Saturday, September 7, 2019

Is Doing Environmental Economics Especially Depressing?

We have now learned that on Aug. 27 last week Matin Weitzman hanged himself, leaving a note citing his failure to share in last year's Nobel Prize as well as his apparently declining mental acuity.  That prize he did not share included William Nordhaus as a recipient for his work on climate economics issues, a topic that Weitzman also worked on, arguably more deeply and originally than did Nordhaus.

Last April Alan Krueger also committed suicide, although we have to this day not learned either how it was done or if he left any notes or if somehow it is otherwise known why he did it, with the only hint of any trouble being that he suddenly stopped tweeting in January, which he had previously done daily.  He is better known for his work on minimum wages with David Card and worked on many topics.  But among his topics was also environmental economics, with he and Gene Grossman publishing an influential paper on the Environmental Kuznets Curve in 1994, although it is nnot fully known that it was actually discovered by Thomas Selden and Song Daqing from looking at data on SO2 emissions by country.  So he was also involved in environmental economics.

Ironicially the EKC is widely viewed as an optimistic theory: if only we can get income levels high enough around the world, most pollution problems will take care of themselves.  However, while this seems to maybe finally be kicking in for C02 emissions, it has been slow and late in coming, with many nations still increasing emissions, and CO2 not leaving the atmosphere quickly, so that ambient concentrations will continue to rise even as emissions decline for a long time.  The potential optimism of the EKC is seriously weakened when it comes to global warming.

This is all probably quite secondary for what led either of these respected economists to end their lives, but it is a curious coincidence, and I cannot help but think that much of what is going on with the global warming issue may not have contributed to their deadly depressions.

Barkley Rosser


AXEC / E.K-H said...

Is doing economics really depressing?
Comment on Barkley Rosser on ‘Is Doing Environmental Economics Especially Depressing?’

What exactly is environmental economics and why is it even more depressing as ordinary economics? In a previous post, Barkley Rosser told the world: “I have just learned via his New York Times obit that Marty Weitzman hanged himself, a suicide, reportedly depressed at his not gwtting the Nobel Prize and making a math error in an unpublished, circulates paper this spring. This is just too depressing.”#1

So, it was NOT so much environmental degradation that depressed Martin Weitzman but that he did not get the Nobel.#1 However, at this point, all is just speculation. Perhaps Martin Weitzman realized that economics is a failed/fake science and that he took an active part in the greatest scientific hoax of modern times. This, though, contradicts what his colleagues say about him: “Marty Weitzman was the pre-eminent environmental economist of the modern era, which is to say of all times,” (Nordhaus)

In the NYT obituary, Martin Weitzman is quoted with: “Most everything we know tells us climate change is bad,” and “Most everything we don’t know tells us it’s probably much worse.” There is nothing of economics in this statement. In fact, many scientists and laypeople have come to this opinion long before Martin Weitzman.

The age-old problem with economists is that they are strong on opinion but weak on knowledge and that they suffer from mental incontinence, that is, the unstoppable urge to blather about any issue between heaven and earth, that is, from crime, addiction, psychology, sociology, philosophy, religion, literature, ethics#2 to Salman bin Abdulaziz al Sa’ud and the Khashoggi affair (“He is guilty guilty guuilty”).#3 The depressing fact for non-economists about economics is that economists have to this day NO idea how the economy works. The major approaches ― Walrasianism, Keynesianism, Marxianism, Austrianism, MMT ― are mutually contradictory, axiomatically false, materially/formally inconsistent and all got the foundational economic concept of profit wrong.

Economists have NO scientific knowledge about their own subject matter. They wonder whether the ecosystem will eventually break down but claim that the market economy is a self-optimizing stable equilibrium system. Fact is that the economic system will probably break down earlier than the ecosystem.#4 But no economist ever gets depressed about that.

Permanently growing public debt is an indicator that the system is broken. So-called free-market economies like the USA are on the full life support of the State. The Oligarchy is continuously fed by deficit-spending/money-creation. The Oligarchy’s financial wealth grows in lockstep with Public Debt. People are told that they have nothing to fear because the sovereign State cannot go bankrupt. The Oligarchy, in turn, uses the opulent free lunches to corrupt what remains of the State’s legislative, executive, and judiciary institutions.

Curiously, economists are neither depressed about the run-away economy nor about the proto-scientific state of their discipline. They simply declare themselves as best scientists of all times and reward themselves with oligarchy-sponsored Nobels. On average, among all failed/fake scientists economists have the most fun. If economists are depressed the reason most probably lies elsewhere.

Egmont Kakarot-Handtke

#1 No False-Hero-Memorials

#2 Economists: Jacks-of-all-trades ― except economics

#3 Urgent: Taking politics out of economics

#4 What comes first: eco-self-destruction or oeco-self-destruction?

Peter Dorman said...

From what I know, research in environmental econ is not a common thread in these two suicides. (1) The news reports on Weitzman say he was depressed over being snubbed for the Nobel, which he reasonably thought was his, and for the sense that he was losing his ability to do theory at the level he was accustomed to. One gets the impression he was very hard-driving and had a strong internal need to overcome obstacles. When the obstacles seemed to be winning, he was in crisis. (2) Krueger was not really an environmental economist. I had the opportunity to chat with him around the time of Krueger and Grossman. His view was that NAFTA was potentially consequential for labor, but that the environmental concern was conjured up out of nothing or nearly nothing. He was paid by the Mexican government for his work, and given his views on the environmental aspect, he didn't see it as a problem. The political message of the EKC, at least until recently, was that there is no conflict between being an environmentalist and supporting policies in general that promote economic growth. The problems with applying this to NAFTA were that the EKC was empirically suspect at the level of generality at which it was being promoted, and that the neoliberal strictures incorporated in NAFTA were not in fact conducive to growth, which was later made apparent. said...


The Saudi figure who is guilty, guilty, guilty is not Salman bin Abdulaziz al Sa'ud, but his son, Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz al Sa'ud.


I recognize that this post is a stretch, especially given that we really know nothing at all about Krueger's sucide. Apparently Wetizman did not say anything about the environment, but what I suspect may have contriibuted to his depression was the ongoing rollback of environmental policies by not only the Trump administration but also in Brazil as well as Australia and some other places. Weitzman certainly was deeply concerned about global warming, and have no doubt these developments had him upset.

Yes, with Krueger, I am way out on a limb, and I already noted he was not primarily an environmental economist. But then Trump has been rolling back other policies that Krueger supported, and while he was not a big player in the climate debate, I have no doubt he supported acting to stave off global warming, despite the optimism of the EKC argument.

On Mexico and NAFTA and the environment, offhand I would say he was right.

Sandwichman said...

The EKC has a very, very fat tail.

Fika lestari said...

If you say that you never lied in life, then you are actually really lie 

Anonymous said...

The news reports on Weitzman say he was depressed over being snubbed for the Nobel...

[ Then the professor sadly was distinctly mentally ill, and that should have been recognized by those close to him. ]

Anonymous said...

The news reports on Weitzman say he was depressed over being snubbed for the Nobel...

[ Please reference such a news report. ]

Peter Dorman said...

The NYT obit was my source for the Nobel story. See the second paragraph:

Anonymous said...

Peter Dorman, thank you so much for the reference:

Colleagues said Professor Weitzman had grown increasingly despondent after being passed over for the Nobel Prize in economics last year and had left a note questioning whether he any longer had the mental acuity to contribute to his field.

[ This was a person who sorely needed to be cared for by a psychiatrist, and I only hope colleagues who knew of the despondency had been repeatedly recommending just that. What a profound and easily noticed sign of a person becoming or already mentally ill.

Have a colleague who has grown despondent or increasingly despondent and get the person medical help and fast. These colleagues have some questions to ask themselves.

At my university, we can easily and quickly have a clinician speak with a faculty member in need. ]

Anonymous said...

Colleagues said Professor Weitzman had grown increasingly despondent after being passed over for the Nobel Prize in economics last year and had left a note questioning whether he any longer had the mental acuity to contribute to his field.

[ A faculty member making a phone call, and a clinician would be quickly checking with a despondent colleague to determine need. What this not the case at Yale? If so, good grief. ]

Anonymous said...

Correcting my slip:

What this not the case at [Harvard]?

Anonymous said...

Colleagues said Professor Weitzman had grown increasingly despondent after being passed over for the Nobel Prize in economics last year....

[ I cannot imagine knowing this and not responding. I just looked at my handbook, and there is of course a highlighted provision for such a response. ]

Anonymous said...

Correcting again:

[Was] this not the case at [Harvard]? I showed the passage to a physician this evening and he reacted with as much surprise and dismay as I did. Harvard faculty need some instruction on the matter.

"Colleagues said Professor Weitzman had grown increasingly despondent after being passed over for the Nobel Prize in economics last year...."

carl hogwel said...

Hello everyone, i would like to share my experience on this platform. i have been hearing of Blank Atm for a while and i applied through a few people but i was scammed, not until i found Mr George who saved me from scammers, i got my blank ATM card in 5 days after application and tried the encrypted card in an ATM machine and pos cash store to my greatest surprise i was able to withdraw $3000 and that was the daily rate i applied for. to be honest there is no risk involved the card is not traceable and has an infrared signal that blocks off CCTV during your withdrawals. i just payed my daughters tuition fee and cleared my mortgage debts, i am also richer and started a business that is doing fine. Mr George is really a life saver and he is very genuine. You can contact him with this email address:
Best wishes