More anti-intellectualism at the Globe and Mail

Regarding Ira Basen’s incompetent hatchet job in last week’s Globe and Mail, political activist and former history professor Gerald Caplan announces:

Ira Basen’s very crucial point (although he’s not quite this blunt) is that the entire economics profession is something of a fraud and that mainstream economists often have no idea what they are talking about. Except for some shining exceptions like John Maynard Keynes, John Kenneth Galbraith, Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz, for over 200 years economists – including the “trained economist” who governs us –have operated on the basis of self-evidently ludicrous premises. Not only ludicrous but relentlessly anti-scientific. As even The New York Times said the other day, the destructive trend toward austerity across the Western world – at least austerity for the most vulnerable – is nothing more than political ideology masquerading as economic policy.

Dismissing an entire discipline you know nothing about in three ideologically-motivated sentences is inarguably anti-intellectual. Anti-intellectualism is unacceptable among educated people, except when it comes to economics, in which case it’s considered unacceptable in some circles to fail to approach the subject in precisely the same manner in which young earth creationists approach evolutionary biology. Much like “biologists are all atheists!” is not only factually incorrect but also an intellectually irrelevant attack on biology, “economists are all right-wing!” is a factually incorrect and intellectually irrelevant attack on economics.

If you (1) don’t know anything about economics and (2) nonetheless hold extremely strong opinions on appropriate methodology in modern economic research, you’re doing it wrong.

6 Comments to “More anti-intellectualism at the Globe and Mail”

  1. But the real-life experience of economist interaction with actual existing policy is that there is overwhelming opposition to trade protectionism and the other instruments of left-wing defense against capitalist depredations.

    So what are we to conclude?

    BTW your attempt to position economics as a science on a par with evolutionary theory in biology is, um, *fraught* with potential objections.

  2. I think, Mandos, that concluding that economists favor what you refer to as “capitalist depredations” because we claim protectionism doesn’t work is like concluding that meteorologists favor drought because they claim rain dances don’t work.

    Trade protectionism is not a good policy to either help the poor or to reduce the power and political influence of corporations. Both Joe Stiglitz and Paul Krugman oppose protectionist policies, for example, and ironically Krugman uses exactly this issue to illustrate the vapidity of the claims of anti-economists as, judging from the comments, you are aware.

  3. Ever feel like Bill Murray in ‘Groundhog Day’?

  4. Economists merely regurgitate the patriarchal language of “mathematics” and therefore perpetuate the transmogrification of marginalized classes by heteronormative imperialist forces. Any hermaneutical approach worth its salt will nullify the predation of privileged sectors and work to delegitimize the sanctity of “otherness” while subtextually transcending mythopoetical domination by post-capitalist neophytes. Economics fails to do this.

  5. Please, please tell me that the comment by Humanities Dept. was intentionally satirical. It’s too hilarious to be sincere.

  6. Humanities Dept: OMG! That is like, totally awesome! Do it again! Can you say something about, say, Canadian constitutional jurisprudence? (And try to include the word “phallocentric”. You missed that one.)

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