Friday, March 18, 2011

Uh Oh Mathew Yglesias suggests that Economics is more nearly a science than the guy in the street would imagine given the public debate among economists. I think his view is totally backwards and our disagreements are much stronger than those which we present, basically because the economists who have views which would strike the man in the street as absurd don't frankly state them.

I think you are totally wrong. I am regularly dumfounded by things that other economists say. The issue is rarely macroeconomics. The problem is that there is a fundamental disagreement among economists as to what "science" means. Some think they key to science is that it is empirical and that theories bow to facts. Others think they key is that it is mathematical.

I translate something a colleague said in a deparment meeting "it is doctrine !" This was not used in a pejoritive sence. The claim was that we must teach something to our students, because it is doctrine.

Many economists are mystified by the idea that I question whether standard models correspond to reality. They do not have the impression that corresponding to reality has anything to do with the point.

Economists are very far from stressing disagreements and ignoring areas of agrement. Most economists tend to try to avoid mentioning the views which they consider crazy, since they don't want to discredit the profession (for sound economic reasons). In private, economists are much less polite about each other. For example I know a new Keynsian who is only says very polite things about fresh water economists in public and who casually referred to them in private as "the crazies." What's worse is I keep mentioning this on the web and no one ever asks me to name that new Keynesian.

You are aware that economists from Chicago and Minnesota have said lots of silly things about the recession. What you don't understand is that they are saying silly things, because they are winging it. They don't base their pronouncements on their academic work, because if they ever explained it to the public, the public would laugh in their faces. Their academic work is much much crazier than anything they say in a way such that it is comprehensible to the general public.

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