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January 19, 2006

Economics Again

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

The Teaching Company has just released a new version of Timothy Taylor's lecture series, "Economics." It's a clear, entertaining, and wonderfully-organized work, and one of the best ways I know of for non-math types to get a grip on the topic. It's also currently on sale for a very good price. Some time ago, visitors to 2Blowhards swapped tips about useful and fun introductions to economics.

Timothy Taylor's lectures are about mainstream economics -- an essential topic to "get" if you want to understand much of why people do what they do in today's world. But does it explain anything deeper? The Post-Autistic Network's Edward Fulbrook lays out what he thinks is wrong with mainstream economics. Two key words: "Physics envy."



posted by Michael at January 19, 2006


A damn good price if you ask me:

Posted by: onetwothree on January 19, 2006 10:29 PM

On closer inspection, those may be different things.

Posted by: onetwothree on January 19, 2006 10:30 PM

Re: Edward Fullbrook's discussion of the limitations of neoclassical economics...

I'm not an economist, and I don't even play one on TV, so maybe I missed the point, but I was left wondering (1) how significant the failings of neoclassical theory really were--Mr. Fullbrook seemed very upset about them, but failed to explain to losers like myself what the consequences of such failings would be and (2) exactly what Mr. Fullbrook would put in place of the failed neoclassical theories.

I got a sense that a good deal of his critique might be, at root, political. Neoclassical economics may, indeed, contain biases in favor of some political arrangements and not others, apparently more to Mr. Fullbrook's tastes.

For all this, it would be interesting to see a debate, or an answering piece from a neoclassicist that addressed these criticisms.

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on January 20, 2006 11:55 AM

Onetwothree -- Wow, a Timothy Taylor lecture series has been BitTorrented! Amazing. I wonder if the Teaching Company's lawyers are on the case. As I like to say to young people, "Go into copyright law, it's a happening field." Anyway, that's a good series too -- history of the American economy in the 20th century.

FvB -- The general Post-Autistics attitude is that there's nothing wrong with neoclassical econ -- it's helpful and interesting. It's just unfortunate that it's presented as the One True Way to do econ. They'd like to see it become one of the many ways you can do econ. I don't doubt that many of the PAE'ers are politically motivated, but I still think they've got a point. Why not accept the contributions of Institutional Economics, for instance? I'm skeptical of any social science -- whose study-material is human beings, not stars or ants -- claiming that there's One True Way to interpret what they observe, aren't you?

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on January 20, 2006 12:54 PM

Heck, I'm skeptical about a lot more than that. I just wished Mr. Fullbrook had spelled out more of the no-doubt significant implications of the technical issues he apparently differs with neoclassical economists over.

Not that I could follow along, but still...

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on January 20, 2006 3:38 PM

The PAE itself is filled with strongly ideological folks, usually warmed over Marxoids or Old Institutionalists, all on the LEFT. I stress Old, because people like Veblen had very little to say about economics which wasn't Monday morning quarterbacking. Commons was more interesting but his followers didn't do a good job of tying it in to what was good in the mainstream. They can't seem to separate their methodological criticism from their ideological opposition to market economics.

The New Institutionalism of Coase, North and Williamson, has been more successful making inroads into the mainstream through more modest methodological reforms. Their success can be seen both by the adoption of the NIE's agenda by the World Bank and some of the Rajahs of Cambridge Mass as well as the tendency of Old Institutionalists to say that they welcome both the old and the new institutionalism. This is last minute clutching at straws to stop from drowning.

I'll take the PAE seriously when they come up with good ideas that can be tied in systematically to the mainstream and when they are as welcoming to Austrians and right wing ideologues as they are of the old left.

Even when they are spot on correct about the mainstream, they are awfully wedded to the worst mistakes of Keynes, or even Marx, whom they view more fondly than Friedman.

Posted by: tim on January 20, 2006 4:59 PM

Timothy Taylor also makes quite a nice real ale, available in London and country pubs!

Posted by: Saltation on January 20, 2006 6:27 PM

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