Thursday, January 29, 2015 Interview with Mason Gaffney

From 2007, Interview With Mason Gaffney on Corruption of Economics. Excerpts:
The Progress Report – In your latest book, The Corruption of Economics, you seem to be exposing an amazingly deep and long-standing scandal around the study of economics within the American education system. Sum it up for us. How, why and by whom do you think the teaching of economics in America has been corrupted?

Mason Gaffney – Generically, it goes back thousands of years: every system that divides mankind into rentiers and proles requires a rationale. Those with leisure have time and resources to provide it: sometimes directly, but usually through hired guns.

The need became more acute in the USA during and after the Progressive Era, with its development of the secret ballot and direct democracy. Voters could no longer be bought or intimidated directly; they had to be brainwashed. The device used was to replace the older Classical Political Economy (Quesnay, Adam Smith, Ricardo, Mill, and Henry George) with “Neo-classical Economics,” which blurred all distinctions between producers and rentiers.
TPR – They were paid to keep quiet about the land question?

MG – No more than anyone else. They lived in a society dominated by landowners. Adam Smith spent his life on the payroll of the Duke of Buccleuch, as tutor for His Grace’s son. Landowners were so very secure, some of them could let their house intellectuals tweak their noses with radical ideas – probably found it entertaining. It was later, after universal manhood suffrage, that the landowners got nasty and conspiratorial and defensive...
TPR – Do you believe this purchasing of economic theory still going on today, and if so, what well-known economists do you suspect of being involved with it?

MG – It pervades the culture of the profession. Most members are looking for grants and promotions to put frosting on their cake. They call it, “Responding to the incentive structure,” giggle nervously, and shuffle the blame onto “the system.”
It’s partly a matter of coopting people by dangling money before them, and partly a matter of selecting and supporting those whose ideas are already more simpatico to the major grantors. It’s hard to tell the difference, so it’s hard to say who’s been corrupted, and who corrupted himself at an early age.
TPR – How can my readers find out if what you’re saying is really true? Name the most widely used economics textbooks in American universities right now and what they teach that is an obvious lie for the benefit of landed interests.

MG – I no longer use textbooks much...

Paul Samuelson, Robert Solow, Peter Mieszkowski, Theodore Schultz, and Edwin Mills, for example, casually pronounce that land rent is only 5% or so of total income, so a single land tax could not support government as we know it. They offer no support for this except to echo each other... They simply ignore the few careful studies of the matter, as by Michael Hudson, Allen Manvel, myself, and Steven Cord, that show much higher figures.
TPR – How do you like our chances, Professor? Do you think Earth is going to be a loser planet or will the good guys somehow snatch victory from the jaws of defeat?

MG – A bit of each. Keep hassling, and things will be a bit better than if you gave up.

Again, I left a lot out.

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