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View Diary: Hey You Libertarians! Get Off My Blog. (302 comments)

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  •  Neoclassical economists are generally (2+ / 0-)
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    VA Classical Liberal, patrickz

    libertarians and in their case you are incorrect.  Pick up an elementary economics textbook and I bet you will agree with more than you would expect if you read it in its entirety.

    •  Economics is a science?!? (2+ / 0-)
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      Balam, futurebird

      Urm... that's a rather broad definition of science.

      Economics in the modern academy is the ideological home of the right. Just as other 'scientific' disciplines (sociology and anthropology spring to mind) are the ideological homes of the left. It has very little to do with 'objective truth' and has everything to do with, well, the economics of the academy and naked politics.

      Remember, Marx was an economist. He also thought that his economics were scientific. So, who's right?

      •  Well... probably modern economists. (1+ / 0-)
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        VA Classical Liberal

        Considering their descriptive predictions about the basic workings of the economy have been borne out thousands of times and thousands upon thousands of them, smarter than both of us, have spent their lives writing up and critiquing literature using hard data rather than visceral reactions.

        Of course models are oversimplifications.  They are better guesses than you or I or anyone else could make.  Of course some of the policy prescriptions made by many economists are based on personal biases or what we perceive as overgeneralizations.  That doesn't mean that economics is bunk.  I'm sure that would fit into your worldview rather nicely, but sorry.

        •  Um.. (2+ / 0-)
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          Balam, futurebird

          Their descriptive predictions about the basic workings of the economy have been borne out thousands of times and thousands upon thousands of them,

          That's simply factually wrong. Unless you define 'basic' as so basic that it is commonsensical. If economics were truly predictive, we'd be in much better shape than we currently are.

          And I never said that economics is bunk. You're putting words into my mouth. I said that it is shaped by power, politics, and, well, economics. There are reasons that most economics professors are pro-free-market that have absolutely nothing to do with the truth of free-market policies. It's like arguing that the solutions to society's problems should necessarily be government-based solutions because most sociologists support government-based solutions to social problems.

          I'm sure you'd love to think that economics is an objective science because it would fit into your worldview rather well. But it's not.

          •  You don't know my worldview. (1+ / 0-)
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            VA Classical Liberal

            I don't know what else to say.

            "There are reasons that most economics professors are pro-free-market that have absolutely nothing to do with the truth of free-market policies."

            This is just false.  Basic models of economics all point to the fact that markets for private goods are best administered by perfect competition.  My guess is that you are conflating free market, which has to do with how markets are run, with conservative, which has to do with income distribution.  When I say basic, I am talking about profit motives, supply and demand, basic ideas about optimal quantities for provisions of goods, the aging of a market for a good, etc.  Many things beyond that are not grounded in economic theories and models, but in various economists' extrapolations of those models to the economy as a whole, which is intractably complicated but has various facets which can be modeled.  There, economists' biases often get involved.  And the entire science is of course based on the normative assumption of consummating all available efficient transactions, thus maximizing output.  But it makes no pretense about not being about that.

            You, of course, don't know that the vast majority of economists are Democrats.  You don't really know what they believe.  You don't really know what they mean by free market, either.  They don't oppose the existence of health, safety, and environmental standards or the provision of public goods, the redistribution of income, or the use of Pigovian taxes.  You are too blinded by your biases because you somehow think that the well being of the poor is somehow diametrically opposed to functioning markets.  So I would encourage you to get specific so that we can avoid overgeneralizations: what is it you so adamantly dispute about economic conclusions?  What grand pronouncement that economists supposedly make do you disagree with?

            •  Sigh... (2+ / 0-)
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              Leftywingnut, TNThorpe

              I'll start with the the last half of your post which is full of basic factual errors and assumptions such as: You, of course, don't know that the vast majority of economists are Democrats.  You don't really know what they believe. etc. I'll simply respond by saying that I work in a university with household-name economists where I regularly interact with said economists in a professional and personal manner. I've even worked with some of them on addressing political problems (with us both supporting Democrats, I might add). I have taken economics courses at another university with household-name economists (and I did quite well in them, thank you very much). It's bad form to make assumptions about other people's education, experience, or occupation over the internet.

              You also continue to put words into my mouth. I never argued that the well being of the poor is diametrically opposed to market functions. I don't believe that at all. I will gladly argue, however, that it is diametrically opposed to libertarian politics.

              what is it you so adamantly dispute about economic conclusions?  What grand pronouncement that economists supposedly make do you disagree with?

              Now to specifics:

              First: I dispute your claim that "economists" are carriers of objective scientific fact and that this objective scientific fact tells us that "goods are best administered by perfect competition" (Notice I omitted 'private' from the definition. This is because its inclusion makes for a circular argument). How do you define 'best?' Is it most efficient? That's how many economists would define it, but what if your definition of 'best' is something else - like ensuring for the well-being of a population or maximizing personal (rather than economic) choices and freedom? I argue that an objective definition for "best" does not exist and that efficient does not always equal "best." And even if it were true, perfect competition is a fictive analytical concept that does not exist anywhere in the world. All this necessitates taking other factors into consideration when writing political and economic policy.

              Second: You knock me for making "overgeneralizations" and yet you lump together all "economists" into a single unity category? I dispute your implication that one can speak of "economists" as a unitary group with a unitary set of fundamental assumptions. This is not even true of economists in the western academy and is even less true when you leave Britain and the United States and/or look at the work of economists outside of economics departments.

              Thrid: Let's address something that you claim to be as "basic" as profit motives. Well, if you read some cultural anthropology or even sociology carried out in the United States, you'd realize that the imagined universality of a "profit motive" is not actually universal. It's contingent on all sorts of historical and cultural factors that make normative statements about profit-as-motivation suspect. The same can be said of all of the 'basic' axioms of economics.  

              Now, I'm not calling the work of economists "bunk" or "false." It's a wonderful tool that we can use to better understand how markets work and how to regulate (and even not to regulate) our economy.

              I'm just arguing that we must remember that it is just that, a tool. The conclusions economists reach shouldn't be followed on faith and one must realize that factors other than 'objective truth' (such as the underlying assumptions of modern economics and the politics of the academy) will color those conclusions.

              I don't know what to say in regards to your challenge to my discussion of how power and politics operates in academic hiring decisions and the journal review process except to say that you should spend some time on a journal review board or an academic hiring committee. Like all decisions of that sort, politics and power are key factors, even if they're implicit.

              •  P.S. (2+ / 0-)

                Thanks for carrying on this discussion - it's been fun to write and think-through. In any case, I have to run so I imagine that you'll get the last word.

              •  OK. (0+ / 0-)
                1. I did not mean to question your authority to make any claims, etc.
                1. In essence, we may be arguing similar things.  Perhaps it is important to be more wary of economists who say they speak for economics.  Economists will often inject personal opinion into their prescriptions... this doesn't mean that they are recapitulating economic principles.  Perhaps I consider such principles to be far more limited than you... but I would definitely argue that most economists would agree with me as to where the line between core principles end and subjective prescription begins.  Basically, I would say that what you learned in your introductory economics courses, INCLUDING all of the assumptions required for the results to hold, can be considered principles... beyond that, intellectual discussion and theory.
                1. "Notice I omitted 'private' from the definition. This is because its inclusion makes for a circular argument."

                Definitely not.  A private good is one in which, among other conditions, the primary benefits of an exchange accrue to the buyer and seller in the transaction.  It is not the tautological definition: "A private good is one which is best provided privately."  As to the idea that economists are the carriers of scientific fact, you are building a straw man... I said no such thing and I clearly disputed that claim in my own comment.  I also provided a definition for "best" above: all transactions in which both sides accrue some sort of benefit from the exchange... (we assume that when people engage in transaction, it is beneficial to both sides in the most strict sense... that they want to engage in it rather than spend their time or money elsewhere.)

                1. 'Perfect competition is a fictive concept that does not exist anywhere in the world.'

                Near-perfect competition exists in many industries.  They are often not sexy or are for intermediate goods, so we never see them.  Many financial markets, for example, are extremely competitive.  So are many labor markets.  Many industries also exist in a sort of Bertrand competition, which slows innovation and is undemocratic in that outsider firms aren't able to provide goods or services in the market, but results in an efficient provision of resource.  That said, oligopoly is a very widespread and prevalent problem.  Look up Oligopoly Watch; it is a very interesting blog.  As I said, rights-based libertarians are opposed to breaking up such firms, but many utilitarian libertarians are not.  And whether or not perfect competition exists in a market is for the most part irrelevant to the argument of whether a market should be publicly or privately organized, as public provision of private goods are almost certain to be far less efficient in terms of supplying quantity, preventing shortage and surplus, cutting costs, and responding to price incentives, (again, for PRIVATE goods.)

                1.  Whether or not the profit motive is contingent, it exists.  While one may argue that consumers do not always act rationally, (a huge failure in government responsibility is to actively intervene to create an electronically interconnected economy, which would close many information gaps in the market... this is in line with ordoliberalism, a philosophy I subscribe to,) firms by and large do.  As such, based on the expectation that others will act rationally, macrobehavior becomes somewhat predictable.
                1.  There is a poll of economists that you can find in a link on the wikipedia page about the Democratic Party.. I don't have time to fetch it right now.  Economists disagree on a lot, but they also agree on a lot.  There is a consensus on supporting free trade, (that doesn't mean that they would necessarily support an agreement without labor, health, etc. standards,) opposing government ownership of enterprise, supporting income redistribution,(I'm not positive on that one, but pretty sure,) and a couple of other issues.  I have been conservative when I use "economists"... they are all supported by well over 60% and I believe much more than that.  In any case, if you have a dispute of anything I said about "economists supporting" something, let me know and I'll give you my reasoning.

                Again, for economists to not trust in the very most basic models of economics, they must more or less dismiss the field.  I think we are just drawing the lines at different places.  The thing is, economics doesn't "say" the things I think you are saying.  Economists do.  So many economists are ideological.. but they don't claim that "economics says this," though they may be applying models to make their conclusions.  If they are, then they are being intellectually dishonest.

      •  Regardless of your reply, you didn't even (1+ / 0-)
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        VA Classical Liberal

        remotely address my comment.  Economists have long advocated carbon taxes to correct externalities in markets that create pollution or environmental damage.  Most consider areas of biodiversity or particular beauty public goods and support conservation of this land.  There have been numerous polls of economists and their beliefs are far from what you seem to think they are.  Before you comment on carbon taxes, I would suggest that you read the below:

      •  Where exactly did drksdeofthemoonx (1+ / 0-)
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        use the word science?

        I think you are projecting a bit.

        Results count for more than intentions do.

        by VA Classical Liberal on Sat Jul 26, 2008 at 06:14:47 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  By the implication (0+ / 0-)

          That libertarians/economists are ready and willing to accept challenges to their fundamental assumptions about the world rooted in the scientific method.

          But yes, it's a tenuous implication and an interpretive leap that drksdeofthemoonx could have very easily disputed. But s/he took the bait and ran with it.

    •  Good to know. (0+ / 0-)

      I assumed that there were some differences of opinion on this matter amongst libertarians... it's just hard to ignore the fact that people like Steven Milloy are linked to the Cato Institute. My observation was made with an admittedly limited sample size.

      "Interesting. No, wait, the other thing: tedious." -Bender

      by patrickz on Sat Jul 26, 2008 at 06:24:16 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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