Jacques Lacan — a severe case of obscurantism

17 Sep, 2021 at 12:48 | Posted in Theory of Science & Methodology | 12 Comments

This so-called crisis. It does not exist' - Jacques Lacan on Psychoanalysis  in 1974To lure the intended or preferred audience into accepting an assertion or set of assertions, the obscurantist should first of all convince the reader that there is indeed a deep and profound insight lurking underneath the surface of his prima facie incomprehensible statements. The obscurantist’s hope is to persuade the intended reader that the hidden treasure, the true meaning, is indeed so valu able and so revealing that he is willing to invest a huge hermeneutic effort in trying to understand whatever his hermeneutic efforts indicate as the “true meaning” of what Lacan says. As Lacan himself put it in a defiant mood: “L’écrit, ça n’est pas à comprendre. C’est bien pour ça que vous n’êtes pas forcés de comprendre les miens. Si vous ne les comprenez pas, tant mieux, ça vous donnera justement l’occasion de les expliquer” (Lacan, 1975, p. 35). What is in normal conversation extrinsic to understanding – acceptance of what is asserted – now triggers the desire to understand: “these pronouncements contain deep truths about myself that I must accept, so what he says must make sense.”

Filip Buekens & Maarten Boudry

Challenging mainstream economics — a feminist perspective

17 Sep, 2021 at 11:41 | Posted in Economics | 1 Comment

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A must-see!

Hovern’engan

16 Sep, 2021 at 20:05 | Posted in Varia | Comments Off on Hovern’engan

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Image result for whatever you do you do to me

To my brothers and sisters in Afghanistan.

What Žižek and other postmodern obscurantists have in common

16 Sep, 2021 at 16:36 | Posted in Theory of Science & Methodology | Comments Off on What Žižek and other postmodern obscurantists have in common

Mainstream economics — an obscurantist and harmful waste of time | LARS P.  SYLLAmong the soft obscurantists some aim at truth, but do not respect the norms for arriving at truth, such as focusing on causality, acting as devil’s advocate, and generating falsifiable hypotheses. Others do not aim at truth, and often scorn the very idea that there is such a thing. By assumption, these non-respecters of truth cannot be reached by argument, only by ridicule …

Let me mention who they are, by discipline and by name. Disciplines include deconstructionism, postmodernism, subaltern theory, post-colonialism, queer theory, gender theory. Some names are Jacques Derrida, Bruno Latour, Gayatri Spivak, Alain Badiou, Slavoj  Žižek, Homi K. Bhabha, Judith Butler.

Jon Elster

When listening to — or reading — the postmodern obscurantist mumbo-jumbo​ that surrounds​ us today in social sciences and humanities, yours truly often finds himself wishing for that special Annie Hall moment of truth:

Econometrics — a second-best explanatory practice

15 Sep, 2021 at 20:31 | Posted in Economics | Comments Off on Econometrics — a second-best explanatory practice

Consider two elections, A and B. For each of them, identify the events that cause a given percentage of voters to turn out. Once we have thus explained the turnout in election A and the turnout in election B, the explanation of the difference (if any) follows automatically, as a by-product. As a bonus, we might be able to explain whether identical turnouts in A and B are accidental, that is, due to differences that exactly offset each other, or not. In practice, this procedure might be too demanding. The data or he available theories might not allow us to explain the phenomena “in and of themselves.” We should be aware, however, that if we do resort to explanation of variation, we are engaging in a second-best explanatory practice.

Modern econometrics is fundamentally based on assuming — usually without any explicit justification — that we can gain causal knowledge by considering independent variables that may have an impact on the variation of a dependent variable. This is however, far from self-evident. Often the fundamental causes are constant forces that are not amenable to the kind of analysis econometrics supplies us with. As Stanley Lieberson has it in Making It Count:

LiebersonOne can always say whether, in a given empirical context, a given variable or theory accounts for more variation than another. But it is almost certain that the variation observed is not universal over time and place. Hence the use of such a criterion first requires a conclusion about the variation over time and place in the dependent variable. If such an analysis is not forthcoming, the theoretical conclusion is undermined by the absence of information …

Moreover, it is questionable whether one can draw much of a conclusion about causal forces from simple analysis of the observed variation … To wit, it is vital that one have an understanding, or at least a working hypothesis, about what is causing the event per se; variation in the magnitude of the event will not provide the answer to that question.

Trygve Haavelmo was making a somewhat similar point back in 1941, when criticizing the treatmeant of the interest variable in Tinbergen’s regression analyses. The regression coefficient of the interest rate variable being zero was according to Haavelmo not sufficient for inferring that “variations in the rate of interest play only a minor role, or no role at all, in the changes in investment activity.” Interest rates may very well play a decisive indirect role by influencing other causally effective variables. And:

the rate of interest may not have varied much during the statistical testing period, and for this reason the rate of interest would not “explain” very much of the variation in net profit (and thereby the variation in investment) which has actually taken place during this period. But one cannot conclude that the rate of influence would be inefficient as an autonomous regulator, which is, after all, the important point.

This problem of ‘nonexcitation’ — when there is too little variation in a variable to say anything about its potential importance, and we can’t identify the reason for the factual influence of the variable being ‘negligible’ — strongly confirms that causality in economics and other social sciences can never solely be a question of statistical inference. Causality entails more than predictability, and to really in depth explain social phenomena requires theory.

Analysis of variation — the foundation of all econometrics — can never in itself reveal how these variations are brought about. First when we are able to tie actions, processes or structures to the statistical relations detected, can we say that we are getting at relevant explanations of causation. Too much in love with axiomatic-deductive modeling, neoclassical economists especially tend to forget that accounting for causation — how causes bring about their effects — demands deep subject-matter knowledge and acquaintance with the intricate fabrics and contexts. As already Keynes argued in his A Treatise on Probability, statistics (and econometrics) should primarily be seen as means to describe patterns of associations and correlations, means that we may use as suggestions of possible causal realations. Forgetting that, economists will continue to be stuck with a second-best explanatory practice.

La Grande Bellezza

14 Sep, 2021 at 20:33 | Posted in Varia | Comments Off on La Grande Bellezza

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One of the best movies I’ve ever seen. Un capolavoro!

MMT and the deficit myth

12 Sep, 2021 at 14:28 | Posted in Economics | 24 Comments

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What Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) does is more or less what Knut Wicksell tried to do more than a hundred years ago, when he in 1898 wrote on ‘pure credit systems’ in Interest and Prices (Geldzins und Güterpreise). The difference is that today the ‘pure credit economy’ is a reality and not just a theoretical curiosity — MMT describes a fiat currency system that almost every country in the world is operating under.

In modern times legal currencies are totally based on fiat. Currencies no longer have intrinsic value (as gold and silver). What gives them value is basically the simple fact that you have to pay your taxes with them. That also enables governments to run a kind of monopoly business where it never can run out of money. A fortiori, spending becomes the prime mover, and taxing and borrowing are degraded to following acts. If we have a depression, the solution, then, is not austerity. It is spending. Budget deficits are not a major problem since fiat money means that governments can always make more of them.​

In the mainstream economist’s world, we don’t need fiscal policy other than when interest rates hit their lower bound (ZLB). In normal times monetary policy suffices. The central banks simply adjust the interest rate to achieve full employment without inflation. If governments in that situation take on larger budget deficits, these tend to crowd out private spending and the interest rates get higher.

What mainstream economists have in mind when they argue this way, is nothing but a version of Say’s law, basically saying that savings have to equal investments and that if the state increases investments, then private investments have to come down (‘crowding out’). As an accounting identity, there is, of course, nothing to say about the law, but as such, it is also totally uninteresting from an economic point of view. What happens when ex-ante savings and investments differ, is that we basically get output adjustments. GDP changes and so makes saving and investments equal ex-post. And this, nota bene, says nothing at all about the success or failure of fiscal policies!

MMT rejects the traditional Phillips curve inflation-unemployment trade-off and has a less positive evaluation of traditional policy measures to reach full employment. Instead of a general increase in aggregate demand, it usually prefers more ‘structural’ and directed demand measures with less risk of producing increased inflation. At full employment deficit spendings will often be inflationary, but that is not what should decide the fiscal position of the government. The size of public debt and deficits is not — as already Abba Lerner argued with his ‘functional finance’ theory in the 1940s — a policy objective. The size of public debt and deficits are what they are when we try to fulfill our basic economic objectives — full employment and price stability.

Governments can spend whatever amount of money they want. That does not mean that MMT says they ought to — that’s something our politicians have to decide. No MMTer denies that too much government spendings can be inflationary. What is questioned is that government deficits necessarily is inflationary.

Contrary to mainstream theory, finance in the world of MMT — and people like Keynes and Minsky — precedes investment and saving. What is ‘forgotten’ in mainstream theory, is the insight that finance — in all its different shapes — has its own dimension, and if taken seriously, its effect on an analysis must modify the whole theoretical system and not just be added as an unsystematic appendage. Finance is fundamental to our understanding of modern economies​ and acting like the baker’s apprentice who, having forgotten to add yeast to the dough, throws it into the oven afterwards, simply isn’t enough.

All real economic activities depend on a functioning financial machinery. But institutional arrangements, states of confidence, fundamental uncertainties, asymmetric expectations, the banking system, financial intermediation, loan granting processes, default risks, liquidity constraints, aggregate debt, cash flow fluctuations, etc., etc. — things that play decisive roles in channelling money/savings/credit — are more or less left in the dark in modern mainstream formalizations of economic theory.

What the CIA did not tell us about its War on Terror

12 Sep, 2021 at 11:04 | Posted in Politics & Society | 1 Comment

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Finansretoriska rådet — en mental härdsmälta

12 Sep, 2021 at 09:25 | Posted in Politics & Society | Comments Off on Finansretoriska rådet — en mental härdsmälta

Hassler: S har ett dåligt arbetslöshetsmålEtt roligt klipp cirkulerar på John Hassler, professor i nationalekonomi och ledamot i Finanspolitiska rådet.

“Vi blev utskällda efter noter av finansministern”, säger han och tittar sorgset in i kameran.

Tydligen blev Magdalena Andersson (S) inte så imponerad av de politiska slutsatser som Finanspolitiska rådet överlämnade 2015. Hassler är fortfarande sur. “Finansretoriska rådet” kallade hon dem.

Efteråt behövde de stackars professorerna en “debriefing” med John Hasslers ordval.

Begreppet “debriefing” kommer ursprungligen från det militära och är en form av krisbearbetning som förebygger posttraumatiskt stressyndrom efter skarpa insatser.

Tänk svenska specialförband på Kabuls flygplats, poliser som jagar terrorister efter Drottninggatan eller våra veteraner från internationella insatser.

Och Johan Hassler.

Jag har faktiskt lite svårt att hålla mig för skratt.

Anders Lindberg/Aftonbladet

Islamo-gauchisme à l’université — fantasme ou réalité ?

10 Sep, 2021 at 23:08 | Posted in Politics & Society | Comments Off on Islamo-gauchisme à l’université — fantasme ou réalité ?

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China’s crackdown on ‘effeminate’ behaviour

10 Sep, 2021 at 20:21 | Posted in Politics & Society | Comments Off on China’s crackdown on ‘effeminate’ behaviour

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Immanuel Kant quote: Freedom is independence of the compulsory will of  another, and...

Adorno’s speech against fascism

10 Sep, 2021 at 16:59 | Posted in Politics & Society | Comments Off on Adorno’s speech against fascism

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Science before statistics — causal inference

10 Sep, 2021 at 12:20 | Posted in Statistics & Econometrics | Comments Off on Science before statistics — causal inference

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September 11, 2001

9 Sep, 2021 at 15:28 | Posted in Politics & Society | Comments Off on September 11, 2001

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Impotence must eventually bring about what good will ought to have done but did not do: that each state becomes so organized internally that it is not the head of state, whom war really costs nothing (since he wages it at another’s cost, namely that of the people), who has the decisive voice as to whether there is to be war or not, but instead the people, which pays for it.

Immanuel Kant

Kan Magdalena Andersson släppa den nyliberala modellen?

8 Sep, 2021 at 20:23 | Posted in Economics | Comments Off on Kan Magdalena Andersson släppa den nyliberala modellen?

Trots att ingen längre säger sig vara nyliberal, så dominerar de neoklassiska ekonomiska modeller som nobelpristagaren Milton Friedman skapade nyliberalismen av, den verkställda ekonomiska politiken. Det vill säga att ”marknadens” kollektiva visdom är den bärande bjälken som politiken har att förhålla sig till. Inte ens Socialdemokraterna, med finansministern och den sannolika partiledaren Magdalena Andersson i spetsen, vill släppa den modellen …

Neoliberalism: Political Success, Economic Failure - The American ProspectJag vill hävda att detta fullskaleexperiment med nyliberala idéer inte har varit rakt igenom lyckosamma utan har skapat det mesta av de sociala och ekonomiska spänningar som vi idag har att brottas med, i form av växande ojämlikhet och socialt utanförskap …

Problemen med dessa nyliberala reformer är att de har skapats för att vara så ”irreversibla” som möjligt. Där äganderätten och näringsfriheten är de heliga principer som har stadfästs så djupt som det någonsin går. Eller snarare definitionen av dessa rättigheter, som inte bygger på några ekonomiska naturlagar utan de är till sin natur politiska och handlar om vem som får privilegiet att definiera dem …

Vill man komma åt det sjuka systemet med vinstmaximerande skolor, så kan man börja med att reformera systemet för den så kallade skolpengen, som i dag är ger stora arbitragevinster till friskolorna.  Med sjunkande marginaler i friskolorna blir de också allt mindre intressanta som investeringsobjekt. Detta kommer i sin tur att bana väg för andra riktiga reformer.

Per Lindvall

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