Krugman on the state of the economics ‘profession’

Krugman on the state of the economics ‘profession’

Paul Krugman has a wonderfully wonkish post that adds to his assessment of the state of the economics profession, of which he is a part. (After all, if jargon is music, well-written wonkery is song, and the Professor writes well.)

Krugman has a bottom line that’s well worth reading. I’ll humbly offer mine after that. He starts thus:

Brad DeLong, in writing about the dubious state of economics as a discipline (at least in some quarters), offers a useful set of quotes and links from freshwater economists who were shocked, shocked at the idea that anyone imagined that fiscal expansion might be expansionary. Brad stresses these economists’ ignorance of intellectual tradition. But they were and still are amazingly ignorant of what contemporary economists who don’t happen to be part of their hermetic world have been doing.

In my world — and by this I mean my narrowly professional world as a research economist — the big development of the 1990s was the updating of Mundell-Fleming by Maury Obstfeld and Ken Rogoff. …

And then the wonkery begins. Feel free to read without understanding. Not every vorpal blade needs to be parsed; it can be fun just to hear the music.

His conclusion is damning (in that politely damning way; my emphasis):

But in retrospect, it’s quite clear: Lucas and Sargent declared final victory over all things Keynesian in the 1970s, and the closed minds of their followers were such that they didn’t even notice the revival of Keynesianism that took place over the three decades that followed.

And Brad is right: if you’ve reached the point where you don’t pay attention to anything that might disturb your orthodoxy, you’re not doing science, you’re not even pursuing a discipline. All you’re doing is perpetuating a smug, closed-minded sect.

Very “professional” of them. Regarding that assessment, however, I disagree.

I think what they’re doing is either (1) Perpetuating an adolescent erotic fixation on a nerd-trap love goddess whonever really existed (the kinder assessment); or (2) Participating in a cadre revolution by reaping the rewards from billionaires whose think tanks and endowed chairs say “Thank you for your service to my cause” (much less kind).

Or both.

 

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