Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Problem With Economic Debates And St. Elsewhere

I really liked Jonathan Chait's look back at the "resolution" of all those debates economists were having over the last few years.  As he sees it, and I'd have to agree, a whole slew of conservative ideas about economics were proven completely false by events over the past few years, with the biggest one probably being the claim that government austerity will lead to growth. But this hasn't resulted in conservatives and their intellectual leaders changing their theories about how the economy works or embracing new policies in practice. Instead they simply don't bother to defend their ideas anymore. Meanwhile the demands for more austerity have, if anything, gotten louder:
Meanwhile, however Republicans resolve their long-term vision debate, they have coalesced around a short-term vision. It is to repeal Obamacare without a replacement, maintain short-term austerity, weaken labor laws, loosen financial regulation, and defend every tax deduction enjoyed by the affluent. I don’t see how this policy mix could be remotely defended in light of actual circumstances. Almost nobody on the right seems to want to defend it. But nobody seems interested in placing even the slightest pressure on the Congressional party to alter its stance, either.
I think that sums it up almost perfectly.

I guess one of the core problem here is that the discipline of economics is still gripped by the ideal that it should aspire to be a value neutral technical science, like chemistry or something, while the bigger political and moral questions about what we want an economy to do are ignored. But of course those questions don't go away just because you choose not to answer them. So instead of creating a value neutral scientific system of economics we've created a system where actors with political goals, like weak labor markets or less state involvement in market outcomes, can pretend to be value neutral "experts" using whatever argument they can find to advocate for a conservative policy agenda that transfers wealth from the poor to the rich and power from labor to capital. It's a huge problem for economics, I don't see many people addressing it.


Over at The Good Men Project I wrote about why Obama should take his case about strikes in Syria to Congress, dismissed the silly idea that recent events vindicated Mitt Romney somehow, talked about how incredibly shallow much of the media coverage over the crisis in Syria has been, and looked at the future of gun control in the wake of two recall elections in Colorado.

No comments:

Post a Comment