Search This Blog

Thursday, December 16, 2010

More on Deirdre McCloskey and thinking about economics (without equations)

I've taken to reading her book, "How to be Human *Though an Economist."
It's amazing, and I find myself agreeing with much of her sentiment.  In the book she offers up a letter she wrote to a graduate student that was quickly becoming disillusioned with the profession.   McCloskey's basic answer is to 'buck up and bare it, and then when you graduate, change the profession.'

I've been thinking on this.  Given the economics (mainstream) profession is in complete disarray and destined for futility in its general form, which sadly I think it is, how can we change this - how can we alter its future?


The fact that there might not be an answer scares me.  The fact that there might not be an answer is why I haven't and don't intend to pursue a Phd. in Economics.  McCloskey doesn't have the answer - she has the hope, but not the answer.

Consider:
let's say I, or some disillusioned grad student, make it through Phd dissertations etc. and become a full-time faculty-tenure-track economist.  That is not the answer.  Because now, with few exception, my bosses are 'let's run this equation to fix the world despite not knowing what the world is about'-style economists.   The vast majority of schools around the world, and particularly in the US have this problem.  Coupled with academia's 'boy's club' way of being able to publish research - this does not lend itself to true, useful, meaningful, what McCloskey would call "ethical" scientific analysis.

So, the individual person can't change the profession - the barriers to change are too great.  The institutions themselves are unlikely to change.  Why?  One, again since its all one big boy's club, it's best to not rock the boat.  But more importantly, economics has become largely invaded by ideologues who form opinions first and then conduct analysis regardless of the real world.  Part of that ideology is to 'support' the business class no matter the theory.  It's a simple equation really.  unethical, pandering economic analysis today + money and other non-pecuniary support from the business elite = unethical, pandering economic analysis tomorrow.

So, you may ask if individual students, professors and institutions can't change economics, perhaps the business community can?  But why?  Quid pro quo Clarisse.

Who then, what then, is left?

The government?  Doubtful.  The lay-person?  Hardly.

I fear my friends we are in a catch-22.  I can't see the light.  More importantly, I can't see a WAY to find the light.

I invite your opinions - and if you are of the opinion that the mainstream economics profession is on sound solid ground - then I'm afraid you are delusional.

10 comments:

Nathan Tankus said...

i think you throw off the lay person to easily. the lay person has an incredible ability to process information when motivated to and put in the right setting (ie not our current education system). people involved in the Montgomery boycott and other civil rights era protesting had to absorb lots of information to successfully organize and pursue effective policies;and they did. has the lay person always been more perceptive then we think? probably not. but that is different then saying they are capable of it. at the most trying times in American history, when people were most organized, they were an amazing intellectual force (abolition movement, protests in the 1890's and 1900's, the 1930's etc). misdirected intelligence or ignorance is not the same as stupidity.

Garth said...

I hope your optimism proves true.

Deirdre said...

Dears,

The way to change economics is to do excellent scientific research on the economy. That does not mean doing what everyone else does. Roughly half of the Nobel Memorial prizes in economics were given to people who ventured into new and often unpopular ways of doing economic science (I detail the observation in an essay in How to Be Human). Thus Vernon Smith and experimental economics, Robert Fogel and historical economics, even Milton Friedman and monetary economics. So be of good cheer---in this season---and keep trying to figure out what's happening in the grocery store and the market for plumbers.
Regards,
Deirdre McCloskey

Garth said...

Deirdre,
I'm flattered and appreciative you've commented on my post! I actually was thinking of emailing you anyway - specifically about any words of wisdoms an intro college-level econ instructor like myself should be imparting on the future of the study. Lucky for me your comment provides a bit of an answer.

As I'm sure you can understand, it's often times a conflicting and odd feeling to teach economics today with ones own misgivings about aspects of the econ teaching profession - students, particularly now-a-days - just seem to shrug off textbook economics as some sort of witch-doctory. The problem is I find myself in part agreeing with their assessment.

I think you are right that we should in some sense be of good cheer. There are still many, like yourself, in economics (no matter the particular economic philosophy) that are carrying on with interesting, real, analysis and thought.

Anyway, I'm rambling. Your little pocket book "Economical Writing" was how I was first introduced to you in grad school. It's such a useful book - particularly in the econ field where people are sometimes not socialized enough to talk let alone write (not that I'm all that good at either). I look forward to continue hearing your voice, and fully intend to read your new volumes you have coming out as well.

Thanks again.

oakleyses said...

tiffany and co, christian louboutin shoes, polo ralph lauren outlet, coach purses, nike free, longchamp handbags, coach factory outlet, louis vuitton outlet, tiffany and co, louis vuitton, gucci outlet, kate spade handbags, louis vuitton outlet, true religion jeans, tory burch outlet, kate spade outlet, prada handbags, air max, michael kors outlet, chanel handbags, burberry outlet, ray ban sunglasses, oakley sunglasses, burberry outlet, prada outlet, nike shoes, michael kors outlet, longchamp outlet, louis vuitton handbags, ray ban sunglasses, coach outlet, jordan shoes, michael kors outlet, louboutin outlet, michael kors outlet, polo ralph lauren outlet, air max, michael kors outlet, michael kors outlet, coach outlet store online, louis vuitton outlet stores, oakley sunglasses cheap, oakley sunglasses, true religion jeans, louboutin, longchamp handbags, louboutin

oakleyses said...

hollister, louis vuitton uk, michael kors, sac burberry, true religion outlet, nike tn, vans pas cher, abercrombie and fitch, nike roshe run, nike air max, michael kors, louboutin, oakley pas cher, timberland, nike free pas cher, north face, nike trainers, polo ralph lauren, mulberry, ray ban pas cher, michael kors pas cher, new balance pas cher, ray ban sunglasses, air max, air force, barbour, sac longchamp, sac louis vuitton, vanessa bruno, lululemon, sac guess, sac louis vuitton, air jordan, sac hermes, louis vuitton, true religion outlet, nike free, air max, longchamp, hogan outlet, nike roshe, hollister, ralph lauren, north face, polo lacoste, air max pas cher, converse pas cher, nike blazer

oakleyses said...

hollister, louis vuitton uk, michael kors, sac burberry, true religion outlet, nike tn, vans pas cher, abercrombie and fitch, nike roshe run, nike air max, michael kors, louboutin, oakley pas cher, timberland, nike free pas cher, north face, nike trainers, polo ralph lauren, mulberry, ray ban pas cher, michael kors pas cher, new balance pas cher, ray ban sunglasses, air max, air force, barbour, sac longchamp, sac louis vuitton, vanessa bruno, lululemon, sac guess, sac louis vuitton, air jordan, sac hermes, louis vuitton, true religion outlet, nike free, air max, longchamp, hogan outlet, nike roshe, hollister, ralph lauren, north face, polo lacoste, air max pas cher, converse pas cher, nike blazer

oakleyses said...

hollister, herve leger, canada goose, insanity workout, nfl jerseys, canada goose, soccer jerseys, north face outlet, p90x, ugg, uggs outlet, canada goose, marc jacobs, new balance shoes, ugg pas cher, canada goose outlet, ferragamo shoes, canada goose uk, celine handbags, jimmy choo outlet, abercrombie and fitch, reebok outlet, mac cosmetics, longchamp, wedding dresses, ugg boots, beats by dre, mcm handbags, asics running shoes, ghd, giuseppe zanotti, babyliss pro, soccer shoes, canada goose jackets, ugg boots, ugg australia, lululemon outlet, birkin bag, mont blanc, north face jackets, nike huarache, nike roshe run, bottega veneta, chi flat iron, rolex watches, instyler, vans shoes, valentino shoes

oakleyses said...

hollister, herve leger, canada goose, insanity workout, nfl jerseys, canada goose, soccer jerseys, north face outlet, p90x, ugg, uggs outlet, canada goose, marc jacobs, new balance shoes, ugg pas cher, canada goose outlet, ferragamo shoes, canada goose uk, celine handbags, jimmy choo outlet, abercrombie and fitch, reebok outlet, mac cosmetics, longchamp, wedding dresses, ugg boots, beats by dre, mcm handbags, asics running shoes, ghd, giuseppe zanotti, babyliss pro, soccer shoes, canada goose jackets, ugg boots, ugg australia, lululemon outlet, birkin bag, mont blanc, north face jackets, nike huarache, nike roshe run, bottega veneta, chi flat iron, rolex watches, instyler, vans shoes, valentino shoes

oakleyses said...

montre homme, iphone 6 cases, thomas sabo, swarovski crystal, hollister clothing store, swarovski, lancel, rolex watches, moncler, ray ban, wedding dresses, air max, hollister, ugg, ralph lauren, coach outlet store online, pandora jewelry, converse, baseball bats, oakley, louboutin, juicy couture outlet, moncler, gucci, air max, pandora charms, hollister, moncler outlet, timberland boots, louis vuitton, toms shoes, juicy couture outlet, canada goose, vans, parajumpers, moncler, ugg, pandora charms, canada goose, moncler, moncler, links of london, converse shoes, moncler, supra shoes, karen millen