The Murphmeister on heterodox ideas

Others d not share that view. The criticism that has arisen is that of the 100 who signed the letter to the Observer not all were ‘economists’. Some were social scientists, others accountants or in business schools and others, like me have professional and not academic post graduate qualifications.

Those who make such comment utterly miss the point. For a profession that supposedly promotes competition as the cure to all problems economics has been curiously ruthless in eliminating it. It is now almost possible to study anything but mainstream neoliberal economics. It is this economics that has failed us, but if you do not subscribe to it then it is very hard to now get a PhD in economics, let alone a job as an economist at a university. neoliberalism ha squeezed all alternative economic thought out of economics, which is all the poorer for it.

But that, of course is why alternative thinking has had to come from elsewhere.

Here\’s a list of economics departments in the UK.

I defy anyone to uncover a department (and just to keep it simple, we\’ll limit ourselves to people who actually offer an \”economics\” degree) which only teaches \”neo-liberal\” economics.

Warwick, for example, teaches Keynes in macro 101.

Term 1: Economic Growth and Business Cycles. The module begins by introducing the concepts and variables of interest for macroeconomic issues, focusing particularly on the recent experience of economic growth, unemployment, and inflation in the UK and continental Europe. It then moves into the theories and models to which economists have turned to advocate or criticize different policies. We analyze models in both, closed and open economies. We start with the classical long-run theory of determination of economic growth and inflation. The Keynesian approach to aggregate demand with fixed or sticky prices is then introduced with a discussion of the determinants of short-run economic fluctuations.

Term 2: Macroeconomic Policy. Expectations and forward-looking behaviour have important influences on the markets for aggregate output, money, and labour. The module considers how they may stabilise aggregate demand or make it more volatile, along with implications for macroeconomic stabilisation policy. Short-run trade-offs between inflation and unemployment and their implications for monetary policymaking are analyzed. Open economy issues such as fixed versus flexible exchange rates are examined in the context of the Mundell-Fleming model. Macroeconomic stabilisation policy is reviewed in the light of long-run constraints arising from the government\’s need to finance deficits by borrowing. The module closes with a discussion of the European Monetary Union.

Mundell-Fleming for example is the Keynesian model with fluctuating exchange rates.

UCL second year macro:

Balance of payments accounts.  Exchange rates, competitiveness and the Marshall–Lerner condition.  IS/LM analysis in the open economy: the Mundell–Fleming model.  Exchange rate expectations, including overshooting.  Inflation and unemployment in the open economy.  Supply shocks.  Policy analysis in the open economy: exchange rate as policy instrument, fiscal policy, supply-side policies.  Applications to macroeconomic performance and policy in Europe and to European Monetary Union.

IS/LM….Hick\’s interpretation of Keynes.

Southampton, Ricthie\’s Alma Mater. Second term macro:

This unit provides an introduction to the major theories explaining the aggregate behaviour of the economy. The salient macroeconomic trends reflected in long term growth and cyclical fluctuations are emphasised. Competing explanations for the empirical patterns of growth, unemployment, and inflation are assessed.

This is a near random choice, starting at the bottom of the list. I\’ve included the first three that actually gave some detail of the syllabus.

The only economics taught in the UK is neo-liberal stuff? The man\’s spouting complete bollocks, isn\’t he?

Absolutely delighted to offer a challenge. Find me a UK university that does not teach Keynes in the undergraduate economics programme.

Man\’s mad or ignorant…..or possibly just dissembling.

32 thoughts on “The Murphmeister on heterodox ideas”

  1. Frances, just what I was going to say – he doesn’t know, or prefers to ignore, the difference between them.

  2. There are a couple of faculty members at Lancaster University Management School that stand out – John Whittaker and Gerry Steele – but there doesn’t appear to be a prescriptive ‘neo-liberal’ syllabi there.

    Manchester should be a hotbed of neo-liberal and laissez-faire economics and philosophy, but no…

  3. I shall hereforth refer to myself as a Doctor. After all just because I didn’t study capitalist medicine, does not mean that I cannot heal people.

  4. You’ve got to bear in mind that anyone not promoting absolute state control of the economy is a “neo liberal” in Murphy’s mind. Keynes himself would be a “neo-liberal” because he only advised a partial state intervention (save during the boom, spend during the bust). And Murphy is avowedly anti-growth, so anyone who support some kind of economic growth is also a “neo liberal” and so on. It’s like the old student communist thing of calling everyone else a fascist.

  5. It’s worse than that. “Neo-liberal economics” is hardly taught at all. At Cambridge the whole faculty is New Keynsian. You wouldn’t believe some of the crap I’ve heard some graduates spout.

  6. A question. Are you picking on Richie because he is dangerous, or is he dangerous because you are picking on him? In effect is he gaining legitimacy because of the “right wing” attacks on him, or is it necessary to (correctly) highlight the extra-ordinary lack of clarity, wisdom and analysis in his “work” in order to (at least to some extent) highlight its essential nebulousness?

  7. He may arguably gain legitimacy by being attacked, it’s always difficult to decide. But he has legitimacy anyway because he’s a well-connected loon.

  8. Mark T, if you spend a lot of time in the ‘right wing’ or ‘libertarian’ or ‘neoliberal’ or ‘fascist’ blogosphere, you’d get the impression that nef and Murphy and chums are ludicrous bogeymen figures so ridiculous that nobody could take them seriously, and if only people ignored them they’d just go away.

    Whether they’re truly influential I’m dubious, at least at senior political levels. But they DO get their voices across in the mainstream media (more often, and quite often more convincingly from a layperson’s perspective, than the ‘neoliberals’ – TPA, ASI, special guest interviewee from Cato). They DO affect leftwing grassroots thinking – hard to find a ‘right on’ young activist who doesn’t honestly that Big Business is looting untold billions from us in tax evasion and ‘The Cuts’ are completely unnecessary. That’s come directly from Murphy, UK Uncut etc – they can propagandise very effectively and it’s not because leftwingers discovered their ideas by reading Tim’s counterblasts.

    Now top-level Labour political types know a lot of this is basically myth which is why Ed Miliband isn’t seen supergluing himself to Top Shop windows (suspect the senior Greens are more woolly headed and credulous), but they’re not in a hurry to criticise the beliefs of grassroots activists. Someone’s got to call out the crap and if TW does it then good for him.

    What worries me more is that I’ve come across papers, university courses, even recent textbooks that heavily reference (and accept the premises) of Murphy, nef etc. If the Long March Through The Institutions continues, then this stuff – much of which is dangerous rubbish – is going to translate into serious policy design in the next decade or two, not just vague blue-sky exploratory papers or Experimental Theatre demonstrations in Boots.

  9. Murphy also confuses “Niall Ferguson may not speak about economics because he is an expert in history not an expert in economics” with “Niall Ferguson ought not be described as an economist because he is an expert in history not an expert in economics”.

  10. MyBurningEars is right….

    Murph, the Tax justice network etc are given credence by the BBC, Guardian et al. and their naked stupidity needs to be exposed again and again as stupid lefties just wont get it the first twenty six times…

  11. Although Murphy is a loon he does have a point here. If only he wouldn’t apply it selectively. For example Murphy would insist only climate scientists can comment on the climate.

    It’s really a case of caveat emptor. You have to decide for yourself who is the best qualified to give an opinion, irrespective of their qualifications, and go with that.

    In this case I would prefer to believe Tim, having weighed up all the evidence.

  12. >Man’s mad or ignorant…..or possibly just dissembling.

    These are not mutually exclusive categories. In the case of Murphy, they are mutually reinforcing.

  13. It seems 100 apparently unaligned individuals who have nothing in common apart from a pulse and the fact they all appear unelected (one former MP apparently) have managed to work together with their own self-accreditation as economists to put together this plan.

    Unregulated. No state assistance.

    Who’d have thought it possible?

  14. I note the comments from MyBurningEars above and might add a thought about the teaching of economics outside the economics mainstream.

    I recently completed a MSc in Urban Regeneration – obviously this must touch on economics in that our modules included “economic development” (not to be confused here with development economics) but the essence of the course was “policy” rather than theory and where theory raised its head it was theory in sociology or geography rather than economics.

    However, my dissertation on ‘street markets’ sought to apply NEF’s LM3 model of the multiplier as a way of assessing the local economic impact of such markets.

    It was only a throwaway line from my tutor – “does the multiplier actually work?” that led me to look at the actual economic theory – my own first degree was about a third development economics so I sort of knew where to look.

    What I discovered was that NEF’s ‘model’ wasn’t grounded in theory, had not been tested (their work on local markets simply guessed at the effect because it was too hard to get turnover and gross margin figures from traders) and had never been peer reviewed.

    And that there was a great deal of solid empirical evidence showing how the local multiplier was a pretty slippery and largely unmeasureable thing.

    Doesn’t stop NEF making a fortune from flogging their model to councils though!

  15. Simon Cooke – thanks. This is exactly the type of creeping influence I was referring to, but I can only say I’ve seen it pop up here and there (eg undergrad soc sci, geography and introductory economics) rather than give a systematic overview. Every specific example is helpful.

    My ultimate concern is firstly that myths and innuendo already well-established in the left-wing milieu may start to ossify as ‘political facts’ (things which may or may not be true, may or may not even be believed by the political class, but which for political purposes must be treated as unchallengable – is there a technical name for this?) and the more widespread exposure these ideas get in the education system the greater the chance of them becoming embedded irrevocably in public discourse. If you think it’s bad in a uni textbook, imagine the effect of it entering the school textbooks. It’s not hard to visualise a PSHE or Citizenship lesson (Yanks: read ‘Civics’) about ‘fairness’ of tax avoidance/evasion based on Tax Justice figures. Heck, there was tons of course content available for the ‘Should everybody be paid the same?’ lesson on income inequalities a decade before The Spirit Level. Myths in school textbooks circulate very perniciously for decades to come (witness many popular misconceptions about history).

    Secondly, the next generation of planners, consultants and wonks are passing through uni and grad school. The important thing to remember is they’re mostly not economics sudents – so whatever scraps of syllabus DO inform their economic literacy (probably taught, in turn, by noneconomists) are of extra importance. They can’t be expected to critically evaluate the methods and models they’re taught without that background yet will apply them in their later professional practice. So there’s a feedthrough to policy creation. Toss in the fact that the academics who propagate this stuff often also have a sideline in public policy consultancy (with clients from think tanks to NGOs to the various levels of government to the EU and UN) and that academic credentialism means their views are taken seriously even if they have panoramic blindspots, and all the seeds of folly are sown. Meanwhile the idiocy of politicians ensures the soil is fertile.

    Exec. summ.: once a crap idea circulating media and academe has achieved the critical mass to self-perpetuate, don’t expect it to stay there, trapped in a paper cage of fluffy thinking. It’s coming to a Real Life near you soon enough; ignorance is only temporary bliss.

  16. @ John Malpas. Economics is descriptive; economists then have the option of being prescriptive (rightly – Friedman or wrongly – Galbraith.) Unfortunately, it’s politicians who decide what prescriptions to implement, and we know how good they are at being stupid, ignorant, self-serving cunts, don’t we?

  17. “Doesn’t stop NEF making a fortune from flogging their model to councils though!”

    Hah! I didn’t realise NEF was a fake charity.

  18. Don’t worry too much. Once the investment banks start waving around the £ 80K starting salaries during the the milkrounds, those marxist / socialist/idealist/ radicalist economics undergrad tendencies seem to be forgotten fairly quickly in favour of desire for a oak stripped floor duplex down docklands, a nice selection of Lewin’s button down shirts and Moleskins, a new Ducati and the latest Audi S4.

    The ones who can afford to stand by their ‘convictions’ usually end up keeping the dreads for a few years, developing a nasty blow habit with vacuous yuppies in basement flats in Chelsea, attending the odd protest against capitalism whilst banking Daddy’s Coutt’s cheque once a month, until one day meeting a nice girl called Suze, whose Dad owns half of Surrey, and they set up a vegan / Fair trade / organic juice bar in Notting Hill, relying on the spending power of their old mates from Uni who took the jobs they didn’t need, to keep them in Morrocan and Spirulina, talking left but voting right when they realise they have become the targets of the underclass they once claimed to empathise with.

  19. freemarketblogging.

    You’re having a laugh, aren’t you?

    What the hell has ‘steven’s’ “killing family members in one place is ‘ethical'” got to do with the price of fish?

    That’s why it’s ridiculous. It’s no wonder people don’t want to converse with fuckwits like that around.

    And you laughing at it makes you a greater tool.

    Not petulance, you miss read heckle-bashing for petulance.

    Say something funny! is no argument. All of steven’s posts in that thread are nonsense compared to what was written in the post.

    So fuck off.

  20. “What the hell has ‘steven’s’ “killing family members in one place is ‘ethical’” got to do with the price of fish?”

    Arnald, are you really that stupid or are you just being contrary for effect?

    It was blatantly obvious even to a dimwit like me what Steven’s point in that thread was – namely demanding people globally observe a code of ‘ethics’ ignores the fact that what is ‘ethical’ in country A may not be so in country B, and even if there was a universal code of ethics (which there isn’t) you are just replacing one set of rules (the current legal framework) with another set of rules (a code of ethics) which would have to be interpreted by someone when unexpected or unusual circumstances arose, just as we use the courts to decide on matters of taxation now.

  21. I’d rather they called the ethics police than the real rozzers if I broke the ‘code’. Don’t mind a bit of public embarrasment if the alternative is a couple of years in chokey for breaking a set of rules.

    Murph fancy the role as chief inquisitor of the ethics police much ?

  22. Many thanks Jim, eloquently put.

    Arnald – if you had actually read the comments made you would see that it was not only killing family members that was referred to but also standards of business. If you had taken the time to open eyes and engage brain it would have been obvious that what was being said was perfectly legitimate. Replace rules with ethics is like saying we will replace rules with another set of rules. Its dumb. Are you on Murphy’s pay role by any chance?

  23. Replace rules with ethics is like saying we will replace rules with another set of rules.

    Not “rules with another set of rules” but “rules with rules that change depending on who you speak to and what mood he’s in.”

  24. The history of Equity as a competitor to the Common Law is instructive in that regard. Especially its ossification. By ethics Murphy basically meant ‘rightness’ or ‘fairness’… But how do you police ‘it’s so unfair!’ without making a new set of rules?

    (Unless you’re prepared to accept inconsistency of course. But two people receiving inconsistent outcomes is unfair. I suspect it’s the drive towards Consistency that made Equity so rigid and hidebound.)

    I thought Murphy had half a point – most of the time we rely on our sense of fairness to regulate our behaviour not some rulebook. But the criticism he got was also fair – when regulating society you need a yardstick, subjectivity isn’t good enough. And his refusal to engage with the argument and sense of superiority over his opponent was petty.

  25. @Worzel: I think the framework he has in mind is more along the lines of the Spanish Inquisition, or the Witchfinder General, with punishments to match.

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