Not Ending the Blog

This is just a quick post to let people know that I am not ending the blog. However, readers might have noticed posting has slowed down a bit recently (4 and 3 posts in September and October respectively, versus 6 and 7 in July and August), and this is essentially just because I feel like I have less to say. The reason I started this blog was to get some sort of critical debate over the state of economics and learn (or unlearn, groan) about economics as a field – in other words, the kind of thing that you simply do not find on an economics degree. The blogosphere has definitely delivered in this area, but since I’ve now gotten what I set out to get, I feel I should focus more on other things.

I still have the same basic opinion as when I started the blog: neoclassical/mainstream economics (which exists, no matter what economists say!) is questionable in terms of relevance, coherence and methodology, and is not the only or best way to do ‘economics’, which itself cannot be thought of as an isolated, separate sphere. My opinions on some things have changed: I think some areas of neoclassical theory – as well as econometrics – are worthwhile, and that heterodox economists get some things wrong (the chief one being repeating the same criticisms over and over). My opinion is now less “neoclassical economics is nonsense!1!!” and more “the research program has reached its limitations and needs to be replaced and/or confined to specific spheres”.

However, I am also more optimistic about the discipline changing than I used to be. Real life discussions about the state of economics simply don’t have the same air of hostility as those on the internet – in my experience it’s not difficult to find mainstream economists who will tell you macroeconomics, undergraduate economics and ‘free market’ economics, as well as other areas, are generally garbage. The difficulty lies in trying to get them to think in any other way than the ‘individual agent faced with choices’, but such alternative theories are being developed, and as awareness of them increases, economists will hopefully be able to see things in other ways.

In any case, announcing that I’m “ending the blog” seems like a larger scale version of where somebody in an internet argument says “right, I’m done here” and then after a short break continues replying. Several people have told me attempting to give up blogging is simply futile, and I cannot guarantee that events or economists will not force me to mouth off (like my last post). There are therefore a few possibilities as to how the blog might change after this point:

  1. I write similar style posts but further apart.
  2. I write longer, more comprehensive posts but at a much lower rate.
  3. I start to write shorter posts that deal with a specific thought or idea, or bounce off another bloggers’ post.

So, yeah, stick around! Posting will probably be more sporadic but it will still be there. I’ll also carry on tweeting, though again perhaps less than before. In the mean time, if anyone reading doesn’t yet read these blogs, then you should start.

PS As you might have guessed, this post is actually quite a non-event; I’m just announcing it so I feel less pressure to post regularly.

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  1. #1 by TravisV on November 7, 2013 - 6:03 pm

    Personally, I think it’s easier to learn / influence the conversation more by interacting with the commenters at themoneyillusion.com. Great alternative to starting my own blog.

    • #2 by Unlearningecon on November 7, 2013 - 6:49 pm

      I’d sort of given up on Sumner himself as I rarely seemed to gain anything out of exchanges with him, but I was impressed when my anti-NGDPT article attracted some of his commenters over, who seemed to be more willing to talk directly about transmission mechanisms and historical examples.

      Having said that, the whole ‘market monetarism’ debate seems to have given me a feeling of ennui. I think the gap between them and endogenous money proponents is unbridgeable, and ultimately will have to play out in the real world.

      • #3 by TravisV on November 8, 2013 - 6:16 pm

        Mark Sadowski is an inspiration to me! He’s very open-minded, as illustrated by this comment:

        http://www.themoneyillusion.com/?p=24537#comment-290368

        “I used to vote straight Libertarian until 2000 and have voted straight Democratic ever since. This is mostly because I now hate the Republican party so much I vote Democratic just in order to defeat Republicans. Thus my positions have probably crept closer to Democratic ones over the years just from having voted Democratic. (We are what we do more than what we believe.)

        I’m surprised that my Green results were so high and my Libertarian results were so low. The Socialist result is amusing since I once voted for a Socialist Workers Party candidate just so I could vote against the Republican.”

  2. #4 by Paul Schächterle on November 7, 2013 - 7:03 pm

    Re: My opinion is now less “neoclassical economics is nonsense!1!!” and more “the research program has reached its limitations and needs to be replaced and/or confined to specific spheres”.

    Why? Do you now believe that people have indifference curves or that workers prefer to work less if the wage rate falls?

    • #5 by Unlearningecon on November 7, 2013 - 7:20 pm

      Of course not! Perhaps I should have said “I’m less bothered about emphasising how neoclassical economics is or isn’t nonsense and more bothered about establishing where it might be relevant and discussing alternatives”.

      • #6 by Cameron Murray (@Rumplestatskin) on November 9, 2013 - 7:24 am

        Yep. Evidence doesn’t kill bad theories. New theories do. Also I agree with this -

        “However, I am also more optimistic about the discipline changing than I used to be”

        I’ve seen the non-mainstream blogosphere broaden the thinking of the ‘high priests’ of contemporary economics (eg. Steve Keen’s work has finally gained some traction, INET is providing forums for broader methodological discussions and so on). I do often feel like economics is in a transition.

        That said, changing the teaching of economic is critical to stemming the flow of freshly minted ‘believers’.

      • #7 by Unlearningecon on November 11, 2013 - 11:45 pm

        Having said what I said, it’s worth noting that mainstream ‘reforms’ often leave very little to be desired. A behavioural tweak here, a financial friction there, a bit more focus on politics and history. Still no real critical engagement or falsification.

  3. #8 by Economic bunker on November 7, 2013 - 7:08 pm

    Pity, since I always looked forward to your takes on the mainstream and its pitfalls.

    • #9 by Unlearningecon on November 7, 2013 - 7:23 pm

      Thanks. They will continue though, just less frequently/comprehensively.

  4. #10 by Dinero on November 7, 2013 - 8:11 pm

    Hi , before you go on hiatus could you quickly explain what you mean by classical economics and the questioning of its existance

    • #11 by Unlearningecon on November 7, 2013 - 8:14 pm

      Do you mean “neoclassical”?

  5. #12 by Dinero on November 7, 2013 - 8:27 pm

    Oh yes neoclassical. A quick summary of what it is and what people who say that it does not exist what is their thesis

    • #13 by Unlearningecon on November 8, 2013 - 1:09 pm

      Well, Milton Friedman once stated something to the effect that “there are no schools of thought; there is only good and bad economics”. Noah Smith has denied the prevalence of neoclassical economics in the mainstream, as has britonomist. In general, the idea that neoclassical economics is a fiction, existing only in the imaginations of its critics, is something that floats around: I encounter it regularly in comments sections.

      As for defining it, well, my favourite article is Varoufakis & Arnsperger, who define it as methodological individualism, instrumentalism (individual agents attain goals) and equilibrium (their actions come together in a market to ‘clear’). However, Tony Lawson has challenged their definition and written a similar but alternative one. It’s all, sadly, quite verbose and jargon filled when it needn’t be, but it’s also important in my opinion.

  6. #14 by Blue Aurora on November 8, 2013 - 7:10 am

    Real life discussions about the state of economics simply don’t have the same air of hostility as those on the internet – in my experience it’s not difficult to find mainstream economists who will tell you macroeconomics, undergraduate economics and ‘free market’ economics, as well as other areas, are generally garbage.

    I agree with this completely. I also have met mainstream economists who acknowledge there are really poor parts of economics, and I have had friendly discussions with people in person about the subject. Corresponding over the Internet via blog-posts or comments and e-mail removes the non-verbal component (the actual physical person, face and all).

  7. #15 by Magpie on November 8, 2013 - 11:33 am

    Curious. It seems many heterodox bloggers are writing less.

    Not a good thing.

  8. #16 by Robert Nielsen on November 9, 2013 - 1:32 am

    I understand where you’re coming from, its hard to keep anything going, especially when your on the outside. Plus life has an annoying habit of pushing in on quality blogging time. My blog too is slacking off as its hard to get worked up about Why Neo-Classical economics is wrong #187. But, sure who wants an easy life?

    • #17 by Unlearningecon on November 11, 2013 - 11:46 pm

      My blog too is slacking off as its hard to get worked up about Why Neo-Classical economics is wrong #187

      Yes this is a perfect way of putting it. Ultimately alternative theories are more interesting and more worth the time.

  9. #18 by econfarts on November 13, 2013 - 4:21 pm

    I would love to hear more about alternate theories too. I was getting my econ degree when 2008 rolled around and all the profs were admitting that what they’re teaching isn’t exactly completely right – but mind you they’ve got theory tweaks and rational explanations coming!

    I’m curious about your statement that “heterodox economists get some things wrong (the chief one being repeating the same criticisms over and over).” Are they repeating the same wrong things over and over, or is their failing simply repeating the right criticisms, but not offering any solutions?

    I wonder if you’d like to investigate how economic frameworks of non-capitalist settings; I’d imagine that as countries, the Soviet Union and Cuba and other Communist countries would have employed economists of some sort, and their framework would be different from neoclassical models. I’m ignorant here – I have done no research into economic frameworks of those countries – but I’d imagine any ‘economic truth’ to be had would hold consistent across different property relations. It can be tough to research though, I recall being curious about whether the USSR had any business cycles and the first few pages of Google didn’t return anything substantive. Since I’m out of academia I don’t have much time or even access to ‘real’ academic/journal research, and Google becomes my best friend.

    • #19 by Unlearningecon on November 14, 2013 - 5:23 pm

      Are they repeating the same wrong things over and over, or is their failing simply repeating the right criticisms, but not offering any solutions?

      I’d have to say the latter. There are so many well-known problems with neoclassical economics, but once you accept this – which a surprising amount of mainstream economists have – you sort of come to an impasse: what do we do now?

      I wonder if you’d like to investigate how economic frameworks of non-capitalist settings; I’d imagine that as countries, the Soviet Union and Cuba and other Communist countries would have employed economists of some sort, and their framework would be different from neoclassical models. I’m ignorant here – I have done no research into economic frameworks of those countries – but I’d imagine any ‘economic truth’ to be had would hold consistent across different property relations. It can be tough to research though, I recall being curious about whether the USSR had any business cycles and the first few pages of Google didn’t return anything substantive. Since I’m out of academia I don’t have much time or even access to ‘real’ academic/journal research, and Google becomes my best friend.

      The USSR did not have business cycles or unemployment. Here is a rose-tinted view of their economy, which is factually fine but obviously suffers some sins of omission. As for theory: well, Marxist theories were used in the USSR, such as Stalin’s ‘socialism in one country‘, which had the USSR as a capitalist in the global market operating under the marxist law of value. However, neoclassical theory general equilibrium was also used to defend socialist planning in the 1930s. How much either of these were used practically, and whether they were successful, I cannot say. My impression is that the running of the USSR was more realpolitik than anything else.

      Overall I’d be wary of looking for any “economic truths” that extend across different systems and periods in development and history. Personally, economic theory in general is so empty that I’d prefer a detailed understanding of the politics, history, laws and culture of any country whose economy I had substantial influence over.

  10. #20 by Mike Sax on November 28, 2013 - 4:01 pm

    I certainly hope you haven’t stopped blogging UL! I guess you and I have different ethics. You believe in moderation in all things whereas I tend to believe that you can’t have too much of a good thing. The discussion about the future of macro is interesting. Are you suggesting that you think mainstream Macro can fix itself from within?

    For more on these thoughts please see here

    http://diaryofarepublicanhater.blogspot.com/2013/11/simon-wren-lewis-meainstream-macro-and.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+DiaryOfARepublicanHater+%28Diary+of+a+Republican+Hater%29

    • #21 by Unlearningecon on December 5, 2013 - 2:02 pm

      Heh, well I haven’t stopped, just slowed down. I prefer to write a post that covers a broad overarching theme than a particular statistic/issue/rebuttal, although I do sometimes write the latter.

      I’ve also responded on your blog.

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