Tuesday, October 27, 2009

New Thinking With A Blunt Edge

The first round of research grants will be made before the end of the year to cutting-edge scholars working with leading universities around the world. INET’s Executive Director will be Robert Johnson, an economist with long experience in government, academia, and the private sector.
Isn't that an oxymoron? "Cutting-edge"... "leading univerities"? Any way, why not get in on the ground floor? Five million bucks is $5,000,000.00. Age before beauty; pearls before swine.
Dear Robert Johnson,

Love your Mississippi Delta blues guitar-playing, Robert!

Seriously, though, I'm a non-economist who has been doing "new economic thinking" since an over-a-year-long spell of unemployment during the "jobless recovery" of the 1990s. Or, I should say I've been looking at old economic thinking -- pre-World War II and noticing that extremely important parts of the picture that were known at least to some economists in the 1930s -- Keynes, for example -- were simply "assumed" away in the rush to mathematical model building. Post-war "Keynesians" decided to make do with only one of three pillars of Keynes's intellectual theorem.The other two didn't fit in the equation. Robert Skidelsky can tell you more about this. At any rate, I just happen to be finishing up a manuscript that looks at over 200 years of what, for want of a better term, I will call "worktime thought". Some of it is heretical economics, some the masters, Smith, Marx, Keynes. But woven through the whole narrative is the outline of an "economic subject" quite distinct from the Homo economicus or rational economic actor of conventional modern economic analysis.

I guess the issue I want to raise with you has to do with the fragility, artificiality, perhaps even vanity of the idea of "new thinking". There is, as the preacher in Ecclesiastes tells us, "nothing new under the sun." But there is great value in making new again what was already old. In other words, what I have in mind is innovation and improvisation on the basis of a fine tradition that may have been forgotten, set aside and even scorned. I would very much like to hear your thoughts on this matter. I will of course be reading the Institute for New Economic Thinking's website and looking to see if there are any programs or grants that might be suitable for the theme in my manuscript.

Yours sincerely,

Tom Walker

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