Skip to main content

Institution Building in the Teeth of an Incorrect Orthodoxy

Noah Smith has I think a bit of misguided post on Steve Keen, alleging that he's attempting a "purge." Some background: Keen, an Australian economist who's been a longtime proponent of heterodox economics and an early predictor (~2005) predictor of a housing bubble-based recession, has an ongoing spat with Brad Delong, a Berkeley economist. Keen alleges that Delong and others have attempted to appropriate the mantle of non-neoliberal economics without giving proper credit to Keen and others who called the crisis early (see here for some background). Keen's post (from June, mind you) is a bit unfortunate, but try to see things from his point of view:

 

One of the ways orthodoxy is enforced is by social pressure. Often, especially when vast amounts of money are at stake, the pressure is personal and vicious. Listen to Keen's voice catch when talking about those times. For years he was alone in the wilderness, professionally scorned and hated, beset on all sides by well-paid attack dogs. Personally, I find it all to easy to imagine myself in that place. (What nerd hasn't been socially stigmatized in some way?) And yet, he called the biggest economic event of the last 80 years.

Academics is more than most jobs about status and recognition. Brad Delong is an economist who publishes papers with, for example, a close adviser of the most powerful person alive. Is it too much to ask for him to throw Keen a bone when writing about economists who at least have their head on straight, instead of writing a snotty, condescending post where he thinks up a larger list only to leave Keen out of it again?

Anyway, this is not really to side with Delong over Keen or vice versa on the merits. It's more a plea to find reserves of kindness, empathy, gentleness and generosity. The budding, squabbling bunch of heterodox economists need to recognize their brethren and make peace. Smith is right that everyone needs to concentrate on winning the revolution. But you don't do that by taking sides in this kind of squabble. Save the scorn for people who really earn it (goldbugs, Randroids, Jamie Dimon, etc).

Should Keen not call Delong nasty names? Yes. Should Delong give Keen at least a modicum of credit? Yes. (And Smith is right, by the way, that Delong also deserves some credit for owning some of his failures.) Going forward, I like this summary from Andrew Lainton:
There are some rather intemperate characters in this debate though a number of them also have the redeeming feature of intellectual curiosity and flexibility. What many on the ‘heterodox’ side would really like to see is an engagement on the theoretical rather than political, issues and a reading of the texts in question. Going for the ball and not the man. In that regard the willingness of some renowned economic bloggers, such as David Glasner, Marc Thoma and Simon Wren Lewis, to begin debating and understanding the ideas in question.
Read on for some interesting points.

Comments

  1. Anyway, this is not really to side with Delong over Keen or vice versa on the merits. It's more a plea to find reserves of kindness, empathy, gentleness and generosity. The budding, squabbling bunch of heterodox economists need to recognize their brethren and make peace. Smith is right that everyone needs to concentrate on winning the revolution. But you don't do that by taking sides in this kind of squabble. Save the scorn for people who really earn it (goldbugs, Randroids, Jamie Dimon, etc).

    Should Keen not call Delong nasty names? Yes. Should Delong give Keen at least a modicum of credit? Yes. (And Smith is right, by the way, that Delong also deserves some credit for owning some of his failures.)


    Agreed, agreed, agreed!!

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Why Did Reality Winner Leak to the Intercept?

So Reality Winner, former NSA contractor, is in federal prison for leaking classified information — for five years and three months, the longest sentence of any whistleblower in history. She gave documents on how Russia had attempted to hack vendors of election machinery and software to The Intercept , which completely bungled basic security procedures (according to a recent New York Times piece from Ben Smith, the main fault lay with Matthew Cole and Richard Esposito ), leading to her capture within hours. Winner recently contracted COVID-19 in prison, and is reportedly suffering some lingering aftereffects. Glenn Greenwald has been furiously denying that he had anything at all to do with the Winner clusterfuck, and I recently got in an argument with him about it on Twitter. I read a New York story about Winner, which clearly implies that she was listening to the Intercepted podcast of March 22, 2017 , where Greenwald and Jeremy Scahill expressed skepticism about Russia actually b

Varanus albigularis albigularis

That is the Latin name for the white-throated monitor lizard , a large reptile native to southern Africa that can grow up to two meters long (see pictures of one at the Oakland Zoo here ). In Setswana, it's called a "gopane." I saw one of these in my village yesterday on the way back from my run. Some kids from school found it in the riverbed and tortured it to death, stabbing out its eyes, cutting off its tail, and gutting it which finally killed it. It seemed to be a female as there were a bunch of round white things I can only imagine were eggs amongst the guts. I only arrived after it was already dead, but they described what had happened with much hilarity and re-enactment. When I asked why they killed it, they said it was because it would eat their chickens and eggs, which is probably true, and because it sucks blood from people, which is completely ridiculous. It might bite a person, but not unless threatened. It seems roughly the same as killing wolves tha

The Conversational Downsides of Twitter's Structure

Over the past couple years, as I've had a steady writing job and ascended from "utter nobody" to "D-list pundit," I find it harder and harder to have discussions online. Twitter is the only social network I like and where I talk to people the most, but as your number of followers increases, the user experience becomes steadily more hostile to conversation. Here's my theory as to why this happens. First is Twitter's powerful tendency to create cliques and groupthink. Back in forum and blog comment section days, people would more often hang out in places where a certain interest or baseline understanding could be assumed. (Now, there were often epic fights, cliques, and gratuitous cruelty on forums too, particularly the joke or insult variety, but in my experience it was also much easier to just have a reasonable conversation.) On Twitter, people rather naturally form those same communities of like interest, but are trapped in the same space with differe