Wednesday, June 11, 2008

A Series of Quips: Refuting Marglin

Stimulated by this post, this podcast, and this review of "The Dismal Science: How Thinking Like an Economist Undermines the Community" by Steve Marglin. Let the quipping begin:

- Economics was coined the dismal science because of the field's widespread stance against slavery. How does that fit your theme?

- What is "community?" This is undefinable, and I'll bet it is ever-changing.

- Economists have been constructing the modern economy? If only we were so powerful! This is like saying biologists create animals. Markets are of human action, not of human design.

- Academic Economists, at best, are to Markets as College English teachers are to the English language.

- Economists have ignored the role of community? I didn't realize this because of the following lines of research: Social Capital, community peer effects models (See Hoff and Sen; AER 2006), Gravity Models, Chain Migration, spatial autocorrelation (unobserved heterogeneity that takes a spatial pattern), and the Homevoter Hypothesis.

- Markets discourage helping others? Here I thought the best way to succeed in Market Economies over the long run was to build mutually beneficial relationships.

Economists define self-interest in terms of maximizing consumption of "goods and services"? That's news to me. I always took "goods" to serve as a metaphor which were things that made us happy. I thought this could be anything as there is no accounting for preferences. I guess it actually meant anything except community involvement.

- "Applications of markets should be scrutinized." Do you really think there is a deficiency here? I thought you were at Harvard.

The conspiracy angle to this book....some entity is walking around out there "the market" and economists are the ones who have ensured that it runs the world. Actually, the institutions of the world that did not use markets died.

- The normative angle to this book...if someone's barn blows down, the whole community should be coming together to fix it. I cannot help but think of when this happened to Ned Flanders on The Simpsons. Join a commune if you want, but don't make me. I want to spend my evenings with my wife and children, not necessarily at the bar making friends with the local architect so I can repair my house.


Anonymous said...

Pure Leftist nonsense. Economic analysis remains the primary roadblock for a lot of these people. The small college I teach at is running "sustainability" workshops with every discipline invited except economics. Perhaps it's because the econ faculty consists largely free market types, but it's much more likely that the Lefties don't want anyone talking about how much sustainability is going to cost and how regressive it will be.

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