Friday, July 23, 2010

Self-Slotting Economists

Recently I quoted Keen:

A majority of the 16 individuals identified in Bezemer (2009) and (Fullbrook (2010)) as having anticipated the Global Financial Crisis followed non-mainstream approaches to economics, with most of them identifying as Post-Keynesian ... or Austrian....

And responded:

The trouble with economists is that they seem to insist -- even the sixteen wisemen among them -- insist on categorizing themselves as "post-Keynesian" or "Austrian" or "mainstream" or in some other group. Everybody wants to be in a slot. That's weird.

It's worse than weird. It's pointless.

I know with politics, we have two parties. I like some things each party says, and reject other things. But if you watch TV you know that you have to be one or the other, and that no one in his right mind would be thinking for himself.

Same with economics. For me, economics is the effort to understand what happens in the world that I see. For Keynes, for Adam Smith, for Bastiat and Say I am certain it was no different -- I am certain the effort was no different.

But I am also certain that the economy itself was quite different. That's why the observations change. What was true on the upswing was no longer true at the peak; and what was true at the peak is no longer true in the decline. The economy changes. That's what business cycles are: Changes. So, observations that were correct once will not be correct forever.

It is worse than pointless to pick a side, or pick a slot, or pick an economic theory and say this is the universal answer. Because the economy is changing all the time.

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