Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Political Economy? — Peter Radford

One of the dominant themes of the last century was this general assumption that human activities can be studied through an ever increasingly rational lens. That may be, but economists then went too far: they projected rationality into the subject of study. Instead of using the tools of reason to tease out regularities of interest, they made the subject matter itself entirely rational. So the regularities they thought they saw were simply echoes, or mirrors, of their own thought processes. People in markets suddenly became economists, which made studying them more easy. The entire enterprise became a massive “if only” exercise. If only people behaved like economists it would so much easier for economists to study them! So that’s what happened. Entire Nobel winning careers were built around what was nothing more than a gigantic bout of self-absorption.
No wonder the discipline rapidly became so sterile.
And irrelevant.
Now, however, there are feint signs of hope....
Inequality is a policy variable that depends on how much rent the elite are permitted to extract. Growing inequality suggests elite capture of the government.

The Radford Free Press
Political Economy?
Peter Radford

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