Monday, December 7, 2009

Lump Dumped

The 19th edition of Paul Samuelson's textbook, Economics has dropped the lump-of-labor fallacy.
Choosing the subjects for this text required many hard choices. To select these topics, we continually survey teachers and leading scholars to determine the issues most crucial for an informed citizenry and a new generation of economists. We drew up a list of key ideas and bid farewell to material we judged inessential or dated. At every stage, we asked whether the material was, as best we could judge, necessary for a student's understanding of the economics of the twenty-first century. Only when a subject passed this test was it included. The result of this campaign is a book that has lost more than one-quarter of its weight in the last few editions and has trimmed three chapters for this edition. Farm economics, the history of labor unions, Marxian economics, advanced treatment of general equilibrium, regulatory developments, and the lump-of-labor fallacy have been trimmed to make room for modern financial theory, real business cycles, and global public goods.

7 comments:

gordon said...

If he has also revised Unions, farmers, Marx and regulation out of existance, I'm not sure the excision of lump-of-labour was worth it.

Walker said...

Yeah, gordon, I thought that was pretty revealing (and amusing). None of those things matter anymore. But, hey, they've made room for Real Business Cycles.

rosserjb@jmu.edu said...

Putting RBC in is a ridiculous joke, just as the theory looks totally worthless. However, frankkly, although by now I know that I should know, but I have never been able to quite figure out what your view is on the "lump of labor fallacy," Walker. You think that it is not a fallacy, right, which would mean that there is only a fixed demand for labor, and therefore cutting back hours will spread the demand for labor evenly to others? Is that your position?

Walker said...

Either you know damn well it is not my position Barkley and are needling me or you never pay any attention to what I write so why should I expect you to read this either? My position is in my published articles, which I have cited repeatedly. I have offered a $10,000 prize to someone who can refute my position. Do you think I would offer such a prize if all someone had to do was prove that the amount of work is not fixed.

Walker said...

As Barkley wrote, by now he should certainly know what my position is on the so-called lump-of-labor fallacy -- it is a straw man and a red herring that has absolutely nothing to do with the case for shorter working time.

But for the sake of new visitors (always hoping there are some of those) I will give the link for my article, "Why Economists Dislike a Lump of Labor." The short answer to Barkley's question, for about the twentieth time, is that the lump of labor is not a fallacy that advocates of shorter work time commit because they do not assume there is a fixed amount of work. A fallacy is somewhat like a crime in the sense that it implies a perpetrator. If no person commits a crime, then there has been no crime. If no one assumes a fixed amount of work, no one has committed the fallacy therefore there is no fallacy, only a counter-factual statement by the accuser. The typical form of the fallacy claim is a sweeping indictment of everyone in general and no one in particular.

Barkley Rosser said...

So, maybe it is not such a bad thing that it is finally being dropped from the textbook?

Walker said...

Right. It never had any business being in the textbook in the first place.