Sometime in the next 24 hours we will be switching European Tribune over to a new layout. This will involve a little downtime and no doubt some teething troubles. Do not adjust your set. - Colman

The issue was never one of needing to switch from stimulus spending to tax cuts for the rich, or of needing to care exclusively about inflation and ignore unemployment. People who interpreted the seventies in that fashion misunderstood fatally what was going on. That misunderstanding fuels and feeds their misunderstanding of the present problems.

The use of the words 'misunderstood' and 'misunderstanding' is to me the most problematic aspect of the above quote. I am sure there was a lot of misunderstanding. I have to wonder at the thought that it was all just a big misunderstanding.

I would apply the principle that the law used in the case of 'erroneous' pricing of items in the data from which barcode readers obtained prices at the check stands in California supermarkets in the '90s. The fact was that the errors were always in the direction of the store chains and the chains were required to refund a condiderable amount of money.

Of course my knowledge and memory are far from complete or perfect, so perhaps others can remind me of the times when 'misunderstandings' in economic theory have redounded to the benefit of the average citizen. For the life of me I cannot think of any.

As the Dutch said while fighting the Spanish: "It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Tue Jan 8th, 2013 at 10:23:12 PM EST
The store, in this case, being those private interests that subsidized the economic theory that failed to clear simple empirical hurdles but gave the answers they wished to hear.

There are always misunderstandings available in a social science (or social faith, in the case of neoclassical economics) ~ however, as in bar code reader errors being reliably to the favor of the store, the "misunderstanding" persistently involves accepting a weaker argument that happens to originate from an approach to the studying the economy that was originally developed to justify the wealth and power of the wealthy and powerful.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Wed Jan 9th, 2013 at 08:04:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In How Institutions Think Mary Douglass cited a cultural anthropologist to the effect that whenever the discourse with elites in any culture approached the most sacred subjects, which were often some of the most important for the maintenance of the social order, everyone became evasive and reluctant to speak clearly. So it is with us.

One of the most powerful protective spells at play in our culture is the cloak provided by the taboo surrounding anything that can be considered 'conspiracy theory'. One might think that all events in human history have been the result of single actors acting alone, as absurd as that might seem, given the ease with which the adverse label of 'conspiracy theory' diverts consideration away from the very possibility that, for instance, the rise to prominence and the long reign in prominence of what is, sadly, the present formulation of 'Mainstream Economics', aka neo-classical economics.

All who wish to be part of that 'mainstream' know, as if by instinct, to ignore anything that seriously challenges that system, prized as it is by those who hand out preferment and tenure. The evidence provided by Mason Gaffney in his monograph that this system was created and enshrined specifically to undermine the criticism of Henry George and his supporters at the behest of wealthy university benefactors whose interests would have been seriously damaged is studiously ignored. Henry George is systematically forgotten by academia, along with others who challenged what has become the Conventional Wisdom, such as Henry Wallace, so that few today have any idea of what they advocated or what might have been. The intellectual shuffle that has repeatedly occurred in economics, where strong versions of beloved theories are convincingly falsified, the field falls back on weak versions temporarily, and, after a suitable time and some non-refutation by some approved authority, moves back to the preferred version without ever dealing with the falsification, as described by Yanis Varoufakis in A Most Peculiar Failure, and on and on.

Hell! The taboo on 'conspiracy theory' explanations are tame stuff compared to the self censorship which most seem to so readily accept.    

As the Dutch said while fighting the Spanish: "It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Wed Jan 9th, 2013 at 10:20:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If we ever have a return to sanity the post-70s period will be known as the Lost Century - that moment when collective intelligence was on the brink of creating something remarkable, but was stopped in its tracks by an organised capitalist counter-reformation.

Although ultimately the issue is the on-going war between those who simply want to do cool stuff and get along and the few deviants who want to have it all themselves and enjoy screwing over everyone else.

When the deviants are labelled honestly we might see some progress towards civilisation again.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) on Thu Jan 10th, 2013 at 06:17:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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