The Low Intellect of Some Economists

And this is the intellectual caliber of people who teach economics in leading US universities:

First, we need to contest the meaning of dependence. In particular, why is selling one’s ability to work for a wage or salary any less a form of dependence than receiving some form of government assistance? It certainly is a different kind of dependence—on employers rather than on one’s fellow citizens—and probably a form of dependence that is more arbitrary and capricious—since employers have the freedom to hire people when and where they want, while government assistance is governed by clear rules.

This is very sad, folks. In the times of a great economic crisis, people who are supposed to have insights into the workings of the economy engage in these idiotic word games.

Buddy, leave contesting the meanings of words to linguists. Go do something that you were actually trained to do instead.

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41 comments on “The Low Intellect of Some Economists

  1. All I can say is thank God for people like Daniel Kuehn and Bob Murphy. This academic seems like an amateur in comparison. I doubt any real economist would write so sloppily. Are you sure this is legit?

  2. The important issue is whether such a person is really an economist. My old colleague Gordon Tullock was wont to say that no economist could ever be a socialist. The two words are antonyms.

    I do not know who this moron is, but if he truly is teaching economics at a top university – well it tells us that university rankings are random or malicious.

  3. I’m not totally agreeing with him, but I would agree with this corrected assessment:

    We need to contest the meaning of dependence. In particular, even though selling one’s ability to work for a wage or salary (and this includes prostitution and the porn industry) is less of a form of dependence than receiving some form of government assistance, it certainly is a different kind of dependence—on employers rather than on one’s fellow citizens (except if you work/recieve subsidies/obtain market power favor from/for the governement with robbed cash and violent regulation: those are bourgeois’ style of entitlement programs)—and clearly a form of dependence that is more arbitrary and capricious—since employers have the freedom to hire and fire people when, where and who they want, while government assistance is governed by clearer rules (not netwworking nor nepotistic/sexist/racist rules like it occurs in the working market), even tough those rules should be clearer.

      • Well, I’m an anarchist, but since anarchy is not an option right now, anarchists generally prefer to spend robbed money on social programs than spending robbed money on capitalist entitlements. Right libertarians prefer the contrary.

        • Oy vey. SOCIALISM HAS NOTHING WHATSOEVER TO DO WITH SOCIAL PROGRAMS. NOTHING WHATSOEVER. Let’s not buy this weird ideology that equates social programs and socialism. Socialism means nothing but state ownership of the means of production. Communism means collective ownership of the means of production accompanied by the death of the state.

      • SOCIALISM HAS NOTHING WHATSOEVER TO DO WITH SOCIAL PROGRAMS. NOTHING WHATSOEVER.

        It has nothing to do with the iron strong state, either. Ironically, your world view and mine, which have little in common, have in common, at the very least, a common enemy in people who make a studied point of using the terms “socialism” and “public sector” interchangeably.

        • How can you achieve state ownership of the means of production – all means of production, mind you – without a very strong state? People are not very likely to just hand over their businesses, companies, etc.

          ” Ironically, your world view and mine, which have little in common, have in common, at the very least, a common enemy in people who make a studied point of using the terms “socialism” and “public sector” interchangeably.”
          :-) :-) :-) A respect for language can bring people of all ideologies together. Isn’t that beautiful? Language lovers of the world, unite!

        • How can you achieve state ownership of the means of production – all means of production, mind you – without a very strong state? People are not very likely to just hand over their businesses, companies, etc.

          ” Ironically, your world view and mine, which have little in common, have in common, at the very least, a common enemy in people who make a studied point of using the terms “socialism” and “public sector” interchangeably.”
          :-) :-) :-) A respect for language can bring people of all ideologies together. Isn’t that beautiful? Language lovers of the world, unite!

      • “Socialism means nothing but state ownership of the means of production.”

        You define “statist socialism”. It’s ironically the more centralized type of capitalism, so I’m against that, even more than our actual capitalism. I certainly don’t want that!

      • “If you look at the paragraph I was criticizing in this post, you will see that its author upholds precisely this classic form of socialism.”

        But if you look at the rest of his post and his general discourse, he’s just a social-mediocrat capitalo-statist reformer…less of a leftist than Kucinich.

  4. I’m an anarchist who have taught an Introductory class of micro-economics. The first half of my lecture presented micro-economic basics (some historical/cultural context, opportunity costs, specialisation of labor and exchange, supply and demand, elasticities, market efficiency and state intervention like taxes, subsidizing, quotas, regulated prices and minimum wage (I admit that I was more critical in this part, but I justifiy this critic with facts and graphs)) , and the second half was an introduction to the theory of the firm (between introductory and intermediate level: short term costs, monopoly, perfect competition) and a presentation of the consumer’s theory (intermediate level; from preferences to Engel Curve).

    One time, I define “Anarchy” and “Labor Theory of Value” (LTV) to my students, without judging those concepts (even though I’m an an anarchist who is more pro-LTV than pro-STV), and this is the only time that I mentioned those, then I define “Subjective Theory of Value” (STV), and I explain that the rest of the lecture will use STV as an hypothesis.

    So, I think that if you follow the rule that you should not try to market (or the least possible) your ideological stance to your students, it’s possible to be a good teacher even though you embrace idiot ideologies.

  5. The reason that I made the comment about economists and socialists is not to impose my will on the profession. Economics is supposed to be concerned, inter alia, about the efficient allocation of scarce resources among competing ends. Socialism failed that test utterly. Much as they tried to emulate market pricing through planning they failed. I saw this at first hand when I visited Poland in 1963. Buildings with rotting wood because paint allocations were out of line with window production. Sinks without running water for the same reason. Pairs of nylon stockings priced 100 times the price of a new television set. Stores without goods. Customers queuing up in teams for hours to purchase what, they could not know, because supplies dried up minute by minute.
    Animal Farm, I believe George Orwell called it. And that is not good economics in any sense that I would define the term. And yes, Clarissa, it may come down to definitions. But in this field I believe that my command of language is sufficient to pass muster

    • Thank you for the precisions Charles, but I think it’s possible to someone to be at least a good teacher on a particular field (concerning research and professionnal work, I’m not so sure of my claim, though) even though he embraces idiotic ideologies.

      But of course, statism socialism as you defined is a bad failure, no doubt about that.

  6. Notre Dame for a time had two economics deparments. One, like most economics departments, stuck to the neoliberal orthodoxy that has become de rigeur for the economics profession, and the other, called the Department of Economics and Policy Studies, which was created in response to the challenges to mainstream economics posed by the on-point but unfortunately-named “post-autistic economics movement” which has since, I’m happy to say, re-christened itself “real world economics.”

    I understand your concern for the integrity of economics as a science. One expects a level of scientific consensus, but one also expects theory to be challenged. A difficult balance. The far right, for example, tends to champion the heterodox and question the consensus in atmospheric science, while doing the opposite in economic science, where the efficient markets hypothesis is treated as established fact more often than not. Bumper sticker slogans like “the two words [economist and socialist] are antonyms” contribute little of value to the debate. If anything this is another example of making up the terminology as we go along, as I always thought the antonym of “socialist” was “capitalist.”

    I’m worried less about the integrity of economics at Notre Dame than about its integrity at bought-and-paid-for economics departments like George Mason and Florida State.

  7. Agree with what n8chz said about George Mason ‘University’. No academician with any integrity or intellectual ability would be associated with that joke of a place. Shocking that Charlie boy works there. Absolutely shocking.

    • I don’t really know if I can trust anybody’s opinions on which universities are good any longer. Somebody recently referred to my university as “substandard” on this blog, even though we don’t have a single faculty member or student who didn’t come here on their own merits. At the same time, veritable cesspools of corruption, dishonesty and stupidity are praised to the skies. I already bought into all this mythology and lost 6 years of my life in two of such over-praised cesspools. The things I saw there still turn my stomach. At my university, I can bet any amount of money that we don’t have a single unqualified person teaching at my department. At the “not-substandard” places, though, I have seen people teach who wouldn’t be able to pass the courses they were teaching if they had to take them as students.

      Please understand that this isn’t about me doubting your judgment or that of the other commenter. I simply will never listen to anybody’s opinion on what constitutes a good university until I see it with my own eyes.

      As everybody can see, this is a very sore subject. I paid too high of a price for stupidly believing all this American Ivy mythology.

      • It’s not just about academic output.

        Would you trust a university that takes money from people who then have *direct say* in which professors need to be hired?

        http://www.alternet.org/story/150892/koch_brother_buys_professors_at_public_university_to_spread_free_market_propaganda_–_is_public_education_the_kochs%27_next_front

        “Traditionally, university donors have little official input into choosing the person who fills a chair they’ve funded. The power of university faculty and officials to choose professors without outside interference is considered a hallmark of academic freedom.

        Under the agreement with the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation, however, faculty only retain the illusion of control. The contract specifies that an advisory committee appointed by Koch decides which candidates should be considered. The foundation can also withdraw its funding if it’s not happy with the faculty’s choice or if the hires don’t meet “objectives” set by Koch during annual evaluations. “

        • Of course, fair and transparent hiring practices are absolutely key. This is why, at this point, I always trust state universities over the private ones. And if we are talking about private universities, I always proceed from the assumption that there might be corruption. Of course, I know very good people who work at private universities but they are often not happy about what they see.

          As for the Koch brothers, their mission is to destroy higher education. Universities would be well-served to ask themselves how much they really need that money.

      • I was so sure that Notre Dame was a good place and now I discover they had a “post-autistic school of whatever.” That makes them complete and utter idiots.

        Another place I thoguht was good is Ann Arbor. And then I met a reent graduate from the Spanish program. I’m still in shock over that experience. At the same time, I met somebody absolutely brilliant from a place called Kalamazoo. And really promising grad students from some place in Alabama the name of which I can’t even pronounce.

  8. “I was so sure that Notre Dame was a good place and now I discover they had a “post-autistic school of whatever.” That makes them complete and utter idiots.

    Another place I thoguht was good is Ann Arbor. And then I met a reent graduate from the Spanish program. ”

    You’re missing the point. Read this again and ask yourself if this university can ever produce intellectually honest, credible research.

    “Under the agreement with the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation, however, faculty only retain the illusion of control. The contract specifies that an advisory committee appointed by Koch decides which candidates should be considered. The foundation can also withdraw its funding if it’s not happy with the faculty’s choice or if the hires don’t meet “objectives” set by Koch during annual evaluations.”

    • No, of course, people who are hired in this manner do not even remotely constitute a legitimate academic department. This process, though, is in no way worse than the run-of-the mill hiring of spouses, lovers and children that is so rife at the most famous US universities.

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