Invaders from planet stupid

A very interesting post by Steve Hayward at Powerline with the title, First they came for the Sociologists. But in spite of its title, the post is mostly about economics.

The one field in the social sciences where there is the least presence of post-modern oppression-“privilege” types is Economics, which prompts me to propose the theorem that the presence of politically correct nonsense in an academic department is inversely proportional to the emphasis placed on rigorous regression modeling in the discipline (or knowledge of ancient languages).

I personally think modern economics is well to the left as an academic subject. The veneer of bourgeois respectability is important to economists if their economics message is to influence the political class. Mainstream economics is no longer about the need for free markets, but the importance of controlling free markets. It may be disciplined by various sets of data, but economic theory is no longer Adam Smith. It is, instead, the nearest thing to Marxism that still retains that overlay of markets, best represented by Keynesian theory. Keynes disarmed the Marxists of his time by siding with them over Say’s Law, which had perennially been the province of the economics far left and central to their critique of capitalism.

I have half a chapter on this in my Free Market Economics, beginning with the notion of “perfect competition”. “Perfect” implies that this is the ideal, and is contrasted with “imperfect” competition. Perfect markets cannot exist, given its definition (e.g. perfect knowledge). All other markets are imperfect, which leaves much room for intervention at every turn.

But even with my continuous criticism of mainstream theory, I believe there is only one economics. The “political economy” department at Sydney is merely a cop out. Whatever sociological version of economics that might be taught, unless they also do supply and demand and marginal analysis along with the full panoply of mainstream theory, it is useless, other than as a leftist critique of markets. This is a quote from Greg Mankiw who was on the other end of these barbarian invaders:

Those who attended either of the sessions I was involved with at the ASSA meeting know that the audience included some hecklers. During the first session, I was the target. During the second, Larry Summers was. (At one point, the moderator Bob Hall threatened to call security.) Here is a Washington Post article about the hecklers.

After the first session was over, one of the hecklers came up to me and asked, “How much money have the Koch brothers paid you?” My answer, of course, was “not a penny.”

I don’t find it odd that people disagree with me. I am always open to the possibility that I am wrong about lots of things, and I much enjoy talking with students and colleagues who have views different from mine. But I do find it odd that people who disagree with me are sometimes quick to question my sincerity. If I am wrong, it is sincere wrong-headedness, not the result of being on some plutocrat’s payroll, as some on the left want to believe.

The hecklers probably limit their own effectiveness by questioning the motives of those who disagree with them. I have found that to convince other people, it is usually best not to assume your own moral superiority but rather to talk with them as equals who just happen to have a different point of view.

Personally I think Greg was too mild in his criticism of these know-nothings. I disagree about a lot, but I am never in doubt that the economists I deal with know a lot more about economies than their non-economist critics, a lot lot more and within a proper contextual setting. The true worry is how sympathetic the Washington Post article is to these invaders from the planet stupid.

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16 Responses to Invaders from planet stupid

  1. rich

    the problem for the statists, politicians and bureaucrats is that the market will always be faster, smarter and more cunning than they are: for every social outcome they try to intervene or engineer, the sum of human ingenuity in the market will work around it in a way they do not expect. The result is a monkey’s claw, a cobra effect, a black market because they cannot proscribe an individual’s desire, nor deny a human his ingenuity.

  2. rich

    There is only one market because human self-interest, protecting what they own and voting with the wallet is the reality that all statists cannot grasp nor model. No matter how much they critique it (for not socially engineering the outcomes they desire), it cannot change that reality that the market and economy is a form of democracy- people vote with their wallets.

    The key is to leave the market be and go with it, rather than against it. These statists are know-nothings indeed, and as intellectually bankrupt as Lysenkoism.

  3. Roger

    I personally think modern economics is well to the left as an academic subject. The veneer of bourgeois respectability is important to economists if their economics message is to influence the political class.

    Sounds like the long march through the institutions is just about complete then.

    The subversives are now the free marketeers.

  4. Token

    I personally think modern economics is well to the left as an academic subject. The veneer of bourgeois respectability is important to economists if their economics message is to influence the political class.

    To the left Economics is a team sport. It is a buffet which they can consume what they like and ignore what does not fit their tastes.

    How many postings did we see from SfB from Krugman which reinforced his prejudices? See all the braindead Facebook type memes quoting dodgy stats.

  5. rich

    do we judge statists and left-leaning economists and politicians for meaning well (and the moral smugness that that affords them) or the stupidity of the outcome, or both?

  6. stackja

    invaders from the planet stupid

    Funded by who?
    In the Cold War it was Moscow.

  7. rebel with cause

    Have to laugh at the quote the planet stupid crowd chose to project onto the convention centre for the American Economic Association:

    “BEFORE ECONOMICS CAN PROGRESS, IT MUST ABANDON ITS SUICIDAL FORMALISM.” – Robert Heilbroner

    If they new anything, they would know that Heilbroner was a longtime socialist who was able to come to the realisation, and publicly acknowledge, that he was wrong. Here he is in 1992:

    Capitalism has been as unmistakable a success as socialism has been a failure.

    Here is the part that’s hard to swallow. It has been the Friedmans, Hayeks, and von Miseses who have maintained that capitalism would flourish and that socialism would develop incurable ailments. All three have regarded capitalism as the ‘natural’ system of free men; all have maintained that left to its own devices capitalism would achieve material growth more successfully than any other system. From [my samplings] I draw the following discomforting generalization: The farther to the right one looks, the more prescient has been the historical foresight; the farther to the left, the less so.

  8. rebel with cause

    In short – the guy they cite for support acknowledged that Friedman, Hayek and von Mises were totally right, and the socialists were completely wrong.

  9. Unfortunately i went to the WaPo link;

    Julie Matthaei, an economics professor at Wellesley who studies Marxist-feminist economic theory.

    Sweet cheeses on a bicycle say hello to peak stupid

  10. Yohan

    I love how the American left’s new discovery is the Koch brothers, not realising they have been funding the small government movement since the 1970’s. Kind of like how the left has just discovered fracking, which has been done since the 1950’s.

  11. blogstrop

    … talk with them as equals who just happen to have a different point of view.

    I refuse to concede that the 54% (approx.) of people who currently think voting for Labor is a good idea are my equals.

  12. Empire

    The subversives are now the free marketeers.

    Nope. They are still the same old thieves masquerading as the saviours of the marginalised.

    The WP article was pure propaganda. The real story is:

    Mendacious Marxists unleash terror on free speech. Radicals advocate stealing from those who did to buy support from those who didn’t. Presidents condemns subversion of democratic process.

  13. .

    Julie Matthaei, an economics professor at Wellesley who studies Marxist-feminist economic theory.

    Thank God she and the uni are real.

    Her job and her discipline are not.

  14. Empire

    Oh, wait a minute – Obama supports this kind of stupid.

  15. RMR

    Sweet cheeses on a bicycle say hello to peak stupid

    I do love the turn of phase one reads here.

  16. Another fine retort:

    “…and from the same ideology that gave us Lysenkoism, I now give you Global Warming!”
    The Book of Winston.

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