[This is a more technical post, addressed to those interested in re-making the field of economics into something relevant, informed and capable of self-improvement.]
Debates about whether economics is or can ever be a science appear frequently on the Real World Economics blog, such as making economics a relevant science. Perhaps more in the subsequent comments than in the articles themselves, there are some recurring confusions and misconceptions, such as whether mathematics should be involved, about what the role of mathematics might be, about “prediction” as a necessary part of a science, about the role of assumptions and approximations, about whether any study involving people can ever be a science and, fundamentally, about what science really is.
I have commented in passing on this topic before, for example here, but in this comment I’d like to offer a more focussed discussion.
[This piece was prompted by Has the Left Surrendered? by Richard Eskow on Campaign for America's Future, a good source of sensible US commentary. His article was in turn prompted by Nothing Left: The Long, Slow Surrender of American Liberals by Adolph Reed Jr in Harper's magazine. ]
The political parties of the Left, in the US, UK and Australia, lost their way when they swallowed the free-market mantra. They became merely neoliberalism-lite. They implemented the market-fundamentalist program, and then applied bandaids to the wounds thus inflicted. They yielded the initiative, became defensive and reactive, and were steadily pushed, dragged and wedged ever-further to the right. They are now well to the right of the conservative parties of four or five decades ago. The former-left parties are now a huge impediment to real progressive politics, entrenched in that political space but betraying it on a daily basis.
Despite continuing soul-searching among those who recognised and deplored this process, there has yet to emerge any unifying alternative, beyond a catalogue of the many disparate social and environmental causes and groups that attempt to continue, with diminishing success, the old Left’s concern for ordinary people and their world. Indeed no alternative can emerge unless and until the core meme of neoliberalism is confronted.
Print-on-demand hardcopies of Sack the Economists can now be ordered from CreateSpace and Amazon.com.
More sources of both ebook and hardcopy versions will be added soon, including the UK and Australia.
Also the ebook will be available in formats other than Kindle – so any reader will work.
Go to Sack the Economists for more information and all purchase options.
[The new Australian government, elected in September, has refused to do anything to help to retain car manufacturing in Australia, and all three manufacturers (GM, Ford and Toyota) have now announced they will close within the next 2-3 years.]
It’s amazing the Abbott government can run such a market-fundamentalist industry strategy, to general acquiescence, in the face of so much obvious evidence of the profound damage the same strategy has done to the USA.
The free-trade doctrine has seen US industry hollowed out, and industrial jobs exported en masse, as US corporations moved their plants to countries with cheap labour and few environmental constraints. The US used to have consistent trade surpluses, but since 1976 it has run enormous trade deficits that free-market policies have done nothing to reduce. The trade deficit leaves the US indebted to the world, and increasingly dependent on China, which holds the most US debt.
There is no sound basis at all, in economic theory or in practice, for expecting free markets to be beneficial, or harmful for that matter.
We should manage the economy the way we manage life, and always be aware that the best-laid plans might go awry.
More in my article in The Age today.
An article by Bob Douglas on the dire need for real political leadership prominently features Sack the Economists, along with a new book by prominent Australian economist Ross Garnaut, Dog Days: Australia After the Boom, the latter launched by prominent Liberal politician Malcolm Turnbull. Tony Abbot deposed Turnbull as Leader of the Opposition in 2009, winning by one vote, otherwise Turnbull would probably now be Prime Minister.
See Bob Douglas’ article in the Sydney Morning Herald here. It also appears in the Melbourne Age and the Canberra Times.