simply ruining lives (as if that is some consolation).

Ed , May 26, 2018 at 10:16 am

Were really corrupt institutions and professions ever supposed to make good decisions?

Jim Haygood , May 26, 2018 at 10:26 am

Economies are inherently cyclical. Keynesianism, in its original incarnation, envisaged surpluses during economic expansions to offset the fiscal deficits provoked by recessions. But surpluses are a distant memory -- now it's pedal to the metal all the time, just to keep a becalmed, debt-choked economy treading water.

Credit is also procyclical. It was severely rationed during and after the 2008 meltdown. Now covenant-lite bonds prevail for corporate financing, while individuals can get 3 percent down FHA loans to buy houses at prices that exceed the 2006 peak, with 33 times leverage. Prudent!

What role can academics play in this endless sisyphean tragedy? None, probably. Warning of recession invites career risk for economists, so most of them just won't do it. Like the Hazmat team, economists show up after the train wreck to help with the cleanup. Federal Reserve economists are engineering that crack-up right now, with their fruitcake bond dumping campaign.

By 2020, they'll be tanned, rested and ready for their next exciting outing. :-)

Summer , May 26, 2018 at 11:40 am

As others have stated, there are economists out there who have already seen through the current dogmas.
Michael Hudson is one and another that comes to mind is Chilean economist Manfred Max-Neef. A transcript of an interview with him from 2010:

https://www.democracynow.org/2010/9/22/chilean_economist_manfred_max_neef_us

An excerpt to perk interest:

"I worked for about ten years of my life in areas of extreme poverty in the Sierras, in the jungle, in urban areas in different parts of Latin America. And at the beginning of that period, I was one day in an Indian village in the Sierra in Peru. It was an ugly day. It had been raining all the time. And I was standing in the slum. And across me, another guy also standing in the mud -- not in the slum, in the mud. And, well, we looked at each other, and this was a short guy, thin, hungry, jobless, five kids, a wife and a grandmother. And I was the fine economist from Berkeley, teaching in Berkeley, having taught in Berkeley and so on. And we were looking at each other, and then suddenly I realized that I had nothing coherent to say to that man in those circumstances, that my whole language as an economist, you know, was absolutely useless. Should I tell him that he should be happy because the GDP had grown five percent or something? Everything was absurd.

So I discovered that I had no language in that environment and that we had to invent a new language. And that's the origin of the metaphor of barefoot economics, which concretely means that is the economics that an economist who dares to step into the mud must practice. The point is, you know, that economists study and analyze poverty in their nice offices, have all the statistics, make all the models, and are convinced that they know everything that you can know about poverty. But they don't understand poverty. And that's the big problem. And that's the big problem. And that's why poverty is still there. And that changed my life as an economist completely. I invented a language that is coherent with those situations and conditions."

It's a good interview of someone developing an alternate view.
(There are critiques and studies of wealth that I think we need more of as well, only poverty is thought of as pathological – a subject which he tackles.)

JEHR , May 26, 2018 at 11:50 am

And just maybe, human goodness and human evil have a cyclical nature too and we are just in the bad part of the cycle right now. However, it may be true also that the time period of 1950 to 1970 was an anomaly that may not recur, and that the true nature of human beings is to lie, to cheat, to steal, to commit fraud and practice multifarious corruptions and violence. When you look at the widest version of history, human nature is not so benign.

Summer , May 26, 2018 at 12:25 pm

In a nutshell, the American consumer was highly important from 1950 to 1970 until the rest of the world recovered more from 2 world wars.

Summer , May 26, 2018 at 12:10 pm

1950 to 1970 the rest of the industrial world was decimated after 2 world wars.
And more countries wanted independence from colonialism (less loot spread around, however thinly, back home – though not totally disappeared).

Scott1 , May 26, 2018 at 1:57 pm

Psychology turns into sociology. Either the system is making everyone prosperous and happy or it is making everyone desperate.
Desperation is the American way. The comfort of misery seen as pathological in the individual is a more general pathology. Too much bile in the system.
"The Sticky Floor." is the phrase my cousin invented. She is a leader in Women's Studies. It may well apply more correctly that "The Glass Ceiling". Overall the turn in the article to the dearth of women economists threw me.
As science enables engineering, economics enables financial engineering. The predominant financial engineer of our times is Meyer Lansky. Organized business, the "real" economy of General Motors and Dow & Dupont & General Dynamics & Raytheon, ITT, Apple, Google, Microsoft all now have adopted Meyer Lansky Financial Engineering.
It was made legal as economic theory and practice under Clinton Unit 1's reign.
The preeminent financial engineer is David Cay Johnston. He called Dean Baker a "real" economist as opposed to Michael Hudson. I prefer Hudson to Dean myself. Nobody knows everything. This is why all you really have to know is the goal. "You cannot go wrong if your goals are correct." is what Einstein said.
The main reason for misery is poverty, which is not having enough to operate the household without debt peonage.
The United States and the EU as run by Central Banks have it so only the selected have infinite access to currency. The States don't have enough money so the System prefers they deny their people things like education and healthcare, and sell bonds.
It is okay for the Federal Government to tax or not tax but the States must tax to fill their treasuries.
Alan Greenspan's philosophy came from Ayn Rand whose world view encouraged the exclusive access and economic security to have and do whatever they, the rich, people like Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos, envisioned as ideal for them, and them only. (They live in airport land with a pond.)
It came from Russian Dystopian Objectivism and produces Dystopia.
The American Philosophy, that which made America loved is American Eclectic Pragmatism.
The wrong goal is to make only those in Finance rich. The right goal is to make everyone as much a jet setter as the jet setters.
Until the goal of Economists is blatantly aimed at relative equality of life, the discipline is simply on the wrong track and is never going to be worth doing.
Thanks.

JBird , May 26, 2018 at 3:29 pm

Approved economics has nothing to do with actually understanding or solving anything except be a useful smokescreen for wealthy special interests. I have gotten a more accurate and functional understanding of overall economics from classes, and books in anthropology, political science, and history than in any classes labeled as "economics."

That is really sad. It is also very deliberate. Those who say modern economic studies have been stripped of anything but neoliberal/libertarian economic ideas are right. Even then, it seems that it has been either further simplified, or abstracted, to further channel any thoughts away from real life.

Let's put it this way. Philosophy can be used to actual ask and study questions or it can be used to debate how many angels can fit on the head of a pin. Guess what what modern mainstream economics does?

Sound of the Suburbs , May 26, 2018 at 4:09 pm

There are inherent flaws in neoclassical economics that have already been discovered.

The 1920s roared with debt based consumption and speculation until it all tipped over into the debt deflation of the Great Depression. No one realised the problems that were building up in the economy as they used an economics that doesn't look at private debt, neoclassical economics.

The two elements of neoclassical economics that come together to cause financial crises.

1) It doesn't consider debt
2) It holds a set of beliefs about markets where they represent the rational decisions of market participants; they reach stable equilibriums and the valuations represent real wealth.

Everyone marvels at the wealth creation of rising asset prices, no one looks at the debt that is driving it.

https://cdn.opendemocracy.net/neweconomics/wp-content/uploads/sites/5/2017/04/Screen-Shot-2017-04-21-at-13.52.41.png

The "black swan" was obvious all along and it was pretty much the same as 1929.

1929 – Inflating US stock prices with debt (margin lending)
2008 – Inflating US real estate prices with debt (mortgage lending)

"Stocks have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau." Irving Fisher 1929.

An earlier neoclassical economist believed in price discovery, stable equilibriums and the rational decisions of market participants, and what the neoclassical economist believes about the markets means they can't even imagine there could be a bubble.

The amount of real wealth stored in the markets becomes apparent once the bubble has burst.

The debt overhang (ref. graph above) is dragging the US economy down and is the cause of Janet Yellen's inflation mystery, but they don't know because they don't consider debt. It's called a balance sheet recession.

The problems that led to 2008 come from private debt in the economy and the problems now come from the overhang of private debt in the economy, but they are using an economics that doesn't consider private debt.

They don't stand a chance.

Sound of the Suburbs , May 26, 2018 at 4:24 pm

"The problem this essay addresses can be framed in terms of two quotations from Alexis de Tocqueville. The first comes from his famous speech in the French Chamber of Deputies just prior to the outbreak of the Revolution of 1848: "We are sleeping on a volcano .do you not see that the earth is beginning to tremble. The wind of revolt rises; the tempest is on the horizon." The second is from Democracy in America: "When the past no longer illuminates the future, the spirit walks in darkness."

How about this quote ..

"These fools in Wall Street think they can go on forever! They can't!" President Theodore Roosevelt 1909.

The US has just forgotten its own history; this is what it was like at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century. Capitalism was running wild, but the difference was there used to be a critical press.

Catch up on US history.

"PR! A Social History of Spin" Stuart Ewen

Finding out what the private sector uses PR for also helps you understand their motivations, it's worth reading.

JBird , May 26, 2018 at 10:58 pm

Our Esteemed Elites are mostly college educated which hopefully includes American history. But maybe it's become like modern college economics. Stripped of inconvenient information.

I agree that beyond the normal American nation's ultra short memory, there is a regular effort by some to eliminate any inconvenience ones. If history is a career or even a hobby you will likely know much about America history bad (and good too!) that goes zooop into the memory hole. It becomes a boring national hagiography. Sanitized. But that shouldn't be.

But STEM courses are so much more important than fluff like history.

Sound of the Suburbs , May 27, 2018 at 5:56 am

In history we study what the elites are up to, we don't pay much attention to what is going on with general population.

This does.

ObjectiveFunction , May 27, 2018 at 1:46 am

Fantastic piece, Yves.

As with a few other commenters here, the essay puts me in mind of historiography, to wit E.H. Carr whose 'before studying history, study the historians' became the fighting slogan for the radical history movement of the 1960s:

"The facts are really not at all like fish on the fishmonger's slab. They are like fish swimming about in a vast and sometimes inaccessible ocean; and what [facts] the historian catches will depend, partly on chance, but mainly on what part of the ocean he chooses to fish in and what tackle he chooses to use."

ObjectiveFunction , May 27, 2018 at 2:07 am

"Economists had closed ranks as though in a phalanx, but the crisis showed how fragile these tenets were. They included:
1. A resolute unwillingness to recognize that fundamental uncertainty shadows economic life in the real world."

. And for this one, do I even need to requote Upton Sinclair?!

Economists and central bankers are our modern day priest-astrologers. We *need* them to know! to appease Bel-Marduk and Istar, to ensure a fruitful harvest, the birth of worthy sons

.and also, for a small commission, to manage our tax collections/ debts/ alehouses/ brothels [hat tip to Prof Hudson].

Sound of the Suburbs , May 27, 2018 at 5:59 am

This is about the UK, but applies equally to the US as we are all doing the same neoliberal things.

Why isn't the economy growing?

We shouldn't get side tracked with productivity as productivity is GDP per hour worked and we need to grow GDP.

What is GDP?

The amount of money spent into the economy by consumers, businesses and the Government plus the income we receive from the trade balance with the rest of the world.

Now we know what GDP is we can immediately see why austerity is contractionary. The cut in Government spending comes straight off GDP (someone tell Macron).

The aim is to increase the amount of goods and services within the economy at the same rate as the demand for those goods and services, whilst increasing the money supply to allow those extra goods and services to be purchased.

Milton Freidman understood the money supply had to rise gradually to grow the economy with his "Monetarism". He thought that central bank reserves controlled the money supply and this is why it didn't work.

The economists focus on supply (neoclassical economics) or demand (Keynesian economics) until the balance of supply and demand gets out of step. The economy stagnates due to either insufficient supply (1970s stagflation) or insufficient demand (today's ultra low inflation).

Money needs to enter the economy to increase the supply of goods and services, while at the same time; the increased money supply enables the demand for those goods and services.

Banks and governments create money and this is now well understood outside the mainstream.

The banks have been creating money to lend into real estate and inflate financial asset prices. This is not what you want; they should be creating money to increase the supply of goods and services by lending into business and industry. Their lending hasn't been increasing GDP.

https://cdn.opendemocracy.net/neweconomics/wp-content/uploads/sites/5/2017/04/Screen-Shot-2017-04-21-at-13.53.09.png

It all started going wrong when with financial liberalisation and a 1979 policy decision. The UK eliminated corset controls on banking in 1979 and the banks invaded the mortgage market. This is the start of the real estate frenzy.

You can let bankers do what they want, but they have no idea how to grow the economy with bank credit.
Supply had outstripped demand by the 1920s in the US and they used bank credit to maintain demand, but this can never work in the longer term as this money needs to be paid back. Government created money has to fill the gap as it doesn't need to be paid back.

Governments can create money, jobs and wages in the public sector, building the infrastructure for the economy and looking after the health and education of the population to provide the economic framework necessary for the private sector who can't make a profit doing these things.

The magic number is GDP, we need to focus on what increasing that number means.

Our main problem is an ideological Left who think the answer always lies on the demand side and an ideological Right who always think the answer lies on the supply side.

The Left think Government is the answer and the Right think the private sector is the answer.

You need both, due to the increased productivity of the private sector that cannot create the necessary demand for those goods and services through private sector wages alone.

Sound of the Suburbs , May 27, 2018 at 6:01 am

Understanding money is critical and this is something central bankers monitor, but they don't appear to know what it means

The flow of funds within the economy.

This helps us understand why Government surpluses precede finical crises and why balanced budgets and Government surpluses push the private sector into debt

Richard Koo shows the graph central bankers use, the flow of funds within the economy, which sums to zero (32-34 mins.).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8YTyJzmiHGk

Government assets + corporate assets + household assets + transfers from/to the rest of the world = zero
They can't all be positive.

The US runs a large trade deficit and this money needs to come from somewhere.

It is the Government that should run the big deficit to fund the other three and if you clamp down on government spending your economy can't grow unless it starts running on bank debt. The corporate sector and households have to get into debt to balance this zero sum equation.

A Government surplus requires an indebted private sector unless you are Germany and run a trade surplus.

This is the US (46.30 mins.)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ba8XdDqZ-Jg

Clinton was proud of the Government surplus but he didn't realise that this meant the private sector had to go into debt. The last Government surplus occurred in 1927 – 1930, it precedes crises.

Richard Koo's video shows the Japanese Government ran a surplus just before the Japanese economy blew up.

Sound of the Suburbs , May 27, 2018 at 9:21 am

Neoclassical economics doesn't focus on GDP because it predates it. It was put together before they knew how to measure economic activity.

It lets the wealthy accumulate all the money until the economy falls over though a lack of demand.
Mariner Eccles, FED chair 1934 – 48, passes comment the last time they used neoclassical economics in the US in the 1920s.

"a giant suction pump had by 1929 to 1930 drawn into a few hands an increasing proportion of currently produced wealth. This served then as capital accumulations. But by taking purchasing power out of the hands of mass consumers, the savers denied themselves the kind of effective demand for their products which would justify reinvestment of the capital accumulation in new plants. In consequence as in a poker game where the chips were concentrated in fewer and fewer hands, the other fellows could stay in the game only by borrowing. When the credit ran out, the game stopped"

This time it's global.

2014 – "85 richest people as wealthy as poorest half of the world"
2016 – "Richest 62 people as wealthy as half of world's population"
2017 – World's eight richest people have same wealth as poorest 50%

impermanence , May 27, 2018 at 12:44 pm

Lying, cheating, and stealing is what we human beings seem to do best, so when the pot becomes big enough, the elite [those willing to do whatever it takes] do what the elite have done, lie, cheat and steal with reckless abandon.

Those who choose to live a noble life must always be grounded by the notion that the reward for doing such is in achieving good night's sleep, and little more. You truly can not have your cake and eat it too, not then, not now, not ever

[May 18, 2018] For Economic Truth Turn To Michael Hudson by Paul Craig Roberts

Notable quotes:
"... Another defect of neoliberal economics is the doctrine's denial that resources are finite and their exhaustion a heavy cost not born by those who exploit the resources. Many local and regional civilizations have collapsed from exhaustion of the surrounding resources. Entire books have been written about this, but it is not part of neoliberal economics. Supplement study of Hudson with study of ecological economists such as Herman Daly. ..."
May 09, 2018 | www.paulcraigroberts.org

Readers ask me how they can learn economics, what books to read, what university economics departments to trust. I receive so many requests that it is impossible to reply individually. Here is my answer.

There is only one way to learn economics, and that is to read Michael Hudson's books. It is not an easy task. You will need a glossary of terms. In some of Hudson's books, if memory serves, he provides a glossary, and his recent book "J Is for Junk Economics" defines the classical economic terms that he uses. You will also need patience, because Hudson sometimes forgets in his explanations that the rest of us don't know what he knows.

The economics taught today is known as neoliberal. This economics differs fundamentally from classical economics that Hudson represents. For example, classical economics stresses taxing economic rent instead of labor and real investment, while neo-liberal economics does the opposite.

An economic rent is unearned income that accrues to an owner from an increase in value that he did nothing to produce. For example, a new road is built at public expense that opens land to development and raises its value, or a transportation system is constructed in a city that raises the value of nearby properties. These increases in values are economic rents. Classical economists would tax away the increase in values in order to pay for the road or transportation system.

Neoliberal economists redefined all income as earned. This enables the financial system to capitalize economic rents into mortgages that pay interest. The higher property values created by the road or transportation system boost the mortgage value of the properties. The financialization of the economy is the process of drawing income away from the purchases of goods and services into interest and fees to financial entities such as banks. Indebtedness and debt accumulate, drawing more income into their service until there is no purchasing power left to drive the economy.

For example, formerly in the US lenders would provide a home mortgage whose service required up to 25% of the family's monthly income. That left 75% of the family's income for other purchases. Today lenders will provide mortgages that eat up half of the monthly income in mortgage service, leaving only 50% of family income for other purchases. In other words, a financialized economy is one that diverts purchasing power away from productive enterprise into debt service.

Hudson shows that international trade and foreign debt also comprise a financialization process, only this time a country's entire resources are capitalized into a mortgage. The West sells a country a development plan and a loan to pay for it. When the debt cannot be serviced, the country is forced to impose austerity on the population by cutbacks in education, health care, public support systems, and government employment and also to privatize public assets such as mineral rights, land, water systems and ports in order to raise the capital with which to pay off the loan. Effectively, the country passes into foreign ownership. This now happens even to European Community members such as Greece and Portugal.

Another defect of neoliberal economics is the doctrine's denial that resources are finite and their exhaustion a heavy cost not born by those who exploit the resources. Many local and regional civilizations have collapsed from exhaustion of the surrounding resources. Entire books have been written about this, but it is not part of neoliberal economics. Supplement study of Hudson with study of ecological economists such as Herman Daly.

The neglect of external costs is a crippling failure of neoliberal economics. An external cost is a cost imposed on a party that does not share in the income from the activity that creates the cost. I recently wrote about the external costs of real estate speculators. https://www.paulcraigroberts.org/2018/04/26/capitalism-works-capitalists/ Fracking, mining, oil and gas exploration, pipelines, industries, manufacturing, waste disposal, and so on have heavy external costs associated with the activities.

Neoliberal economists treat external costs as a non-problem, because they theorize that the costs can be compensated, but they seldom are. Oil spills result in companies having to pay cleanup costs and compensation to those who suffered economically from the oil spill, but most external costs go unaddressed. If external costs had to be compensated, in many cases the costs would exceed the value of the projects. How, for example, do you compensate for a polluted river? If you think that is hard, how would the short-sighted destroyers of the Amazon rain forest go about compensating the rest of the world for the destruction of species and for the destructive climate changes that they are setting in motion? Herman Daly has pointed out that as Gross Domestic Product accounting does not take account of external costs and resource exhaustion, we have no idea if the value of output is greater than all of the costs associated with its production. The Soviet economy collapsed, because the value of outputs was less than the value of inputs.

Supply-side economics, with which I am associated, is not an alternative theory to neoliberal economics. Supply-side economics is a successful correction to neoliberal macroeconomic management. Keynesian demand management resulted in stagflation and worsening Phillips Curve trade-offs between employment and inflation. Supply-side economics cured stagflation by reversing the economic policy mix. I have told this story many times. You can find a concise explanation in my short book, "The Failure of Laissez Faire Capitalsim." This book also offers insights into other failures of neoliberal economics and for that reason would serve as a background introduction to Hudson's books.

I can make some suggestions, but the order in which you read Michael Hudson is up to you. "J is for Junk Economics" is a way to get information in short passages that will make you familiar with the terms of classical economic analysis. "Killing the Host" and "The Bubble and Beyond" will explain how an economy run to maximize debt is an economy that is self-destructing. "Super Imperialism" and "Trade, Development and Foreign Debt" will show you how dominant countries concentrate world economic power in their hands. "Debt and Economic Renewal in the Ancient Near East" is the story of how ancient economies dying from excessive debt renewed their lease on life via debt forgiveness.

Once you learn Hudson, you will know real economics, not the junk economics marketed by Nobel prize winners in economics, university economic departments, and Wall Street economists. Neoliberal economics is a shield for financialization, resource exhaustion, external costs, and capitalist exploitation.

Neoliberal economics is the world's reigning economics. Russia is suffering much more from neoliberal economics than from Washington's economic sanctions. China herself is overrun with US trained neoliberal economists whose policy advice is almost certain to put China on the same path to failure as all other neoliberal economies.

It is probably impossible to change anything for two main reasons. One is that so many greed-driven private economic activities are protected by neoliberal economics. So many exploitative institutions and laws are in place that to overturn them would require a more thorough revolution than Lenin's. The other is that economists have their entire human capital invested in neoliberal economics. There is scant chance that they are going to start over with study of the classical economists.

Neoliberal economics is an essential part of The Matrix, the false reality in which Americans and Europeans live. Neoliberal economics permits an endless number of economic lies. For example, the US is said to be in a long economic recovery that began in June 2009, but the labor force participation rate has fallen continuously throughout the period of alleged recovery. In previous recoveries the participation rate has risen as people enter the work force to take advantage of the new jobs.

In April the unemployment rate is claimed to have fallen to 3.9 percent, but the participation rate fell also. Neoliberal economists explain away the contradiction by claiming that the falling participation rate is due to the retirement of the baby boom generation, but BLS jobs statistics indicate that those 55 and older account for a large percentage of the new jobs during the alleged recovery. This is the age class of people forced into the part time jobs available by the absence of interest income on their retirement savings. What is really happening is that the unemployment rate does not include discouraged workers, who have given up searching for jobs as there are none to be found. The true measure of the unemployment rate is the decline in the labor force participation rate, not a 3.9 percent rate concocted by not counting those millions of Americans who cannot find jobs. If the unemployment rate really was 3.9 percent, there would be labor shortages and rising wages, but wages are stagnant. These anomalies pass without comment from neoliberal economists.

The long expansion since June 2009 might simply be a statistical artifact due to the under-measurement of inflation, which inflates the GDP figure. Inflation is under-estimated, because goods and services that rise in price are taken out of the index and less costly substitutes are put in their place and because price increases are explained away as quality improvements. In other words, statistical manipulation produces the favorable picture required by The Matrix.

Since the financial collapse caused by the repeal of Glass-Steagall and by financial deregulation, the Federal Reserve has robbed tens of millions of American savers by driving real interest rates down to zero for the sole purpose of saving the "banks too big to fail" that financial deregulation created. A handful of banks has been provided with free money -- in addition to the money that the Federal Reserve created in order to take the banks' bad derivative investments off their hands -- to put on deposit with the Fed from which to collect interest payments and with which to speculate and to drive up stock prices.

In other words, for a decade the economic policy of the United States has been run for the benefit of a few highly concentrated financial interests at the expense of the American people. The economic policy of the United States has been used to create economic rents for the mega-rich.

Neoliberal economists point out that during the 1950s the labor force participation rate was much lower than today and, thereby, they imply that the higher rates prior to the current "recovery" are an anomaly. Neoliberal economists have no historical knowledge as the past is of no interest to them. They do not even know the history of economic thought. Whether from ignorance or intentional deception, neoliberal economists ignore that the lower labor force participation rates of the 1950s reflect a time when married women were at home, not in the work force. In those halcyon days, one earner was all it took to sustain a family. I remember the days when the function of a married woman was to provide household services for the family.

But capitalists were not content to exploit only one member of a family. They wanted more, and by using economic policy to suppress pay while fomenting inflation, they drove married women into the work force, imposing huge external costs on the family, child-raising, relations between spouses, and on the children themselves. The divorce rate has exploded to 50 percent and single-parent households are common in America.

In effect, unleashed Capitalism has destroyed America. Privatization is now eating away Europe. Russia is on the same track as a result of its neoliberal brainwashing by American economists. China's love of success and money could doom this rising Asian giant as well if the government opens China to foreign finance capital and privatizes public assets that end up in foreign hands.

[Apr 24, 2018] How neoliberal economics in universities achieve tenure

They achieve it by serving the financial oligarchy...
Few things are as dangerous as economists with physics envy [aeon.co].
Notable quotes:
"... "There's class warfare, all right, but it's my class, the rich class, that's making war, and we're winning. ..."
Apr 24, 2018 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

marku52 , April 20, 2018 at 3:57 pm

Stumbling and Mumbling has a good riff on this topic:
". Economics, for me, is not about armchair theorizing. It should begin with the facts, and especially the big ones. The facts are that share buy-backs do usually matter, so thought experiments that say otherwise are wrong from the off. Similarly, the fact that wage inflation has been low for years (pdf) is much more significant than any theorizing about Phillips curves."

The comments are good as well:
"That's a category error: you don't define "Economics", tenure committees define it, and they award tenure to people who have a long record of publishing "internally consistent" ("armchair theorizing") papers."
"I found myself sitting next to a very likable young middle-aged academic tenured at an elite British university, whom henceforth I will refer to as Doctor X and whose field is closely associated with this blog. Every year I publish papers in the top journals and they're pure shit." Doctor X, who by now had had a glass or two, felt bad about this, not least because "students these days are so idealistic and eager to learn; they're really wonderful." Furthermore Doctor X could and would like "to write serious papers but what would be the point?" "
http://stumblingandmumbling.typepad.com/stumbling_and_mumbling/2018/04/facts-vs-hand-waving-in-economics.html#comments

hemeantwell , April 20, 2018 at 4:59 pm

Yeah. I'm inclined to think the author needs to curb his enthusiasms and take up dejected drinking.

The nub of his presentation was a model in which consumers, due to cognitive limitations, were unable to fully examine every single product they purchased. The result was that regulations guaranteeing a certain standard of safety, quality and the like could improve competition by giving people more time to shop around instead of having to devote so much time to investigate specific products. Thus, regulation would improve markets and competition

This is Nobel-level work? It amounts to finding a way to pitch a product to anti-regulation dogmatists. I'm sure that you could find similar arguments being made during the Progressive era regulatory push. Only they would have been framed more as "people will have more time to shop around if they're not killed by previous ingestion of the product."

Ape , April 22, 2018 at 3:32 am

Dude – they aren't actually doing fancy math. Linear regression – like it's 1850!

Most of their important proofs are irrelevant crap with wholes. The math is mostly undergraduate math! The emperor has no clothes!

The problem isn't just math trickery – it's not even proper ingenuity.

Just read a Summer or Krugman paper – it's 70 pages of words, 3 graphs of imaginary numbers and stats 2 equations. That's not mathematization.

Larry Motuz , April 22, 2018 at 4:34 pm

What I mean by 'mathemagics' is the misuse of mathematics –even simple mathematics -- to create the illusion that 'utility' or 'indifference curves' actually pertain to real concepts. In reality, they 'mathematize' gobbledygook passed off as coherent concepts. There is nothing so conceptually barren as 'utility' or 'indifference curve' analytics. The notion that one can derive any coherent 'demand' analysis for any one consumer that is individual human being (or life form of any kind) for any product, or that one can aggregate these up is mathematical junk.

Sound of the Suburbs , April 22, 2018 at 9:08 am

The Classical Economists used the broader political economy rather than today's narrow economics.

The Washington Consensus dreamed of a world run by the laws of economics.

The laws of economics worked in China's favour and the Western economies got hollowed out.

Disposable income = wages – (taxes + the cost of living)

Maximising profit required minimising wages.

The minimum wage is set when disposable income equals zero.

The minimum wage = taxes + the cost of living

China had it made and the West had tilted the playing field against itself.

The US eventually woke up the geopolitical consequences of a world governed by the laws of economics that had worked in China's favour.

Trump has just made things worse with his tax cuts.

Theory:
If we reduce taxes on the wealthy they will create more jobs and wages.

Reality:
If we reduce taxes on the wealthy they will create more jobs and wages in Asia where they can make more profit. They can then ship the stuff back here increasing Western trade deficits.

Sound of the Suburbs , April 22, 2018 at 9:09 am

"There's class warfare, all right, but it's my class, the rich class, that's making war, and we're winning. " Warren Buffet, 25 May 2005

Did your class think about the geopolitics?
I don't think so.

Sound of the Suburbs , April 22, 2018 at 9:17 am

William White (BIS, OECD) is on board for the benefits of the broader political economy.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g6iXBQ33pBo&t=2485s

[Apr 24, 2018] Constant and persistent nudging generally results in an angry backlash. Somewhere around when a person realizes "This is not where I wanted to be." That's now very true for neoclassic economy courses. Many students understand the game and hate it

Notable quotes:
"... cognitive infiltration ..."
Apr 24, 2018 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

Yves Smith, April 21, 2018 at 12:26 pm

Nudge was the title of a book by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein on how to manipulate people in their supposed best interest, like in cafeteria lines, to put whole fruit before desserts made with sugar.

See here for more detail:

blennylips , April 21, 2018 at 1:49 pm

If you liked Nudge , you'll love " cognitive infiltration ":

Conspiracy Theories
Harvard Public Law Working Paper No. 08-03

Because those who hold conspiracy theories typically suffer from a crippled epistemology, in accordance with which it is rational to hold such theories, the best response consists in cognitive infiltration of extremist groups. Various policy dilemmas, such as the question whether it is better for government to rebut conspiracy theories or to ignore them, are explored in this light.
Keywords: conspiracy theories, social networks, informational cascades, group polarization
https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1084585

Is not this what discerning MIC's all do these days, via FBI FB?

Synoia , April 21, 2018 at 11:25 am

A nudge too far?

Constant and persistent nudging generally results in an angry backlash. Somewhere around when a person realizes "This is not where I wanted to be."

JTMcPhee , April 21, 2018 at 12:40 pm

And of course we mopes have been "nudged" into pretty much that blind serfdom alluded to. Back in the Cave, with not much chance of dispelling the belief in and subjection to the shadows projected on the wall we are forced to face

oaf , April 21, 2018 at 1:52 pm

manipulation is the sowing of a Karmic garden

Tom_Doak , April 21, 2018 at 6:09 pm

The classic nudge example is opting you into a 401(k) unless you opt out.

That's supposedly better for you but it is DEFINITELY better for the brokerage handling your account.

none , April 21, 2018 at 10:01 pm

I had to look it up: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nudge_theory

I hadn't heard of it before.

Tyronius , April 22, 2018 at 12:21 am

I rather detest the notion of someone or entity 'nudging' me in the direction of some behavior, especially in a paternalistic mode where the assumption is that they know better than I what I 'should' be doing or thinking.

On one level, isn't that a working definition of advertising? On another, it smacks of authoritarianism. Don't we have enough of this kind of thing already? Worse, what's the first reaction one naturally has when they realize they're being manipulated? Seems to be a strategy fraught with risk of getting exactly the wrong response.

If I'm to be encouraged to behave in a given way, show me the respect of offering a conscious, intelligent argument to do so on the merits, or kindly go (family blog) yourself!

Anti-Schmoo , April 23, 2018 at 4:18 am

In economics, the single most important thing to understand is debt.
If you understand debt; you won't have any debt.
Debt and freedom are the antithisis of each other.
Without debt; nudges have no influence.

Anti-Schmoo , April 23, 2018 at 4:24 am

A follow up:
https://www.esquire.com/lifestyle/money/a19181300/nassim-nicholas-taleb-money-advice/
A very frank discussion of debt and freedom.

[Apr 04, 2018] Elite universities are selling themselves – and look who s buying by Grif Peterson and Yarden Katz

Notable quotes:
"... Bin Salman's affair with academia isn't a fluke – it's a result of the neoliberal logic by which universities increasingly operate. As the journalist David Dickson noted in 1984, American universities and corporations have "teamed up to challenge the democratic control of knowledge" by delegating control over academic research to "the marketplace". ..."
Mar 30, 2018 | www.theguardian.com

Bin Salman's affair with academia isn't a fluke – it's a result of the neoliberal logic by which universities increasingly operate. As the journalist David Dickson noted in 1984, American universities and corporations have "teamed up to challenge the democratic control of knowledge" by delegating control over academic research to "the marketplace".

This market rationality extends even to the way research is evaluated – which the Saudi government has been gaming. To give one example, it paid highly cited mathematicians at universities around the world to list King Abdulaziz University as an affiliation, thereby making it the seventh "best" mathematics department worldwide in the 2014 US News and World Report university rankings .

Here, the Saudi government is only playing by the rules of a game designed by western elites. This is the same logic that has been used to allow corporations, nonprofits and the military to steadily buy out chunks of academia to the point where it makes little sense to presume clear boundaries exist between these entities. As a result, numerous partnerships entangle MIT researchers with Bin Salman. On his Boston tour, he also visited IBM's Cambridge research facility, which recently partnered with MIT to form an artificial intelligence research laboratory in exchange for a $240m commitment to the university. Boston Dynamics , an MIT partner that builds robots for the US military, also offered a demonstration. Such alliances ought to cast doubt on MIT's promise to understand the "societal and ethical" implications of AI and build socially beneficial technologies.

The terms of all of these partnerships are essentially opaque, while the secrecy that surrounds them denies the community the chance to deliberate and take action. The growth of unaccountable university partnerships, like other crises facing educational institutions, stems from the absence of democratic engagement. When universities decide to sell themselves to the highest bidder, they become deaf to the interests of their students and the wider societies in which they operate. Subservience to war criminals and corporate overlords tends to follow.

[Mar 12, 2018] There is no democracy without economic democracy by Jason Hirthler

Highly recommended!
Like many high demand cults neoliberalism is a trap, from which it is very difficult to escape...
Notable quotes:
"... A large, open-border global free market would be left, not subject to popular control but managed by a globally dispersed, transnational one percent. And the whole process of making this happen would be camouflaged beneath the altruistic stylings of a benign humanitarianism. ..."
"... Globalists, as neoliberal capitalists are often called, also understood that democracy, defined by a smattering of individual rights and a voting booth, was the ideal vehicle to usher neoliberalism into the emerging world. Namely because democracy, as commonly practiced, makes no demands in the economic sphere. Socialism does. Communism does. These models directly address ownership of the means of production. Not so democratic capitalism. This permits the globalists to continue to own the means of production while proclaiming human rights triumphant in nations where interventions are staged. ..."
"... The enduring lie is that there is no democracy without economic democracy. ..."
turcopolier.typepad.com

Part 3 - A False Promise

This 'Washington Consensus' is the false promise promoted by the West. The reality is quite different. The crux of neoliberalism is to eliminate democratic government by downsizing, privatizing, and deregulating it. Proponents of neoliberalism recognize that the state is the last bulwark of protection for the common people against the predations of capital. Remove the state and they'll be left defenseless .

Think about it. Deregulation eliminates the laws. Downsizing eliminates departments and their funding. Privatizing eliminates the very purpose of the state by having the private sector take over its traditional responsibilities.

Ultimately, nation-states would dissolve except perhaps for armies and tax systems. A large, open-border global free market would be left, not subject to popular control but managed by a globally dispersed, transnational one percent. And the whole process of making this happen would be camouflaged beneath the altruistic stylings of a benign humanitarianism.

Globalists, as neoliberal capitalists are often called, also understood that democracy, defined by a smattering of individual rights and a voting booth, was the ideal vehicle to usher neoliberalism into the emerging world. Namely because democracy, as commonly practiced, makes no demands in the economic sphere. Socialism does. Communism does. These models directly address ownership of the means of production. Not so democratic capitalism. This permits the globalists to continue to own the means of production while proclaiming human rights triumphant in nations where interventions are staged.

The enduring lie is that there is no democracy without economic democracy.

What matters to the one percent and the media conglomerates that disseminate their worldview is that the official definitions are accepted by the masses. The real effects need never be known. The neoliberal ideology (theory) thus conceals the neoliberal reality (practice). And for the masses to accept it, it must be mass produced. Then it becomes more or less invisible by virtue of its universality.

Source, links:

https://www.counterpunch.org/2018/03/02/colonizing-the-western-mind/
[ 1 ] [ 2 ]

[Mar 12, 2018] Colonizing the Western Mind using think tanks

Highly recommended!
Notable quotes:
"... In a short span of time in the 1970s, dozens of think tanks were established across the western world and billions of dollars were spent proselytizing the tenets of the Powell Memo in 1971, which galvanized a counter-revolution to the liberal upswing of the Sixties. The neoliberal economic model of deregulation, downsizing, and privatization was preached by the Reagan-Thatcher junta, liberalized by the Clinton regime, temporarily given a bad name by the unhinged Bush administration, and saved by telegenic restoration of the Obama years. ..."
"... Today think tanks like the Heritage Foundation, the Brookings Institute, Stratfor, Cato Institute, American Enterprise Institute, Council on Foreign Relations, Carnegie Endowment, the Open Society Foundation, and the Atlantic Council, among many others, funnel millions of dollars in donations into cementing neoliberal attitudes in the American mind. ..."
"... The ideological assumptions, which serve to justify what you could call neocolonial tactics, are relatively clear: the rights of the individual to be free of overreach from monolithic institutions like the state. Activist governments are inherently inefficient and lead directly to totalitarianism. Markets must be free and individuals must be free to act in those markets. People must be free to choose, both politically and commercially, in the voting booth and at the cash register. ..."
"... This conception of markets and individuals is most often formulated as "free-market democracy," a misleading conceit that conflates individual freedom with the economic freedom of capital to exploit labor. So when it comes to foreign relations, American and western aid would only be given on the condition that the borrowers accepted the tenets of an (highly manipulable) electoral system and vowed to establish the institutions and legal structures required to fully realize a western market economy. ..."
Mar 12, 2018 | www.counterpunch.org

In Christopher Nolan's captivating and visually dazzling film Inception, a practitioner of psychic corporate espionage must plant and idea inside a CEO's head. The process is called inception, and it represents the frontier of corporate influence, in which mind spies no longer just "extract" ideas from the dreams of others, but seed useful ideas in a target's subconscious.

Inception is a well-crafted piece of futuristic sci-fi drama, but some of the ideas it imparts are already deeply embedded in the American subconscious.

The notion of inception, of hatching an idea in the mind of a man or woman without his or her knowledge, is the kernel of propaganda, a black art practiced in the States since the First World War. Today we live beneath an invisible cultural hegemony, a set of ideas implanted in the mass mind by the U.S. state and its corporate media over decades. Invisibility seems to happen when something is either obscure or ubiquitous. In a propaganda system, an overarching objective is to render the messaging invisible by universalizing it within the culture. Difference is known by contrast. If there are no contrasting views in your field of vision, it's easier to accept the ubiquitous explanation. The good news is that the ideology is well-known to some who have, for one lucky reason or another, found themselves outside the hegemonic field and are thus able to contrast the dominant worldview with alternative opinions. On the left, the ruling ideology might be described as neoliberalism, a particularly vicious form of imperial capitalism that, as would be expected, is camouflaged in the lineaments of humanitarian aid and succor.

Inception 1971

In a short span of time in the 1970s, dozens of think tanks were established across the western world and billions of dollars were spent proselytizing the tenets of the Powell Memo in 1971, which galvanized a counter-revolution to the liberal upswing of the Sixties. The neoliberal economic model of deregulation, downsizing, and privatization was preached by the Reagan-Thatcher junta, liberalized by the Clinton regime, temporarily given a bad name by the unhinged Bush administration, and saved by telegenic restoration of the Obama years.

The ideology that underlay the model saturated academia, notably at the University of Chicago, and the mainstream media, principally at The New York Times. Since then it has trickled down to the general populace, to whom it now feels second nature.

Today think tanks like the Heritage Foundation, the Brookings Institute, Stratfor, Cato Institute, American Enterprise Institute, Council on Foreign Relations, Carnegie Endowment, the Open Society Foundation, and the Atlantic Council, among many others, funnel millions of dollars in donations into cementing neoliberal attitudes in the American mind.

The ideological assumptions, which serve to justify what you could call neocolonial tactics, are relatively clear: the rights of the individual to be free of overreach from monolithic institutions like the state. Activist governments are inherently inefficient and lead directly to totalitarianism. Markets must be free and individuals must be free to act in those markets. People must be free to choose, both politically and commercially, in the voting booth and at the cash register.

This conception of markets and individuals is most often formulated as "free-market democracy," a misleading conceit that conflates individual freedom with the economic freedom of capital to exploit labor. So when it comes to foreign relations, American and western aid would only be given on the condition that the borrowers accepted the tenets of an (highly manipulable) electoral system and vowed to establish the institutions and legal structures required to fully realize a western market economy.

These demands were supplemented with notions of the individual right to be free of oppression, some fine rhetoric about women and minorities, and somewhat more quietly, a judicial understanding that corporations were people, too. Together, an unshackled economy and an unfettered populace, newly equipped with individual rights, would produce the same flourishing and nourishing demos of mid-century America that had been the envy of humanity.

[Mar 03, 2018] Strange science, economics. Judging from the titles, much of it consists of neoliberal cheerleading

Neoliberal economists are a new type of clergy. As simple as this. Neoliberal God is great that's what they are preaching to students.
Notable quotes:
"... Bronze Age: Greatest Age EVAH! ..."
"... It's surprising economists feel the need to engage in happy talk, considering that markets are supposed to be natural, just, and efficient. Like clergy preaching to a perpetually backsliding laity about the one true God, Whom only a fool would doubt. If God were so great, there'd be no need to harp on it. In any case, this goes some way toward accounting for Bennet's statement. ..."
"... It takes a half-educated person to say something like that. First you get the ideas by way of a certain education, and then you don't think about them, in part because the educators discourage that kind of thing. ..."
Mar 03, 2018 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

Paul Cardan , March 2, 2018 at 3:12 pm

"[Capitalism] has been the greatest engine of, it's been the greatest anti-poverty program and engine of progress that we've seen."

I can almost smell the economics section of my local bookstore. Strange science, economics. Judging from the titles, much of it consists of cheerleading. Very different from history, anthropology, or sociology.

I never see history titles like Bronze Age: Greatest Age EVAH! It's surprising economists feel the need to engage in happy talk, considering that markets are supposed to be natural, just, and efficient. Like clergy preaching to a perpetually backsliding laity about the one true God, Whom only a fool would doubt. If God were so great, there'd be no need to harp on it. In any case, this goes some way toward accounting for Bennet's statement.

It takes a half-educated person to say something like that. First you get the ideas by way of a certain education, and then you don't think about them, in part because the educators discourage that kind of thing.

[Feb 09, 2018] Economists data and models are so unreliable that they should be viewed more of a religious studies than natural science

Feb 09, 2018 | economistsview.typepad.com

llisa2u2 , February 06, 2018 at 11:01 AM

I am posting this info. to this site, as part of personal approach as a US citizen to try to get some REAL FACTS out into the supposedly professional platforms of economists. This platforms are woefully lacking in good, factual information to communicate to anyone, even amongst themselves, and especially to Joe living on an street, or hopefully any house on any street in the US.

Now, what am I posting? The information that I am posting is an example of confusing information that is extremely invalid and should NOT be posted by so-called reliable sources, of professional, or "expertise" information. The reason I am posting an article that is confusing is because this article by Krugman is also confusing, and just as unreliable as the "confusing article" that was written by Alan Harkin at INVESTOPEDIA.


http://bit.ly/2Eof6eM

If you can't believe Investopedia's information, then who can you believe? I am posting the article as an article that the reader can NOT believe. The linked article is absolutely mis-stating IRS facts. This article is one of many that confuse the message about corporate taxation.

Personally, I think it is deliberate. The title of the article: http://bit.ly/2Eof6eM
basically leads the reader "to believe" the article is about how much US corporations such as APPLE, GOOGLE etc. "actually" bottomline- deliver to IRS. BUT, wait, when the reader "really reads" the reader then notes, that the "charts" ONLY reflect the "tax rate". Now, that's a whole different story. Tax rate is not bottomline taxes paid.

So, now if my "logic" and conclusion is "faulty", please enlighten me. The IRS data and this article don't jive in the real world of statistical data. Here is link to STATISTA that is THE data base that is used by top researchers worldwide.

This link shows the REAL data and percentage of corporate TAX PAID, AND FUTURE projections for US etc. etc. I have selected the most obvious and easy to read chart.
The following link presents reliable fact VS The article from INVESTOPEDIA as garbage.

http://bit.ly/2Eof7iQ

I am writing that the article in Investopedia by Aaron Hankin is BS. The content of the article also attempts to establish correlations to S/P action that has absolutely NO plausible fact to make any correlation about anything. I am also writing that most of the media reports about "corporate tax" is BS. I also am writing that this article by Krugman is a fluff, nonsense piece that is also BS. If Krugman were an economist that had any concern about the US economy, he would have, and would be posting this link everywhere on earth.

All that I definitely am trying to do is to get "reasonable data" out there to influence the public mindset to counter BS and try to present FACTS, just like a lot of other intelligent readers are trying to do.

llisa2u2 said in reply to llisa2u2... , February 06, 2018 at 11:08 AM
Please ignore the "typos", I did not hit preview first in this posted version on economists view.
llisa2u2 said in reply to llisa2u2... , February 06, 2018 at 11:15 AM
Basically, I am saying that the political posturing, and propaganda strategies of so many different monied groups is demanding that any "serf" needs to present any comment as if the "serf" is writing some sort of thesis. Really, all the "Talking Faces" are the ones who should be doing that as they present messages to the public"serfs". Otherwise, there should be public disclaimers as to who is paying the "Talking Faces" for delivering their "propaganda". The "sponsored message" dynamics is so convoluted, that any viewer sure can't presume anything. Basically, It just looks like a lot of "Talking Faces" are just making themselves into asses, based on their assumption, and presumptions.
mulp said in reply to llisa2u2... , February 06, 2018 at 01:26 PM
Why do you think anyone associated with investors is an economist rather than a snake oil salesman in the medicine show that is extremely boring?

What to understand economics? Pay attention to Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos.

They pay US workers to build productive assets like factories, transportation products, energy harvesting products, information you want products, all of which can be matched only by competitors paying hundreds of billions to millions of US workers just to catch up in a decade.

Or you can read Keynes.

[Feb 05, 2018] Neoliberalism has never produced a stable economic model and only appears to work in the neoclassical economics framworks, which does not consider the growing debt

Notable quotes:
"... Consider those who in their late forties got hit by the last bank-owned/Wall Street crash. They lost a good chunk of their 401ks...and had to cash out the remainder to just cover former obligations. Then they were told to go back to school (again involving, at least here in the US, major debt to do so). Who benefited.. the same bank and Wall Street loan sharks. So now in their early fifties and competing against much younger people, they struggled to pay off their incurred re-training/education loans, with nary a penny to spare to invest for what they had after years of saving lost. It's a mugs game, with the only ones winning are the top 1-2% who are able to bet against their own investments. ..."
Feb 05, 2018 | www.theguardian.com

soundofthesuburbs , 4 Feb 2018 13:48

Neoliberalism has never produced a stable economic model and only appears to work as its neoclassical economists don't consider debt.

The great champions of neoliberalism never really knew what they were doing.

Adair Turner has looked at the situation prior to the crisis where advanced economies were growing by 4 - 5%, but the debt was rising at 10 – 15%.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LCX3qPq0JDA

This always was an unsustainable growth model; it had no long term future.

Byron Delaney -> icebjorn , 4 Feb 2018 13:46
Both sides of Congress serve the wealthy with the intention of gaining wealth for themselves. Trump is not much different than the dems (that's why Obama told Bernie to leave). The US is purely capitalistic. Money is everything. People without money are nothing, but if you toss them in prison you can make money (and make them work for free). After eight years of Obama the US is still the world's top prison state and there's more poverty than ever. Trump, Obama, Hillary. All very similar. I just see dollar signs.
RecantedYank -> icebjorn , 4 Feb 2018 13:44
Consider those who in their late forties got hit by the last bank-owned/Wall Street crash. They lost a good chunk of their 401ks...and had to cash out the remainder to just cover former obligations. Then they were told to go back to school (again involving, at least here in the US, major debt to do so). Who benefited.. the same bank and Wall Street loan sharks. So now in their early fifties and competing against much younger people, they struggled to pay off their incurred re-training/education loans, with nary a penny to spare to invest for what they had after years of saving lost. It's a mugs game, with the only ones winning are the top 1-2% who are able to bet against their own investments.

[Dec 20, 2017] Bill Black DSGE Dilettantes v. ADM God Devotees

Notable quotes:
"... By Bill Black, the author of The Best Way to Rob a Bank is to Own One, an associate professor of economics and law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, and co-founder of Bank Whistleblowers United. Originally published at New Economic Perspectives ..."
"... A dilettante is a person who cultivates an area of interest, such as the arts, without real commitment or knowledge. The Dilettante Doctrine takes modern macro's arrogance to a new pinnacle. Only their model is legitimate, and it is illegitimate to criticize their DSGE models, even though they repeatedly fail. Instead, we must all "like" their models. We cannot make any statements about macroeconomics unless we "like [DSGE] models." The Dilettante Doctrine is a sure-fire means of winning academic disputes. You demand that your critics endorse your views, or you dismiss them as dilettantes unworthy of respect. ..."
"... Readers may recall that the scientific method works in the opposite direction of the Dilettante Doctrine. Modern macro proposes a theory (DSGE) and tests its predictive ability. The DSGE models fail recurrently, on the most important macro events, and the failures are massive. The scientific method requires the theorist of the failed model to declare it falsified. Economists who "like" repeatedly falsified DSGE models are, as Paul Romer famously declared, engaged in "pseudoscience." ..."
"... BTW, one of the best takes of macroeconomics I've encountered is Steve Keen's work, which I gratefully acknowledge I first read here on NC. Keen's critique of DSGE models is utterly spot-on and mathematically sophisticated. Part of the problem with economics is that it has been afflicted with 'math envy' since its earliest days, and the ADM results were proved with Banach Space methods, so they just *had* to be right. Google the phrase "spherical cow" for more on this mindset, not to mention one of the few really funny math jokes I know. ..."
Dec 20, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

By Bill Black, the author of The Best Way to Rob a Bank is to Own One, an associate professor of economics and law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, and co-founder of Bank Whistleblowers United. Originally published at New Economic Perspectives

The truly exceptional thing about 'modern macroeconomics' devotees is not that they are so consistently and horrifically wrong or that they persist in their errors – but their exceptional combination of arrogance and disdain for those who have dramatically better records and broader and more relevant expertise. Kartik Athreya, the Richmond Fed's Research Director, led the modern macro parade on June 17, 2010 with his blog (which he later withdrew in embarrassment) when he announced the Athreya Axiom of Absolute Arrogance.

So far, I've claimed something a bit obnoxious-sounding: that writers who have not taken a year of PhD coursework in a decent economics department (and passed their PhD qualifying exams), cannot meaningfully advance the discussion on economic policy. Taken literally, I am almost certainly wrong. Some of them have great ideas, for sure. But this is irrelevant. The real issue is that there is extremely low likelihood that the speculations of the untrained, on a topic almost pathologically riddled by dynamic considerations and feedback effects, will offer anything new. Moreover, there is a substantial likelihood that it will instead offer something incoherent or misleading.

Modern macro devotees suffered far worse substantive embarrassment than Athreya's personal embarrassment. After Athreya (briefly) published his Axiom, a flurry of the world's top economists issued devastating critiques of modern macro's foundational myths in their dynamic stochastic general equilibrium (DSGE) models. The takedowns enraged and humiliated modern macro devotees, and because they are incapable of staying embarrassed, they doubled-down on Athreya's Axiom by announcing the Dilettante Doctrine .

People who don't like dynamic stochastic general equilibrium (DSGE) models are dilettantes. By this we mean they aren't serious about policy analysis.

Lawrence J. Christiano, Martin S. Eichenbaum, and Mathias Trabandt, authored "On DSGE Models on November 9, 2017. Christiano and Eichenbaum are freshwater modern macro devotees trained largely at the University of Minnesota, and now holding prominent positions at Northwestern. Trabandt is a German modern macro devotee.

A dilettante is a person who cultivates an area of interest, such as the arts, without real commitment or knowledge. The Dilettante Doctrine takes modern macro's arrogance to a new pinnacle. Only their model is legitimate, and it is illegitimate to criticize their DSGE models, even though they repeatedly fail. Instead, we must all "like" their models. We cannot make any statements about macroeconomics unless we "like [DSGE] models." The Dilettante Doctrine is a sure-fire means of winning academic disputes. You demand that your critics endorse your views, or you dismiss them as dilettantes unworthy of respect.

Readers may recall that the scientific method works in the opposite direction of the Dilettante Doctrine. Modern macro proposes a theory (DSGE) and tests its predictive ability. The DSGE models fail recurrently, on the most important macro events, and the failures are massive. The scientific method requires the theorist of the failed model to declare it falsified. Economists who "like" repeatedly falsified DSGE models are, as Paul Romer famously declared, engaged in "pseudoscience."

Athreya then inadvertently compounded modern macro's failures by putting in writing a bit too many of modern macro's darker secrets in his 2013 book about macroeconomics. Athreya confirmed many of the most fundamental criticisms of modern macro devotees, revealed additional failures that were even more devastating, and illustrated perfectly the blindness of modern macro's devotees to their dogmas and logic. Athreya did recognize clearly one dogma that made modern macro devotees unable to spot even the world's largest bubble – but treated that failure as if it were a virtue. Modern macro devotees train macroeconomists to be unable to identify warn against, or take action to end even the most destructive bubbles. This is like training surgeons to believe that shock cannot occur and they should ignore shock in treating patients.

I will return to these errors in subsequent columns, but in this initial column, I introduce Athreya's most embarrassing and devastating admission. Athreya goes on for over 100 pages on how wondrous his fellow modern macro devotees are. They are brilliant specialists who are the world's top practitioners of ultra-rigorous logic and ultra-sophisticated mathematics skills that make it impossible for them to be anything other than transparent and scrupulously honest. In particular, Athreya tells the reader that the paramount problem in macro and microeconomics is recognizing, understanding, and countering deceit, the defining element at law of fraud. (Actually, he does that only in an exceptionally opaque manner.) On p.103, however, Athreya admits that modern macro devotees know that their vaunted DSGE models rest on a fatal premise that is so preposterous and embarrassing that they dare not state it. "A silent assumption of the ADM model" is that "the ADM God" perfectly prevents all crimes, predation, and deceit – at no cost. Note that this means that modern macro devotees (silently) designed their DSGE models to be incapable of recognizing, understanding, measuring, or countering deceit, which they admit is their paramount and fatal failure.

It is never good to be arrogant. It is always dangerous and limiting to be (proudly) ignorant of fields that are likely to have superior understanding of issues such as deceit, fraud, and predation. Athreya's book displays his pride in both of these faults.

The authors of the Dilettante Doctrine inadvertently revealed another embarrassing modern macro failure of great importance. It is the combination of repeated, devastating failure and unfailing arrogance that defines (and dooms) modern macro as pseudoscientists. In fairness to the authors, they announced their Dilettante Doctrine in the context of an article admitting catastrophic errors in modern macro. They also unintentionally admit the non-scientific nature of their enterprise. Consider this passage:

For [IMF's leader] to take DSGE model-based recommendations seriously, the economic intuition underlying those recommendations has to be made in compelling and intuitive ways.

Yes, they actually wrote that for anyone to take DSGE models "seriously" their "economic intuition" must "be made intuitive." Wow, who knew science could be so 'intuitive?' Not satisfied with announcing their new "intuitive method" as a substitute for the scientific method, the authors double-down on the concept that 'intuition' is the secret sauce of economics declaring that the super-secret is to keep that 'intuition' "simple."

To be convincing, it is critical for a DSGE modeler to understand and convey the economic intuition behind the model's implications in simple and intuitive terms.

Notice that the authors are not stating the conditions required to make the DSGE models 'correct.' They are only interested in what practices will make the models' results "convincing" to the bosses.

The bosses decide "actual policymaking." The Dilettante Doctrine authors declare policymaking to be even less scientific than relying on 'simple' 'intuition' to convey DSGE model results. It turns out that DSGE models are the 'canvas' on which modern macro devotees "see the combined effect of the different colors" of their "art."

Inevitably, actual policymaking will always be to some extent an art. But even an artist needs a canvas to see the combined effect of the different colors. A DSGE model is that canvas.

These passages are not simply embarrassing, they are revealing. DSGE is a substantive farce that repeatedly fails because modern macro devotees shaped their models from the beginning to embrace laissez faire dogmas. The 'simple' 'intuitions' underlying DSGE models are the most destructive laissez faire dogmas. Narayana Kocherlakota's sly use of the word "almost" reveals his agreement with this point.

[A]lmost coincidentally -- in these [early DSGE] models, all government interventions (including all forms of stabilization policy) are undesirable.

The authors of the Dilettante Doctrine agree with Kocherlakota's observation about the original DSGE models.

The associated policy implications are clear: there was no need for any form of government intervention. In fact, government policies aimed at stabilizing the business cycle are welfare-reducing.

Modern macro is proud that its 'freshwater' and 'saltwater' factions have achieved a grand fusion. The saltwater types agreed to use DSGE models and the freshwater types agreed that the freshwater types could add 'frictions' to the DSGE models that would allow the models to at least purport to address some of the actual macroeconomic problems. There is a misleading view that because the 'saltwater' types often call themselves "New Keynesians" they must have views sympathetic to Keynesian thought. The Dilettante Doctrine authors make the useful point that "New Keynesian" dogma is actually Milton Friedman's core laissez faire dogmas.

Prototypical pre-crisis DSGE models built upon the chassis of the RBC model to allow for nominal frictions, both in labor and goods markets. These models are often referred to as New Keynesian (NK) DSGE models. But, it would be just as appropriate to refer to them as Friedmanite DSGE models. The reason is that they embody the fundamental world view articulated in Friedman's seminal Presidential Address .

The Dilettante Doctrine authors admit that DSGE models failed at the most fundamental level – they could not even spot that the economy was becoming progressively more dangerous and harmful.

Pre-crisis DSGE models didn't predict the increasing vulnerability of the US economy to a financial crisis.

The authors go badly wrong in multiple ways when they attempt to explain the DSGE models failures and their implications for economic theory and policy.

There is still an ongoing debate about the causes of the financial crisis. Our view, shared by Bernanke (2009) and many others, is that the financial crisis was precipitated by a rollover crisis in a very large and highly levered shadow-banking sector that relied on short-term debt to fund long-term assets.19

The trigger for the rollover crisis was developments in the housing sector. U.S. housing prices had risen rapidly in the 1990's with the S&P/Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price Index rising by a factor of roughly 2.5 between 1991 and 2006. The precise role played by expectations, the subprime market, declining lending standards in mortgage markets, and overly-loose monetary policy is not critical for our purposes. What is critical is that housing prices began to decline in mid-2006, causing a fall in the value of the assets of shadow banks that had heavily invested in mortgage-backed securities. The Fed's willingness to provide a safety net for the shadow banking system was at best implicit, creating the conditions under which a roll-over crisis was possible. In fact a rollover crisis did occur and shadow banks had to sell their asset-backed securities at fire-sale prices, precipitating the Great Recession.

In sum, the pre-crisis mainstream DSGE models failed to forecast the financial crisis because they did not integrate the shadow banking system into their analysis.

I begin with the most fundamental failure – the failure to ask the right questions. Two prominent examples are why didn't the DSGE models warn us decades ago that the economy was systematically misallocating assets and creating the largest bubble in world history and what should we do to change the perverse incentives harming the economy and economic stability? Kocherlakota, in the same article from which I quoted above, emphasized that modern macro failed to warn about the coming financial crisis and the Great Recession and failed to provide effective policies to respond to them.

The dilettante article only uses the word 'bubble' once – to describe the tech bubble. It never labels the vastly larger housing bubble a 'bubble.' The dilettante article's authors claim it is not relevant for their purposes to know how the bubble arose, why it continued to inflate for over a decade, why it burst, or why it triggered the global financial crisis and the Great Recession. Only a dilettante could make or believe that claim.

Recall that Athreya emphasizes that deceit is the key factor that screws up economies – and that DSGE models "silently" assume "the ADM God" makes deceit impossible. I have explained in scores of columns why deceit, fraud, and predation were the central causes of the housing bubble hyper-inflating, the financial crisis, and the creation of the Great Recession. The dilettante authors refusal to call the housing bubble a bubble does not change the fact that they claim that the dramatic fall in housing values after 2005 was the paramount "trigger" of the financial crisis and the Great Recession.

The dilettante authors create a fiction about what "precipitat[ed] the Great Recession.

In fact a rollover crisis did occur and shadow banks had to sell their asset-backed securities at fire-sale prices, precipitating the Great Recession.

The dilettante authors then make their twin ' mea culpa ' on behalf of modern macro.

Against this background, we turn to the first of the two criticisms of DSGE models mentioned above, namely their failure to signal the increasing vulnerability of the U.S. economy to a financial crisis. This criticism is correct. The failure reflected a broader failure of the economics community.

The failure was to allow a small shadow-banking system to metastasize into a massive, poorly-regulated wild west-like sector that was not protected by deposit insurance or lender-of-last-resort backstops.

We now turn to the second criticism of DSGE models, namely that they did not sufficiently emphasize financial frictions. One reason why modelers did not emphasize financial frictions in DSGE models is that until the recent crisis, post-war recessions in the U.S. and Western Europe did not seem closely tied to disturbances in financial markets. The Savings and Loans crisis in the US was a localized affair that did not grow into anything like the Great Recession. Similarly, the stock market meltdown in the late 1980's and the bursting of the tech-bubble in 2001 only had minor effects on aggregate economic activity.

At the same time, the financial frictions that were included in DSGE models did not seem to have very big effects.

The dilettante authors have no idea how important their concessions are. Their premise is that it was government regulation, deposit insurance, and the central bank's 'lender of last resort' function that prevented prior epidemics of accounting control fraud from causing anything worse than "minor effects on aggregate economic activity." The obvious problem is that since its inception 30 years ago modern macro ideologues have claimed the opposite is true – that governmental action is unnecessary and harmful. They constructed their DSGE models to valorize their Friedmanite dogmas.

The less obvious problem is that freshwater modern macro has claimed that the lesson of the financial crisis is the opposite. Athreya and the Richmond Fed have preached for years that the federal safety net caused the housing problem, the financial crisis, and the Great Recession. The Richmond Fed claims that the key policy response to future financial crises is allowing the shadow sector to collapse in an orgy of "rollover cris[e]s."

The broader problem is why the dilettante authors are so wedded to their failed models, which at their core assume out of existence the institutions and events they say are most critical to explaining the catastrophic failures of their models. Why, for example, start with a general equilibrium model based on absurdly utopian assumptions (stated and unstated) that invariably produces equilibrium when the things we most need to study involve the failure of markets to function? It is nonsensical to make contradictory assumptions in different parts of your model about human behavior. Modern macro models keep failing and their devotees' response is to add (over time) dozens of fudges that posit that humans typically act in a manner that contradicts to the explicit and unstated assumptions of the DSGE model about human behavior. DSGE models increasingly resemble Borg constructs. The Borg also claim that there is no alternative to assimilation into their collective.

Aaron Layman , December 20, 2017 at 10:23 am

Excellent points. Helps to explain how you get a supposedly serious site covering real estate falling for ridiculous tripe about the root cause of the housing crisis (aka Great Recession). Take a careful look at the bombshell "working paper" and the new "narrative" cited, and you can see the groupstink of the Fed written all over it
https://betterdwelling.com/forget-subprime-canadian-real-estate-buyers-investors-crashed-the-us-market/

diptherio , December 20, 2017 at 11:07 am

Great article.

Modern mainstream macro is like a police detective whose model of the world states that people are nice and the body heals itself, and that therefore we will all live happily ever after. When confronted by a murder victim lying in a pool of their own blood, and that fact's apparent incompatibility with their model of the world, they respond, "My model is correct only, you see, it failed to account for sudden massive blood loss. How that loss of blood happened is beyond the scope of my investigation, the important thing is that I've now incorporated that knowledge in my new improved model, which proves that we will all live happily ever after -- except in cases of a sudden, massive loss of blood ."

Altandmain , December 20, 2017 at 12:01 pm

There has not been a big mea-culpa from neoliberal economists after the 2008 Financial Crisis. I don't think there will be. Many are essentially the equal of religious fundamentalists.

However, we should also remember that the very wealthy have backed the neoliberal economists against the general public. Neolibe3ralism provides a pseudoscientific economic excuse for what amounts to turning society into a plutocracy, which is precisely what the rich want.

shinola , December 20, 2017 at 2:10 pm

" essentially the equal of religious fundamentalists."

Yes – nailed it!

flora , December 20, 2017 at 3:26 pm

aka: The divine right of markets. /s

Skip Intro , December 20, 2017 at 3:12 pm

The GFC worked out very well for the neoliberal agenda. What you can't predict, you don't need to prevent or protect against. If the result happens to be a massive transfer of funds from states to speculators that eases the path to austerity and asset stripping, what's to apologize for?

Matthew G. Saroff , December 20, 2017 at 12:16 pm

What is ADM, aside from the agribusiness?

Robert Denne , December 20, 2017 at 12:50 pm

ADM is the Arrow-Debreu-McKenzie (ADM) model, as revealed in the blurb for the Athreya book on Amazon.

Jean , December 20, 2017 at 12:31 pm

Lack of higher math skills precludes citizen involvement in economics.
Blame it on the math card in PCs that makes doing it by hand and thus learning and understanding how numbers work.

voislav , December 20, 2017 at 1:28 pm

Most economists lack higher math skills too, but that doesn't seem to be obstacle for them. It's spherical chickens in a vacuum, models that are supposedly related to real world but are simplified beyond recognition because most economists are ignorant of even rudimentary statistics.

djrichard , December 20, 2017 at 1:31 pm

You don't need math to follow the money.

Amfortas the Hippie , December 20, 2017 at 3:59 pm

and you don't need math to discover that the holy Models rely on downright silly assumptions about Human Beings.
"rational actors with perfect information".
lol.
Most of the economic actors I know do not even remotely resemble that.
and whomever said that modern econ is akin to fundamentalist religion is right on.
I can't read "Money" or watch CNBC without thinking about Pat Robertson or Billy Graham.
It's just a different god they worship.
With this in mind, I think it's hilarious that the current hyperventilation about "cryptocurrency" could possibly be the bubble that, in popping, brings the whole mess down.
"Masters of the Universe", indeed.

Know Thy Farmer.

Synoia , December 20, 2017 at 12:48 pm

Personally I believe economic as practiced is an example of telling the boss (the King) what they want to hear.

Economist appear descended form a long line of Court Magicians, telling the futures from the entrails of an animal, consulting the spirits for guidance, or using a Chrystal ball.

Of more pointedly Bullshit, baffles brains.

Prof Black make the point that he DSGE models assume away fraud. They also assume people are "rational actors, driven only by logic," that is: we are all Vulcans from Star Trek.

A simple view of women's fashions (high heels) with regard to comfort or safety would demolish any theory of people as "rational actors." Or men's behavior over their "sports teams."

To assume away human behavior and emotion, and thus chaos or catastrophe theory, would put economists at odds with their masters, and cut their income, by the nearly always fatal, or career limiting "telling truth to power."

It's interesting to speculate what would be the scope or size of common ground in a dialog between anthropologists and economists. Null set perhaps?

PB , December 20, 2017 at 1:28 pm

Hi all,

Just a quick note for those who were initially confused by Bill Black's use of "modern macroeconomic theory" and thought "modern monetary theory". (I know I did, and was initially really confused by his take, and had to re-read the first three paragraphs a few times to re-set my mental pointers). As far as I know (and I did a year of Ph.D economics at Stanford, so I pass Arthreya's first test) I haven't heard of "modern" applied to DSGE macro but that probably reflects my choice of reading material more than anything else. In short, "modern macro" is bad, "modern monetary" is good.

BTW, one of the best takes of macroeconomics I've encountered is Steve Keen's work, which I gratefully acknowledge I first read here on NC. Keen's critique of DSGE models is utterly spot-on and mathematically sophisticated. Part of the problem with economics is that it has been afflicted with 'math envy' since its earliest days, and the ADM results were proved with Banach Space methods, so they just *had* to be right. Google the phrase "spherical cow" for more on this mindset, not to mention one of the few really funny math jokes I know.

Cheers,

P

[Dec 19, 2017] Do not Underestimate the Power of Microfoundations

Highly recommended!
Nice illustration of ideologically based ostrakism as practiced in Academia: "Larry [Summers] leaned back in his chair and offered me some advice. I had a choice. I could be an insider or I could be an outsider. Outsiders can say whatever they want. But people on the inside don't listen to them. Insiders, however, get lots of access and a chance to push their ideas. People - powerful people - listen to what they have to say. But insiders also understand one unbreakable rule: they don't criticize other insiders."
Notable quotes:
"... A more probable school of thought is that this game was created as a con and a cover for the status quo capitalist establishment to indulge themselves in their hard money and liquidity fetishes, consequences be damned. ..."
"... The arguments over internal and external consistency of models is just a convenient misdirection from what policy makers are willing to risk and whose interests they are willing to risk policy decisions for ..."
"... Mathematical masturbations are just a smoke screen used to conceal a simple fact that those "economists" are simply banking oligarchy stooges. Hired for the specific purpose to provide a theoretical foundation for revanschism of financial oligarchy after New Deal run into problems. Revanschism that occurred in a form of installing neoliberal ideology in the USA in exactly the same role which Marxism was installed in the USSR. With "iron hand in velvet gloves" type of repressive apparatus to enforce it on each and every university student and thus to ensure the continues, recurrent brainwashing much like with Marxism on the USSR universities. ..."
"... To ensure continuation of power of "nomenklatura" in the first case and banking oligarchy in the second. Connections with reality be damned. Money does not smell. ..."
"... Economic departments fifth column of neoliberal stooges is paid very good money for their service of promoting and sustaining this edifice of neoliberal propaganda. Just look at Greg Mankiw and Rubin's boys. ..."
"... "Larry [Summers] leaned back in his chair and offered me some advice. I had a choice. I could be an insider or I could be an outsider. Outsiders can say whatever they want. But people on the inside don't listen to them. Insiders, however, get lots of access and a chance to push their ideas. People - powerful people - listen to what they have to say. But insiders also understand one unbreakable rule: they don't criticize other insiders." ..."
Apr 04, 2015 | Economist's View

Darryl FKA Ron -> pgl...

At the risk of oversimplifying might it not be as simple as stronger leanings towards IS-LM and kind are indicative of a bias towards full employment and stronger leanings towards DSGE, microfoundations, and kind are indicative of a bias towards low inflation?

IN general I consider over-simplification a fault, if and only if, it is a rigidly adhered to final position. This is to say that over-simplification is always a good starting point and never a good ending point. If in the end your problem was simple to begin with, then the simplified answer would not be OVER-simplified anyway. It is just as bad to over-complicate a simple problem as it is to over-simplify a complex problem. It is easier to build complexity on top of a simple foundation than it is to extract simplicity from a complex foundation.

A lot of the Chicago School initiative into microfoundations and DSGE may have been motivated by a desire to bind Keynes in a NAIRU straight-jacket. Even though economic policy making is largely done just one step at a time then that is still one step too much if it might violate rentier interests.

Darryl FKA Ron -> Barry...

There are two possible (but unlikely) schools of (generously attributed to as) thought for which internal consistency might take precedence over external consistency. One such school wants to consider what would be best in a perfect world full of perfect people and then just assume that is best for the real world just to let the chips fall where they may according to the faults and imperfections of the real world. The second such school is the one whose eyes just glaze over mesmerized by how over their heads they are and remain affraid to ask any question lest they appear stupid.

A more probable school of thought is that this game was created as a con and a cover for the status quo capitalist establishment to indulge themselves in their hard money and liquidity fetishes, consequences be damned.

Richard H. Serlin

Consistency sounds so good, Oh, of course we want consistency, who wouldn't?! But consistent in what way? What exactly do you mean? Consistent with reality, or consistent with people all being superhumans? Which concept is usually more useful, or more useful for the task at hand?

Essentially, they want models that are consistent with only certain things, and often because this makes their preferred ideology look far better. They want models, typically, that are consistent with everyone in the world having perfect expertise in every subject there is, from finance to medicine to engineering, perfect public information, and perfect self-discipline, and usually on top, frictionless and perfectly complete markets, often perfectly competitive too.

But a big thing to note is that perfectly consistent people means a level of perfection in expertise, public information, self-discipline, and "rationality", that's extremely at odds with how people actually are. And as a result, this can make the model extremely misleading if it's interpreted very literally (as so often it is, especially by freshwater economists), or taken as The Truth, as Paul Krugman puts it.

You get things like the equity premium "puzzle", which involves why people don't invest more in stocks when the risk-adjusted return appears to usually be so abnormally good, and this "puzzle" can only be answered with "consistency", that people are all perfectly expert in finance, with perfect information, so they must have some mysterious hidden good reason. It can't be at all that it's because 65% of people answered incorrectly when asked how many reindeer would remain if Santa had to lay off 25% of his eight reindeer ( http://richardhserlin.blogspot.com/2013/12/surveys-showing-massive-ignorance-and.html ).

Yes, these perfect optimizer consistency models can give useful insights, and help to see what is best, what we can do better, and they can, in some cases, be good as approximations. But to say they should be used only, and interpreted literally, is, well, inconsistent with optimal, rational behavior -- of the economist using them.

Richard H. Serlin -> Richard H. Serlin...
Of course, unless the economist using them is doing so to mislead people into supporting his libertarian/plutocratic ideology.

dilbert dogbert

As an old broken down mech engineer, I wonder why all the pissing and moaning about micro foundations vs aggregation. In strength of materials equations that aggregate properties work quite well within the boundaries of the questions to be answered. We all know that at the level of crystals, materials have much complexity. Even within crystals there is deeper complexities down to the molecular levels. However, the addition of quantum mechanics adds no usable information about what materials to build a bridge with.

But, when working at the scale of the most advanced computer chips quantum mechanics is required. WTF! I guess in economics there is no quantum mechanics theories or even reliable aggregation theories.

Poor economists, doomed to argue, forever, over how many micro foundations can dance on the head of a pin.

RGC -> dilbert dogbert...

Endless discussions about how quantum effects aggregate to produce a material suitable for bridge building crowd out discussions about where and when to build bridges. And if plutocrats fund the endless discussions, we get the prominent economists we have today.

Darryl FKA Ron -> dilbert dogbert...

"...I guess in economics there is no quantum mechanics theories or even reliable aggregation theories..."

[I guess it depends upon what your acceptable confidence interval on reliability is. Most important difference that controls all the domain differences between physical science and economics is that underlying physical sciences there is a deterministic methodology for which probable error is merely a function of the inaccuracy in input metrics WHEREAS economics models are incomplete probabilistic estimating models with no ability to provide a complete system model in a full range of circumstances.

YOu can design and build a bridge to your load and span requirements with alternative models for various designs with confidence and highly effective accuracy repeatedly. No ecomomic theory, model, or combination of models and theories was ever intended to be used as the blueprint for building an economy from the foundation up.

With all the formal trappings of economics the only effective usage is to decide what should be done in a given set of predetermined circumstance to reach some modest desired effect. Even that modest goal is exposed to all kinds of risks inherent in assumptions, incomplete information, externalities, and so on that can produce errors of uncertain potential bounds.

Nonetheless, well done economics can greatly reduce the risks encountered in the random walk of economics policy making. So much so is this true, that the bigger questions in macro-economics policy making is what one is willing to risk and for whom.

The arguments over internal and external consistency of models is just a convenient misdirection from what policy makers are willing to risk and whose interests they are willing to risk policy decisions for.]

Darryl FKA Ron -> Peter K....

unless you have a model which maps the real world fairly closely like quantum mechanics.

[You set a bar too high. Macro models at best will tell you what to do to move the economy in the direction that you seek to go. They do not even ocme close to the notion of a theory of everything that you have in physics, even the theory of every little thing that is provided by quantum mechanics. Physics is an empty metaphor for economics. Step one is to forgo physics envy in pursuit of understanding suitable applications and domain constraints for economics models.

THe point is to reach a decision and to understand cause and effect directions. All precision is in the past and present. The future is both imprecise and all that there is that is available to change.

For the most part an ounce of common sense and some simple narrative models are all that are essential for making those policy decisions in and of themselves. HOWEVER, nation states are not ruled by economist philosopher kings and in the process of concensus decision making by (little r)republican governments then human language is a very imprecise vehicle for communicating logic and reason with respect to the management of complex systems. OTOH, mathematics has given us a universal language for communicating logic and reason that is understood the same by everyone that really understands that language at all. Hence mathematical models were born for the economists to write down their own thinking in clear precise terms and check their own work first and then share it with others so equipped to understand the language of mathematics. Krugman has said as much many times and so has any and every economist worth their salt.]

likbez -> Syaloch...

I agree with Pgl and PeterK. Certain commenters like Darryl seem convinced that the Chicago School (if not all of econ) is driven by sinister, class-based motives to come up justifications for favoring the power elite over the masses. But based on what I've read, it seems pretty obvious that the microfoundation guys just got caught up in their fancy math and their desire to produce more elegant, internally consistent models and lost sight of the fact that their models didn't track reality.

That's completely wrong line of thinking, IMHO.

Mathematical masturbations are just a smoke screen used to conceal a simple fact that those "economists" are simply banking oligarchy stooges. Hired for the specific purpose to provide a theoretical foundation for revanschism of financial oligarchy after New Deal run into problems. Revanschism that occurred in a form of installing neoliberal ideology in the USA in exactly the same role which Marxism was installed in the USSR.
With "iron hand in velvet gloves" type of repressive apparatus to enforce it on each and every university student and thus to ensure the continues, recurrent brainwashing much like with Marxism on the USSR universities.

To ensure continuation of power of "nomenklatura" in the first case and banking oligarchy in the second. Connections with reality be damned. Money does not smell.

Economic departments fifth column of neoliberal stooges is paid very good money for their service of promoting and sustaining this edifice of neoliberal propaganda. Just look at Greg Mankiw and Rubin's boys.

But the key problem with neoliberalism is that the cure is worse then disease. And here mathematical masturbations are very handy as a smoke screen to hide this simple fact.

likbez -> likbez...

Here is how Rubin's neoliberal boy Larry explained the situation to Elizabeth Warren:

"Larry [Summers] leaned back in his chair and offered me some advice. I had a choice. I could be an insider or I could be an outsider. Outsiders can say whatever they want. But people on the inside don't listen to them. Insiders, however, get lots of access and a chance to push their ideas. People - powerful people - listen to what they have to say. But insiders also understand one unbreakable rule: they don't criticize other insiders."

Elizabeth Warren, A Fighting Chance

Syaloch -> likbez...

Yeah, case in point.

[Dec 14, 2017] In defence of the labour theory of value

Actually Marx's "labor theory of value" should be properly called the "theory of surplus value".
Notable quotes:
"... For Marx, value was socially-necessary labour time: David Harvey is good on this. From this perspective, exploitation and alienation are linked. Workers are exploited because they must work longer than necessary to get their consumption bundle. And they are alienated because this work is unsatisfying and a source of unfreedom. Now, I'll concede that many people hate the labour theory of value. One reason for this is that many discussions of it quickly become obscurantist – as if "value" is some mystical entity embodied in commodities. ..."
"... This, though, certainly was not Marx's intention. Quite the opposite. He intended his theory to be a demystification. He wanted to show how what looked like relations between things – the exchange of money for goods or labour-time – were in fact relations between people. And unequal ones at that. ..."
"... I suspect that some of the animosity to Marx's use of LTV arises because of a resistance to the inference that Marx drew from it – that workers are exploited. This issue, however, is independent of the validity of not of the LTV. For example, Roemer thinks workers are exploited without believing in the LTV, and Smith believed the LTV without arguing that workers were exploited. ..."
"... * He seems to be recovering now. The vet is also expected to make a full recovery eventually. ..."
"... Further understanding, which evolved after Marx, is that the LTV is just special case of the principle that what produces a surplus of usefulness is not labour per se, but the energy used in the transformation of a larger quantity of something into a smaller quantity of something else, and muscle power is just one way, even if it was the main one for a very long time, to obtain energy to transform a large quantity of less useful commodities into a smaller quantity of more useful commodities. ..."
"... And this follows into the impression that I have derived from various authors that our high standards of living depend not on the high "productivity" of labour, but on the high "productivity" of fossil fuels, which are the product of the fertility of land ..."
"... the complex process of differentiation in the economy (aka the division of labor) obscures the relationship between the creation of the surplus (work time above that necessary to reproduce consumption bundle) and its utilization by capitalists via investment. Investment is not possible without exploitation of workers, but that relationship is occluded by the mechanics of employment, markets, and property. ..."
"... My impression is that your bearded friend Karl does not use "alienation" in that sense at all, in an economic sense, but in a humanist sense: that by being separated from the means of production proletarians are alienated from the meaning of their work, from work as a human activity, as distinct from an economic activity ..."
"... Practically every "Dilbert" strip is about "alienation". This is my favourite ..."
"... Placing a high value on the frivolous and "useless" has always been the hallmark of those most able to decide the value of anything, because they have no use for economic use (so to speak), but rather social signaling. Broad social respect is an extremely expensive thing to buy with money alone. ..."
Dec 11, 2017 | stumblingandmumbling.typepad.com

Lucius has been poorly recently, which has required some trips to the vet and therefore a bill of a size that only David Davis could negotiate*. This has made me wonder: is there more to be said for the labour theory of value than we like to think?

For a long time, I've not really cared about this theory one way or the other. This is partly because I've not bothered much with questions of value; partly because, as John Roemer has shown, we don't need (pdf) a labour theory of value to suggest workers are exploited; and partly because the main Marxian charges against capitalism – for example that it entails relationships of domination – hold true (or not!) independently of the theory.

As I approach retirement, however, I've begun to change my mind. I think of major expenses in terms of labour-time because they mean I have to work longer. A trip to the vet is an extra fortnight of work; a good guitar an extra month, a car an extra year, and so on.

When I consider my spending, I ask: what must I give up in order to get that? And the answer is my time and freedom. My labour-time is the measure of value.

This is a reasonable basis for the claim that workers are exploited. To buy a bundle of goods and services, we must work a number of hours a week. But taking all workers together, the hours we work are greater than the hours needed to produce those bundles because we must also work to provide a profit for the capitalist. As Marx put it:

We have seen that the labourer, during one portion of the labour-process, produces only the value of his labour-power, that is, the value of his means of subsistence During the second period of the labour-process, that in which his labour is no longer necessary labour, the workman, it is true, labours, expends labour-power; but his labour, being no longer necessary labour, he creates no value for himself. He creates surplus-value which, for the capitalist, has all the charms of a creation out of nothing. This portion of the working-day, I name surplus labour-time.

For Marx, value was socially-necessary labour time: David Harvey is good on this. From this perspective, exploitation and alienation are linked. Workers are exploited because they must work longer than necessary to get their consumption bundle. And they are alienated because this work is unsatisfying and a source of unfreedom. Now, I'll concede that many people hate the labour theory of value. One reason for this is that many discussions of it quickly become obscurantist – as if "value" is some mystical entity embodied in commodities.

This, though, certainly was not Marx's intention. Quite the opposite. He intended his theory to be a demystification. He wanted to show how what looked like relations between things – the exchange of money for goods or labour-time – were in fact relations between people. And unequal ones at that.

What's more, the charge of obscurantism against Marx is an especially weak one when it comes from orthodox economics. Much of this invokes unobservable concepts such as the natural rate of unemployment, marginal productivity, utility, the marginal product of capital and natural rate of interest – ideas which, in the last two cases, might not even be theoretically coherent.

In fact, the LTV is reasonably successful by the standards of conventional economics: we have empirical evidence to suggest that it does (pdf) a decent (pdf) job of explaining (pdf) relative prices – not that this was how Marx intended it to be used.

You can of course, think of counter-examples to the theory. But so what? in the social sciences, no substantial theory is 100% true.

I suspect that some of the animosity to Marx's use of LTV arises because of a resistance to the inference that Marx drew from it – that workers are exploited. This issue, however, is independent of the validity of not of the LTV. For example, Roemer thinks workers are exploited without believing in the LTV, and Smith believed the LTV without arguing that workers were exploited.

By the (low) standards of economic theories, perhaps the LTV isn't so bad.

* He seems to be recovering now. The vet is also expected to make a full recovery eventually.

December 11, 2017 Permalink

Comments

Luis Enrique , December 11, 2017 at 02:09 PM

But the LTV says more than the output of the economy is divided between the workers and the (suppliers and) owners of capital goods, doesn't it? I mean, mainstream econ says that too. And unless ownership of capital inputs to production is distributed equally across society, then some people consume things that other's labour has produced, which means workers must produce more than they consume. But again, that's basic mainstream stuff, not LVT. You end by saying you can believe in exploitation but not LVT, and vice versa, but the main body of this blog seems to be connecting the two. I am confused.

Of course if you have the ability to vary your labour supply, and labour is how you earn your money, then you ask yourself how much you need to work to purchase whatever. But again that's mainstream not LVT.

David Friedman , December 11, 2017 at 06:14 PM

Your version of the labor theory of value is one of Adam Smith's versions. I don't think it is Marx's, but I know Smith better than Marx.

And definitely not Ricardo's.

ConfusedNeoLiberal , December 11, 2017 at 08:51 PM

What about value, in terms of risk among others, that the employers put in starting a new business?

Blissex , December 12, 2017 at 12:23 AM

"Smith believed the LTV without arguing that workers were exploited."

The Marxian approach was interested in, as other commenters have said, in the specific capitalist case, where "capitalism" for him means strictly "labour for hire" by workers alienated from the means of production by their ownership by capitalists.

But the labour theory of value, as understood by what Marx called "classicals", applies also to all labour, and he used it in that sense.

My understanding of the classicals and the LTV is reduced to a minimum this:

Further understanding, which evolved after Marx, is that the LTV is just special case of the principle that what produces a surplus of usefulness is not labour per se, but the energy used in the transformation of a larger quantity of something into a smaller quantity of something else, and muscle power is just one way, even if it was the main one for a very long time, to obtain energy to transform a large quantity of less useful commodities into a smaller quantity of more useful commodities.

And this follows into the impression that I have derived from various authors that our high standards of living depend not on the high "productivity" of labour, but on the high "productivity" of fossil fuels, which are the product of the fertility of land.

Blissex , December 12, 2017 at 12:29 AM

"value, in terms of risk among others, that the employers put in starting a new business?"

If the business produces a surplus, that is value added, than the surplus is the product of the energy/labour expended by all participants

How it is accounted for is one issue, especially over multiple time periods, and how it is shared out is a social relationship.

As to risk, everybody in the business runs the risk of not getting paid at the end of the month, and the opportunity cost of not doing something else, whichever labour they put in.

How risk and opportunity cost are accounted for, especially over multiple time periods, is another issue, and how they are shared is another social relationship.

Blissex , December 12, 2017 at 01:14 AM

"the surplus is the product of the energy/labour expended by all participants"

I'll perhaps further diminish the reputation of my "contributions" this way: perhaps all social relationships of production (at least among males) map closely onto (cursorial) group hunts.

https://78.media.tumblr.com/d4db6631d383cbfc9bd135c799a06e7f/tumblr_n3u8r0eJu01sohvpko1_500.jpg

:-)

Luis Enrique , December 12, 2017 at 08:40 AM

That's a very long winded way of saying that making stuff requires labour.

Blissex , December 12, 2017 at 01:50 PM

"a very long winded way of saying that making stuff requires labour"

Well, that's obvious, but what the classicals thought of as the LTV was not entirely obvious: that "surplus" (rather than "stuff") comes from the fertility of land and the transformation achieved with labour, and that nothing else is needed to achieve "surplus". Because for example capital goods are themselves surplus from fertility or labour, again back to the first blades made from chipping lumps of obsidian.

That's quite a bit more insightful, never mind also controversial, than "making stuff requires labour".

Rich Clayton , December 12, 2017 at 03:35 PM

Love this post. But, being a fellow marxist, I can't help but to disagree with this bit: "And they are alienated because this work is unsatisfying and a source of unfreedom." This is a colloquial use of alienation, and its not wrong.

But Marx is getting at something else: the complex process of differentiation in the economy (aka the division of labor) obscures the relationship between the creation of the surplus (work time above that necessary to reproduce consumption bundle) and its utilization by capitalists via investment. Investment is not possible without exploitation of workers, but that relationship is occluded by the mechanics of employment, markets, and property.

That's the sense in which workers are alienated under capitalism. Socialism could still have boring work, but, in so far as the investment function is brought under collective democratic control, workers would not be alienated in the special sense Marx is using.

Lukas , December 12, 2017 at 03:41 PM

@Luis Enrique

"Where else could stuff come from?" Well, assuming by "stuff" we mean objects of value, nowhere. But the reasons for which we value them are not dependent upon their natural origins or the labor required for their production. I don't value a computer because it's made of plastic and silicon and so forth, nor because of the labor required to produce it. It's useful because of what it does, not what it is; it's sort of Kant's definition of art versus the general conception of tools.

As for the relationship between production functions and the LTV, that seems (at least prima facie) pretty straightforward. If there is a high olefimity ascribed to the surplus provided by the product created by X, Y, then those production functions will, themselves, be assigned greater value, i.e., be worthy of more labor-time to attain. E.g., even if I'm not very good at fishing, if I really like the flavor of fish over other protein sources, I'll spend more time increasing my labor efficiency (be a better fisherman).

Blissex , December 12, 2017 at 05:36 PM

"Everything ultimately derives from nature and the labour of humans. Where else could stuff come from? That's all there is."

Then in theory the cost (not the price) of everything can be measured in terms of physical quantities of primary inputs and of hours of work.

"What's controversial about it?"

What is controversial is that written like that you sound like a Marxist: the alternative approach is to say that *property* creates surplus.
In the standard neoclassical approach "property" is the often forgotten "initial endowments" of the single representative agent.

Anyhow the "narrative" is: as Mr. Moneybags owns the iron mine and the coal mine and the smelter and the ingot roller and spoon press, then he is entitled to the surplus because without his property it is impossible to make spoons. Labour on its own is worthless, wastes away, while property is "valuable" capital.

"And how one gets from a production function (stuff is made from X, Y and Z) to LTV"

Production functions are just not very elaborate scams to pretend that property is the factor of production, rather then the fertility of land and the energy of labour, and land does not exist (after JB Clark "disappeared" it) and labour is just an accessory. Part of the scam is that "X, Y and Z" are denominated in money, not physical quantities.

As I wrote in another answer accounting for the output of land fertility and labour energy and how it is shared are the difficult bits. Welcome to the institutional approach to the political economy. :-)

Blissex , December 12, 2017 at 05:41 PM

"the reasons for which we value them are not dependent upon their natural origins or the labor required for their production"

And here be dragons. Your old bearded acquaintance Karl has something to say about this :-).

"It's useful because of what it does, not what it is"

So cleaning floors which is very useful should have a high value, while Leonardo paintings, that are merely scarce, should have a low value :-).

I though that most people reckoned that "value" depends on scarcity: so there is a scarcity of even not very good promoters of torysm, so G Osborne is entitled to £600,000 a year to edit the "Evening Standard", but there is no scarcity of excellent cleaners, so cleaners gets minimum wage if they are lucky.

:-)

Luis Enrique , December 12, 2017 at 05:43 PM

counting hours of worked is not a measure of cost, it is a tally of hours worked. In mainstream econ, production functions describe a physical production process (to make 1 unit of Y, you combine inputs like so) and are not not denominated in money. e.g. You multiply L by w to get cost.

mulp , December 12, 2017 at 05:46 PM

Economies are zero sum. GDP must be paid for, otherwise it won't be produced. The only source of money comes from labor costs, the money paid to workers to work producing GDP. As conservatives note, all taxes fall on workers by directly taking their pay, or by hiking the prices of what workers buy.

Taxes pay workers, e.g. teachers, and doctors with Medicare and Medicaid, weapons makers and warriors, or pay people to pay workers, Social Security benefits and SNAP.

Capital has value because it is built by paying workers. It gets a cut to repay the payers of workers.

Monopoly rent seeking is unsustainable. If a monoplists takes more from workers than they pay workers, he eventually takes so much money workers can no longer pay for GDP and it falls to zero as workers produce what they consume without buying from the monopolist capital.

Tanstaafl

As Keynes put it:

"I feel sure that the demand for capital is strictly limited in the sense that it would not be difficult to increase the stock of capital up to a point where its marginal efficiency had fallen to a very low figure. This would not mean that the use of capital instruments would cost almost nothing, but only that the return from them would have to cover little more than their exhaustion by wastage and obsolescence together with some margin to cover risk and the exercise of skill and judgment. In short, the aggregate return from durable goods in the course of their life would, as in the case of short-lived goods, just cover their labour costs of production plus an allowance for risk and the costs of skill and supervision.

"Now, though this state of affairs would be quite compatible with some measure of individualism, yet it would mean the euthanasia of the rentier, and, consequently, the euthanasia of the cumulative oppressive power of the capitalist to exploit the scarcity-value of capital. Interest today rewards no genuine sacrifice, any more than does the rent of land. The owner of capital can obtain interest because capital is scarce, just as the owner of land can obtain rent because land is scarce. But whilst there may be intrinsic reasons for the scarcity of land, there are no intrinsic reasons for the scarcity of capital. An intrinsic reason for such scarcity, in the sense of a genuine sacrifice which could only be called forth by the offer of a reward in the shape of interest, would not exist, in the long run, except in the event of the individual propensity to consume proving to be of such a character that net saving in conditions of full employment comes to an end before capital has become sufficiently abundant. But even so, it will still be possible for communal saving through the agency of the State to be maintained at a level which will allow the growth of capital up to the point where it ceases to be scarce."


Economies are zero sum. The value of goods and services must equal the labor costs in the long run. Tanstaaafl

Blissex , December 12, 2017 at 06:01 PM

"Socialism could still have boring work, but, in so far as the investment function is brought under collective democratic control, workers would not be alienated in the special sense Marx is using."

My impression is that your bearded friend Karl does not use "alienation" in that sense at all, in an economic sense, but in a humanist sense: that by being separated from the means of production proletarians are alienated from the meaning of their work, from work as a human activity, as distinct from an economic activity.

Collective ownership does not change at all that kind of alienation: being a cog in the capitalist machinery is no less alienating than being a cog in the collectivist machinery.

I think that our blogger when he talks about distributing control of the production process to workers is far closer to the marxian ideal than a collectivist approach.

Practically every "Dilbert" strip is about "alienation". This is my favourite:

http://dilbert.com/strip/2002-03-09

But these are also good:

http://dilbert.com/strip/1991-12-26
http://dilbert.com/strip/1993-01-05
http://dilbert.com/strip/1993-04-26
http://dilbert.com/strip/1994-11-07
http://dilbert.com/strip/1996-03-03
http://dilbert.com/strip/1996-07-24
http://dilbert.com/strip/1996-10-10
http://dilbert.com/strip/2002-08-10

Luis Enrique , December 12, 2017 at 06:26 PM

That is not what zero sum means

Blissex , December 12, 2017 at 06:53 PM

"counting hours of worked is not a measure of cost"

For a definition of "cost" that is made-up disregarding P Sraffa's work and in general the classics.

"multiply L by w to get cost."

As J Robinson and others pointed out that "w" depends on the distribution of income, on the interest rate, etc., so is an institutional matter.
As I was saying, accounting for the surplus and how to share it is not so easily handwavable.

Luis Enrique , December 12, 2017 at 08:55 PM

sorry, I meant for a money definition of cost that is not just counting inputs, but which is inputs multiplied by their prices.

nobody is hand waving. I think the mainstream view is that 'value' and 'surplus' are not meaningful terms, only prices and profits and subjective value. A production function says nothing about prices, you have to explain them with other stuff, and as you say, institutions and all manner of things could come in the play there.

You can say that that workers produce more in money terms than than they are paid, which is trivial (the wages paid by an employer are less than its gross profits so long as there are non-zero returns to capital, interest on a loan or dividends or whatever) and to my mind it's silly to define that as exploitation because it would apply in situations where the 'capitalist' is getting a small return and workers rewarded handsomely by any standard. Better imo to define exploitation as when capitalists are earning excess returns (and I'd fudge that by differentiating between workers' wages and salaries of top execs). Otherwise you lay yourself open to "the only thing worse than being exploited by capitlists is not beingn exploited by capitalists" which is J Robinson too I believe.

Luis Enrique , December 12, 2017 at 08:57 PM

and i think you only have to look at the income distribution to infer workers are being expoloited

B.L. Zebub , December 13, 2017 at 04:02 AM

@Blissex,

This is a genuine question: what you exposed above is related to or influenced by Steve Keen's ideas, yes? If so, I'd be interested in reading about that in more detail.

Lukas , December 13, 2017 at 04:28 AM

@Blissex

I've always thought that defining value by scarcity was an absurd misdirection, in part because there is no reason that the two should correlate at all. At any point in socioeconomic development beyond subsistence, value is to some extent socially defined, not economically defined. Status ends up being the most "useful" resource, as we see among all those who've never had to worry about their material conditions.

Placing a high value on the frivolous and "useless" has always been the hallmark of those most able to decide the value of anything, because they have no use for economic use (so to speak), but rather social signaling. Broad social respect is an extremely expensive thing to buy with money alone.

@Luis Enrique

Ah, but name for me a production process that doesn't take place over time. There's an infinite amount of time for all of us, but for each of us only so much, and those who fail to value it die full of regret. Surely someone somewhere must have something to say about this.

Luis Enrique , December 13, 2017 at 08:34 AM

I don't know why I wrote the above. Surplus is also a mainstream term. See wages set by bargaing over a surplus. Presume it's based on prices of outputs compared to inputs or if in model with real quantities not prices, then in subjective values.

Lukas production functions are defined over a period of time.

Blissex , December 13, 2017 at 11:43 AM

Ahem, I am trying to explain my understanding of Marx, who wrote both as economist and a philosopher, and a politial theorist.

Alienation, exploitation and inequality are technically distinct concepts, even if in the marxist (view (and that of every business school, that are faithful to marxist political economy) capitalist control of the means of production leads to alienation which leads to exploitation which leads to inequality. In the marxian political economy inequality can exist even with exploitation, for example, and that makes it less objectionable.

"Surplus is also a mainstream term. See wages set by bargaing over a surplus."

Some Economists have not forgotten at least some terminology of political economy and some Departments of Business still have surviving "history of economic thought" courses that some postgrads may still accidentally occasionally wander into and pick up some terms from...

"are not meaningful terms, only prices and profits and subjective value."

But the mainstream focus on prices and profits etc. is the purest handwaving, because it begs the question...

"A production function says nothing about prices"

Ha! This is one of the best examples where mainstream theory handwaves furiously: mainstream production functions switch effortlessly from "capital" as phusical quantities to aggregating "capital" by reckoning it in "numeraire". That is all about prices, and even about future expected prices and future expected rates of discount. Therefore rational expectations, a grand feat of handwaving.

Blissex , December 13, 2017 at 11:51 AM

"defining value by scarcity was an absurd misdirection, in part because there is no reason that the two should correlate at all."

Ahhhhhhh but this is a very political point and not quite agreeable because:

One of the conceits of "microfoundations" is to show that there are "laws" of Economics that are precise, so everybody get exactly their just compensation, so for example demand-supply schedules are always presented, cleverly, as lines and static.

The view of political economists is that instead "everything" lies within boundaries of feasibility, which are dynamic, so for example demand-supply schedules are ribbons that change over time and circumstances, and transactions happens not at uniquely determined points of intersections, but in regions of feasibility, the precise point dependent on institutional arrangements.

So the LTV determines one boundary for "price" and desirability another boundary.

Blissex , December 13, 2017 at 12:03 PM

"exposed above is related to or influenced by Steve Keen's ideas"

Related and independently derived, but also a bit influenced. I had always suspected that the "classicals" used "labour" as a synonym for "muscle power", but various later readings persuaded me that was indeed the case. Later post will have some hopefully interesting detail. Then I looked into the literature and found that obviously this had been figured out before (centuries ago in some cases, like B de Mandeville).

Anyhow for similar approaches some references:

Luis Enrique , December 13, 2017 at 04:33 PM

Blissex if you can come up with a better way of trying to describe total quantities of highly heterogeneous things (i.e. capital) you have a Nobel awaiting. Everybody know that attempts to put a number on the real quantity of capital is always going to be a rough and ready endeavour.

I don't see how working with prices and profits is 'handwaving'. What question does it beg? Much of economics is about trying to explain these things. I would not say economics focuses on prices and profits because many economics models work with real quantities that are high abstract and in theory are made commensurate using subjective value (utility) as the unit of account.

And I don't think this lot
https://www.theguardian.com/business/2010/oct/11/nobel-prize-for-economics-three-winners
picked up the term surplus by accidentally wandering in to the wrong seminar

[Dec 04, 2017] The Phillips Curve, Again

Dec 04, 2017 | everydayecon.wordpress.com

The Phillips Curve is back. In saying so, I do not mean to imply that being "back" refers to a sudden reappearance of a stable empirical relationship between unemployment (or the output gap) and inflation. The Phillips Curve is back in the same way that conspiracy theories about the assassination of JFK are back after the recent release of government documents. In other words, the Phillips Curve is something that people desperately want to believe in, despite the lack of evidence.

The Phillips Curve is all the rage among central bankers. Since the Federal Reserve embarked on quantitative easing, they have been ensuring the public that QE would not be inflationary because of the slack in the economy. Until labor market conditions tighten, there would be little threat of inflation. Then, as the labor market tightened, the Federal Reserve warned that they might have to start raising interest rates to prevent these tightening conditions from creating inflation.

What is remarkable about this period is that the Federal Reserve has undershot its target rate of inflation throughout this entire period -- and continues to do so today. So what does this tell us about the Phillips Curve and what can we learn about monetary policy?

If one looks at the data on unemployment and inflation (or even the output gap and inflation), you could more easily draw Orion the Hunter as you could a stable Phillips Curve. Fear not, sophisticated advocates of the Phillips Curve will say. This is simply the Lucas Critique at play here. If a Phillips Curve exists, and if the central bank tries to exploit it, then it will not be evident in the data. In fact, if you take a really basic 3-equation-version of the New Keynesian model, there is a New Keynesian Phillips Curve in the model. However, when you solve for the equilibrium conditions, you find that inflation is a function of demand shocks, technology shocks, and unexpected changes in interest rates. The output gap doesn't appear in the solution. But fear not, this simply means that monetary policy is working properly. The Phillips Curve is apparently like the observer effect in quantum mechanics in that when we try to observe the Phillips Curve, we change the actual result (this is a joke, please do not leave comments about why I've misunderstood the observer effect).

... ... ...

What all of this means is that even given the fact that the New Keynesian model features an equation that resembles the Phillips curve, this does not imply that there is some predictive power that comes from thinking about this equation in isolation. In addition, it certainly does not imply that changes in the output gap cause changes in the rate of inflation. There is no direction of causation implied by this one equilibrium condition.

[Nov 29, 2017] Economics is a Belief System - and We are Ruled by Fundamentalists

Highly recommended!
Notable quotes:
"... During the two decades following the neoliberal economists' take-over of Western governments in the 1980s, many felt that the almost mystical terms of economics - such as derivatives, hedging, leverage, contangos, etc - were beyond the understanding of most ordinary people. ..."
"... They pursued them as a matter of faith in the market and its processes, despite the apparent warning signs of their imminent failure. ..."
"... as within many custom or belief systems, what economics enshrines is a social order. One where a dominant minority are able to take a small quantity of wealth from each member of the majority in order to maintain their higher status. ..."
"... idea of economics as an exploitative mechanism is echoed in the cover picture of the book, Bosch's The Conjurer ..."
"... Within its exposition of economics as a quasi-religious theory, Brian Davey's book helps us to understand why economic theory is driving us toward a global system failure - and why politics and economics are incapable of responding to the pressing ecological crisis which the pursuit of economic growth has spawned. ..."
Nov 09, 2015 | resilience.org

by Paul Mobbs, originally published by The Ecologist |

Brian Davey's new book, Credo: Economic Beliefs in a World in Crisis, is an analysis of economic theory as if it were a system of religious belief.

It's a timely book. The simplistic, perhaps 'supernatural' assumptions which underpin key parts of economic theory demand far more attention. It's a debate we've failed to have as a society.

... ... ...

During the two decades following the neoliberal economists' take-over of Western governments in the 1980s, many felt that the almost mystical terms of economics - such as derivatives, hedging, leverage, contangos, etc - were beyond the understanding of most ordinary people.

And without understanding those terms, irrespective of our gut feeling that there was something wrong, how could we challenge the political lobby those theories had put into power? In the end it took the financial crash of 2007/8 to demonstrate that those in charge of this system didn't understand the complexity and risk of those practices either.

They pursued them as a matter of faith in the market and its processes, despite the apparent warning signs of their imminent failure. Those outside 'orthodox' economics could already see where the economy was heading in the longer-term.

Question is, did economists learn anything from that failure? Or, through austerity, have they once again committed us to their dogmatic belief system, unchanged by that experience?

... ... ...

However, through simple hubris or optimism bias, the political class has been convinced that 'fracking' is a solution to our economic woes - even though there is a paucity of verifiable evidence to demonstrate those claims, and it has already lost billions of investors money.

Economics is a reflection of power

Ultimately though, as within many custom or belief systems, what economics enshrines is a social order. One where a dominant minority are able to take a small quantity of wealth from each member of the majority in order to maintain their higher status.

This idea of economics as an exploitative mechanism is echoed in the cover picture of the book, Bosch's The Conjurer - where a magician distracts the public with a sleight of hand trick so that they can be more easily robbed by his associate.

Again, in a world where we're hitting the limits to human material growth, political models of well-being based upon wealth and consumption are damaging to human society in the long-term. The evidence that we're heading for a longer-term failure is there, as was the case with the warning signs before the 2007 crash. The problem is that those in positions of power do not wish to see it.

... ... ...

Within its exposition of economics as a quasi-religious theory, Brian Davey's book helps us to understand why economic theory is driving us toward a global system failure - and why politics and economics are incapable of responding to the pressing ecological crisis which the pursuit of economic growth has spawned.

Contrary to the economic hubris of many world leaders, set alongside the reality of ecological limits humanity is not 'too big to fail'.

[Nov 29, 2017] Michael Hudson: The Wall Street Economy is Draining the Real Economy

Highly recommended!
Notable quotes:
"... An interview by Gordon T. Long of the Financial Repression Authority. Originally published at his website ..."
"... One of the most important distinctions that investors have to understand is the difference between secular and cyclical trends Let us begin with definitions from the Encarta® World English Dictionary: ..."
"... Secular – occurring only once in the course of an age or century; taking place over an extremely or indefinitely long period of time ..."
"... Cycle – a sequence of events that is repeated again and again, especially a causal sequence; a period of time between repetitions of an event or phenomenon that occurs regularly ..."
"... Secular stagnation is when the predators of finance have eaten too many sheeple. ..."
"... Real estate rents in this latest asset bubble, whether commercial or residential, appear to have been going up in many markets even if the increases are slowing. That rent inflation will likely turn into rent deflation, but that doesn't appear to have happened yet consistently. ..."
"... Barter has always existed and always will. Debt money expands and contracts the middle class, acting as a feedback signal, which never works over the long term, because the so encapsulated system can only implode, when natural resource liquidation cannot be accelerated. The whole point is to eliminate the initial requirement for capital, work. Debt fails because both sides of the same coin assume that labor can be replaced. The machines driven by dc technology are not replacing labor; neither the elites nor the middle class can fix the machines, which is why they keep accelerating debt, to replace one failed technology only to be followed by the next, netting extortion by whoever currently controls the debt machine, which the majority is always fighting over, expending more energy to avoid work, like the objective is to avoid sweating, unless you are dumb enough to run on asphalt with Nike gear. ..."
"... . . . The whole argument for privatization, for instance, is the opposite of what was taught in American business schools in the 19th century. The first professor of economics at the Wharton School of Business, which was the first business school, was Simon Patten. He said that public infrastructure is a fourth factor of production. But its role isn't to make a profit . It's to lower the cost of public services and basic inputs to lower the cost of living and lower the cost of doing business to make the economy more competitive. But privatization adds interest payments, dividends, managerial payments, stock buybacks, and merges and acquisitions . Obviously these financialized charges are factored into the price system and raise the cost of living and doing business . ..."
www.nakedcapitalism.com
April 29, 2016 by Yves Smith An interview by Gordon T. Long of the Financial Repression Authority. Originally published at his website

GORDON LONG: Thank you for joining us. I'm Gordon Long with the Financial Repression Authority. It's my pleasure to have with me today Dr. Michael Hudson Professor Hudson's very well known in terms of the FIRE economy to-I think, to a lot of our listeners, or at least he's recognized by many as fostering that concept. A well known author, he has published many, many books. Welcome, Professor Hudson.

MICHAEL HUDSON: Yes.

LONG: Let's just jump into the subject. I mentioned the FIRE economy cause I know that I have always heard it coming from yourself-or, indirectly, not directly, from yourself. Could you explain to our listeners what's meant by that terminology?

HUDSON: Well it's more than just people getting fired. FIRE is an acronym for Finance, Insurance and Real Estate. Basically that sector is about assets, not production and consumption. And most people think of the economy as being producers making goods and services and paying labor to produce them – and then, labour is going to buy these goods and services. But this production and consumption economy is surrounded by the asset economy: the web of Finance, Insurance, and Real Estate of who owns assets, and who owes the debts, and to whom.

LONG: How would you differentiate it (or would you) with what's often referred to as financialization, or the financialization of our economy? Are they one and the same?

HUDSON: Pretty much. The Finance, Insurance, and Real Estate sector is dominated by finance. 70 to 80% of bank loans in North America and Europe are mortgage loans against real estate. So instead of a landowner class owning property clean and clear, as they did in the 19 th century, now you have a democratization of real estate. 2/3 or more of the population owns their own home. But the only way to buy a home, or commercial real estate, is on credit. So the loan-to-value ratio goes up steadily. Banks lend more and more money to the real estate sector. A home or piece of real estate, or a stock or bond, is worth whatever banks are willing to lend against it

As banks loosen their credit terms, as they lower their interest rates, take lower down payments, and lower amortization rates – by making interest-only loans – they are going to lend more and more against property. So real estate is bid up on credit. All this rise in price is debt leverage. So a financialized economy is a debt-leveraged economy, whether it's real estate or insurance, or buying an education, or just living. And debt leveraging means that a larger proportion of assets are represented by debt. So debt equity ratios rise. But financialization also means that more and more of people's income and corporate and government tax revenue is paid to creditors. There's a flow of revenue from the production-and-consumption economy to the financial sector.

LONG: I don't know if you know Richard Duncan. He was with the IMF, etc, and lives in Thailand. He argues right now that capitalism is no longer functioning, and really what he refers to what we have now is "creditism." Because in capitalism we have savings that are reinvested into productive assets that create productivity, which leads to a higher level of living. We're not doing that. We have no savings and investments. Credit is high in the financial sector, but it's not being applied to productive assets. Is he valid in that thinking?

HUDSON: Not as in your statement. It's confused.

LONG: Okay.

HUDSON: There's an enormous amount of savings. Gross savings. The savings we have that are mounting up are just about as large as they've ever been – about, 18-19% of the US economy. They're counterpart is debt. Most savings are lent out to borrowers se debt. Basically, you have savers at the top of the pyramid, the 1% lending out their savings to the 99%. The overall net savings may be zero, and that's what your stupid person from the IMF meant. But gross savings are much higher. Now, the person, Mr. Duncan, obviously-I don't know what to say when I hear this nonsense. Every economy is a credit economy.

Let's start in Ancient Mesopotamia. The group that I organized out of Harvard has done a 20-study of the origins of economic structuring in the Bronze Age, even the Neolithic, and the Bronze Age economy – 3200 BC going back to about 1200 BC. Suppose you're a Babylonian in the time of Hammurabi, about 1750 BC, and you're a cultivator. How do you buy things during the year? Well, if you go to the bar, to an ale woman, what she'd do is write down the debt that you owe. It was to be paid on the threshing floor. The debts were basically paid basically once a year when the income was there, on the threshing floor when the harvest was in. If the palace or the temples would advance animals or inputs or other public services, this would be as a debt. It was all paid in grain, which was monetized for paying debts to the palace, temples and other creditors.

The IMF has this Austrian theory that pretends that money began as barter and that capitalism basically operates on barter. This always is a disinformation campaign. Nobody believed this in times past, and it is a very modern theory that basically is used to say, "Oh, debt is bad." What they really mean is that public debt is bad. The government shouldn't create money, the government shouldn't run budget deficits but should leave the economy to rely on the banks. So the banks should run and indebt the economy.

You're dealing with a public relations mythology that's used as a means of deception for most people. You can usually ignore just about everything the IMF says. If you understand money you're not going to be hired by the IMF. The precondition for being hired by the IMF is not to understand finance. If you do understand finance, you're fired and blacklisted. That's why they impose austerity programs that they call "stabilization programs" that actually are destabilization programs almost wherever they're imposed.

LONG: Is this a lack of understanding and adherence to the wrong philosophy, or how did we get into this trap?

HUDSON: We have an actively erroneous view, not just a lack of understanding. This is not by accident. When you have an error repeated year after year after year, decade after decade after decade, it's not really insanity doing the same thing thinking it'll be different. It's sanity. It's doing the same thing thinking the result will be the same again and again and again. The result will indeed be austerity programs, making budget deficits even worse, driving governments further into debt, further into reliance on the IMF. So then the IMF turns them to the knuckle breakers of the World Bank and says, "Oh, now you have to pay your debts by privatization". It's the success. The successful error of monetarism is to force countries to have such self-defeating policies that they end up having to privatize their natural resources, their public domain, their public enterprises, their communications and transportation, like you're seeing in Greece's selloffs. So when you find an error that is repeated, it's deliberate. It's not insane. It's part of the program, not a bug.

LONG: Where does this lead us? What's the roadmap ahead of us here?

HUDSON: A thousand years ago, if you were a marauding gang and you wanted to take over a country's land and its natural resources and public sector, you'd have to invade it with military troops. Now you use finance to take over countries. So it leads us into a realm where everything that the classical economists saw and argued for – public investment, bringing costs in line with the actual cost of production – that's all rejected in favor of a rentier class evolving into an oligarchy. Basically, financiers – the 1% – are going to pry away the public domain from the government. Pry away and privatize the public enterprises, land, natural resources, so that bondholders and privatizers get all of the revenue for themselves. It's all sucked up to the top of the pyramid, impoverishing the 99%.

LONG: Well I think most people, without understanding economics, would instinctively tell you they think that's what's happening right now, in some way.

HUDSON: Right. As long as you can avoid studying economics you know what's happened. Once you take an economics course you step into brainwashing. It's an Orwellian world.

LONG: I think you said it perfectly well there. Exactly. It gets you locked into the wrong way of thinking as opposed to just basic common sense. Your book is Killing the Host . What was the essence of its message? Was it describing exactly what we're talking about here?

HUDSON: Finance has taken over the industrial economy, so that instead of finance becoming what it was expected to be in the 19 th century, instead of the banks evolving from usurious organizations that leant to governments, mainly to wage war, finance was going to be industrialized. They were going to mobilize savings and recycle it to finance the means of production, starting with heavy industry. This was actually happening in Germany in the late 19 th century. You had the big banks working with government and industry in a triangular process. But that's not what's happening now. After WW1 and especially after WW2, finance reverted to its pre-industrial form. Instead of allying themselves with industry, as banks were expected to do, banks allied themselves with real estate and monopolies, realizing that they can make more money off real estate.

The bank spokesman David Ricardo argued against the landed interest in 1817, against land rent. Now the banks are all in favor of supporting land rent, knowing that today, when people buy and sell property, they need credit and pay interest for it. The banks are going to get all the rent. So you have the banks merge with real estate against industry, against the economy as a whole. The result is that they're part of the overhead process, not part of the production process.

LONG: There's a sense that there's a crisis lying ahead in the next year, two years, or three years. The mainstream economy's so disconnected from Wall Street economy. What's your view on that?

HUDSON: It's not disconnected at all. The Wall Street economy has taken over the economy and is draining it. Under what economics students are taught as Say's Law, the economy's workers are supposed to use their income to buy what they produce. That's why Henry Ford paid them $5 a day, so that they could afford to buy the automobiles they were producing.

LONG: Exactly.

HUDSON: But Wall Street is interjecting itself into the economy, so that instead of the circular flow between producers and consumers, you have more and more of the flow diverted to pay interest, insurance and rent. In other words, to pay the FIRE sector. It all ends up with the financial sector, most of which is owned by the 1%. So, their way of formulating it is to distract attention from today's debt quandary by saying it's just a cycle, or it's "secular stagnation." That removes the element of agency – active politicking by the financial interests and Wall Street lobbyists to obtain all the growth of income and wealth for themselves. That's what happened in America and Canada since the late 1970s.

LONG: What does an investor do today, or somebody who's looking for retirement, trying to save for the future, and they see some of these things occurring. What should they be thinking about? Or how should they be protecting themselves?

HUDSON: What all the billionaires and the heavy investors do is simply try to preserve their wealth. They're not trying to make money, they're not trying to speculate. If you're an investor, you're not going to outsmart Wall Street billionaires, because the markets are basically fixed. It's the George Soros principle. If you have so much money, billions of dollars, you can break the Bank of England. You don't follow the market, you don't anticipate it, you actually make the market and push it up, like the Plunge Protection Team is doing with the stock market these days. You have to be able to control the prices. Insiders make money, but small investors are not going to make money.

Since you're in Canada, I remember the beginning of the 1960s. I used to look at the Treasury Bulletin and Federal Reserve Bulletin figures on foreign investment in the US stock market. We all used to laugh at Canada especially. The Canadians don't buy stocks until they're up to the very top, and then they lose all the money by holding these stocks on the downturn. Finally, when the market's all the way at the bottom, Canadians decide to begin selling because they finally can see a trend. So they miss the upswing until they decide to buy at the top once again. It's hilarious to look at how Canada has performed in the US bond market, and they did the same in the silver market. I remember when silver was going up to $50. The Canadians said, "Yes, we can see the trend now!" and they began to buy it. They lost their shirts. So, basically, if you're a Canadian investor, move.

LONG: So the Canadian investors are a better contrarian indicator than the front page cover, you're saying.

HUDSON: I'd think so. Once they get in, you know the bubble's over.

LONG: Absolutely on that one. What are you currently writing? What is your current focus now?

HUDSON: Well, I just finished a book. You mentioned Killing the Host . My next book will be out in about three months: J is for Junk Economics . It began as a dictionary of terms, so I can provide people with a vocabulary. As we got in the argument at the beginning of your program today, our argument is about the vocabulary we're using and the words you're using. The vocabulary taught to students today in economics – and used by the mass media and by government spokesmen – is basically a set of euphemisms. If you look at the television reports on the market, they say that any loss in the stock market isn't a loss, it's "profit taking". And when they talk about money. the stock market rises – "Oh that's good news." But it's awful news for the short sellers it wipes out. Almost all the words we get are kind of euphemisms to conceal the actual dynamics that are happening. For instance, "secular stagnation" means it's all a cycle. Even the idea of "business cycles": Nobody in the 19 th century used the word "business cycle". They spoke about "crashes". They knew that things go up slowly and then they plunge very quickly. It was a crash. It's not the sine curve that you have in Josef Schumpeter's book on Business Cycles . It's a ratchet effect: slow up, quick down. A cycle is something that is automatic, and if it's a cycle and you have leading and lagging indicators as the National Bureau of Economic Research has. Then you'd think "Oh, okay, everything that goes up will come down, and everything that goes down will come up, just wait your turn." And that means governments should be passive.

Well, that is the opposite of everything that's said in classical economics and the Progressive Era, when they realized that economies don't recover by themselves. You need a-the government to step in, you need something "exogenous," as economist say. You need something from outside the system to revive it. The covert idea of this business cycle analysis is to leave out the role of government. If you look at neoliberal and Austrian theory, there's no role for government spending, and no role of public investment. The whole argument for privatization, for instance, is the opposite of what was taught in American business schools in the 19 th century. The first professor of economics at the Wharton School of Business, which was the first business school, was Simon Patten. He said that public infrastructure is a fourth factor of production. But its role isn't to make a profit. It's to lower the cost of public services and basic inputs to lower the cost of living and lower the cost of doing business to make the economy more competitive. But privatization adds interest payments, dividends, managerial payments, stock buybacks, and merges and acquisitions. Obviously these financialized charges are factored into the price system and raise the cost of living and doing business.

LONG: Well, Michael, we're-I thank you for the time, and we're up against our hard line. I know we didn't have as much time as we always like, so we have to break. Any overall comments you'd like to leave with our listeners who might be interested this school of economics?

HUDSON: Regarding the downturn we're in, we're going into a debt deflation. The key of understanding the economy is to look at debt. The economy has to spend more and more money on debt service. The reason the economy is not recovering isn't simply because this is a normal cycle. And It's not because labour is paid too much. It's because people are diverting more and more of their income to paying their debts, so they can't afford to buy goods. Markets are shrinking – and if markets are shrinking, then real estate rents are shrinking, profits are shrinking. Instead of using their earnings to reinvest and hire more labour to increase production, companies are using their earnings for stock buybacks and dividend payouts to raise the share price so that the managers can take their revenue in the form of bonuses and stocks and live in the short run. They're leaving their companies as bankrupt shells, which is pretty much what hedge funds do when they take over companies.

So the financialization of companies is the reverse of everything Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill, and everyone you think of as a classical economist was saying. Banks wrap themselves in a cloak of classical economics by dropping history of economic thought from the curriculum, which is pretty much what's happened. And Canada-I know since you're from Canada, my experience there was that the banks have a huge lobbying power over government. In 1979, I wrote for the IRPP Institute there on Canada In the New Monetary Order . At that time the provinces of Canada were borrowing money from Switzerland and Germany because they could borrow it at much lower interest rates. I said that this was going to be a disaster, and one that was completely unnecessary. If Canadian provinces borrow in Francs or any other foreign currency, this money goes into the central bank, which then creates Canadian dollars to spend. Why not have the central bank simply create these dollars without having Swiss francs, without having German marks? It's unnecessary to have an intermediary. But the more thuggish banks, like the Bank of Nova Scotia, said, "Oh, that way's the road to serfdom." It's not. Following the banks and the Austrian School of the banks' philosophy, that's the road to serfdom. That's the road to debt serfdom. It should not be taken now. It lets universities and the government be run by neoliberals. They're a travesty of what real economics is all about.

LONG: Michael, thank you very much. I learned a lot, appreciate it; certainly appreciate how important it is for us to use the right words on the right subject when we're talking about economics. Absolutely agree with you. Talk to you again?

HUDSON: Going to be here.

LONG: Thank you for the time.

Donald , April 29, 2016 at 7:33 am

Interesting, but after insulting Duncan, Hudson says the banks stopped partnering with industry and went into real estate, which sounded like what Duncan said.

I mention this because for a non- expert like myself it is sometimes difficult to tell when an expert is disagreeing with someone for good reasons or just going off half- cocked. I followed what Hudson said about the evils of the IMF, but didn't see where Duncan had defended any of that, unless it was implicit in saying that capitalism used to function better.

Alejandro , April 29, 2016 at 9:06 am

Michael Hudson from the interview;

"As we got in the argument at the beginning of your program today, our argument is about the vocabulary we're using and the words you're using. The vocabulary taught to students today in economics – and used by the mass media and by government spokesmen – is basically a set of euphemisms ."Almost all the words we get are kind of euphemisms to conceal the actual dynamics that are happening."

May consider it's about recognizing and deciphering the "doublespeak", "newspeak", "fedspeak", "greenspeak" etc, whether willing or unwitting using words for understanding and clarifying as opposed to misleading and confusing dialectic as opposed to sophistry.

Michael Hudson , April 29, 2016 at 9:54 am

What I objected to was the characterization of today's situation as "financialization." I explained that financialization is the FIRST stage - when finance WORKS. We are now in the BREAKDOWN of financialization - toward the "barter" stage.
Treating "finance" as an end stage rather than as a beginning stage overlooks the dynamics of breakdown. It is debt deflation. First profits fall, and as that occurs, rents on commercial property decline. This is already widespread here in New York, from Manhattan (8th St. near NYU is half empty) to Queens (Austin St. in Forest Hills.).

Leonard C.Tekaat , April 29, 2016 at 12:19 pm

I wrote an article you might be interested in reading. It outlines a tax policy which would help prevent what you are discussing in your article. The abuse of credit to receive rents and long term capital gains.

The title is "Congress Financialized Our Economy And Created Financial Crisis & More Poverty" Go to http://www.taxpolicyusa.wordpress.com

SomeCallMeTim , April 29, 2016 at 5:23 pm

Thank you for another eye-opening exposition. My political economy education was negative (counting a year of Monetarism and Austrian Economics around 1980), so I appreciate your interviews as correctives.

From your interview answer to the question about what we, the 99+% should do,I gathered only that we should not try to beat the market. Anything more than that?

Skippy , April 29, 2016 at 8:33 pm

From my understanding, post Plaza banking lost most of its traditional market to the shadow sector, as a result, expanded off into C/RE and increasingly to Financialization of everything sundry.

Disheveled Marsupial interesting to note Mr. Hudson's statement about barter, risk factors – ?????

Eduardo Quince , April 29, 2016 at 7:41 am

"secular stagnation" means it's all a cycle

Actually not.

One of the most important distinctions that investors have to understand is the difference between secular and cyclical trends Let us begin with definitions from the Encarta® World English Dictionary:

Secular – occurring only once in the course of an age or century; taking place over an extremely or indefinitely long period of time

Cycle – a sequence of events that is repeated again and again, especially a causal sequence; a period of time between repetitions of an event or phenomenon that occurs regularly

Excerpted from: http://contrarianinvestorsjournal.com/?p=405#

cnchal , April 29, 2016 at 8:30 am

Secular stagnation from http://lexicon.ft.com/Term?term=secular-stagnation

Secular stagnation is a condition of negligible or no economic growth in a market-based economy . When per capita income stays at relatively high levels, the percentage of savings is likely to start exceeding the percentage of longer-term investments in, for example, infrastructure and education, that are necessary to sustain future economic growth. The absence of such investments (and consequently of the economic growth) leads to declining levels of per capita income (and consequently of per capita savings). With the reduced percentage savings rate converging with the reduced investment rate, economic growth comes to a standstill – ie, it stagnates. In a free economy, consumers anticipating secular stagnation, might transfer their savings to more attractive-looking foreign countries. This would lead to a devaluation of their domestic currency, which would potentially boost their exports, assuming that the country did have goods or services that could be exported.

Persistent low growth, especially in Europe, has been attributed by some to secular stagnation initiated by stronger European economies, such as Germany, in the past few years.

Words. What they mean depends on who's talking.

Secular stagnation is when the predators of finance have eaten too many sheeple.

MikeNY , April 29, 2016 at 9:57 am

Secular stagnation is when the predators of finance have eaten too many sheeple.

This.

digi_owl , April 29, 2016 at 7:44 am

Sad to see Hudson parroting the line about banks lending out savings

Alejandro , April 29, 2016 at 9:18 am

That's not what he said. Re-read or re-listen, please.

Enquiring Mind , April 29, 2016 at 9:02 am

Hudson says

Markets are shrinking – and if markets are shrinking, then real estate rents are shrinking, profits are shrinking.

Real estate rents in this latest asset bubble, whether commercial or residential, appear to have been going up in many markets even if the increases are slowing. That rent inflation will likely turn into rent deflation, but that doesn't appear to have happened yet consistently.

Perhaps he meant to say that markets are going to shrink as the debt deflation becomes more evident?

tegnost , April 29, 2016 at 9:52 am

I think what it means is it's getting harder to squeeze the blood out of the turnip

Synoia , April 29, 2016 at 10:06 am

What Turnip? Its become a stone, fossilized..

rfdawn , April 29, 2016 at 10:52 am

Yes, I think we are into turnip country now. Figure 1 in this prior article looks clear enough – even if you don't like the analysis that went with it. Wealth inequality still climbs but income inequality has plateaued since Clinton I. Whatever the reasons for that, the 1% should be concerned – where is the ROI?

ke , April 29, 2016 at 10:22 am

Barter has always existed and always will. Debt money expands and contracts the middle class, acting as a feedback signal, which never works over the long term, because the so encapsulated system can only implode, when natural resource liquidation cannot be accelerated. The whole point is to eliminate the initial requirement for capital, work. Debt fails because both sides of the same coin assume that labor can be replaced. The machines driven by dc technology are not replacing labor; neither the elites nor the middle class can fix the machines, which is why they keep accelerating debt, to replace one failed technology only to be followed by the next, netting extortion by whoever currently controls the debt machine, which the majority is always fighting over, expending more energy to avoid work, like the objective is to avoid sweating, unless you are dumb enough to run on asphalt with Nike gear.

ke , April 29, 2016 at 12:49 pm

Labor has no problem with multiwhatever presidents, geneticists, psychologists, or economists, trying to hunt down and replace labor, in or out of turn, but none are going to be any more successful than the others. Trump is being employed to bypass the middle class and cut a deal. There is no deal. Labor is always going to pay males to work and their wives to raise children. Obviously, the majority will vote for a competing economy, and it is welcome to do so, but if debt works so well, why is the majority voting to kidnap our kids with public healthcare and education policies.

meeps , April 29, 2016 at 5:36 pm

I'm not sure I heard an answer to the question of what people, who might be trying to save for the future or plan for retirement, can do? Is the point that there isn't anything? Because I'm definitely between rocks and hard places

Robert Coutinho , April 29, 2016 at 9:29 pm

Yeah, he basically said there is no good savings plan. Big-money interests have rigged the rules and are now manipulating the market (this used to be the definition of what was NOT allowed). Thus, they use computer algorithms to squeeze small amounts out of the market millions of times. This means that the "investments" are nothing of the sort. You don't "invest" in something for milliseconds. He said that the 1% are mostly just trying to hold on to what they have. Very few trust the rigged markets.

ke , April 29, 2016 at 7:22 pm

If Big G can print to infinity, print, but then why book it as debt to future generations?

The future is already becoming the present, because the millenials aren't paying.

Russell , April 29, 2016 at 10:00 pm

Low rent & cheap energy are key to the arts & innovations. My model has to work for airports, starts at the fuel farm as the CIA & MI6 Front Page Avjet did. Well before that was Air America. I wonder if now American Airlines itself is a Front.

All of America is a Front far as I can about tell. Hadn't heard that Manhattan rents were coming down. Come in from out of town, how you going to know? Not supposed to I guess.

I got that textbook and I liked that guy John Commons. He says capitalism is great, but it always leads to Socialism because of unbridled greed.

The frenzy to find another stable cash currency showing in Bit Coin and the discussion of Future Tax Credits while the Euro is controlled by the rent takers demands change on both sides of the Atlantic.

We got shot dead protesting the war, and civil rights backlash is the gift that keeps giving to the Southerners looking up every day in every courthouse town, County seat is all about spreading fear and desperation.

How to change it all without violence is going to be really tricky.

cnchal , April 30, 2016 at 4:36 am

Many thanks for the shout out to Canada.

. . . So, basically, if you're a Canadian investor, move.

LONG: So the Canadian investors are a better contrarian indicator than the front page cover, you're saying.

HUDSON: I'd think so. Once they get in, you know the bubble's over.

When one reads the financial press in Canada, every dollar extracted by the lords of finance is a glorious taking by brilliant people at the top of the financial food chain from the stupid little people at the bottom, but when it counts, there was silence, in cooperation with Canada's one percent.

The story starts about five years ago, with smart meters. Everyone knows what they are, a method by which electrical power use can be priced depending on the time of day, and day of the week.

To make this tasty, Ontario's local utilities at first kept the price the same for all the time, and then after all the meters were installed, came the changes, phased in over time. Prices were increased substantially, but there was an out. If you changed your living arrangements to live like a nocturnal rodent and washed your clothes in the middle of the night, had supper later in the evening or waited for weekend power rates you could still get low power rates, from the three tier price structure.

The local utilities bought the power from the government of Ontario power generation utility, renamed to Hydro One, and this is where Michael Hudson's talk becomes relevant.

The successful error of monetarism is to force countries to have such self-defeating policies that they end up having to privatize their natural resources, their public domain, their public enterprises, their communications and transportation, like you're seeing in Greece's selloffs. So when you find an error that is repeated, it's deliberate. It's not insane. It's part of the program, not a bug .

LONG: Where does this lead us? What's the roadmap ahead of us here?

HUDSON: A thousand years ago, if you were a marauding gang and you wanted to take over a country's land and its natural resources and public sector, you'd have to invade it with military troops. Now you use finance to take over countries. So it leads us into a realm where everything that the classical economists saw and argued for – public investment, bringing costs in line with the actual cost of production – that's all rejected in favor of a rentier class evolving into an oligarchy. Basically, financiers – the 1% – are going to pry away the public domain from the government. Pry away and privatize the public enterprises, land, natural resources, so that bondholders and privatizers get all of the revenue for themselves. It's all sucked up to the top of the pyramid, impoverishing the 99% .

Eighteen months ago, there was an election in Ontario, and the press was on radio silence during the whole time leading up to the election about the plans to "privatize" Hydro One. I cannot recall one instance of any mention that the new Premier, Kathleen Wynne was planning on selling Hydro One to "investors".

Where did this come from? Did the little people rise up and say to the politicians "you should privatize Hydro One" for whatever reason? No. This push came from the 1% and Hydro One was sold so fast it made my head spin, and is now trading on the Toronto Stock exchange.

At first I though the premier was an economic ignoramus, because Hydro One was generating income for the province and there was no other power supplier, so one couldn't even fire them if they raised their prices too high.

One of the arguments put forward by the 1% to privatize Hydro One was a classic divide and conquer strategy. They argued that too many people at Hydro One were making too much money, and by privatizing, the employees wages would be beat down, and the resultant savings would be passed on to customers.

Back to Michael Hudson

. . . The whole argument for privatization, for instance, is the opposite of what was taught in American business schools in the 19th century. The first professor of economics at the Wharton School of Business, which was the first business school, was Simon Patten. He said that public infrastructure is a fourth factor of production. But its role isn't to make a profit . It's to lower the cost of public services and basic inputs to lower the cost of living and lower the cost of doing business to make the economy more competitive. But privatization adds interest payments, dividends, managerial payments, stock buybacks, and merges and acquisitions . Obviously these financialized charges are factored into the price system and raise the cost of living and doing business .

Power prices have increased yet again in Ontario since privatization, and Canada's 1% are "making a killing" on it. There has been another change as well. Instead of a three tier price structure, there are now two, really expensive and super expensive. There is no longer a price break to living like a nocturnal rodent. The 1% took that for themselves.

Procopius , April 30, 2016 at 8:10 am

I am so tired of seeing that old lie about Old Henry and the $5 a day. I realize it was just a tossed off reference to something most people believe for the purpose of describing a discarded policy, but the fact is very, very few of Old Henry's employees ever got that pay. See, there were strings attached.

Old Henry hired a lot of spies, too. He sent them around to the neighborhoods where his workers lived (it was convenient having them all in Detroit). If the neighbors saw your kid bringing a bucket of beer home from the corner tavern for the family, you didn't get the $5.

If your lawn wasn't mowed to their satisfaction, you didn't get the $5. If you were thought not to bathe as often as they liked, you didn't get the $5. If you didn't go to a church on Sundays, you didn't get the $5. If you were an immigrant and not taking English classes at night school, you didn't get the $5. There were quite a lot of strings attached. The whole story was a public relations stunt, and Old Henry never intended to live up to it; he hated his workers.

[Nov 16, 2017] Natural Rate Hypothesis is junk science. There is nothing natural in natural rate of employment

Notable quotes:
"... Controlling inflation solely by focusing on workers wages since 1980 but allowing monopoly power and economic rents to skyrocket since 1980 is the main reason for the extreme inequality that has developed ..."
"... Prima facie evidence of distorted labor market where buyers of labor have control. At the very least, the next democratic President should use their weekly address to point out the metrics relating economic gains, net wealth gains, productivity gains, to wage gains. The Presudent should remind employers to fairly share the gains. Once the metrics indicate distortion in the labor markets the President will then introduce corrective legislation using the public communications weight behind this free market notion of a fair labor market, using these metrics. Let us try this bully pulpit, public communications effort with the idea of building public momentum for correctives, and maybe we will return to the 1960s future when gains were more proportionally shared. Perhaps we wont need much legislation at all, afterall we had one generation comport with fairness, you know, rational expectations. ..."
"... if demand cannot be kept up by wages, then the only option is loans and we have seen in 2008 the catastrophic results of that ..."
Nov 16, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com

djb , November 16, 2017 at 01:46 AM

non accelerating inflation rate of unemployment is a better term

there is nothing "natural" about that rate

there are many factors that play a role, but the most important are

1. monopoly power is the most important, without monopoly power, in a perfectly competitive market, excessive inflation is not possible

2. factors that affect bargaining power OF workers

Controlling inflation solely by focusing on workers wages since 1980 but allowing monopoly power and economic rents to skyrocket since 1980 is the main reason for the extreme inequality that has developed

Paine -> djb... , November 16, 2017 at 05:18 AM
These are important conjectures

We may indeed have chosen to repress wage rates while allowing Firms market power over output prices and wages.

And firms share of total Economic rents and E rent rates themselves and thus total gross profits to rise.

Largely unchecked by policy moves

JF -> djb... , November 16, 2017 at 08:26 AM
Prima facie evidence of distorted labor market where buyers of labor have control.

At the very least, the next democratic President should use their weekly address to point out the metrics relating economic gains, net wealth gains, productivity gains, to wage gains. The Presudent should remind employers to fairly share the gains.

Once the metrics indicate distortion in the labor markets the President will then introduce corrective legislation using the public communications weight behind this free market notion of a fair labor market, using these metrics.

Let us try this bully pulpit, public communications effort with the idea of building public momentum for correctives, and maybe we will return to the 1960s future when gains were more proportionally shared. Perhaps we wont need much legislation at all, afterall we had one generation comport with fairness, you know, rational expectations.

We can expect to do that again, especially as all new economists will be trained on the why and on how to accomplish this metric of shared gains. One can only hope.

djb -> JF... , November 16, 2017 at 01:59 PM
I know this may not exactly fit your MMT model

if we don't allow median wages to go up to match production/productivity

and if economic rents continue to go up disproportionally then we need to do a redistribution, ideally by taxes, to get the median wage to keep pace with production/productivity

otherwise demand for products will eventually falter, making us all poorer for it

if demand cannot be kept up by wages, then the only option is loans and we have seen in 2008 the catastrophic results of that

[Nov 16, 2017] Should We Reject the Natural Rate Hypothesis

Nov 16, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com

15, 2017 Should We Reject the Natural Rate Hypothesis? Olivier Blanchard:

Should We Reject the Natural Rate Hypothesis?, by Olivier Blanchard, PIIE : Fifty years ago, Milton Friedman articulated the natural rate hypothesis. It was composed of two sub-hypotheses: First, the natural rate of unemployment is independent of monetary policy. Second, there is no long-run tradeoff between the deviation of unemployment from the natural rate and inflation. Both propositions have been challenged. Blanchard reviews the arguments and the macro and micro evidence against each and concludes that, in each case, the evidence is suggestive but not conclusive. Policymakers should keep the natural rate hypothesis as their null hypothesis but keep an open mind and put some weight on the alternatives. [ paper ]

Posted by Mark Thoma on Wednesday, November 15, 2017 at 10:22 AM in Academic Papers , Economics , Macroeconomics | Permalink Comments (9)


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Paine , November 15, 2017 at 03:44 PM

"there is a strong case, although not an overwhelming case, to allow U.S. output to exceed potential for some time, so as to reintegrate some of the workers who left the labor force during the last ten years."

Blanchard calls for exploring the unknown regions
of lower and lower unemployment

Lower UE rates
Instead of accelerating output price inflation
Or even wage inflation
Given possible productivity pick ups
We may discover
We get a return to higher and higher participation
Not an unhappy result after all

Paine -> Paine ... , November 15, 2017 at 03:49 PM
The parting of the ways with the likes of Blanchard and krugman might come
When at long last wage rates do begin to rise faster then
Say
labor productivity plus three percent

But if the acceleration of the expected rate of change
of the rate of output price change
accelerates slowly

We'll have plenty of policy means and time to moderate the expansion of demand
Given the political will

Paine -> Paine ... , November 15, 2017 at 03:51 PM
Or better consider the imposition of a mark up warrant system
On selected firms and sectors
Paine -> Paine ... , November 15, 2017 at 03:58 PM
What is completely missed by looking at the impact of a slump on long run output capacity
Is the actual lost output out of existing capacity
And the misery this inflicts now
for many too many


Ten years of sub possible output
Contain How many weeks upon weeks
of reduced Welfare for too many sou