Mainstream Economics as Ideology: An Interview with Rod Hill and Tony Myatt — Part II

Rod Hill and Tony Myatt are Professors of Economics at the University of New Brunswick in Saint John and Fredericton (respectively). Their new book, The Economics Anti-Textbook is available from Amazon. They also run a blog at

Interview conducted by Philip Pilkington

Philip Pilkington: I think it was Joan Robinson who said something along the lines of “while we may have to teach a limited amount of material, we could at least teach that which is useful”. I’ve often encountered economics students who, frankly, seem to me to have a very tenuous grasp of the important aspects of economics. I recall one in particular who graduated from a very prestigious university not understanding what I meant when I said that I thought the chronic unemployment in Ireland was due to a lack of effective demand triggered by the bursting of the housing bubble.

In your experience do you find that students leave mainstream economics courses equipped to deal with real world issues? Maybe you could say something about this more generally.

Rod Hill: The person you describe – who was apparently unfamiliar with some basic concepts in Keynesian economics, like effective demand, or with ideas about asset price bubbles – reminds me of the distinction that Paul Krugman often makes in his blog between saltwater economics departments (where a student is likely to learn these things) and freshwater ones (where they are not so likely to learn them). I think both sets of schools might be broadly viewed as training students in ‘mainstream economics’, but clearly some would equip students better than others to understand real world issues.

This is another way of saying that ‘mainstream economics’ includes a pretty broad range of ideas and that the borders between it and heterodox economics are rather fuzzy. What we are really taking aim at in our book is the narrow range of ‘mainstream economics’ that is presented to undergraduate students, but I think your point is that the narrow range of ideas can also extend beyond that into graduate training, and I agree. This is a rather more pessimistic view than that expressed recently by Dani Rodrik, who seems more optimistic about what goes on at the graduate level, but then he’s in a saltwater school.

My own experience of students leaving mainstream courses is pretty limited, but I can say that I’ve been unhappily surprised during hiring interviews by quite a few fresh PhDs who don’t seem to know what the Keynesian fiscal multiplier is.

Tony Myatt: We could compare economics to other professions. In Canada, at least, someone can graduate from a university with an engineering degree, but they still have to pass a competency exam set by the national body of engineers in order to practice engineering. Perhaps the economics profession should implement a competency exam?

This raises the question: is economics really a practical science like engineering? We argue in our Anti-Textbook that it isn’t…despite the claims in all the mainstream texts to the contrary. Testing predictions isn’t all it’s cracked up to be and core hypotheses are incapable of being refuted. While disagreeing with much of what McCloskey says about methodology, I really like her characterization of economics as being the Art of Rhetoric. So, perhaps the gulf between Saltwater and Freshwater views that Rod mentions shouldn’t surprise us that much.

You cite an economics graduate who doesn’t understand that unemployment could be caused by lack of aggregate demand triggered by the bursting of the housing bubble. That could have a fairly mundane explanation. I’m in the early stages of research in writing the Macro Anti-Textbook. But from my reading of the mainstream principles textbooks so far, I would say that all of them contain an explanation of how wealth affects consumption spending, and all of them have chapters explaining how a decrease in aggregate demand can cause an increase in short-run unemployment. But there are differences between the texts that could underline or obscure that message. Some texts emphasize long-run results and fast speed of adjustment. They all emphasize inherent stability. They all emphasize that the fundamental cause of unemployment is wage stickiness – oh if only wages would fall quicker! And in all the books, by the time the student gets to the Philips curve chapters it seems that the only cause of unemployment is overly high expectations of inflation. So, the sensible stuff on how the bursting of an asset bubble could increase unemployment gets lost in the overall confusion by the time the student gets to the end of the course.

Macroeconomics has been in a real mess for quite a while. Yet there was – supposedly – a new consensus in macroeconomics by the early 1990s. A consensus which, in my opinion, was completely wrongheaded. In a way I’m delighted that the financial meltdown and subsequent Great Recession has blown this “new consensus” out of the water, both fresh and saltwater. It has stimulated interest in heterodox views. It has revealed deep schisms even among mainstream economists. I’m enjoying them.

It’s astonishing how quickly things are changing. Where there was a “consensus” there is now vociferous debate. Whereas in the past this debate would go through the journals, with long time lags, now the debate is instant and online. The blogs are becoming where it’s at. So, you mustn’t underestimate what you’re doing here Philip.

PP: If the blogs are doing anything – and I think they are – they are pulling back students who became completely disillusioned with economics (or who never did it because they thought it was nonsense) and who now see that they need to understand it in a very pressing way if they are to partake in any way of fixing what has gone so wrong. Actually, this ties into what I was just going to ask.

Tony, you say that you think many very important (I would say: chronically important) things get lost in a sea of context. This, I think, is what many students find when they go into an economics classroom with a relatively critical mind. It’s very hard to pick out what’s what and – in my experience at least – you are confronted with a closed system that appears to work perfectly with no problems and this grates with what you see all around you in the real world (especially now – I did economics during the bubble era and even then it was obvious to me).

What do you think about this? Is mainstream economics giving students the impression of a closed system in which nothing can happen that is not predetermined – and that everything that is predetermined is always already happening? I guess that’s a pretty oblique question and I apologise, but I think it’s worth asking.

Tony Myatt: Yes, I think that’s an interesting way to put it. A system that is inherently stable, with a unique equilibrium, determined by tastes and technology – this is a very closed system. While the standard consensus DSGE model (dynamic stochastic general equilibrium model) allows for random shocks, these only influence the short-run movements around the long-run equilibrium. Stability guarantees that unemployment will revert to its natural rate. Of course, there are still a few microeconomic problems in this kind of world. There are the usual problems of externalities and inequality, but these are portrayed as political choices or political failures rather than failures of the political-economic system. To get a more open system we could introduce true uncertainty, hysteresis, multiple equilibria, and strategic interactions. But to account for the asset bubbles I think we also need a good healthy dose of Minsky, and a recognition of the role of power and corruption.

Rod Hill: We did manage to get a hint of some of this into The Economics Anti-Textbook in a way which I hope is not too abstract for the undergraduate audience that we are primarily targeting. One of the authors we cite is Alan Kirman, who expands on some of these themes (multiple equilibria, no guarantees of convergence to equilibria, and how mainstream economics ignores this) in a recent interview in the Erasmas Journal for Philosophy and Economics.

As Kirman points out, Walrasian microeconomics is hardly a suitable foundation for macroeconomics, but (as he puts it) macroeconomists “simply said that we will have to simplify things until we get to a situation where we do have uniqueness and stability.” So what’s constructed is a closed system that appears to work perfectly, as you put it, because it’s internally consistent. But it doesn’t necessarily have much contact with reality.

PP: Another point that is noted in the book is that textbooks rarely engage the student with empirical material. Could you say something about this and perhaps indicate how you set out to deal with it in your book?

Rod Hill: The microeconomics principles texts make some real effort to link the theories they present with evidence or observations, much more so than higher-level texts that deal only with mathematical models of imaginary situations. The principles texts do this to convince the student of the practical relevance of the theories they are learning. However, the point we try to make is that important empirical evidence is often either absent or incomplete.

We spend some time in the book indentifying and filling those gaps. In that way, the readers get not only the missing information, but also some sense of how the rhetoric of the texts works. A couple of brief examples might help to illustrate what I mean.

Every beginning microeconomics student struggles through the theory of the firm’s production and costs. While trying to follow what’s going on in all the diagrams, the student might not notice that all of the examples are of simple imaginary firms making a single product by varying mysterious homogeneous inputs called ‘labour’ and ‘capital’. Little or no empirical evidence is given about the behaviour of firms’ actual costs.

It’s long been known that the general story being told about costs is fiction. The textbooks say that eventually firms’ costs of producing another unit of output in a given time period (their ‘marginal costs’) rise. In the short run, this is attributed to the diminishing marginal productivity of the inputs the firm can vary; in the long run, it’s said to be due to decreasing returns to scale and rising average costs.

In reality, marginal costs for a great many production processes seem to be generally either constant or decreasing. The texts ignore the evidence and they do this for an important reason.

The rising costs of the textbook firm limit its size. At some point, the competitive firm looks at the market price (over which it has no control) and decides that it’s not worth producing and selling another unit of output: its marginal cost of producing it will exceed the market price. But if its marginal costs were constant or decreasing, it could just go on expanding output. However, then the firm could become large relative to the size of the market and it would no longer be a little price-taking firm and the theory of perfect competition would not be applicable. Because the theory of perfect competition is the centrepiece of these texts, the evidence about actual costs has to go.

We identify a number of other key ideas where the texts set out some theoretical ideas but fail to discuss evidence in any serious way. For example, the texts assert that there is an equity-efficiency trade-off, but we show that there is plenty of evidence that contradicts this. This is an omission with important political consequences: the texts invite millions of students to conclude that reducing social and economic inequalities and strengthening social insurance is significantly more costly than it actually is.

Aside from ignoring inconvenient evidence, texts can also present incomplete evidence about a question. We point out, for example, that discussions of rent controls in the texts are simplistic and ignore features of many actual rent control systems that mitigate the negative effects of controls. While some texts now do a better job of discussing the minimum wage by acknowledging that other models are possible (such as monopsony, in which employers have power over the wage), most still use only the perfectly competitive model of the labour market to examine the policy. The further points about the minimum wage that Dean Baker raises in a recent article are something I’ve never seen in a textbook, even though it’s not technical or hard to understand.

What the texts are doing in these kinds of examples is making a single point over and over: government interference in market outcomes causes inefficiency, which is bad. Again, the political implications are obvious should large numbers of young people absorb that point of view.

Tony Myatt: My favourite example is the incidence of taxation. The texts assume (of course) perfectly competitive markets, and derive the result that the incidence of a tax (say the sales tax) is determined by the relative elasticities of supply and demand. It is not determined by who legally has to remit the money to the government. The texts then “illustrate” the theorem in a wide variety of markets, which invariably include cigarettes and gasoline. The illustrations are purely diagrammatical.

Logically the texts should show that the model’s predictions are corroborated by the evidence. They should go out and measure the elasticities of demand and supply for say cigarettes and gasoline, and generate their predictions about the incidence of taxation in those markets. Then they should go and find detailed empirical studies on the effects of taxation in those markets and compare their predictions with the detailed empirical evidence.

But this is never done. And there is a very good reason why it is never done: it is impossible to do it! No-one can measure the elasticity of supply when the supply curve doesn’t exist! There is no supply curve of cigarettes or gasoline because they are sold in oligopolistic markets. You can only define and derive supply curves when all firms are so small they have no influence on market price. This explains why

    no text

presents any corroborating empirical evidence on the ability of the competitive model to predict the incidence of taxation.

The moral of that story is not to confuse an “illustration” with empirical corroboration.

My second favourite example is about minimum wages. For example, perfect competition predicts that any small increase in minimum wages (no matter how small) must produce a decrease in employment. On the other hand, non-competitive markets predict that a small increase in the minimum wage might actually increase employment – though a large increase in the minimum wage would decrease employment. What does the evidence say? Actually, the evidence is all over the place. Sometimes minimum wage increases seem to increase employment; sometimes they seem to decrease employment. This mixed evidence is much easier to explain using non-competitive models.

PP: This touches on something very interesting. In mainstream economics academics generally distinguish between ‘positive economics’ – that is, describing the ‘real world’ – and ‘normative economics’ – that is, describing how things ‘should be’. The former is supposedly the realm of ‘science’, the latter the realm of ‘policy’ and ideology’.

But if, as both your points imply, the texts assume perfect competition and bury monopoly and oligopoly in much of their models, then the texts are always making not ‘positive’, but ‘normative’ judgments. They are saying that the world should be free from monopoly and oligopoly (and government) when in reality it is not. Could you say something about this? How do academics that recognise the positive/normative distinction gloss over this? I assume they do so in their own minds as well as in their texts and classrooms…

Tony Myatt: Mainstream textbook writers recognize that much of the real world is non-competitive. But they justify the assumption of perfect competition on positive grounds. They say it is simpler than alternative models and most crucially that it is a good approximation for more complicated market structures. This follows on from their methodology that realism of assumptions is not important. What is important is predictive power. That’s why it is so crucially important for us to show that perfect competition is NOT justified on the basis of its predictive power.

Most of economics is normative, in so far as we’re discussing what the government ought to do to increase overall wellbeing. Analysis of how governments actually make decisions, and what objectives they actually try to fulfill, while “positive”, is normally left to political scientists.

Economists recognise that governments have two main jobs: promoting equity and promoting efficiency. Promoting equity is recognized as the normative bit. But most texts don’t emphasize that promoting efficiency also has a normative basis. Mainstream texts argue that efficiency is obviously a “good thing” because this potentially allows everyone to have more stuff. But it is just an assumption that more stuff will make us happier. Empirical tests of this assumption suggest that the evidence in favour of it is pretty weak.

When it comes to industrial policy, the texts get themselves into a right mess. They go through all their efficiency arguments to suggest that perfect competition is ideal, and monopoly and oligopoly involve “waste”. But these arguments are based on static analysis. As soon as we bring in technological innovation, static efficiency becomes irrelevant.

PP: Are you saying that monopoly/oligopoly might be more efficient? I believe I’ve heard this from both the right (Schumpeter) and the left (Galbraith), perhaps you could outline the argument and speculate why the mainstream economists ward it off.

Tony Myatt: When discussing efficiency the textbooks focus on “static efficiency.” That is, how to maximize wellbeing with given resources and technology and tastes. They go through an awful lot of trouble to show that – with this proviso and that proviso – that perfectly competitive markets are ideal for maximizing static efficiency.

But I mentioned earlier that the one thing that capitalism has been undeniably very good at is technological change and innovation. Indeed, this is probably the most important feature of the modern world. Now, in which market structures does this innovation occur? Both theory and evidence suggests that it is NOT in perfectly competitive markets. On theoretical grounds, firms in these markets are small and lean, just covering their costs. They lack resources to invest heavily in research and development. Empirically, William Baumol in his book The Free Market Innovation Machine reckons that oligopoly is the best market structure from the point of view of innovation. And as Schumpeter argues, if the lure of monopoly profits are the reward for successful innovation, and if that monopoly power is then eroded by new innovators, then it’s hard to see the “static inefficiency” of monopoly as being a serious problem. It’s dwarfed by the dynamic benefits.

So, where does this leave us? It leaves us realizing that most of what the microeconomic textbooks teach concerning efficiency is a tale told by an idiot, just sound and fury signifying nothing. It’s completely irrelevant.

Mainstream economists certainly don’t want to admit this. They’d have to find something else to teach.

Rod Hill: And this raises again the distinction between what we call ‘textbook economics’, the version of what’s taught to undergraduates, that has hardly changed since I was a student in the mid-1970s, and what some (even mainstream) economists are actually doing these days. Lots of people have been working on models of economic growth, some of them using Schumpeterian ideas, for example.

PP: That’s really interesting. But I guess we should wind this up. Are you guys hopeful that the next generation will be more aware of the flaws in the textbook version of economics? Do you think they’ll be more willing to engage with alternative ideas? And what do you see for the future of economics as an academic discipline if such a sea change fails to take place?

Rod Hill: It would be easy to be pessimistic. Plutocratic power seems deeply entrenched, as does the propaganda system that supports it. The ‘mainstream’ textbook version of economics is part of that system, ignoring critical perspectives and encouraging a Panglossian view of the world. If that’s all that economists were to continue to offer, they would ultimately condemn themselves to irrelevance as the disconnect between the world and the textbook grows unbearably large.

That’s one reason I’m actually rather optimistic about the long term. The unsatisfactory performance of the political and economic system is too hard to miss and encourages economics students to consider alternative ideas. Unlike in my student days in pre-history, before the internet existed, those alternative ideas are now freely available and easy to find. Good alternatives to the mainstream texts also exist, such as the Economics in Context texts published by M.E. Sharpe, for instructors who are tired of the standard fare.

As well, within the economics profession itself, there is lots of interesting work going on. The growth of behavioural economics is just one example. Another is the increase in work being done on economic inequality, for instance as seen in the rising prominence of those like Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty who are examining the explosion of ‘high incomes’. Every year, the traditional mainstream principles texts look ever more outdated. I hope Tony and I have been able to help in a small way to hasten their demise.

Tony Myatt: Nice one Rod. Let’s hope you’re right.

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  1. jake chase

    Without intending to be critical let me say that I cannot read this kind of stuff without wondering how anyone could have the patience to analyze the idiocy of economics, which ought to be apparent to anyone with any experience of reality, particularly those compelled to earn a living. Economics assumes that the only goal of civilization is production of MORE. It disregards issues like More of What, and Who Wins, and Who Loses, and What Doesn’t Get Done at All, and these are the only questions which really matter.

    Forty odd years ago I took a degree in economics (with honors) from a distinguished institution and simultaneously realized I had not learned a single thing that was either true or useful. Why do they call this education? At least in those days college was pretty inexpensive and kept one safe from the draft. Why anyone is doing it today I cannot imagine.

    1. LeonovaBalletRusse

      Jake, it might be enough to show: “Who profits at what @ whose expense” throughout the history of the world, and WHY (*resource curse* and Will to Power pertain to this).

      For example, two videos at are instructive frames:

      “Arbenz & the CIA, Guatemala 1950’s” (ColdWarWarriors on Feb 24, 2009);

      “The Tavistock Agenda” (lindor2323 on Feb 2011).

      Might *Economics* texts and non-texts cover such issues in the *real* world? Might students in *Economics* courses consider their Universities as *casting couches* for success in systems within systems?

    2. LD

      What motivates so many students to go into economics studies since Reagan? The US (and allies) Kleptocracy has afforded a decent living in the associated professions (finance, insurance, multi-industry MBA Admin tracks, etc) for their obvious 1% grifting activities. That’s empirical. One need only look at those incomes compared to all others.

      And it’s pretty much what made the Russian “walls fall,” and turn all of that into an overt, albeit separately run, Kleptocracy, as well. Now, it appears that it’s time for all the rest of the world’s “walls” to fall to the US (and allies) said Kleptocracy. The gangsters are roaming the streets, organizing their hits as we speak…

    3. different clue

      Well . . . what gets destroyed to produce “more” also doesn’t get addressed in economics, does it? Not that the destruction won’t shove itself into everybody’s face in the fullness of time.

      An economy based on turning More energy into waste heat in order to turn More matter into waste crap is a sunset operation. Do the OverLord Kleptoligarchs know all about that? Is that why they are doing things like stockpiling seeds at Svaalbard?

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  2. craazyman

    I kind of feel bad that Jake and I are the first two commenters.

    It’s a tough job, Phil, to wade through this pig farm runoff but I guess somebody has to put on the hip boots and gloves and do it.

    You three dudes are doing pretty well, really.

    What is efficieny? What is money, really? Deep thoughts.

    If they made every economics grad student work the night shift at a New York bodega it would change the world. I think of my buddy Angelo from Ecuador who I see every day at 5 am when I get the coffee. Not sure if he’s legal or not but he’s 12 hours a day/6 days a week and he works when he’s sick. I think he gets one day off. Then there’s the dude who mops the floor. He’s got a brutally hard face and a body like a boxer.

    Why can’t these dudes get jobs at home? Is it efficiency or inefficiency? what’s going on with that sh-t? Why do the heathen rage? Why do the pious rage? Why?

    it probably has nothing to do with efficiency and everything to do with money. And there’s a point where you can’t count it or quantify it. And that’s where you have to start.

  3. marcos

    As Zizek says, the dominant ideology colors the subject’s interpretation of reality to the extent that one does not even know that it is even there.

  4. Hugh

    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. Worse virtually all the “new” stuff including MMT assumes that the foundations of the economic system are sound, but in a kleptocracy they aren’t.

    I mean how many times around here have we seen posts by MMTers in which they make proposals that might work in a system that was sound and reformable but aren’t even on the table and will never be on the table in the kleptocracy we actually have. Or worse, they propose things which show they are very much a part of the orthodoxy they rail against. And here I am thinking of stuff like Mosler’s proposal of a jobs program but one that would only pay a minimum wage. I mean how does this help the workers paying them a wage they can’t live on? How does it put pressure on private employers to raise their wages? The short answer is it doesn’t. Or there was Auerback’s weird plan to give European governments chunks of money on a per capita basis. The idea was I suppose that the struggling states could pay off some of their debt and everything would be hunky-dory. But what would really happen is that most of this money would flow to the rich countries and the richer kleptocrats behind them. The wealth inequalities would be made even worse and the underlying problems: local kleptocrats and mercantilist trade patterns fostered by the euro would be left in place ready to wreak their destruction down the road.

    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.

    1. Susan the other

      I’m thinking the same thing today. Yesterday on RT/Maxkeiser there was a panel discussion on screwed up banking, and a faux pas that nobody corrected. They said that Churchill said “Capitalism is the worst form of government, except for all the rest.” What Churchill actually said was “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the rest.” And what he meant by that bit of sarcasm is not hard to parse. Churchill’s only objective after WWII was to save the British Empire, no matter how ruthless he had to be. Ultimately, underneath all his bullshit he was a monarchist. This implies class warfare in his every intent. And so it is today with a UK/US banking nexus at the heart of our economy that is equally ruthless. If this Anti-Textbook were used in seminars in Sweden the response to it would be far more coherent and revealing that the response it gleans from the already brain dead “capitalist” spawn. If they really want some feedback they should take their show on the road.

    2. JTFaraday

      “But what would really happen is that most of this money would flow to the rich countries and the richer kleptocrats behind them.”

      Yeah, every time he rails about the Nazi Germans who are bleeding the periphery, I just substitute “finance elite.”

  5. Gabe Langton

    I entered San Francisco City College just before the birth of my son in fall 2008, and was fortunate enough to take a microeconomics class taught by Douglas Orr, who spent the first two class sessions warning students to critically challenge the models that we’d be learning. He gave an analogy: “If you want to learn about an airplane, the cheapest way to do it is with a model airplane. Maybe you go out and get a build-n-paint f-16 from your local hobby shop. It’s a great way to get details about the appearance and dimensions of a real jet fighter. Or maybe you go out and get a little balsa-wood glider, which is a great way to get an intuition for basic aerodynamics. But every kid understands implicitly that F-16s are not built by snapping plastic chunks out of molded frames and gluing them together, just as every kid understands that you don’t go to the airport and get strapped onto a giant balsa wood trojan glidar and hurled off of a bridge. As you learn about mainstream economics you will be continuously urged by your textbook to apply the models you are learning to the real world, and you will be faced with constant reminders of the predictive power of these models. But the reason I’m standing here talking to you is to remind you, just as constantly, that every single morning, in offices from wall street to the IMF, economists are strapping entire populations to wooden planes and launching them off of bridges, throwing up their hands in helpless befuddlement at the inevitable grisly results, cashing their checks, and heading out for the golf course by 2pm.”

    I often visited him during office hours to turn in late work due to my son getting sick, or my hours at work overlapping with class time, and as far as I could tell he put in almost every second of his free time writing, consolidating, and refining instructional problems and examples in order to provide alternatives and context to the misleading shit in the text. It appeared to take monumental effort to do this while keeping it digestible enough that us community-college simpletons could still internalize the core concepts of economics. That he did it, year in and year out, and is still pulling it off, is amazing. Hopefully these texts and others like them will enable more of those economics professors like him, who are genuinely concerned with cultivating genuinely critical economic reasoning in future economists, to effectively revitalize the discipline.

  6. Valissa

    On the one hand, I have enjoyed these two posts and appreciate that there are some in the academic Economics world attempting to bring more reality into their field.

    On the other hand, there is the fact of kleptocracy, issues of power, corruption & looting (form those in a position of influence) that have always been an aspect of human governments and enterprises. I’m going to guess that in various places and times the “kleptocratic overhead” has been better or worse. In the past year there have been numerous business articles discussing the fact that when companies invest in lobbyists, it pays off in their bottom line.

    Until all these real world facts & conditions are incorporated into Economics, it will remain a false ideal generator. In order to be more accurate and useful, Economics has to start being more honest (less idealistic and naive) about power and looting strategies in the real world and how that effects their idealistic models. The question then becomes, how much honesty is “permissible” when addressing the issue of power and consequences.

    1. Nathanael

      Thorstein Veblen was *all about* describing the looting behavior. Economics has been blown rather off-course since then.

  7. Az

    To be honest, economics sounds to me more like a religion than an ideology. Mostly this is because of the interviews with Graeber that this website had and how religious structures played a huge role in resource distribution as well as predicting the future, from the technical such as calendars to the metaphysical with the sacrifices to gods. The main difference is that today economists (particularly dealing with investments and finance) seem to have taken over these tasks, not only by keeping the economic importance of banks and investment funds indisputable, but also through enforcing the dogmas that retain these positions for their own benefit. This, I’d argue is the modern issue of the separation of church and state, as the former makes ultimate decisions in both the divine right of kings and what those kings are to enforce on their commoners.

    I’m not entirely convinced that this is already the case, though. First they’d have to completely abolish the taxation of their cults.

  8. Nathanael

    I’m going to share a book which I discovered recently, from 1913. _The Theory of Social Revolutions_, by Brooks Adams.

    It’s remarkably insightful regarding situations such as our current one — not the economic side per se, but the broader political / social pattern.

    It actually made me wonder if Veblen had read it, as it points firmly at the psychology of the elite as the crucial political problem. (And Veblen proceeded to analyze the psychology of the elite.)

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