07 March 2014

Robert Johnson: New Perspectives For Economics

Some of Johnson's remarks are extraordinarily insightful.

I enjoyed his comments on the modern preoccupation with modeling. But I do think his looking back to the Thirty Years War for the trend towards abstract theory over the empirical method in general is a bit of a stretch. But it was kind of cool to think about it.

Quite the opposite, much of the rest of science is very much more empirically oriented, and based on experimentation, replication, and testing. Perhaps he intended that economics be considered more as a social philosophy, and that this trend is particular to that area of knowledge, and I did not understand this.

I think that economics had draped itself with the math and rigor of science, but bent over backwards to say those things that were politically expedient, depending on one's particular biases and opinions. The intricacy and jargon were there to provide the accoutrements, the flames and smoke and loud pronouncements, that make ordinarily people tremble before those modern Wizards of Oz.

He is otherwise rather kind towards those in his profession who, when the predators appeared on the horizon, swam out to meet the boats and came ashore with them in their plundering. Not all of course, but far too many, and for far too long. Where was the peer review and the discipline of the profession? While the coins were flowing, it seemed as though it was 'go along to get along' with the proper professional courtesy. Perhaps the tone was set for the trade by the Fed under Alan Greenspan.

I believe that his comments are primarily directed towards the economics profession in the US and England, who have taken point on the modeling bandwagon and have given themselves over to viewing reality through the prism of abstractions, shaped top down by ideology.