Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Tony and I interviewed on Naked Capitalism

Philip Pilkington, who writes for Naked Capitalism, did an interview with Tony Myatt and I recently and the transcript has been posted in two parts, the first part yesterday and the second part today

Phil Pilkington

There were some interesting comments posted about it. One that struck me as important was that by "Hugh", who wrote yesterday (2:55pm) and also writes today (12:17 pm), saying
Well if the idea is that we need an economics that actually describes the real world, why aren’t these guys working on the economics of kleptocracy? That is the real world. Instead we get this happy talk that there are a lot of exciting things going on in economics. But this simply isn’t true. Most of the “new” stuff is happening at the margins and strongly resisted by the profession.  ....
I do not want to come across as too harsh but what Hill and Myatt are doing reminds me of a critique of Scholasticism by Scholastically trained critics. There is the same attention to evey nook and cranny with the concomitant loss of the big picture. And the big picture here is wealth inequality, kleptocracy, and class war. These are not peripheral issues, they are the issues.
I fully agree with his view of the real issues, to which I'd add ecological destruction and the loss of millions of lives from things like needless pollution and from the consequences of needless inequality, mass death that we discuss in The Economics Anti-Textbook

Something that didn't end up being raised in the interview was that we set for ourselves a rather limited objective with the Anti-Textbook. The book is aimed at the undergraduate student and has the goal of providing that student with the first steps out of the maze into which they are invited by their textbooks. It is not an 'alternative textbook', but only volume 1 of a deprogramming manual for survivors of the typical undergraduate microeconomics course.

In the recent talk by Stephen Marglin that I've posted earlier on this blog, he says (around the 5 minute mark) that students do have to learn mainstream economics to be able to critique it properly and because it is "the language of power". Then, he says, there are critiques of it. "There is a critique within economics. It's a limited critique, but it is a critique. Indeed, if taken seriously, rather than being treated as sort of fine print, it would be a devastating critique of mainstream economics..." 

We agree and part of our objective in the book is to provide that 'devastating critique' that we hope works doesn't take the student too far from familiar territory, therefore making those steps away from 'textbook economics' the easiest to take. In places, we go beyond that too, dealing at least in a preliminary way with some of the other critiques that Marglin talks about.

"Hugh" might be right, though, about the "loss of the big picture" which I think could have been set out in a clearer and more forthright way.


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