Heterodox Economics Newsletter

Issue 181 June 01, 2015 web pdf Heterodox Economics Directory

This issue of the Newsletter includes a series of rather hasty call for papers, job postings and grant opportunities. On top of the respective list-of-hasty-pieces is surely 1st international Post-Keynesian conference in Grenoble with the deadline for submissions ending today. So scrutinize this issue immediately to be prepared for all upcoming events and deadlines;-)

On the other hand, I have been told that some of our readers, who have not (yet) submitted to the natural hastiness prevailing in times of a global neoliberal (re-)organization of academia, still have the time to read books. These readers might be interest to know that the World Economics Association (WEA), the world's biggest get-together of critical, pluralist and/or heterodox economists of various sorts, has put out its own book series aiming to provide introductions to topics of main or casual interest to heterodox economists. This undertaking looks like an interesting and worthwhile project deserving closer inspection. Hence, the next issues of the Newsletter will regularly include some of the WEA-titles in its section on books and book series. Having said that, I should also add that submission to the section on books and book series are always welcome. Simply send us an email or use or the Newsletter submission device.

Finally, I have noted that the confusion in mainstream economics regarding the question what constitutes "scientific progress" has reached a new peak, which is exemplified by a popular piece on "mathiness" in economic research authored by Paul Romer (here is the paper from AER-Proceedings-issue, from which I quote in what follows, as well as a link to his blog). Based on a basic intuition that something about the usage of mathematics in economics is dubious Romer invokes the idea that "science" - just like group think - is defined as "a process that does lead to shared consensus" (which is true nowadays for core statements in the natural sciences, but wrong for the edge of research and utterly wrong if you look at the history of natural science, not even to speak of the social sciences). In his tale on mathiness Romer identifies two camps: one of these camps is really "engaged in science" and it contains archetypes of academic credibility and scientific honesty like Robert Solow, Gary Becker and (of course) Paul Romer. On the other hand, Romer identifies a competing camp consisting of academic evil-doers, who aim for promoting "academic politics" by employing "mathiness" as means to "masquerade [politics] as science". Scholars as diverse as Ed Prescott, Robert Lucas, Thomas Piketty and Joan Robinson are on this team (Gary Becker, who liked to justify the death penalty with recurse to rational choice theory and a set of econometric estimations has already been chosen for the other team; what a pity!).

The truth about Romer's take on economics is that controversial debate in mainstream macro nowadays is really often ad-hoc and driven by ideological preferences explicated by different variations of some set of mainstream workhorse-models. The dashingly absurd thing about this piece is that it actually locates paradigmatic division in economics within a Manichean fairy-tale-style dichotomy, which is, incidentally, in exact accordance with Paul Romer's personal evaluation of contributions and, accidentally, also provides a clear division between the white knights of the profession and its black sheep. His implicit suggestion is to purge the latter by "flushing mathiness out into the open", which practically amounts to further narrowing mainstream economics. My take is that this paper is not an example for internal criticism within the mainstream. Rather, it should be seen as a double confession, proving not only a conformist fundamentalism within the profession, which substitutes any serious engagement with pluralism as an epistemological concept, but also the specific desire of the paper's author to reside in the focal point of his suggested theoretical convergence.

Best,

Jakob

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