Tuesday, December 16, 2014

I Dunno? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Does anybody really give a shit about the "genealogy and critique of applied welfare economics"? Apparently not. Ninety-nine views and no comments. One whole comment ("Important.") on "#NUM!éraire, Shmoo-méraire."

I was going to write a couple of more installments on theory of welfare economics and practice of cost-benefit analysis but what's the use? It has all been said -- and ignored. So if I say it again and it is ignored again what difference does that make?

This is only the nuts and bolts of how total bullshit ("unacceptable nonsense") is molded into unyielding policy certainties. There are no sinister conspiracies lurking in the shadows. Just half-witted theoretical "brilliance," dull-witted bureaucratic appetite for "formulas" and feeble-witted inattentive inertia.

People really don't care that the economic models used to inform international climate negotiations are built with factory-reject tinker-toys? Apparently not.

Motivate me.


Thornton Hall said...

In the recent Crooked Timber discussion on the superiority of economics I asked the question, "How do we make it stop?" No reply.

But the discussion clearly indicated a crucial point of the sociology of economic wrongheadedness: the existence of "liberal" (ie, Salterwater Keynesians) who make "liberal" policy recommendations and claim that they are the necessary product of "textbook" economics is a giant obstacle to progess.

Trained thinkers will look straight at the famous Far Side cartoon where the genius's blackboard full of equations has a spot labeled "then a miracle occurs", and pronounce the blackboard sound science, "the best we can do", and not an obstacle to helping those whom the market would trample. They'll look right at that blackboard and say, "but he recommends fiscal stimulus," as if that isn't a non sequitur.

Tom Hickey said...

For the record I recall thinking that was an excellent post. It was not ignored.

Thornton Hall said...

I am not trainied in this stuff, but I've been thinking about a post titled: The Defense Mechanisms of Economics. How has it stayed the course thru steady bombardment for 30 or 40 years? How many different authors have tried to explain, "that's not what you should do if you actually want to know what you say you want to know."?

Just an example:
"Pulling a DeLong"--Defending an obviously false claim about the world by saying it falls into a long list of areas where market analysis does not apply, eg assymmetric information, imperfect competition, etc, while avoiding the questions: why does this not stop like other social sciences? Why does your list of exceptional cases include everything interesting? Aren't the exceptional cases where other sciecieces and social sciences learn, eg, abnormal psychology or earthquakes and volcanos (plate tectonics)?

This is related to the alibi series, but far more explicit, systematic and irrespectful.

Thornton Hall said...

I mean "excusing" a false claim, not "defending"

Unknown said...

Convince your co-blogger Peter Dorman that you have a point first. Maybe Rosser too, but he doesn't seem to post much any more.

You've been advancing your pet version of Chapman's theory for literally years and your own co-bloggers have been steadfastly ignoring your alleged Galilean revolution - did you really only just notice the lack of attention?

Anyway, for a serious answer: yes, nobody cares about scholasticism. It's dickwaving on behalf of people don't even need to wage tenure-track slapfights because they've already progressed beyond "emeritus" into "dead".

The onus is on you to rephrase your critique in contemporary neoclassical terms, not on readers to engage in cryptic Sandwichmanism and its pet interpretation of a 1930s-vintage pre-Samuelsonian academic squabble.

Sandwichman said...

That you, Radek?

Peter Dorman said...

Well, since I've been invoked, I should reply. I have my own, very simple theory of why welfare economics doesn't work: "utility" is phlogiston. It doesn't exist. There is no there there. The research frontier in psychology and neurophysiology departed from it decades ago. It only hangs on in economics because economists want their empirical/positive models to simultaneously do normative lifting. Get rid of utility and the entire field of welfare economics evaporates, as I believe it should.

With this perspective, I have less incentive to pursue secondary critiques. I apologize if I'm not always paying attention.

FWIW, I don't think the critique of labor hours as an input into production functions (which I'm sympathetic with) has any particular connection to welfare econ. It strikes me as a positive/empirical issue, resolvable by assessing the evidence.

Oh, and many of the posts I labor hours over get no comments at all. Like you and Utah Phillips, I'm still waiting to hear the plop.

Sandwichman said...

Thanks, Peter, I agree with your theory that utility "doesn't exist" -- at least not as a "substance" embodied in commodities and determining their value. Andre Orlean gives a masterful critique of this illusion.

I would agree with your point about the "evaporation" of welfare economics except, like "the abolition of wage labor" (or Western civilization) it would be a good idea but it ain't happening. So no point waiting to hear that one plop.

Funny, but MY argument about labor hours is that it is an empirical issue, it always was an empirical issue and the evidence preceded the theory, which then got displaced by a "pure theory."

Sandwichman said...

Someone "Unknown" is confusing "scholarship" with "scholasticism". Scholarship has to do with methods and thoroughness of research. Scholasticism has to do with faithful adherence to a "school."

When it is argued that "the onus is on you to rephrase your critique in contemporary neoclassical terms" the commenter is privileging scholasticism over scholarship.

Perhaps "Unknown" is trying to "motivate me" through provocation. He, she or it realizes that I'm a combative S.O.B. and that one way to get me to do something is to tell me not to do it.

Thaomas said...

I'm reading these posts on cost-benefit analysis from most recent backward, so I still have not picked up the plot line.

Backward, Ho!