Sunday, November 6, 2011

Waking up to the relentless idiocy of neoliberalism

When it comes to economics, Harvard has lost the once lofty perch it once held in its glory days when guys like Alvin Hansen and John Kenneth Galbraith helped it rise above the teachings of Alfred Marshall and the rest of the Classical / Neoclassical traditions.  These days, Harvard has fallen back into the cesspool of neoclassical ignorance only now it tends to call it neoliberalism.

The problem with neoliberalism is that almost any sentient being with a slight interest in economics can find dozens of fatal flaws with the thinking that produced it.  Its major flaw is that it comes from a time when economics meant farming with draft animals, slave plantations, and colonialism.  Applied to the problems of an energy-intensive industrialized society, neoliberalism is hopelessly mismatched—a problem it deals with by calling itself "post-industrial."  Turns out as a practical matter, pre-industrial and post-industrial thinking are nearly identical.  The deindustrialization of USA over the past 35 years was the inevitable outcome of the pre-(post)-industrial thinking that is neoliberalism.

Being dumber than a box of rocks is certainly helpful if someone wants to learn the crazier tenants of neoliberalism.  Unfortunately for the schools, the students at elite institutions are not stupid.  So every once in a while, they will protest.  In 2000, the students at the Sorbonne in Paris revolted at the teaching of neoliberalism—calling it autistic economics.  Last week, the spark of intellectual pushback came to Harvard in the form of a walkout of Greg Mankiw's Econ 10 class.  Makiw was the "brains" behind the economic disaster that was the W. Bush administration so it not especially surprising that smart kids might find his classes odious.  Because Econ 10 is the gateway to the economics department at Harvard, the politic thing would be just to shut up, spit back the foolishness on the tests, and move on.  So it is a sign of the times that students would raise hell in a setting where a jerk like Mankiw can just flunk them for their temerity to object to his foolishness.

Harvard Students Plan Walk-Out Of Greg Mankiw's Economics Class To Show Solidarity With Occupy Movement
Zeke Miller  Nov. 1, 2011

Harvard students are planning to walk out of economist Gregory Mankiw's Econ 10 class on Wednesday to show solidarity with the Occupy Movement, according to an email sent to students.

Mankiw, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under President George W. Bush and the author of a leading economics textbook, has been less-than-supportive of the Occupy Wall Street protests on his blog — and the email cites his "biased instruction matter" as a reason for the walk-out. 
Read the full email below:

Feel upset about EC10 but don’t know how to show your discontent?

Want to get involved in the Occupy Movement?

Join our STUDENT WALK-OUT of EC10 on Wednesday, November 2nd at 12:15!

Gregory Mankiw will be lecturing, and this a great opportunity to show discontent with the style/material/content of the class!

We will be heading over to the higher ed march after the walk-out and anyone is welcome.

So help show solidarity with the Occupy movement by walking out of EC10 at EXACTLY 12:15.

This is later than the general walk-out, but we are making an exception because it is such a symbolic class/instructor.

Let’s show Mankiw that his lack of teaching, extremely high textbook cost, and biased instruction matter to the students! more


It looks like Harvard’s students are a bit disturbed by the fact that one of their most famous professors isn’t providing them with a well rounded education for the bargain basement price of $40,000 per year. Greg Mankiw’s Econ 10 students staged a walkout today:

“Dear Professor Mankiw—
Today, we are walking out of your class, Economics 10, in order to express our discontent with the bias inherent in this introductory economics course. We are deeply concerned about the way that this bias affects students, the University, and our greater society. 
As Harvard undergraduates, we enrolled in Economics 10 hoping to gain a broad and introductory foundation of economic theory that would assist us in our various intellectual pursuits and diverse disciplines, which range from Economics, to Government, to Environmental Sciences and Public Policy, and beyond. Instead, we found a course that espouses a specific—and limited—view of economics that we believe perpetuates problematic and inefficient systems of economic inequality in our society today. 
A legitimate academic study of economics must include a critical discussion of both the benefits and flaws of different economic simplifying models. As your class does not include primary sources and rarely features articles from academic journals, we have very little access to alternative approaches to economics. There is no justification for presenting Adam Smith’s economic theories as more fundamental or basic than, for example, Keynesian theory.” more 

Harvard Starts its Own PAECON Against Mankiw

By Steve Keen, Associate Professor of Economics & Finance at the University of Western Sydney, and author of the book Debunking Economics.  THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 3, 2011
Several correspondents have just told me that some of Greg Mankiw’s students at Harvard are staging a walkout from his first year class. 
I applaud them for this move. Mankiw’s various economics texts are among the most simplistic of the many neoclassical textbooks that parade this flawed paradigm as a flawless jewel of human reasoning. I’m delighted that his students have taken the rebellion against this paradigm to one of its key promulgators. 
I did likewise forty years ago–against far less well-known advocates of neoclassicism. At the time, I probably knew as much as these students do today of the enormous literature that establishes how fallacious neoclassical theory is, and which of course neoclassical texts like Mankiw’s completely ignore. 
These students will undoubtedly be told that they have misunderstood and misjudged both the theory and Mankiw’s course–which I was also told when I revolted against Simkin’s economics at Sydney University back in 1972. They are certainly lacking knowledge of the literature–and they rightly attribute this to the “education” they are receiving in Mankiw’s course:

A legitimate academic study of economics must include a critical discussion of both the benefits and flaws of different economic simplifying models. As your class does not include primary sources and rarely features articles from academic journals, we have very little access to alternative approaches to economics.  more
The kids are right to object to being forced to learn neoliberalism.  Far from being a rigorous scholarly pursuit, it turns out that much of neoliberalism was just hokum made up to justify plunder.
Bruce Bartlett, Ex-Reagan Economist: Idea That Deregulation Leads To Jobs 'Just Made Up'


WASHINGTON -- Key proposals from the Republican presidential candidates might make for good campaign fodder. But independent analyses raise serious questions about those plans and their ability to cure the nation's ills in two vital areas, the economy and housing.

Consider proposed cuts in taxes and regulation, which nearly every GOP candidate is pushing in the name of creating jobs. The initiatives seem to ignore surveys in which employers cite far bigger impediments to increased hiring, chiefly slack consumer demand.

"Republicans favor tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations, but these had no stimulative effect during the George W. Bush administration, and there is no reason to believe that more of them will have any today," writes Bruce Bartlett. He's an economist who worked for Republican congressmen and in the administrations of Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

As for the idea that cutting regulations will lead to significant job growth, Bartlett said in an interview, "It's just nonsense. It's just made up."

The Bureau of Labor Statistics, which tracks companies' reasons for large layoffs, found that 1,119 layoffs were attributed to government regulations in the first half of this year, while 144,746 were attributed to poor "business demand." more


  1. Oh my...this is good news, very hopeful step beyond OWS as we have to get above and beyond sitting in parks, and especially get new intellectual challenges of the status quo engaged at the student level.

  2. As someone who believes it is really pretty important what the smart kids believe about how the world works, it think this is good news as well.

    And yes, I would get tired of the real #OWS in about 15 minutes. Sitting in an all concrete park listening to drummers is actually one of my ideas of hell.