John Harvey on Neoclassical Economics causing the Economic Crisis

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John T. Har­vey is Pro­fes­sor of Eco­nom­ics at Texas Chris­t­ian Uni­ver­si­ty and a lead­ing non-neo­clas­si­cal econ­o­mist. He is doing his bit to raise aware­ness of alter­na­tive approach­es to eco­nom­ics via a blog that is pub­lished by Forbes Mag­a­zine. John explains his moti­va­tion for estab­lish­ing this blog as fol­lows:

I am a firm believ­er that eco­nom­ics can and must be made under­stand­able to the gen­er­al pub­lic, but that our dis­ci­pline has done a very poor job in this regard. This is par­tic­u­lar­ly true of macro issues, where peo­ple quite nat­u­ral­ly assume that their per­son­al expe­ri­ences are anal­o­gous to those at the nation­al scale. Very often, this is not the case, with the result that politi­cians and vot­ers (and some econ­o­mists) press for poli­cies whose effects are quite the oppo­site of what was intend­ed. That this is prob­lem­at­ic has nev­er been more evi­dent than today. I also try to steer as clear of pol­i­tics as pos­si­ble. I want to explain how things work, not what you should believe.

John’s most recent blog entry takes aim at one of my favourite tar­gets: neo­clas­si­cal econ­o­mists and their role in blind­ly lead­ing the world into the biggest finan­cial cri­sis since the Great Depres­sion. He notes that “econ­o­mists were the ones who pro­vid­ed the intel­lec­tu­al jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for the trans­for­ma­tion of our econ­o­my over the past thir­ty years”, and shows just how bizarre their

When asked what was most impor­tant to suc­cess as an econ­o­mist, stu­dents ranked these skills in this order:

1. Being smart in the sense of being good at prob­lem solv­ing.
2. Excel­lence in math­e­mat­ics.
3. Being very knowl­edge­able about one par­tic­u­lar field.
4. Abil­i­ty to make con­nec­tions with promi­nent pro­fes­sors.
5. Being inter­est­ed in, and being good at, empir­i­cal research.
6. Hav­ing a broad knowl­edge of the eco­nom­ics lit­er­a­ture.
7. Hav­ing a thor­ough knowl­edge of the econ­o­my.

No, I did not acci­den­tal­ly type the list back­wards! And, if any­thing, the rel­e­ga­tion of “knowl­edge of the econ­o­my” to dead last has become worse. Cours­es that would have pro­vid­ed con­text and empir­i­cal ground­ing to the­o­ry have been slow­ly replaced over the past thir­ty years by those teach­ing more math­e­mat­i­cal meth­ods. Today, stu­dents learn more about set the­o­ry than they do about the merg­er move­ments of the late 19th and ear­ly 20th centuries–if they hear about the lat­ter at all, which is increas­ing­ly unlike­ly.

John is also very com­pli­men­ta­ry about my approach to eco­nom­ics.

I rec­om­mend read­ing “How Eco­nom­ics Con­tributed to the Finan­cial Cri­sis”, and sub­scrib­ing to John’s blog as well.

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About Steve Keen

I am Professor of Economics and Head of Economics, History and Politics at Kingston University London, and a long time critic of conventional economic thought. As well as attacking mainstream thought in Debunking Economics, I am also developing an alternative dynamic approach to economic modelling. The key issue I am tackling here is the prospect for a debt-deflation on the back of the enormous private debts accumulated globally, and our very low rate of inflation.