Krugmans svidande kritik av nationalekonomerna

10 Sep, 2011 at 13:27 | Posted in Economics | 1 Comment

Nobelpristagaren i ekonomi, Paul Krugman, levererar i sitt tal till Eastern Economic  Association en svidande vidräkning med den moderna neoklassiska nationalekonomiska teorin och dess utövares nästintill totala oförmåga att på ett adekvat sätt förutspå, analysera och åtgärda den sedan år 2008 pågående ekonomiska krisen runt om i världen:

So we’re having an economic crisis. I say “having,” not “had,” because we have by no means recovered … This crisis was the time for the economics profession to justify its existence, for us academic scribblers to show what all our models and analysis are good for. We have not, to put it mildly, delivered …

One can make excuses for the failure of the economics profession to foresee that the 2008 financial crisis would happen. It’s much harder to make such excuses for much of the profession’s failure to realize that such a thing could happen …

The overall point should be clear: economists had good enough intellectual frameworks to have seen the risk of something like the banking and balance sheet crisis that burst upon us in 2008. But they ignored that risk.

My best answer is that they were caught up in the spirit of the times, with its faith in the wisdom of markets and of the financial industry. Nobody could deny the possibility of runs on conventional banks, which have happened so often in history. Few could deny that debt deflation had happened in the past. But to argue, or even to think about, the possibility that the old evils could manifest themselves in new forms would have been to question the whole basis of decades of policy, not to mention the foundations of a very lucrative industry . ..  And by not pursuing that line of thought, the profession fell down badly on the job.

We’ve entered a Dark Age of macroeconomics, in which much of the profession has lost its former knowledge, just as barbarian Europe had lost the knowledge of the Greeks and Romans.

How did all this knowledge get lost? … First, success in academic economics came from publishing “hard” papers — meaning papers that used rigorous and preferably difficult mathematics …  Successive cohorts of students were trained only in the newly rigorous version of macro, which had lost touch with the field’s previous intellectual achievements.

And as these cohorts became professors in their turn, they closed off both publication and promotion to anyone who questioned the dominant academic approach …

All of this would have been OK if the triumph of anti-Keynesianism was justified by superior empirical success. But it wasn’t. As I read the history of the equilibrium approach, it’s a story of failing upward …

The policy debate of 2009–2010 was virtually indistinguishable from the policy debate of 1931–1932. Long-refuted doctrines that should have been consigned to the dustbin of history were stated as if they were fresh new ideas — and they were fresh and new to many economists, because our profession had lost so much of its heritage.

In short, in responding to the crisis, the profession presented a sorry spectacle of unnecessary ignorance that didn’t even recognize itself as ignorance, of bitter debate over issues that were resolved many decades earlier …

Some economists are pushing forward with new macroeconomic models … But as I’ve said, our big problem was not lack of models … The biggest problem we had as a profession wasn’t failure to keep up with a changing world, it was failure to remember what our fathers learned.

Såsom varande en av landets få ekonomiska doktrinhistoriker kan jag inte undgå notera att vad Krugman här pläderar för i stor utsträckning är större kännedom om den egna disciplinens landvinningar och historia. En bättre plädoyer för (åter)införande av ekonomisk doktrinhistoria i ekonomutbildningarna är svår att finna. Kanske skulle ekonomkåren då inte heller stå lika handfallen nästa gång kristecknen tornar upp sig

En gång i tiden hade vi i Sverige också ekonomer av Paul Krugmans kaliber – som t ex Knut Wicksell, Gunnar Myrdal och Johan Åkerman. Nu får vi hålla till godo med en Assar Lindbeck eller en Marian Radetzki. Vilket inte kan fylla ett doktrinhistoriehjärta annat än med bedrövelse.

1 Comment

  1. Som vanligt har herr Krugman rätt. Det är få ämnen som är så ointresserad av sin egen historia som nationalekonomi.

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