One problem in applying skepticism and critical investigation equally is that heterodox and mainstream theories use extremely different methodologies.Generally speaking, mainstream macro uses math, while heterodox macro uses literary text with no math … Which means that if we judge each theory using its own methodology, mainstream macro will have to pass rigorous quantitative evaluations, while heterodox ideas will “succeed” simply by humans vaguely and intuitively pattern-matching the conditions of the macroeconomy with the blocks of text they read.It makes little sense for mainstream theories to have to forecast inflation and employment and growth to the nth decimal place in order to be considered useful, while heterodox theories are deemed a success simply because commentators waved their hands at the outside world and said “Sounds legit!”.It is certainly true that most heterodox economists don’t use the kind of mathematical models used by mainstream macroeconomics.And for good reasons! Noah Smith — like so many other mainstream economists — obviously has the unfounded and ridiculous idea that because heterodox people like yours truly and MMTers often criticize the application of mathematics in mainstream economics, we are critical of math per se.I don’t know how many times I’ve been asked to answer this straw-man objection to heterodox economics– but here we go again: No, there is nothing wrong with mathematics per se.
No, there is nothing wrong with applying mathematics to economics.Mathematics is one valuable tool among other valuable tools for understanding and explaining things in economics.
What is, however, totally wrong, are the utterly simplistic beliefs that • “math is the only valid tool” • “math is always and everywhere self-evidently applicable” • “math is all that really counts” • “if it’s not in math, it’s not really economics” • “almost everything can be adequately understood and analyzed with math” So — please — let’s have no more of this feeble-minded pseudo-debate where heterodox economics is described as simply anti-math! No real problem worth solving can be solved without some basic research.Therefore the engagement of faculty and students on real problems yields basic research problems whose solutions are of practical significance.Furthermore, the validity of these solutions can be tested in the most effective way known: in application.This avoids one’s confusing mathematical masturbation with intercourse between research and reality.
Limiting model assumptions in economic science always have to be closely examined since if we are going to be able to show that the mechanisms or causes that we isolate and handle in our models are stable in the sense that they do not change when we ‘export’ them to our ‘target systems,’ we have to be able to show that they do not only hold under ceteris paribus conditions and a fortiori only are of limited value to our understanding, explanations or predictions of real economic systems.Real-world social systems are not governed by stable causal mechanisms or capacities.The kinds of ‘laws’ and relations that mainstream economics has ‘established,’ are laws and relations about entities in models that presuppose causal mechanisms being atomistic and additive.When causal mechanisms operate in real-world social target systems they only do it in ever-changing and unstable combinations where the whole is more than a mechanical sum of parts.If economic regularities obtain they do it (as a rule) only because we engineered them for that purpose.Outside man-made ‘nomological machines’ they are rare, or even non-existent.
Since the standard macroeconomic mathematical models today build on assumptions of representative actors, rational expectations, market clearing and equilibrium, and we know that real people and markets cannot be expected to obey these assumptions, the warrants for supposing that conclusions or hypotheses of causally relevant mechanisms or regularities can be bridged, are obviously non-justifiable.Incompatibility between actual behaviour and the behaviour in mainstream macroeconomic models is not a symptom of ‘irrationality.’ It rather shows the futility of trying to represent real-world target systems with models — mathematical or not — flagrantly at odds with reality.
If macroeconomic models – no matter what ilk – build on microfoundational assumptions of representative actors, rational expectations, market clearing, and equilibrium, and we know that real people and markets cannot be expected to obey these assumptions, the warrants for supposing that conclusions or hypotheses of causally relevant mechanisms or regularities can be bridged, are obviously non-justifiable.Incompatibility between actual behaviour and the behaviour in macroeconomic models building on representative actors and rational expectations microfoundations is not a symptom of ‘irrationality.’ It rather shows the futility of trying to represent real-world target systems with models flagrantly at odds with reality.A gadget is just a gadget – and no matter how brilliantly silly mainstream macroeconomic models you come up with, they do not help us work with the fundamental issues of modern economies.The mainstream models that Noah Smith praise because they are so ‘precise’ and ‘rigorous’ are also totally useless.Mathematics and logic cannot establish the truth value of facts.
Never has.Never will.3 Comments [»](#postcomment) RSS feed for comments on this post.
TrackBack URI – Smith does not seem understand that this is a part of a fundamental and long-standing debate about the limits of positivism in the social sciences.If he studied say poliitical science (in the UK – it could well be different in the US) he would know what this debate was about.I know for a fact it is discussed in first year international relations graduate courses in the UK (for example it is in Burchill’s and Linklater’s widely used book).It’s a very basic part of developing critical reasoning in education.
We might not have the answers, but it is important we know how to start asking the right questions.I suspect Smith has had a total neo-classical economics education which is about memorizing and regurgiating models.And in fact these models are based on a single, but very questionable, philosophical foundation.
Many, from pychologists to historians, and indeed many mathemticians themselves, do not believe, this is a proper way, and should certainly not be the sole or even main way, to go about understanding the world, including capitalism and society.So you until you have a basic skill in critical reasoning, and knowledge of the debate, a proper conversation between economists and other social scientists can’t even begin to take place.And real understanding can’t go forward.Comment by Nanikore— 17 Jun, 2023 [#](#comment-54512) – 3.1 Understanding and Fundamental Concepts Concepts like _understanding_ and _meaning_ are usually associated with a particular view of the Social Sciences.Social life produces and reproduces symbolic meaning.
Social scientists need to acquire an understanding of the inherent symbolic meaning in social life.They do this, it is said, by adopting the viewpoint of a passive participant observer.In this view, the role of the social scientist is seen as distinctly different from that of the natural scientist.The object of study of the social scientist is _society_, the network of social interactions.Society does not exist outside the bracket of social interactions.
The social sciences deal with the pre-interpreted world of the social participants.The social scientist interprets a social world, which already carries symbolic meaning.The symbolic meaning of the social world is produced and reproduced by the social actors.
The study of the social world by social scientists is a matter of human subjects studying other human subjects.It is a matter of symbolic dimensions meeting other symbolic dimensions, a _subject-subject_ relation.(Weinert 2004, 75, https://a.co/ccm1TpJ) The object of study of the natural scientist is Nature, the organic or inorganic material world.In this objective sense Nature is not a human product.But, in a symbolic sense, `Nature’ is a creation of human understanding.In their interaction with the material world, humans conceptualise _Nature_ in an attempt to understand its functioning.Models, theories and laws are the result.(Weinert 2004, 75, https://a.co/gR9gBLr) (….) Natural scientists face a pre-given natural world, not the symbolic, pre-interpreted world of the social scientist.
Natural scientists stand in in a _subject-object_ relation to their object of study.Yet they use symbolic language to make sense of the material world.Comment by Meta Capitalism— 16 Jun, 2023 [#](#comment-54508) – You might be availed by speaking to indigenous social sorts and then attempt to consider what defunct social groups might have pondered about themselves and others.You seem to be winging it and off on a tangent and then progress from there.
See Graeber et al..The issue is methodology[.] Bad or produced [preferred] axioms used to underpin bad maths and physics and call it science something or the other, largely driven by funding by those with means and a incentivized agenda..Noah is a proponent of the stated above to a fault, gave a perch at such a young age right out of academy because they supported the dominate view and could accommodate the funders agency.Bad habit in the past in blocking others on his blog when taken to task on his micro views.I proffer that I don’t have all the data, at this time, but am trying too get it ….
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