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Monday, April 2, 2012

How Economists Are Like 9 Year Olds

If a nine year old thinks that they are right, they will yell and scream as such and will tend to tune out what other kids have to say to the contrary.

In some sense this is human nature.  Once we make an argument part of our core being, it's difficult to let something new in to challenge it.  I've done this to some degree in the past - we all do.  But we like to think that eventually, adults have this ability to let their guard down.  It's called learning.

But I've never seen a bigger group of 9 year-olds than amongst academic economists.  

I posted on Krugman's post, but since he may not approve it, I'll just state the obvious.  He, Fullwiler, and Keen need to meet for a few days, have some beers, maybe watch "A Beautiful Mind" on Netflix to get in the mood.  Then, have a nice deep discussion about each others' assumptions - actively listen to each other, instead of taking cheap pot-shots.

I teach part time but I'm a full time real world employee - we can't afford all this childish banter in the real world.  And frankly, economics as a profession, its students, and the policy-makers that listen to economics deserve better.   This same kind of behavior reared its head when I worked as an economist at the Volpe Center though - I really do think economists have stunted social skills.

I'm not saying economists can or should agree about everything, but Jesus Christ, monetary theory is a big important topic.  Economists need to at least agree on the basic mechanics of the financial system.   I teach 2 weeks of it in my macro course.   Right now, I have to teach it two ways: the mainstream way, and then teach it the heterodox way.   This is not my fault that I have to do this.   This is the fault of the profession - and it's sheer laziness and childishness.

10 comments:

wh10 said...

Totally agreed. I wish these guys and gals could debate live together.

STF said...

Very good, thoughtful posts the past few days, Garth. I'm totally with you on meeting together, but you know as well as I do that Krugman and other top neoclassicals would never agree to share the stage with us and give us that legitimacy. Maybe I'm wrong; hope so. We're always extending invitations to them on our end to be on panels with us or be discussants, so it's not for lack of trying on our part.

Scott Fullwiler

Garth A Brazelton said...

Scott, thanks for commenting! I share your pessimism to a degree...but...

Do you think though that perhaps the idea of joining on one of the post-Keynesian or even generally heterodox panels is perhaps to them a bit like entering a lions den (particularly given the rhetoric)? That's why, to me, it makes more sense to extend an invitation to a more intimate, less formal event. Why not have a "building bridges" summit in someone's home or something more personal (a quiet Starbucks?)...where it's less intimidating to the other party and it can be you, Steve, Mosler and whoever meeting with Krugman and those like Krugman sitting in a room talking this stuff out...no cameras, no stages, no huge audience with name tags...not at first. Literally just some beer, cheese, pictures of family....

I think part of the problem is that nobody is doing this in baby steps. but it has to be done that way or no one will ever budge. I say invite them to something like that. Then if they say "no"....well, at least you've tried in a non-intimidating way to explain where you are coming from. Then the problem truly does lie with them. We shouldn't be caring about prestige; we should be caring about truth. And you don't need a stage to share the truth.

STF said...

Those are all good points, Garth. Thanks!

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