Honest Talk About Academic Factions

Arnold Kling, who blogs at Econlog, has a series of 3 really interesting posts on the state of macroeconomic debate. Not technical and a conversation we really need to have. Read the first, second and third posts.

The posts come from a committed perspective and Kling is upfront about that. But its real value is in ‘providing an overview of the various factions’. That’s important because right now macroeconomics at the highest level, and at the professional blogging level, seems riven by such fundamental disagreements that it is a dialogue of the deaf.

The certainty bordering on sneering dismissal that many econ bloggers exhibit is completely out-of-kilter with the real degree of certainty in the discipline.

For an educated outsider like me – just economically literate – such a debate puts into question the oracular confidence of economists who speak in relation to public policy. In short, it means people interested in economic policy have to use a damn sight more than the usual grain of salt when listening to economic pontifications.

It seems we have returned to an early stage in the discipline where the philosophic foundations and key approaches are in play. Which is much more interesting than comparing how well you can use maths to say what everyone already agrees on.  And it plugs into key issues in the quality of social research like this.

I’ll update this post later. I find all this really exciting…sad, isn’t it?

UPDATE: A token addition. Catallaxy  today mentions the Swedish experience and its conversion to a type of fiscal conservatism. For those of us old enough, remember how Labor constantly spruiked the Swedish model in the 80s and 90s?

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