Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.

"The Church of ET"?

by JakeS Fri Mar 14th, 2008 at 11:13:58 AM EST

One of the questions that I have been bouncing around in my head (and bouncing off other people) for a while is the question of whether ET - that being us, the contributors and commenters - really might resemble a religious sect to an extent that I would find... troubling.

I think that the best way to examine this proposition would be to consider the content and character of this site with special attention to the warning signs I normally use when I try to evaluate whether a web page, book or other resource is a source of insight into the subject mentioned in the title - or solely an insight into the mind of the author.

And doing so does, in fact, raise a number of red flags:


  • We make a number of bold claims regarding economics. In fact, a large number of [some] contributors are [even go as far as to] frequently saying essentially that conventional academic economics is so much bollocks. Attempting to deconstruct an entire field of science - and economics is usually considered as such despite the protests here and elsewhere that it is not - is a fairly major flag for crankery.

  • We claim that most of the rest of the world live with a false consciousness. Claiming that the rest of the world is delusional and that only your own small group sees the Truth(TM) is another bad sign.

  • Very few of us are actual qualified economists, yet much of our writing concerns itself with economics. While ET has more than its fair share of physicists, engineers and other numerate people, general numeracy does not necessarily enable a person to discern (or deconstruct) the subtleties of a discipline that is not his own. Nor is it, by itself, evidence of sanity, as the numerous Creationist engineers and mathmaticians prove. [I have since been informed that this is in fact false - a relatively high number of the regular contributers have some economic background, although not necessarily academic (academic background being in any case not a prerequisite for being right)]

  • Many of us react negatively - often strongly so - when the suggestion that ET might constitute a "church" is raised, even when the suggestion is unintended - witness the way a trivial etymological digression turned into a full-blown threadjack in Sven Triloqvist's Quality of Life diary. Of course, almost any group of like-minded people would balk at being called a church for the simple reason that religion has come to be associated with superstition, dogma and god-given authority (an association that is not entirely unjustified, but let's leave that for another day). Nevertheless, there is a certain... insistence that makes a little flag go up in my mind. One might almost call it a fervour :-P

Having said this, I don't think we're a cult. I do think, however, that it is a discussion that must be raised - and possibly a discussion that must be re-visited once in a while. If you will follow me below the fold, I will explain my reasoning regarding these two points.

[EDIT: Fold originally here. For more visually appealing layout, fold was moved upwards. - Jake]

First, regarding the non-cult nature of ET, I come to this conclusion because there are a great number of symptoms of cultish thinking that are conspicuously absent from "mainstream ET" discourse:

  • There seem to be very few persecution complexes. While we do regularly complain about tendentious reporting from belief tanks and various newspapers and magazines, these claims are usually substantiated by a detailed and coherent analysis of the outlet in question. This is something you won't see on your run-of-the-mill crank website, where persecution is claimed on the sole basis that the rest of the world dismisses the crank(s).

  • There is considerable (and outspoken) ideological diversity on ET, even on the subject(s) that give cause to the greatest concerns about crankery. This stands in sharp contrast to places like Uncommon Descent, CureZone or Telic Thoughts, where ideological conformity is the norm.

  • There is a lack of crank magnetism. Even relatively obscure crank blogs attract a plethora of highly interesting crackpots and other curious fellow-travellers. In a gathering of creationists (and/or cdesign proponentists), you'll usually find at least a couple of people who deny the germ theory of disease, a couple of alt-med enthusiasts, a relativity theory denier or two and not infrequently various stripes of historical revisionists. The examples are legio, as anyone who has spent significant time on the internet can testify. But ET is mostly free of the above forms of crankery - we have one or two 9/11 troofers and a handful or so people who seem a bit more enthusiastic about "alternative medicine" than the clinical evidence really justifies, but that seems to be about it. As far as auxiliary crankery goes, this is hardly worth mentioning.

  • When claims of a technical nature are made, they are substantiated on request. And the math usually makes sense (or is at least not transparent nonsense). The former is almost never seen among cranks, and the latter is completely unheard of. This is a fairly important point, because math serves a very unambiguous function when it is forwarded to support a hypothesis: It illuminates the proposed hypothesis and puts it in a form that may be analysed and critiqued by proponents and detractors alike. By contrast, math in the service of crankery exists solely to confuse and dazzle the reader so that any concrete claims become harder to identify and critique (or to obscure the fact that there are no claims - as is the case with cdesign proponentism).

Why, then, do I raise the question of ET's supposed cultishness if I have already (albeit tentatively) concluded that it is a mirage?

To an extent, it is to reassure myself that I have not gone (more) insane. The non-ET media I consume - to borrow a line from one contributor's sig - seem to uniformly believe that wage increases cause inflation, that Bliar would make a great President Of The EU(TM), that the politicians who dragged us into Vietraq are statesmen, rather than insane or malicious criminals, that there is no such thing as involuntary unemployment and that the subprime crisis is an isolated (and relatively minor) problem rather than a consequence of an underlying flaw in Modern Capitalism(TM).

In other words, either I have gone mad or the Danish newsies have.

The other, less personal, reason that I bring up this issue is that if and when such a thing as the Progressive Movement starts getting a profile in politics and public life, we will start to attract cranks through the crank magnetism mentioned above.

Even if we are not cranks ourselves, it is virtually guaranteed that any new political movement - and especially one such as ours that holds much of current conventional wisdom to be complete rubbish - will look appealing to people who are (in their own imagination) defending themselves from the persecution of similar hidebound orthodoxies. And I don't think that you need to go into tin-foil hat territory to surmise that our political opponents will seek to reinforce that picture. That is, after all, what I would do in their place.

Thus, it seems prudent to consider these warning signs; we wouldn't want to attract cranks any more than we would want to turn into cranks.

- Jake

Display:
I think one benefit of ET is that if one accepts the following:

--that we are all (probably) cranky about something

then when I put on my cranky hat there is invariably another ETer who happens to know enough to point out my crankiness (kindly please!  I may not know I'm cranky when I'm being cranky!) such that I move from crankiness towards uncrankiness.

The real cranks (aka trolls) are therefore quickly discovered by the readership due to their refusal to deal with the counter-crankuals being pointed out to them.

And if one accepts that:

--we are all capable of being trolls at least sometimes

then when there is the creation of a "cranky-troll", within 24 hours it becomes unbalanced and explodes

--and any real cranks or trolls disappear in the explosion.

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Fri Mar 14th, 2008 at 11:40:25 AM EST
You're a brave man writing under this title given the Poemless Polemic and our leader's strictures against anyone using the C word.  I'm not sure I agree with much of what you say, but that doesn't mean I won't defend your right to say it, although perhaps the timing could have been better, given the hurt feelings already engendered by the use of that term.  I think I'll stay out of this one if you don't mind.  Ex-communication is a standard sanction amongst cults!!!

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Mar 14th, 2008 at 11:51:58 AM EST
Yes, the title is provocative given what's happened in the last few days. Perhaps "Cult of ET" might have been more politic.

Just as ideology is better than dogma. I dunno, something happened last night and it's gonna take a while for everyone's reactions to filter through. I imagine that comments are gonna be thin on the groud for a while.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Fri Mar 14th, 2008 at 12:02:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I must admit that I had not quite realised how nasty that spat had been when I posted this diary. My browser borked partway through loading the page, so I didn't get all the comments - and I didn't have the patience for a 100+ comment thread so I didn't refresh it.

I am not sure "cult" is a more flattering description than "church" though :-P

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri Mar 14th, 2008 at 12:33:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Change it to cult. That way I can front-page it at some stage.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Mar 14th, 2008 at 12:35:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So its official then, is it?  The church word is not allowed and will disqualify a diary from promotion?

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Mar 14th, 2008 at 12:39:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, absolutely. That's exactly what I meant. Well done there Frank. Good man.

What I meant was that it might  impolitic of me to promote that title to the front-page in the current context. No need to kick people that are feeling bruised already.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Mar 14th, 2008 at 12:50:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Glad to be of service old chap...

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Mar 14th, 2008 at 01:21:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thank you for the advice (and for the FP "nomination"). I have decidedly mixed feelings about your suggestion, though.

  • First, to anyone not involved in the above mentioned threadjack, "cult" is a much harsher accusation than "church" - and hopefully the basic, underlying discussion will endure longer than the memory of recent semantic disagreements.

  • Second, I intensely dislike making changes in already published material - particularly in the title - without making it clear that an edit has been made. Making the nature of the edit clear would kind of defeat its purpose of it, and the alternative would feel uncomfortably like memory-holing uncomfortable ideas.

  • Third:

If this is mostly an editorial thing w.r.t. some possible future FP'ing, I really think that such editorial changes should be made by the FP'er who republishes it, along with a note such as "Title edited for FP" (similar to the "Fold moved/inserted for FP" notes). That would make it clear to all concerned which parts of the diary have been edited specifically to make it FP compliant.

If it is a moderation request, I will of course comply. But I assume that it is not, because I didn't see the [ET moderation technology] tag anywhere in the comment.

If it is simply general advice on the making of readable diaries, rather than one of the above, then I must respectfully decline to follow it for the reasons stated in bullets 1 and 2.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri Mar 14th, 2008 at 01:07:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Moderation request? Gods no
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Mar 14th, 2008 at 01:11:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
<snark> [ET Moderation Technology™]

Please don't use the G word.</snark>

It'd be nice if the battle were only against the right wingers, not half of the left on top of that — François in Paris

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Mar 14th, 2008 at 01:13:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
While I like snark as much as the next guy, I dislike having to second-guess moderators and other law-enforcement officials. If you're making requests in your capacity as moderator, I will make the changes even if I disagree with your reasoning. If you are making suggestions as a member of the community, I will make the changes if I believe them to be justified.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri Mar 14th, 2008 at 01:38:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Believe me, if I was making a moderation request I'd make it very, very clear that that was the case.

I don't generally get all that attached to titles, so changing one doesn't seem like a big deal to me.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Mar 14th, 2008 at 01:49:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks for the clarification.

I'm not particularly attached to the title as such. But I am attached to the principle of not airbrushing my diaries when I put my foot in my mouth.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri Mar 14th, 2008 at 02:02:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Colman:
don't generally get all that attached to titles

"Put not your trust in Princes..." and all that?

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Mar 14th, 2008 at 02:04:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Just rename it to "ET eats babies".

It'd be nice if the battle were only against the right wingers, not half of the left on top of that — François in Paris
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Mar 14th, 2008 at 01:11:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I like that. What evidence do we have for that though?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Mar 14th, 2008 at 01:12:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I had an egg this moring.  If it's true for me, it must be true for everyone here.  Obviously.  Since we're all on the same page and everything.

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.
by poemless on Fri Mar 14th, 2008 at 01:30:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
True, true.

Sam currently has a baby in her belly, so she must have eaten one, so that's more evidence.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Mar 14th, 2008 at 01:32:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
are babies the only people you eat for breakfast?

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Mar 14th, 2008 at 02:20:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
At the moment, yes.

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.
by poemless on Fri Mar 14th, 2008 at 02:57:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And are said babies male or female?  You know what they say, "dead girl or live boy" and all that.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Fri Mar 14th, 2008 at 01:31:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well:

(a) the "C" word is in quotes; and

(b) it's on the Diary header, so, like the "18 years and above" disclaimers on the sex-shop windows, it's only consenting adults who should venture inside!

Jake, have you got any astrology in the back room......? ;-)

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Fri Mar 14th, 2008 at 12:13:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Jake, have you got any astrology in the back room......? ;-)

Ah, right, I'd forgotten astrology on my list of crankery in point 2c :-P

Thanks for reminding me.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri Mar 14th, 2008 at 12:41:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'll defend anyone's right to say anything.  (Ask anyone here who has seen me get passionate about freedom of speech issues.) But that doesn't make them correct.

I have never told anyone they can't say anything.  I've only said
1)ET is not a church of any sort, even the secular sort, and
2)I belong to no church and please stop harassing me

That's not censorship.  That's me talking about me and me disagreeing with those who would assume I share their belief system - even if it is a secular one.  

Write about churches until your brain explodes if you like.  But just don't say that poemless belongs to one.  If you want to finagle the definition of church so that it applies to ET- fine- (I'm going by the OED myself, but respect a person's artistic rights), but again, having the right to say something does not de facto make whatever you say true or fair.

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Fri Mar 14th, 2008 at 12:37:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And the funny thing is that I suspect virtually everyone here agrees with you, has very little time for Churches of any kind, and would, at best, accept the phrase "broad church" as a metaphor for a "wide ranging community" and not in any literal sense.  So I supposed the question should be rephrased: "Just how wide ranging a community is ET?"  How tolerant are we of diversity, or are there a set of semi-hidden norms which must be obeyed if you don't want to attract a lot of flack.  "I wouldn't want to be in a club that wants me as a member" -Groucho Marx

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Mar 14th, 2008 at 01:08:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]

"broad church" as a metaphor for a "wide ranging community"

It's a misleading, and worse, unnecessary metaphor, even if somewhere on this planet it is commonly used.  Placing an adjective in front of a noun doesn't change the essence of the noun; it only narrows its definition.   There are infinite differences between communities and churches.  All churches may be communities but that does not mean all communities are churches.  If you want to say community - say community.  Don't say church.  Language may be a form of creative expression, but even then, it has to communicate ideas effectively.  Which is why, when we see a cat, we don't say, "look at the cute puppy!"  People would say, "where?  what are you talking about?"  "Oh, you know what I mean.  It has four legs and fur and is a pet. puppy, cat, whatever."  You have a right to say "puppy," but should expect others to be frustrated and confused when you do.  

Is ET a community.  Sure, to varying degrees for different people.  But communities don't have to share a set of beliefs.  Just norms.  Agree to some rules so no one gets killed.  This isn't rocket science.

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Fri Mar 14th, 2008 at 01:26:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Actually it's not strictly a metaphor but an idiom, which is the core of the issue: if you're not familiar with the idiom it sounds very strange.

You're saying that ET should be catholic in the beliefs it accepts?

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Mar 14th, 2008 at 01:31:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You're saying that ET should be catholic in the idioms it accepts?

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.
by poemless on Fri Mar 14th, 2008 at 01:37:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]


Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Fri Mar 14th, 2008 at 01:45:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Who's that on the picture?

(Also, can we take the semantic quibbles somewhere else? Yes, "broad church" is a poorly chosen ideom, yes the accusation that someone belongs to a church is borderline insulting if the accused is an anti-clericalist (as I happen to be, for the record), and yes, making a miswording into 100+ post thread is making a mountain out of a molehill.)

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri Mar 14th, 2008 at 01:52:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That might be Ian Paisley?

It'd be nice if the battle were only against the right wingers, not half of the left on top of that — François in Paris
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Mar 14th, 2008 at 02:07:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That is the Rev Ian Paisley, who's probably most famous in the rest of Europe for Standing up in the European Parliament and Heckling The former pope. He's a somewhat extreme protestant.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Fri Mar 14th, 2008 at 02:08:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
and he doesn't like catholic idioms either....

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Mar 14th, 2008 at 02:22:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I know who Paisley is. Can't recall seeing his picture, though. An advantage and disadvantage of the only semi-reliable news in Denmark being on the radio is that I don't get much feeling for how politicians look.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri Mar 14th, 2008 at 02:52:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well theres a face to match with the sound of bigot.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Fri Mar 14th, 2008 at 03:06:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Frank Schnittger:
"I wouldn't want to be in a club that wants me as a member" -Groucho Marx

reading that, came across this yesterday which I thought needed sharing, and you've saved me from writing a diary.

What's So Funny and Why: What's So Funny? Issue: Sarah Lawrence College Magazine

The late comedian Groucho Marx, famous for his quick wit, performed some of his best work in 1958 on a pile of East Berlin rubble for an audience of five.

Among the five was Judith Dwan Hallet '64, then 16 and the daughter of Robert Dwan, the long-time director of Groucho's radio and TV shows. She and her father, along with Marx's wife and 11-year-old daughter, had accompanied him on the tour of Europe. In Dornum, the German town where Marx's mother had been born, the travelers discovered that the Nazis had obliterated all Jewish graves, and removed from the local church the old register of inhabitants from his parents' generation. Marx hired a car with a chauffeur, and told the driver to take the group to Adolph Hitler's grave in Berlin.

It was surprisingly easy to get there. The car slipped through a checkpoint into a devastated gray and brown city of people in solemn clothing. Marx told the chauffer to drive to the bunker where Hitler was said to have committed suicide, where he was supposedly still buried.

The rubble at the site was about 20 feet high. Wearing his characteristic beret but without the trademark cigar, Marx alone climbed the side of the debris. When he reached the top, he stood still for a moment. Then he launched himself, unsmiling, into a frenetic Charleston. The dance on Hitler's grave lasted a minute or two.

"Nobody applauded," Hallet says. "Nobody laughed."



Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Fri Mar 14th, 2008 at 01:29:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This is an exercise I've done several times here in different forms: it's hard to keep ourselves honest.

My major concern at the moment is the tendency of people to write off the entire science of economics rather than to simply criticise the application of economic models outside the domain in which they are valid (which is often highly limited) in order to support an ideological point. Economics is not the problem: pretending economics is able to say very much scientifically is the problem.

I have other concerns about people falling into the trap of assigning single simple causes to complex problems - the decision to enter the war on Iraq is the classic here and some conspiracy theory tendencies that are basically based around that cognitive failting.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Mar 14th, 2008 at 12:08:54 PM EST
I'm sure theres a whole diary in that "limits to economic knowledge/competence" statement

if you've got nothing keeping you busy in the next few weeks ;-)

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.

by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Fri Mar 14th, 2008 at 12:40:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There's tens of diaries and long comments in it. In the archives, I believe.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Mar 14th, 2008 at 12:51:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Mar 14th, 2008 at 01:08:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... believe pronouncements by practitioners of a certain approach to economics that economics is to be defined in terms of using the tools that they have specialized in using.

So that blanket statements pointing out the irrelevance of their work to a whole set of questions about the material provisioning of society is not read as saying, "that approach to economics is of little or no use here", but rather, "economists have nothing to tell us here".


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sat Mar 15th, 2008 at 05:14:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think that a fairly common theme among ET'ers is that we tend to be (I know I am) "outsiders".

ie Barbarians at the Gate, perhaps, or Heretics from the Church of Mammon.

Certainly there has been, for instance, pretty strong and heartfelt reaction - from pretty much the same origins to the current upsurge - to the very thought that ET might in some way be "incorporated", which would be, I suppose, binding members to a commercial protocol rather than a religious one.

I think what ET'ers maybe have in common is that we are maybe united by what we are not as opposed to what we are.

I think at the base it's about paradigms.

In my view the inability of the conventional intellectual construct that is Economics to address reality lies not so much within it but rather in the  fundamental assumptions that underpin it.

I believe neither that the Sun of Capital goes around the Earth of Labour, nor vice versa.

IMHO it's all relative.

If that puts me in a Cult of one, then that's my problem

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Fri Mar 14th, 2008 at 12:43:16 PM EST
Dropouts?

It'd be nice if the battle were only against the right wingers, not half of the left on top of that — François in Paris
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Mar 14th, 2008 at 12:59:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Doesn't that imply it is entirely voluntary?  

In my own case it was as much about the City leaving me, as me leaving the City, in the end....

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Fri Mar 14th, 2008 at 01:08:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Only if you're an economist (compare "involuntary unemployment").

It'd be nice if the battle were only against the right wingers, not half of the left on top of that — François in Paris
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Mar 14th, 2008 at 01:10:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... economist.

"Only if you are an economist" includes Veblen, Commons, Wesley Clair Mitchell, Lord Keynes, Karl Polanyi, Sir Arthur Lewis, Gunnar Myrdal, Ambassador Galbraith and a large number of other serious academic economists who believed or believe no such absurd nonsense.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sat Mar 15th, 2008 at 07:09:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I was just snarking.

It'd be nice if the battle were only against the right wingers, not half of the left on top of that — François in Paris
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Mar 16th, 2008 at 01:40:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sun Mar 16th, 2008 at 02:57:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If that puts me in a Cult of one, then that's my problem

Splitter !!!

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Fri Mar 14th, 2008 at 01:39:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There's something very meta about all of this...

I dare say that a group which is able to analyse its own analysis is not likely to be a cult.

Just keep asking questions, of yourself and others.

Member of the Anti-Fabulousness League since 1987.

by Ephemera on Fri Mar 14th, 2008 at 12:47:47 PM EST
Ephemera:

I dare say that a group which is able to analyse its own analysis is not likely to be a cult.

I thought Postmodernist deconstructionism had degenerated into a cult?

It'd be nice if the battle were only against the right wingers, not half of the left on top of that — François in Paris
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Mar 14th, 2008 at 03:26:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
On the other hand, I think that a credible case can be made that the Po-Mos tried to deconstruct everything except their own fields... Indeed, one of the most compelling arguments against radical scepticism was that if it applies to such a solid science as physics or chemistry, then surely it must also apply to such a science as sociology. In which case the doctrines of post-modernism would go out of the window. Hence the cries of "post-modernist, deconstruct thyself."

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri Mar 14th, 2008 at 09:32:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Actually, I think that a lengthy and pain-inducing survey of the literature would show (I have done such in the past, but it's not recent, so I must only speculate) that a minority of post-modernist criticism is of things like physics and chemistry.  The vast majority pertains to literature and literary criticism, with secondary but still important targets in the humanities and social sciences.

Very often, it gets to the stage of deconstruction one's own method of deconstruction.  That's a positive in the field.

by Zwackus on Sat Mar 15th, 2008 at 01:48:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I thought Postmodernist deconstructionism had degenerated into a cult?

It just needs to be deconstructed.
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Sat Mar 15th, 2008 at 12:04:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Conspiracy theories pop up here more often than I'd like, but on the topic of economics, most of the main contributors have an academic background in the field.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Fri Mar 14th, 2008 at 01:01:28 PM EST
Well, Migeru doesn't, I don't really.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Mar 14th, 2008 at 01:07:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I know you don't, I thought Migeru did. Oops.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Fri Mar 14th, 2008 at 01:11:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sorry, I'm really a crank. Colman is just cranky.

It'd be nice if the battle were only against the right wingers, not half of the left on top of that — François in Paris
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Mar 14th, 2008 at 01:15:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
<shakes fist>
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Mar 14th, 2008 at 01:16:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
My world is shattered. I don't know what to believe anymore.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Fri Mar 14th, 2008 at 01:18:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This is the first part of the brain washing, comrade. (May I call you comrade?)

You don't need a degree in economics to know it's bollocks. You just need to be empirically literate.

Read the FT over the last couple of years, and Europe's perpetually 'sclerotic' economy is always 'in need of reform. Also, new sources of oil will be found and a price bubble is unlikely.

Here we are now, the Euro is rocketing and the dollar is - not. And oil is over $111.

And so on. There are many examples of total and utter Himalaya-sized rampaging bollocks in the Conventional Wisdom Press, which are reliably and ridiculously wrong, but supported by mainstream economists. (Like - er - Greenspan? And Bernanke?)

It's not cranky if you're right and there's evidence to support your assertions.

Of course I still think Jerome is really a visitor from Venus, and Poemless is a CIA plant (that Russian cover story - so busted.)

But apart from that - I'd like to think we're as uncranky as anyone. (Which may not be saying much, I suppose. But still.)

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Fri Mar 14th, 2008 at 01:51:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
ThatBritGuy:
Of course I still think Jerome is really a visitor from Venus, and Poemless is a CIA plant (that Russian cover story - so busted.)
Floyd Gecko, One of my  office mates from my grad student days, claimed he was an advanced North Korean robot. I couldn't disprove him.

It'd be nice if the battle were only against the right wingers, not half of the left on top of that — François in Paris
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Mar 14th, 2008 at 01:58:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Migeru:
Floyd Gecko

Surely you are making that name up......?

Or is he a relation of Gordon "Greed is Good" Gekko...?

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Fri Mar 14th, 2008 at 02:08:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I dare you to google it.

It'd be nice if the battle were only against the right wingers, not half of the left on top of that — François in Paris
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Mar 14th, 2008 at 02:45:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Coalition to Ban Dihydrogen Monoxide Homepage
The Invisible Killer

Dihydrogen monoxide is colorless, odorless, tasteless, and kills uncounted thousands of people every year. Most of these deaths are caused by accidental inhalation of DHMO, but the dangers of dihydrogen monoxide do not end there. Prolonged exposure to its solid form causes severe tissue damage. Symptoms of DHMO ingestion can include excessive sweating and urination, and possibly a bloated feeling, nausea, vomiting and body electrolyte imbalance. For those who have become dependent, DHMO withdrawal means certain death.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Sat Mar 15th, 2008 at 07:37:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yep - we have an awful lot of it in Ireland.  You can't go anywhere without being exposed to it.  I have to admit I sometimes let off some of the gaseous form of it.  Containment is often the best strategy until waste facilities become available.  With climate change its incidence may well rise.

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Mar 15th, 2008 at 08:07:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Not to mention that it turns the landscape into an unseemly green.
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Sat Mar 15th, 2008 at 11:47:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm being sarcastic.

There are two aspects of economics that have been clear to me since I got interested in leftist politics over a decade ago.

The first you recently wrote up quite concisely:

Today's crank economics - which as someone said recently is about as sane, empirical, coherent and effective as Galen's medical texts - assumes that money is the primary resource, and money can buy anything it wants to.

...

There are only two core commodities - scientific, engineering and cultural inventiveness, and raw resources, including energy sources.

The second is the tendency of humans to attempt to rig the economic system in favor of themselves.

Any sustainable economic system has to account for these two issues (and to editorialize, I think any products of evolution need to deal with this lest we continue to cycle in a predator / prey manner). Beyond that, I think it's all open to debate.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Fri Mar 14th, 2008 at 02:36:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Uhm, no comment.

(But I belive it is the planet Mars from which Jerome hails...)

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Fri Mar 14th, 2008 at 02:54:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't after you...

Or more to the point, I have seen various groups that are clearly and definitely cranks post very convincing deconstructions of Faux News et al and then use those correct and lucid deconstructions (coupled with a very, very big false dichotomy) to launch into utter crankery on some issue - from 9/11 through homeopathic water to alien abductions.

In fact, one such video was a motivation for me to write this diary. The first half was an eminent deconstruction of corporate propaganda in the press - could have been written by anyone at ET. The second part was one long meltdown into more and more esoteric nonsense. That naturally leads my mind to ask the question "how do I know that it's only the second half of that video that's nonsense?"

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri Mar 14th, 2008 at 02:54:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I thought you just didn't. What's the "really" for?

It'd be nice if the battle were only against the right wingers, not half of the left on top of that — François in Paris
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Mar 14th, 2008 at 01:13:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I did have a course or two in mathematical economics at some stage.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Mar 14th, 2008 at 01:14:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Does a couple semesters of operations research and a quarter of infinite-dimensional game theory count?

It'd be nice if the battle were only against the right wingers, not half of the left on top of that — François in Paris
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Mar 14th, 2008 at 01:16:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't know much about Economics but I have some idea about how markets and enterprises work and I'm seeking a coherent intellectual framework, in simple clear language, that makes sense to me.

For a Bear of Little Economic Brain like me, that's not easy to find, and I'm still looking...

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Fri Mar 14th, 2008 at 01:16:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
An academic background in most any social science is enough to prove that most of economics is bull.  As both an anthropologist and a historian, it was blindingly obvious that economics had nothing to do with either real people or the real economy from its first principles forward.

I mean, "Rational Man"?

by Zwackus on Sat Mar 15th, 2008 at 01:54:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
An academic background in mathematical physics will show that mathematical economics is not particularly beautiful mathematics (always a red flag!) and that from the modelling point of view it is disturbingly one-dimensional.

It'd be nice if the battle were only against the right wingers, not half of the left on top of that — François in Paris
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Mar 15th, 2008 at 05:46:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
... Myrdal's "Asian Drama" and say that again.

Cover to cover, mind you.

Or have you fallen for the BS line that the marginalist school and those who constrain themselves to remain in contact with the marginalist school constitutes the entirety of the field of economics?

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sat Mar 15th, 2008 at 07:14:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's not that I fell for the BS line as much as I was not aware of the existence of anything else past the 19th century.

Marginalist Economics (I didn't even know the term until I started reading ET) is so overwhelmingly dominant in the media discourse and in the academy that it's easy to think that "Economics" as an academic discipline is entirely Chicago-school bull, as they so effectively police the discourse that it doesn't even look like their critics are "Economists."  They're historians, or socioloigsts, or philosophers, or dirty commies, but not "Economists," because "Economists" believe in rational man and make absurd models.

Not only that, but they are aggressively colonizing other disciplines.  Political Science has been largely conquered by rational-choice modeling, and sociology has a very strong rational-choice minority.  It looks scientific, even though it's bull, so it gets funding, so it's prestigious and cool, so more students study it, etc.

Anthropology and History, which both value attention to real world details, have been largely immune to the plague, and have thus seen their significance and prestige fall.

When we came across something like Sen's theory of famine, we had trouble making connections between it and the garbage being spewed by our colleagues across the quad.  

So, I suppose I am guilty of the sin you describe, and I acknowledge my fault.

by Zwackus on Sun Mar 16th, 2008 at 08:36:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
... ``Economist'' everywhere you would be inclined to simply say ``Economist''.

At one time, we used to call them "Neoclassicals". And therein hangs a tale, but the $0.05 (€0.01) take-away message is, "call them Marginalist Economists and proceed as you were".

It really is very much like the joke about the atheist that goes to heaven. The atheist shows up in heaven, and gets ushered to the atheist line at the front gate. He looks around at all the people ... he gets to the front of the line, and asks, "I was always told by my neighbor that I was going to hell." "Oh no," says the angel registering his details, "that would be cruel. Some people can come to heaven straight away, other's need a period of adjustment. What was your neighbor's name, maybe I can arrange for you to meet him, you can both have a laugh about it." The fellow gives the name, the angel checks the records, "Oh, looks like you can't meet him after all. He's a Baptist, and it wouldn't be heaven for him if he knew that anyone else was here."

Marginalist economists are like that ... they define Economics by their analytical toolkit, not by the problem domain. Since they presume that their analytical toolkit is all that is needed for their problem domain, they tend to be oblivious to the distinction and it gets obscured when they "simplify" their explanations for those outside the profession.

The central core of the post WWII Neoclassical project, Walrasian General Equilibrium theory, is dead. It was never, as it turned out, alive ... the death was diagnosed by some rigorous work within the marginalist school itself in the 1970's, but took a while to sink in. However, by now it has pretty much sunk in, and Walrasian GE theory is now considered to be "old hat" unless it is Computable General Equilibrium (which is normally just an Input/Output model with response elasticities).

With the core of the neoclassical project a rotting corpse, a large number of theorists have reacted in a variety of different ways to the challenge of pursuing theoretical work that has lost its primary theoretical foundation, when they have defined the field in terms of using a particular analytical toolkit. That diversity is often used to buttress arguments, "no, we are not Neoclassicals, unlike the Neoclassicals we ...".

What those arguments invariably sidestep is that, yes, there are differences A and B ... sometimes C ... with Neoclassicals, but the theory is constrained to be able to be expressed in neoclassical terms.

Even in an approach where the analytical foundation does not constrain theorists, such a New Institutional Economics, there is a strong selection bias in favor of arguments that can be expressed in those terms.

And, and indeed as Sraffa foresaw, the core of that approach that cannot be dispensed with and still be able to use the analytical toolkit to arrive at any conclusions is the reliance on marginalist analysis as the core decision model.

That decision to adhere to that core decision model in defiance of any rejecting evidence was made long before the post-WWII neoclassical project began, when Utility theory was discovered to be contrary to the evidence. A protective system of rationalizations was developed at that time to rationalize reliance on a theory that is only valid for a very limited range of decisions in a very specific social setting as if it could be used as the general all-encompassing model for all human behavior.

Now, while "Neoclassical Economists" spreads the net too narrowly, allowing a large number of BS artists to escape who should not, it could be argued that "Marginalist Economists" spreads the net too widely.

That is, those who do not see themselves as mainstream economists will complain that they are being condemned for the sins of others. If the rejoinder is, "I am not saying marginalist analysis should never be used, simply that it is a fallacy to use it as the primary model of human behavior", there will be two responses:

  • They continue to object, and in that case they are one of those who have difference A, B and maybe C, but retain similarity "HS", for the horse-shit Utilitarian model of behavior
  • They are mollified.

And the herd is so vast, and so many of those who think they are fundamentally at odds with the mainstream are subject to the conceit of small differences, that the simple, wide net with a test of those who object seems to me to be the best way to go.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sun Mar 16th, 2008 at 01:12:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You should turn that into a diary with a few links to further references ...
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Sun Mar 16th, 2008 at 01:16:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Just add time and stir.

I'll get right on it ... April 1 a good day?

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sun Mar 16th, 2008 at 02:55:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Does this
The central core of the post WWII Neoclassical project, Walrasian General Equilibrium theory, is dead. It was never, as it turned out, alive ... the death was diagnosed by some rigorous work within the marginalist school itself in the 1970's, but took a while to sink in. However, by now it has pretty much sunk in, and Walrasian GE theory is now considered to be "old hat" unless it is Computable General Equilibrium (which is normally just an Input/Output model with response elasticities).
mean that Paul Samuelson's Comparative Statics is also dead?
Comparative statics is the comparison of two different equilibrium states, before and after a change in some underlying exogenous parameter. As a study of statics it compares two different unchanging points, after they have changed. It does not study the motion towards equilibrium, nor the process of the change itself.
is dead, too?

In any case, this stuff is fascinating...

Wikipedia: General equilibrium

The modern conception of general equilibrium is provided by a model developed jointly by Kenneth Arrow, Gerard Debreu and Lionel W. McKenzie in the 1950s. Gerard Debreu presents this model in Theory of Value (1959) as an axiomatic model, following the style of mathematics promoted by Bourbaki. In such an approach, the interpretation of the terms in the theory (e.g., goods, prices) are not fixed by the axioms.

...

The modern conception of general equilibrium is provided by a model developed jointly by Kenneth Arrow, Gerard Debreu and Lionel W. McKenzie in the 1950s. Gerard Debreu presents this model in Theory of Value (1959) as an axiomatic model, following the style of mathematics promoted by Bourbaki. In such an approach, the interpretation of the terms in the theory (e.g., goods, prices) are not fixed by the axioms.

Of course, the wikipedia articles claim that General Equilibrium is alive and well...
Main article: Computable general equilibrium

Until the 1970s, general equilibrium analysis remained theoretical. However, with advances in computing power, and the development of input-output tables, it became possible to model national economies, or even the world economy, and solve for general equilibrium prices and quantities under a range of assumptions.



It'd be nice if the battle were only against the right wingers, not half of the left on top of that — François in Paris
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Mar 16th, 2008 at 01:38:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... general equilibrium to point to in order to play its part in the "Marginalism Over All" shell game.

You prove the existence of General Equilibrium (though as it turns out it would be an incredible coincidence for there to be only one, and without heroic assumptions there will be a very large number of General Equilibria with dynamics, in essence, as bad as you can describe) ...

... and then someone says, "but how does that tell me the price of eggs on Monday?"

And you say, "well, we can make simplifying assumptions and get a simplified answer from this", and argue that the current general equilibrium is captured by the status quo, so all you are doing is finding a first-order approximation to the departure from the status quo. "Of course, if you want more precision, this has to be expanded", and the existence of general equilibrium assures as that that expansion ends somewhere, rather than being an infinite regress.

Without General Equilibrium, all the critiques of partial equilibrium from the 20's and 30's apply with full force.

Samuelson is, indeed, a useful test case of Joan Robinson's "persuaded against his will is unpersuaded still". He couldn't refute Keyne's model of macroeconomic equilibrium of effective demand, and wouldn't abandon the neoclassical framework for understanding industrial economics, and so worked long and hard to reconcile the irreconcilable.

Computable general equilibrium are just Input/Output models with quantity responses varying according to imputed (or sometimes estimated) elasticity parameters, rather than the implicit q_i= V_i/p_i in Leontiev. It's a way to do modelling that is as heavily dominated by the input data as I/O modelling while being accepted as a mainstream model. Everyone knows that the Utility functions are just pro-forma to get to the elasticities ... and that the utility functions that give stable elasticities are a very special case, quite unlike the generality of the preference set in the Arrow-Debreu GE model.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sun Mar 16th, 2008 at 02:54:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You seem to imply there's something wrong with Leontieff... What is wrong with Leontieff?

Can you outline Keynes' model of macroeconomic equilibrium of effective demand?

Can you outline the critiques of partial equilibrium from the 20's and 30's?

It'd be nice if the battle were only against the right wingers, not half of the left on top of that — François in Paris

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Mar 16th, 2008 at 03:04:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
(1) The only thing wrong with Leontieff was he died, because we need him today. Don't infer from my reporting an attitude among marginalist economists to the Input/Output model that I share the attitude ... from a Living Systems' perspective, the criticisms regarding Leontieff's by marginalists are more damning of the critic than of the target of the criticism.

(2) Yes, presuming you mean "can I someday".

(3) Yes, presuming you mean "can I someday".

I have both 2&3 in several lectures and 2 in lectures at several levels, so all I have to do is to plunder summaries I already wrote.

No time to do that now, but.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sun Mar 16th, 2008 at 03:49:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thank you for your informative responses!  I look forward to reading the fuller versions as you get time.
by Zwackus on Sun Mar 16th, 2008 at 06:56:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
2) & 3) can be diaries whenever you find time, and for number 1) I'm glad that there's nothing wrong with Leontieff, just like I'm glad Samuelson's Comparative Statics is as dead as General Equilibrium.

It'd be nice if the battle were only against the right wingers, not half of the left on top of that — François in Paris
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Mar 16th, 2008 at 07:10:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... I'm not here enough to be a main contributor.

Besides, like a lot of people who start their own blogs, I don't get out anywhere as much as I used to do.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sat Mar 15th, 2008 at 07:16:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think a few of us do have economic analysis credentials, I can think of four or five regular contributors right off the bat have very specific credentials.

Also, I would also take issue with the assertion that we think the entire field of economics is bullocks, as this is by and large not true. There are differing views within an academic discipline, more than one paradigm, more than one school. What I see most often is really criticism of one particular school within the economics discipline - neo-liberalism, the Chicago school, Anglo-saxon or Anglo-American financial capitalism, but these criticisms are, at least from the folks I read them from (and including my own) most definitely coming from the point of view of another quite credible school within the discipline.

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill

by r------ on Fri Mar 14th, 2008 at 02:40:12 PM EST
There is that, and also the people with the formal background act as a check on the dilettantes.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Mar 14th, 2008 at 02:45:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That's a very good point. And in fact I think I underestimated the number of people who have an inside perspective.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri Mar 14th, 2008 at 02:56:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Who are you calling a dilettante? ;-)

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Fri Mar 14th, 2008 at 04:36:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Dilettante?

Moi?

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Fri Mar 14th, 2008 at 05:24:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Since when do you write about economics on ET?

It'd be nice if the battle were only against the right wingers, not half of the left on top of that — François in Paris
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Mar 15th, 2008 at 05:44:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I write about APPLIED Economics and I'm interested in the metaphysics of economics because IMHO it has no basis on reality at all.

And as far as I know, the epithet "Complete Bollocks" as a description of the Dismal Science is mine, all mine.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Sat Mar 15th, 2008 at 06:05:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Who's a what now?

by someone (s0me1smail(a)gmail(d)com) on Fri Mar 14th, 2008 at 03:11:10 PM EST
Why is it I feel more at home woth the Nordics and those of a Nordic persuasion. A mosque of malcontents.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Fri Mar 14th, 2008 at 03:49:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A synagogue of cynicism....

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson
by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Fri Mar 14th, 2008 at 04:27:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This is why I like you ;-)

Oh for open Trojan minds with tongues in cheeks...

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Fri Mar 14th, 2008 at 04:29:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And you too, Solveig ;-)

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Fri Mar 14th, 2008 at 05:10:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Viking genes?
by Solveig (link2ageataol.com) on Fri Mar 14th, 2008 at 04:28:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well I come from one of the Danelaw towns. but statisically I think the Belgian tiribes were more adept at spreading their genes from the Wash westwards.

All English are essentially mongrels. Most of southern Europe too. The drug companies love Finland - relative genetic purity. Makes their trials simpler.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Fri Mar 14th, 2008 at 04:35:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm pro genetic diversity.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Sat Mar 15th, 2008 at 12:40:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'd have to point out that:

seem to uniformly believe that wage increases cause inflation

is part of the problem, as my understanding of the economics literature (and I'm not a professional economist) is that it is "wage increases that exceed productivity gains cause inflation."

So the first problem is that the newsies don't like to articulate that distinction. But it's important. Otherwise you're effectively saying there is no mechanism for wage growth in a modern economy.

Where I turn into a crank, on this part of economics, is that as Wolfgang Munchau appears to be realising, asset price bubbles can result in inflation too, which the newsies tend not to want to talk about...

(And that's important because the super-rich don't have much wage income, they rig their income through asset prices so as to avoid various taxation issues, but also, handily to insulate their income from the notions they promote of "societal restraint to prevent inflation.")

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Sat Mar 15th, 2008 at 05:33:12 AM EST
Metatone:
"wage increases that exceed productivity gains cause inflation."

Which is double distilled bollocks.

Firstly, it is based on the assumption (and Marx makes the same assumption) that only Labour is "productive" (ie the Sun of Capital goes around the Earth of Labour).

So when a factory which use to employ 100 people is automated, the guy who switches it on and off is almost infinitely "productive", and the Capital invested in it is not.

Complete and utter balderdash.

Secondly, wage increases only cause inflation if the owners of Capital don't or can't increase prices (which would reduce profits, of course).

So in fact it is truer to say that "Profit is the principal cause of inflation".

....and that's without Homo bloody Economicus, "inflationary expectations" and the rest of the crap.

Conventional Economics is a rational construct on irrational - indeed, insane foundations.

End of Rant.


"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Sat Mar 15th, 2008 at 07:18:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Ooops, carried away.

Should read don't cause inflation if ....

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Sat Mar 15th, 2008 at 07:23:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Metatone:

Where I turn into a crank, on this part of economics, is that as Wolfgang Munchau appears to be realising, asset price bubbles can result in inflation too, which the newsies tend not to want to talk about...

(And that's important because the super-rich don't have much wage income, they rig their income through asset prices so as to avoid various taxation issues, but also, handily to insulate their income from the notions they promote of "societal restraint to prevent inflation.")

That is a very important point.

What is interesting is that asset price bubbles increase the more esoteric components of the money supply (M2 and M3) and from a monetarist point of view on inflation, they are as dangerous as an increase in M1 (where wages go).

It'd be nice if the battle were only against the right wingers, not half of the left on top of that — François in Paris

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Mar 15th, 2008 at 07:19:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I would just like to point out that there's a huge difference between pointing out flaws or deconstructing economics and claiming to be about to revolutionize it. Critics are not cranks, even if they're wrong. Sometimes criticism is part of the learning process and people with a formal background can help resolve paradoxes or explain concepts. However, any revolutionary claims should be scored against a version of the crackpot index tailored to Economics.

In addition, it is one thing to claim that "popular" economics writing in the press, or even pseudoacademic doublethink-tanks, fairly represent the consensus in academic economics. However, if there are significant differences (and the nuances are sometimes pointed out on ET by our own academic economists) the academics are not doing a good job of preventing pseudoacademic writing from greatly influencing the public discourse and public policy. People in the natural sciences have a very low tolerance for pseudoscience, abuse of technical jargon, etc. It doesn't seem like economists do to the same extent, and to be honest crankery about quantum consciousness is less immediately dangerous than neoliberal propaganda directed at policy makers.

It'd be nice if the battle were only against the right wingers, not half of the left on top of that — François in Paris

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Mar 15th, 2008 at 06:33:52 AM EST
That crackpot index you cite is really good.  I shudder to think what the scoring would be if applied to some of our diaries here!  Perhaps you could write a diary applying it to the forms of discourse found on ET as opposed to e.g. the economist or some such MSM organ as an external comparator.  It would be an analysis not of how right or wrong we are, but how good we are at validating our claims.

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Mar 15th, 2008 at 07:55:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A crackpot index score pull-down menu for every diary would be a good addition to ET 2.0

It'd be nice if the battle were only against the right wingers, not half of the left on top of that — François in Paris
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Mar 15th, 2008 at 08:56:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I filed "crackpot index" bookmark in my directory, "business management." Thank you. While reminding me of required reading, a book written by one of my lecturers, titled The Leap to Globalization, creating new value from business without borders, it is more concise, therefore convenient. Economically, speaking.

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.
by Cat on Sat Mar 15th, 2008 at 11:32:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Migeru:
However, any revolutionary claims should be scored against a version of the crackpot index tailored to Economics.

Maybe not so much.

The difference between science and academic economics is that science is empirically tested and - more often than not - 'wacky' theories like relativity, and the various stages of QM turn out to predict reality correctly.

People don't object to QM and relativity because they're wrong. They object to them because they're completely counterintuitive and very hard to understand in detail. They're also fodder for intellectual narcissists who would love to be cleverer than Einstein was - and that, not proper science, seems to be the main goal of cranks.

Meanwhile Chicago-style economics has very few predictive successes of any sort, and a long string of failures.

People who say 'This won't work' about trickle down, tax cuts for the rich, about financial engineering, about 'reform', have been proven right - not just in this latest bubble phase, but historically in the many previous bubbles which have played themselves out along similar lines.

There have been at least five major and traumatic and devastating events and market hysterias in history, and not a few smaller ones. The larger ones have created wars, starvation, homelessness, rioting, and sometimes revolution.

So they're not a footnote - they're major social and political disasters. And yet - inexplicably, they're hardly mentioned in most academic economic texts.

You would think, given the impact, that running a stable and prosperous economy would be a primary goal. But apparently it isn't. So I don't think the crankiness can be blamed on critics. Mainstream economic theory has utterly failed to deal with these significant events. They've been happening for centuries now, and they still always seem to surprise and baffle the professionals.

So - possibly a minor credibility problem there, which physics doesn't suffer from quite as much.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sat Mar 15th, 2008 at 11:53:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Looking at the crackpot index, I'm not sure how much of academic economics, applied to the real world, would score very well ...
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Sat Mar 15th, 2008 at 12:05:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
ThatBritGuy:

There have been at least five major and traumatic and devastating events and market hysterias in history, and not a few smaller ones. The larger ones have created wars, starvation, homelessness, rioting, and sometimes revolution.

So they're not a footnote - they're major social and political disasters. And yet - inexplicably, they're hardly mentioned in most academic economic texts.

all of which confirms an emerging theory o'mine, e.g. that many 'economists' are too financially uncanny to making a killing from their overview, predictive genius, or brilliant statistical analysis, so they use their talents as shills for a system that brings them temporary glory as 'advisors' to rulers and governments.

it's a bit like the old saw about politicians being second-rate minds, as all the best go into business.

this wilful avoidance of the study of 'economics-gone-bust' is a huge red flag,imo. that's exactly what they should be studying the most...

but that presupposes their genuine interest in the greatest good for the greatest many, which is bollocks.

they are fanboys of those who manipulate economics for their own wealth-creation, and indeed these players could not do such an efficient job of that without willing choirs singing from the prescribed hymnal.

steady, serene and balanced economies provide many less opportunities for getting rich quick. those depend more on sudden spikes and falls, and insider knowledge.

the public wrongly assume that economics has at its heart a serious and sincere intention to better the fortunes of all, when this is blatantly false. many of the worst are nothing but shills and propagandists, greenspan towering above them all in terms of the amount of dangerous bullshit one man can deal out and vouch for, and then act surprised when all hell breaks loose...

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sun Mar 16th, 2008 at 11:49:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
We make a number of bold claims regarding economics. In fact, -a large number of- [some] contributors -are- [even go as far as to] frequently say -ing- essentially that conventional academic economics is so much bollocks. Attempting to deconstruct an entire field of science - and economics is usually considered as such despite the protests here and elsewhere that it is not - is a fairly major flag for crankery.

I frequently say that colleagues populating the narrow though numerous approach to economics that dominates the academic high ground in the field are saying something in particular that is bollocks, and in particular that their frequent pretensions to be competent to address any and all questions in economics based on tools that fit within the confines of their limited approach is bollocks ...

... but I am an academic economist, and rely heavily on standing on the shoulders of much better academic economists than myself who were and are working in the field, even if the mainstream pretends that we do not exist, since they pretend that the field of economics is defined in terms of using their analytical toolkit rather than in terms of the problem domain of the material provisioning of society.

So, no, it is not academic economics that is bollocks, but rather much of the work of academic economists who are trained to pursue economics as if it is a branch of mathematics rather than a branch of social science.

And even there, if they should by intention or accident work through a result on the basis of assumptions that actually can be anchored in reality, then as with any other mathematical result, it is a tremendous convenience to know under what conditions a set of conclusions follow from those assumptions. The tricky thing is the tacit assumptions that are often hidden in the main mathematical section of their work and not discussed in what is often simply a sales pitch at the beginning and end.

On what the 'non-ET media believe' ... they tend to believe, regarding economies, the folkviews of financial market participants, and it should be of no surprise that those who focus intensely on such a specialized and atypical set of exchange institutions should have folkviews regarding the economy that give a distorted view.

Indeed, run through the above list, and ask the question:
* Is this conventional wisdom more comforting to a dealer in a financial market than a disputing perspective frequently advanced on ET?

In a surprising number of cases, that alone suffices to predict where the conventional wisdom goes astray in matters economic.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sat Mar 15th, 2008 at 04:22:04 PM EST
You all had it coming

btw, "Jehovah! Jeho..." I mean "church! church! astrology! inside job! trickle-down!"

/life's just a ride
//keep cool, stay classy, hug your friends

"If you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles." Sun Tzu

by Turambar (sersguenda at hotmail com) on Sat Mar 15th, 2008 at 08:15:10 PM EST


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