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Friday lay day – The superiority of economists!

Its the Friday lay day blog and today I briefly discuss economists. What a topic! There is an interesting article just published in the Journal of Economic Perspectives that examines the way economists think of themselves and other social science disciplines. It is a horror story really. Having been immersed in the profession for many years now, I sometimes forget how bad it is. Here is what the study found. The title is a deliberate double entendre. It is more about the way economists think they are superior rather than any absolute finding of superiority.

The full reference: Fourcade, M., Ollion, E. and Algan, Y. (2015) ‘The Superiority of Economists’, Journal of Economic Perspectives, 29(1), Winter, 89-114.

The researchers find “an implicit pecking order among the social sciences, and it seems to be dominated by economics” but that is mostly a perception that the economists have of themselves. Tickets on themselves!

Economists think that “economics is the most scientific of the social sciences” which is a joke when you appreciate the Philosophy of Science literature. The concept of ‘science’ is contestable as a starting point – see the work of Paul Feyerabend, particularly his – Against Method.

Economists think that because they use more “powerful analytical tools” like mathematics they are superior to other social sciences.

Of course, real mathematicians laugh at the attempts by economists to use mathematics. Economists even breach standard mathematical rules regarding what should go on the x-axis and y-axis in graphical depictions of relationships. It is a standing in-joke how stupid economists are with respect to mathematical usage.

You might like to read these three blogs:

1. GIGO … (October 2009)

2. OECD – GIGO Part 2 (July 2010)

3. A continuum of infinitely lived agents normalized to one – GIGO Part 3 (February 2012)

The research paper investigates the substance to the feeling of superiority that mainstream economists exude.

They note that:

1. Economists have a Nobel Prize, which is not a real Nobel Prize anyway. Please read my blog – Nobel prize – hardly noble – for more discussion on this point.

2. Economists are the highest paid among the US social scientists.

3. “economists have the opportunity to obtain income from consulting fees, private investment and partnerships, and membership on corporate boards”. Yes, remember the Iceland scandal – Please read my blog – Wrong is still wrong and should be disregarded – for more discussion on this point.

And remember the film documentary – the Inside Job – which showed how many highly ranked US economists were swanning around the world earning huge consulting contracts to justify some abhorrent deregulation or another while being paid by organisations that benefits from their so-called ‘independent’ research papers.

The researchers note that a lot of the pay differentials can be explained by the overwhelming male domination of economics departments relative to other social sciences:

Thus, cross-disciplinary relations are inevitably permeated by broader patterns of gender difference, stratification, and inequality.

Economics graduate schools are macho-type environments which women, typically, find to be offensive. Only about 20 per cent of doctorates in Economics go to women whereas 70 per cent go to women in Psychology and around 60 per cent in Sociology and Life Sciences.

Economists create an air of superiority by maintaining strong Groupthink discipline. The profession is extremely insular and heirarchical – the latter which maintains discipline within the ranks, filters career progression, maintains control over research grants, publications etc.

The authors also find that as neo-liberalism became more dominant and financial market deregulation accelerated, the role fo finance schools in universities became more dominant. Within that context, they find that:

… transformations within higher education (most prominently the rise of business schools) and the economy have contributed to a reorientation of economics toward business subjects and especially finance.

Many economics departments have closed and been merged into these horrific business schools.

I am proud to say I have never been a member of a business school. While the University of Newcastle, where I hold a chair in economics, collapsed its Economics Department, I had already negotiated a deal with the Vice Chancellor where I was placed outside the Faculty of Business and Law and operated exclusively out of my stand-alone research centre – the Centre of Full Employment and Equity (CofFEE). The other economists were absorbed into the Business School, sadly.

So the superiority that economists claim is related according to the research to:

… far-reaching scientific claims linked to the use of formal methods; the tight management of the discipline from the top down; high market demand for services, particularly from powerful and wealthy parties; and high compensation. This position of social superiority also breeds self-confidence, allowing the discipline to retain its relative epistemological insularity over time and fueling a natural inclination towards a sense of entitlement.

1. Insularity – economists rarely cite or value research from other social sciences despite its obvious relevance to the study of human society.

Mainstream economists have their own (puerile) theory of human behaviour – we are all maximising, selfish and rational beings – so there is no need to consult pyschologists who specialise in understanding human behaviour. Economists just adopt these rigid assumptions that countless research projects have found to be ridiculous and errant.

2. The use of mathematics is to give an impression of formality and precision. It is to claim the high scientific ground. It also “permits economists to strip away complexity” which might complicate the ideology that is being perpetuated.

The researchers quote “an eminent professor” on this topic:

If you don’t follow certain rules, you are not an economist. So that means you should derive the way people behave from strict maximization theory … The opposite … [to being axiomatic] … would be arguing by example. You’re not allowed to do that … There is a word for it. People say ‘that’s anecdotal.’ That’s the end of you if people have said you’re anecdotal … [T]he modern thing [people say] is: ‘it’s not identified.’ God, when your causality is not identified, that’s the end of you.

I have noted this observation by American (Marxist) economist Paul Sweezy before. In 1972, he wrote in the Monthly Review Press an article entitled Towards a Critique of Economics that orthodox (mainstream) economics:

… remained within the same fundamental limits … of the C19th century free market economist … they had … therefore tended … to yield diminishing returns. It has concerned itself with smaller and decreasingly significant questions … To compensate for this trivialisation of content, it has paid increasing attention to elaborating and refining its techniques. The consequence is that today we often find a truly stupefying gap between the questions posed and the techniques employed to answer them.

When I was in graduate school, the rage at the time was the “Economics of Marriage”, the “Economics of Slavery”, the “Economics of Sex” and we had to sit through highly mathematical derivations of when a person went from petting to heavy petting to intercourse – each step being the result of a complicated evaluation of the marginal costs and benefits (optimised over a life-time) that moving from one state to the next would involve.

If anyone followed this logic, they would wonder how anyone “got it on”.

For any one who had studied mathematics previously (such as me) the classes were a joke. But the lecturers were able to beguile most of the students into thinking the material was complex and meaningful. In fact, it failed at the first hurdle to understand any of the essential characteristics of human behaviour as subsequent studies in experimental behavioral economics have revealed.

I also love the following quote which resonates strongly in this context. Post Keynesian economist Paul Davidson [in the book by Bell and Kristol The Crisis in Economic Theory, Basic Books, 1981, p.157] describes how mainstream economics uses methods and approaches that renders it unable to embrace real world problems:

There are certain purely imaginary intellectual problems for which general equilibrium models are well designed to provide precise answers (if anything really could). But this is much the same as saying that if one insists on analyzing a problem which has no real world equivalent or solution, it may be appropriate to use a model which has no real-world application. By the same token, if a model is designed specifically to deal with real-world situations it may not be able to handle purely imaginary problems.

Post Keynesian models are designed specifically to deal with real-world problems. Hence they may not be very useful in resolving imaginary problems that are often raised by general equilibrium theorists. Post Keynesians cannot specify in advance the optimal allocation of resources over time into the uncertain, unpredictable future; nor are they able to determine how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. On the other hand, models designed to provide answers to questions of the angel-pinhead variety, or imaginary problems involving specifying in advance the optional-allocation path over time, will be unsuitable for resolving practical, real-world economic problems.

Note that I am not against simplified (abstract) modelling. Clearly, it is essential if you want to gain some traction on a real-world problem that is complex. But the models have to be capable of capturing real-world dynamics.

For example, a model that claims central banks control the money supply via the money multiplier will always be false and provides no relevant information to the user no matter how many complex mathematical equations are used.

So economists who develop the highly technical models of the economy which are internally elegant (sometimes) and which allow them to conduct very complicated exercises all aimed at counting “how many angels can dance on the head of a pin”, with all sorts of variations on how large the pinhead might be or the constraints the angels might be facing at any point in time – may exhibit a highly advanced intelligence and creativity.

But once they think that these models are capable of saying anything about the monetary system we live within – then they immediately demonstrate how dumb (or venal) they are.

It is in that context that I argue that my profession largely has failed to be clever.

The Finance/Economics professors in mainstream schools had very complicated models of this and that (option pricing etc) but couldn’t see the GFC coming even when it was upon them!

3. “Hierarchy Within” – there is typically a rigid hierarchy in the profession. It operates like a Mafia cabal – which is typically of a well-developed Groupthink structure – a sort of mob rule is how one social psychologist referred to these patterns of behaviour.

Economists departments barely tolerate non-mainstream economists. So a pattern of uniformity emerges which is reinforced by the Groupthink control structures. Other social sciences tolerate pluralism more easily.

Phd course work programs in economics tend to be very rigid – formality, theory, topics etc. It is hard to deviate. To become a Marxian scholar, you have to learn all their stuff plus find time to read Marx.

Fortunately, their stuff is relatively easy if you come with a mathematics background. Trivial in fact. But most students struggle because they do not have that formal background.

As Sweezy says – the substance doesn’t develop like other disciplines over the 9 years or so of study leading to a doctorate. Just the techniques get more complex. But even the most complex techniques are scorned by real mathematicians.

The researchers conclude that:

On the control side, economists manage their field tightly. Scholars have long noted that top departments in economics exert a remarkably strong influence over the discipline’s internal labor market …

Hiring is very controlled. Promotion is controlled. Access to funding is controlled.

A non-mainstream economist has to do much more to get on and so few get to the rank of full professor.

I was at a meeting the other day and it was noted that most of my research income (which keeps my centre going etc) comes from my work in regional science and economic geography. When I have gained large grants within economics it is for technical work using very sophisticated (in the eyes of the mainstream) econometric tools etc.

Don’t mention Marx! is the lesson for young progressive economists who want to attract research money – and make sure you are good at mathematics and econometrics.

Then you can cross subsidise your radical work with the money you get. And if you get enough research money, you will get to professorial level (that is, Level E in the Australian setting) irrespective of the views you hold, given that these positions are appointed at University levels rather than department levels.

That is how you can get through the within-department control processes. But few do.

The research study documents hiring processes across the social sciences and concludes that “the range of possible options is more tightly defined and determined much earlier.”

Interestingly, the research paper finds that economists hold views that are contrary to public opinion. Sociologists, for example, are much more likely to express generally accepted views.

They give an example “For example, two-thirds of sociologists say that corporations make too much profit, but only one-third of economists and virtually no finance professors think so.”

Is that a problem? The paper says that:

This growing social distance of economists from the public at large would be irrelevant if economists were not making it their mission to maximize the welfare of ordinary people. Economics as a profession is prominently intertwined with public administrations, corporations, and international organizations; these institutions not only provide economists with resources and collect their data, they also foster a “fix it” culture-or, as sociologists would put it, a particular “habitus,” a disposition to intervene in the world.

In other words, economists dominate the policy making process yet have little empathy with the targets of the policy.

Hence, we get the nonsensical conclusions that the unemployed are obviously lazy because they are idle. They must, according to the mathematical models and behavioural assumptions built into them be rationally choosing this state.

A shortage of jobs doesn’t enter their minds.

The paper concludes by asking whether economists are really “humble, competent people?”.

This was in relation to Keynes famous quote:

If economists could manage to get themselves thought of as humble, competent people, on a level with dentists, that would be splendid!

The research finds that “Human life is messy, never to be grasped in its full complexity or shaped according to plan: people act in unanticipated ways; politics makes its own demands; cultures (which economists do not understand well) resist.”

Blyth to their shortcomings and blinkered viewpoints, economists adopt an unjustified self-confidence, which allows them to appear “decisive” and accurate in their predictions.

But as the research concludes:

That confidence is perhaps the greatest achievement of the economics profession-but it is also its most vulnerable trait, its Achilles’ heel.

With which we can all agree.

Comedy and Offense

The other day I deleted a reference to Shylock because an American reader objected to its use, given the possibility that it could be interpreted as an anti-Semitic remark. That connotation is far-fetched in the context that the word was used used but I took the point. The aim of this blog is not to cause trivial offense.

I received a lot of E-mails about that and some pointing out that it seemed to be at odds with my Political Comparison location, which is left and libertarian (lots).

They further pointed out that I thought John Cleese’s goosestep with his Hitler moustache imitation to be funny. Why go easy on the Jews and then pillary the Germans was one question I received?

There is no contradiction. Having libertarian tendencies does not negate having basic respect for each other. Indeed, it enhances that requirement.

The blog was a serious narrative there was no comedic element. In serious discourse, the intent to win the argument or enlighten the reader.

But in comedy/satire I believe almost anything goes and the concept of cultural offense is not applicable. I understand that the targets and topics of comedy can be culturally specific – what I find funny might not be the same thing as an American.

In fact, do Americans find anything funny? (joke!).

But all cultures understand comedy in their own way. So if a particular group doesn’t like a particular form of comedy then turn it off, stop reading, or whatever. They cannot, in my view, say it offends their religious idol or whatever. It is comedy. Comedy is about laughing.

That is the difference. We can target the most precious things in comedy including the most precious of them all – ourselves!

And that is why I also said – Je ne suis pas Charlie!

Recall, that they sacked a – cartoonist – in 2009 for daring to satirise Jean Sarkozy’s conversion to Judaism in Charlie Hedbo’s Magazine. He was told that satirising the Jews was banned and he was sacked. He won a large court settlement for wrongful dismissal. He was also subject to a death threat from a Jewish organisation.

In other words, Charlie Hebdo amounts to outright hypocrisy.

If it is funny and intended to be funny then almost anything is a legitimate target. What is the ‘almost’ excluding? For example, jokes about children being forced to have sex with predatory adults is never funny.

Corkie, anything to say on that?

And what I have been listening to this morning which you might also like

Its Friday so we can kick back a bit.

This is the great (and sad) jazz guitar player – Emily Remler – the white Jewish girl from New Jersey who thought she was a big black bloke like Wes Montgomery and nearly played like him.

Sadly, she died (while in tour in Sydney in 1990 – I remember the day) at the age of 32 after a heart attack. She had also been addicted to heroin for many years.

But play she could.

Here she is with another great player – Larry Coryell – who is, fortunately, still playing well.

This is Track 7 taken from the Larry Coryell And Emily Remler Together” Album from Concord Jazz. One of my favourites (although I have stacks of favourites).

It was recorded in San Francisco during August 1985.

Saturday Quiz

The Saturday Quiz will be back again tomorrow. It will be of an appropriate order of difficulty (-:

That is enough for today!

(c) Copyright 2015 William Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.

This Post Has 25 Comments

  1. They say that satire should be like HL Mencken’s definition of good journalism. It should ” afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted”. I’d like to say that that is also invariably true of Professor Bill Mitchell’s blog.

  2. “Why go easy on the Jews and then pillory the Germans was one question I received?”

    Who is being pilloried in the Cleese clip? The Germans or the British?

  3. Interesting to read your comment that, ‘Emily Remler died (while in tour in Sydney in 1990 – I remember the day) at the age of 32 after a heart attack induced by years of heroin addiction.’

    Perhaps you should have commented that years of using contaminated heroin and non sterile needles could have led to a heart attack. Like economists with an agenda, some medical and many lay commentators malign heroin which in it pure form, is quite easy on the body.

    In fact there is much anecdotal evidence of stroke and heart attack in woodwind/brass instrument players from blowing too hard.

  4. Dear Kel Young (2015:02/27 at 14:27)

    I have edited to text to take out the causality between the early heart attack and the years of heroin addiction. The point you make is fair.

    But it was not a case of me being an “economist with an agenda”. I accept that most problems with opiates stem from a lack of income and there are plenty of highly paid professionals who shoot and snort to their heart’s content because they have high incomes and good nutrition and sanitation.

    best wishes

  5. Granted that economics has more than the usual share of prima donnas,scam artists and followers rather than original thinkers. But my impression is that psychologists are in the same boat and I include psychiatrists in that cohort even though shrinks have to be medically qualified before they can specialise.

    The word science needs to be removed from the the social sciences. I suggest that social philosophy would be a better moniker.
    With the exception of psychiatrists and prescribing psychologists. Drug trafficker would be the more appropriate term.

  6. Maybe there needs to be a new subject of ‘real economics’ which looks at the behaviour of real economies. Which do, of course, comprise of real people making what they see as totally rational decisions, but which may not be totally rational as a classical economist, or a supercomputer, might see it.

    Recently, the Australian dollar has fallen by over 20% against the US dollar. Australians would only notice that if they went abroad. Or maybe if they bought something from America on eBay. Otherwise, its not that obvious. Prices in the supermarkets are pretty much the same as as they were before. But, nevertheless, in US dollar terms we are all being paid less now than when the Aussie dollar was at parity. But, say Australia used the US dollar. Would the Australia still have been able to readjust as it has? Conceptually I suppose that would be possible. We’d have had to reduce our pay by 20%. Prices by 20% etc. It wouldn’t be too difficult to make that happen in a mathematical model.

    But that wouldn’t have happened in reality. Companies would have laid off workers instead, as they became even less competitive than they currently are, and the economy would have shrunk by 20% too. So, would that be a case of everyone acting irrationally? I suppose that’s quite possible, but it doesn’t matter. That’s the way real people do behave and real people dictate what happens in real economies.

    Most people are much more interested in what happens in their real economy that in some mathematical model and it high time that the economic mainstream recognised that.

  7. One often wonders why Modern Monetary Mechanics has gained so little traction since the idea was written up in 1963 by the Reserve Bank of Chicago. Surely plenty of economists will have read that booklet although I believe it’s out of print today.
    I think this article by Bill explains why. Their livelihood depends on not rocking the boat. Even if it’s not explicit it’s pervasive in schools etc, The political classes love this conventional way of looking at it and the press as usual is intellectually moribund. Those that aren’t are confined to the margins where few hear their voices.
    As Rodger Malcolm Mitchell attests the aim in Neo-Liberal thought and actions is to widen the gap between the haves and the have nots.
    So MMT, which shows the government can afford full employment and no cuts to welfare or medicine or pensions, is not going to be acknowledged! Bad form!
    Fortunately bloggers like us are cutting away the shields surrounding economics and political life.
    It may not be long now before MMT is taken as gospel,as self evident.

  8. Noah Smith had a good interpretation of this. Its not so much that economists are particularly useful (I always chuckle when remembering Jack Welch mentioning in his autobiography how he fired the economists first from GE to cut the fat) or particularly internally or externally valid in their modelling (have a look at the dire record of PROFESSIONAL economists economic forecasting since, forever).

    Its just simply the case that in the modern employment market, certain skills are desired and of all the social sciences, with the exception of psychology perhaps, only economists learn a decent standard of statistics. It would be great for other social sciences to adopt this skill in their toolkit more. I don’t know about any of you, but while theory is fine, I think the actual subject matter of politics, sociology, history etc can be as much or even more profound than economics. On the other hand, economics could do with more fundamental theoretical advances, rather than formality and data mining.

  9. Bill my comment about economists with an agenda didn’t apply to you. I was thinking of economists, accountants and financial commentators who tailor advice to the highest bidder. You know like the ratings agencies just before the GFC.

    My main point was that of all drugs the opiates should be legalised. I can even imagine a heroin led economic recovery.

  10. Anything that uses static supply-demand based models is methematically broken (proof by contradiction/ infinite identical consumer choosing from an artificial subset of choice to maximise utility added together ignoring all transitivities between consumers *in other words rubbish*). Says law, perfect competition, equilibrium models, efficient markets hypothesis (all broken).
    Anything that observes business behaviour is pretty dodgy too because there is only situational evidence at best. I guess people inthe field like Bill can spot the dangers a mile off but the average joe will not know when a person in a suit with a highly paid position is promoting rubbish.

    If i remember correctly Yanis (the greek) was one of many to show that the ‘prisoners’ dilemma does not scale linearly beyond one instance and does not guarantee firms will compete rather than collude in the real world. (real world evidence also proves this but its good to break the faulty logic).

    Since the GFC vested interests are still looking for a ‘theory’ that suits the ‘outcome(s)’ they want they will ignore the fact its mathematically unsound, real world evidence does not support it.

    Fishers pre great depression theory of finance (became efficient markets hypothesis in later years) versus his post depression debt-deflation theory (minsky) which goes a longway towards describing the GFC.

  11. Hi,
    if anybody want’s to read the whole paper mentioned by Bill:
    I’d like to mention that it’s not by chance that the research was led by french scientists. France is still a little more resilient to the impostions of neoclassical ecnomics. Science Po and Max Planck btw are very distinguished institutions.

  12. There is a very simple explanation for this.

    The money power does not want people to understand how they operate

    People with a practical engineering or scientific bent are simply ignored as Frederick Soddy was during the 30s despite making the valid criticism that economics as currently projected violates the laws of thermodynamics.
    Douglas was more difficult to ignore as his more monetary observations could not be refuted by the bankers.
    People were simply made to forget – go read Keynes instead ………

    In a similar fashion Ireland ( not known for its scientific prowess) was made to forget one of its greatest 20 the century satirists – Eimar O Duffy, simply because he was a effective social creditor willing to paint the absurdity of Ireland , the world and the universe in vivid colours.
    My guess is that less then 10, 000 Irish people even know he existed.
    We can deduct from this observation that we live inside a very effective police state and indeed its been the case for some time – my guess is for at least 4 to 500 years.

    I can’t think of one economic book that looked into the various expulsions in a rational manner.
    Given the limited energy within medieval physical economies the various economies and societies must and indeed were rapidly destabilized by the capitalistic powers of concentration.
    Today’s Europe is showing extremely similar dynamics to the middle age collapse where Venice (now London) and Florentine super companies (perhaps German based multinationals) played a vital role in the collapse of European living conditions.

  13. A group that I think gets too little respect are Historians. I’ve often felt that looking at and understanding what people have done in the past is by far the best predictor of what they will do in the future.

  14. Mr Dork, I know Irish people are renowned by having the “gift of the the gab” but I’m just wondering why you find it necessary to make quite so many multiple contributions? 4 in this one for example. I suggest you’d have more of an impact, ie readers wouldn’t just skip over your comments, if you spent less time writing and more time thinking of what you’d like to say clearly and precisely!

  15. Charlie Hedbo worries me. A lot of their humour (so-called) is crude, ugly and racist. It has no redeeming artistic or cultural value whatsoever. I agree with prosecution and life imprisonment for any found guilty of murdering CH staff. I don’t agree that CH staff are heroes of free speech in any sense.

  16. Dork of Cork,

    It might surprise you that even among strong critics of capitalism there are few who want to go back to feudalism with a canonised Catholic King. However, this seems to be your model of the perfect political economy.

    Like Samwise, I too would like to live quietly in The Shire after Aragorn becomes King of Gondor. Though I do have rather a hankering to see Dol Amroth. But I understand these are fantasies, just as your wish for the Return of the Catholic King is a fantasy.

  17. Ikonoclast

    Never said it was perfect.
    Not enough credit back then………
    The chosen people said this can only be done when interest is added.
    Now we know this is untrue.
    The time value of money is a illusion.
    Read some of Anthony Migheals stuff on this…….
    I know the type.
    A honest Dutchman.
    Stressed to the point of breakdown.
    Many retreated to Ireland for a while.
    Then vacated the burning building after 1995~

  18. Ikonoclast -Satire can be cruel to some, it can be crude in the opinion of some,it can be offensive to some.

    However,it has never been guilty of murder or any offence against the person to my knowledge.

    Satire has a valuable place in the Western tradition of free speech. If you don’t like the results of free speech then I suggest that you emigrate to a place which doesn’t have it. There is no lack of potential destinations. Good luck.

  19. Podargus,

    Your comment suggests to me that you think freedom of expression means you can express anything to anybody (or print it or draw it etc.) at any time. You seem to think freedom of expression is an absolute right unmodified by any other rights. Any such notion that any right is absolute and freestanding, unmodified by other rights, responsibilities and the need to live in reaonable social harmony, is simplistic and indeed unworkable.

    The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, adopted during the French Revolution in 1789, specifically affirmed freedom of speech as an inalienable but limited right . Article 11 stated that:

    “The free communication of ideas and opinions is one of the most precious of the rights of man. Every citizen may, accordingly, speak, write, and print with freedom, but shall be responsible for such abuses of this freedom as shall be defined by law.”

    This contains the notion that a freedom can be abused. “The right to freedom of speech and expression is closely related to other rights, and may be limited when conflicting with other rights.” – Wikipedia.

    J.S. Mill outlined the “harm principle” in placing the following limitation on free expression: “the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others.” Where freedom of expression could cause harm it can reasonably be limited by law. The courts are always available to test cases and test the law.

    Joel Feinberg introduced what is known as the “offense principle”. It is always arguable how far the “offence principle” should or can be taken before it becomes too limiting on freedom of expression. Australia has “hate speech” laws. “Hate speech” can incite violence or prejudicial action against minorities in particular (as well as give offence) so there is a good argument for such laws.

    I note how little your own advocacy for freedom of expression extends in practice. When I aired a view you disagreed with you suggested I could emigrate to a less free place.

    To sum up, it is simplistic to think that the right to freedom of expression is not modified from time to time by other equally important rights (and the various rights of others) in a complex society.

  20. Oh how I yearn for the simpler days when people understood the need to not cause a breach of the peace.

  21. Ikonoclast – It is a given that there are always limits to any activity in a civil society.
    Your original comment took issue with the content of a French satirical publication which was the ostensible reason for a massacre of the employees of that publication and the associated massacre of Jewish people going about their lawful business.
    Your mealy mouthed “worries” reminded me of other attempts to blame the victims by various colourations of the loony left and,of course,Islamists.
    And what a toxic combination that is.
    My suggestion to emigrate to a less free destination stands. More specifically,Islamic destinations. You may well be happier there where life is much simpler,so they say.
    You are,of course, quite free to disagree with my suggestion without any threat to your wellbeing.

  22. What plagues economic profession is the same phenomenom that gave raise to the tea party movement. Something like 20% of people hate other ethnic groups by instinct – they are more active at multicultural nations – and as a consequence their political views are fairly hard right.

    In economics, theorizing is done by the people who are motivated to do that, and aforementioned people are the most motivated, so they tend to form majority of the body of theorizers. Because their goal is not to make world better, only way they can gain influence is to lie that it will, in fact, make world better.

    When believing in certain nonsense becomes prerequisite for entering economic profession, it simultaneously becomes screening method that drives away smartest people, so that the economics profession itself gets filled with disproportionally large share of gullible people, or worse, plane old dimwits.

    What can I say? This dynamics is very destructive to the world. We should make people aware. Majority of us wants a decent world. World of full employment, with only moderate income inequality.

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