Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Ultimate Death Blow for Notre Dame Heterodoxy

Notre Dame exiled its heterodox economists to a separate department. Now it is about to execute a death sentence for the department. Apparently, mainstream economists have offered such excellent guidance that questions about their dogma no longer serve any purpose.


Peter Dorman said...

Dreadful news, Michael, but I doubt anyone who has followed this (or lived it) is at all surprised.

I found the treatment at the Chronicle of Higher Ed a bit frustrating. They presented it largely in terms of quantitative vs nonquantitative approaches to economics. There is a lot of truth to this on the ground -- most of the Notre Dame heteros were pretty nonmathematical. In principle, though, this distinction is nearly irrelevant. A lot of heterodox work is highly quantitative or uses advanced math in its modeling (such as our own Barkley).

Someone who read the Chronicle and didn't know anything else might think that Notre Dame has decided to go with the high-tech professionals instead of the literary amateurs.

Anastasia said...

The comment above makes a really good point about the Chronicle article. It does seem to paint a picture of a department that is just trying to encourage "more technical" or "skilled" economics, but that is really nonsense. The article also fails to talk about things like publishing and funding. I have a suspicion that may have something to do with the split and demise. Apparently both sides can't play nice with each other.

This news is really such an unfortunate thing, especially for students. Students at Notre Dame had a really unique opportunity to study with professors of all different approaches, and that is just not available in very many places. Even the heterodox schools (the very few) tend to be heterodox or bust without too much opportunity to take on more technical/mathematical studies, or vice-versa. Very sad news.

michael perelman said...

"Technical" is a misleading term. I could be technical & try to repair the wiring in my computer. That would seem to be a technical operation, especially if I had mastered all the available textbook physics. But if I did not have a clue into the way a computer actually worked and what the wires are supposed to do, I would botch the job.

Similarly, if I do advanced math econ, based on unrealistic ideas about the economy, my models might demonstrate good math skills, but little else.

If my models were based on pure ideology, the results would be worse.

Eleanor said...

I thought the math-based orthodox economists were having trouble explaining reality -- and especially having trouble in predicting things like the deflation of the housing bubble and the collapse of the world financial sector. Has this changed?

michael perelman said...

A degree in economics means that you never have to apologize. What is weird is that so few people have challenged them. said...

I had a big fight on EJMR with Bill Evans of the new dept, proudly "neoclassical" and full of Catholic social justice, they claim, also claiming the old dept was suppressing quality neoclassicals, which I think is b.s.

I stick with my forecast that just the pubs of Phil Mirowski out of the old dept will be cited more in 30 years than all the pubs to now of the current members of this new dept, created by outside conservative money to satisfy the egomania of an idiot dean at NDU.