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Allow me to correct that Ritchie

I was asked recently what I thought the difference between economics and political economy was.

I explained that in my opinion when an economist stands in front of a car they think:

How can we make this thing work with the tools that we have got?

A political economist standing in the same position thinks something quite different. They ask four questions. The first is:

Do we need a means of transport?

Then they ask:

Is this the best means of transport available to us?

After which they muse on:

How can we improve on that best option?

Befoe finally considering:

What new tools might we need to achieve these goals?

Economists and political economists are very different indeed in that case.

In the case of the specific political economist that we are talking about the difference is that the economist understands economics an the political economist doesn’t.

36 thoughts on “Allow me to correct that Ritchie”

  1. All that bunch of shite means in practice is that by the time the economist has fixed the car and is already at his destination, the political economist has dismantled the car entirely, and has formed a committee to attempt to reassemble it as a completely untried and untested new form of transport. Or in the case of socialist political economists, attempting to recreate a form of transport that has repeatedly failed to go more than 15mph, and inevitably kills some of the passengers.

  2. The political economist asks four questions:

    That’s an expensive car. Why wasn’t that bastard taxed more?
    Why isn’t the elderly owner walking? It’s only six miles, and the rain will soon stop.
    Are they neo-liberal?

  3. In his horrifically tautological means of expression I think he is trying to say he is challenging assumptions?

    Apparently this means that the author of Corbynomics is openly saying he does not consider himself an economist, which is perhaps why most conventional economists reject the ideas therein as a flight of fantasy. No doubt a follow-up post from his incoherent pen will be coming in later on today or tomorrow backtracking from that position in due course.

    That’s the glorious thing about Murphy – I doubt there is a single ‘idea’ which he claims as new which wasn’t being bandied about decades ago.

    He misses the subsequent questions (which most think are irrelevant if they have knowledge of economics which he most patently lacks) which I am sure others could elaborate on……

    5/ Is this ‘new’ tool actually new or merely an adaptation of something tried before?

    6/ Is the ‘new’ tool workable when second order consequences and existing circumstances are taken into consideration?

    Sadly for him, on every one of his ideas, questions 5 and 6 yield the answers ‘ No, it is an adaptation of socialist ideology which comes from various bankrupt ideologues working between the 1920s and 1970s’, and a flat ‘No’ – which is no doubt why he doesn’t spend time asking them! Why let reality intrude on your musings?

  4. Murphy’s just trying to head off the inevitable scrutiny of his qualifications.

    Unfortunately for him most people are wise to the purchased internet qualification, so the dollar Doctorate from Chickenshit University Arkansas isn’t an option.

    Hence this tactic:

    “I don’t need any economics qualifications. I’m not an economist, I’m a political economist.”

    One thing he most definitely is not, and which I for one would never ever suggest, is a snake oil salesman.

    Anyone who says “Richard Murphy is a snake oil salesman” is utterly wrong.

    Even saying the phrase “Richard Murphy is a snake oil salesman” should mark you out as a neoliberal.

    I hope that the phrase “Richard Murphy is a snake oil salesman” should get to the top of Google searches, just to show how wrong that phrase is.

    So, the words “Richard Murphy” and “snake oil salesman” should only be seen together when proving that he is not.

  5. Whose asking an accountant who writes about the colonics what the definition of political economy is? He’s not a pol sci academic or even gives a good differentiation. I wouldn’t ask a man who probably has read capital, wealth of nations, the social contract, one dimensional man and a host of political economy works what it is.

  6. I do love it when the practitioners of soft sciences imagine themselves as hard scientists or engineers solving a problem.

    For instance:

    I explained that in my opinion when an economist stands in front of a car they think

    How can we make this thing work with the tools that we have got?

    The correct response to this is to push the fucking economist out of the way and hand the task over to an engineer or mechanic. You don’t often hear engineers dreaming of solving political economic problems (thank God).

  7. So his analogy means that a political economist need have no idea of how an economy actually works.

    Glad we’ve got that cleared up then.

  8. He will be saying soon that he is a ‘polemicist’. In reality he’s just a bullshitter with a short fuse and a gigantic ego.

  9. From a RM blog thread back in March:

    ”There is a role for the public intellectual, which is what some say I am, although I am not sure it is quite the term I would use, although I cannot think of another”

    I can.

  10. An ever increasing share of the world’s scarce resources are required to feed the inflating ego of this monstrous panjandrum.

  11. Do we need a means of transport?
    Is this the best means of transport available to us?
    How can we improve on that best option?
    What new tools might we need to achieve these goals?

    Murphy is telling us he is a statist.

    It is not government’s job to determine the best means of transport. It’s what citizens do. Indeed, Murphy is oblivious to the constructional flaw that THERE IS NO BEST MEANS OF TRANSPORT. Different situations require different solutions.

    In America, Adolph Obama’s 54.5 MPG CAFE standard is an example. He, government, has decided that fuel mileage is THE principal criteria in vehicle selection. This by a man who flies in a 747 to get down the road. The 54.5 mpg vehicle has no chance in the marketplace, yet government demands we have it, to the exclusion of what we want.

    Government for the people has perished.

  12. “The 54.5 mpg vehicle has no chance in the marketplace”

    Up to a point Lord Copper.

    The BMW 3 Series? Unbelievably cheap as a company car as well.

  13. This is truly surreal. How many economists would look at a car and have any thoughts whatsoever in their professional capacity? You might as well stick a brain surgeon in front of a pile of bricks and ask for an opinion. It is so absurd that you suspect that the fool has no inkling of what economics is about.

  14. Currently the standard answer to Q1 is to fill the petrol tank and switch on the ignition.
    However my answers this morning to Q2 and Q3 were “Yes” and “No, feet: I’ll walk”. Presumably beyond the comprehension of a man who thinks that he needs to *drive* his daughters to school in a town that is so small that no-one is more than 2km from the school.

  15. “I was asked recently what I thought the difference between economics and political economy was.

    I explained that in my opinion…”

    Another tedious evening in the Downham Arms.

  16. Political-anything is simply votes buying in a particular dialect, isn’t it? I won’t say vocabulary, because that would suggest understanding all those long words.

  17. It’s simply not fair, every time I think that Murph-monster has jumped the shark, he finds a bigger shark to jump over.

  18. RM, Adam Smith and two migrants are all looking at a car.
    RM thinks: “Better check with the government if we need this”
    Smith wonders: “Will it set people free?”
    The migrant asks his mate: “Do you reckon we can fit in the boot?”

    And that’s the beauty of inventions in free market economies. You don’t have to do what the inventor tells you to.

  19. RM’s awful example of the difference shows that he is most certainly not a political economists.

    Here a more simple definition:

    An economist is someone who uses the science of economics to answer the question ‘do minimum wage laws increase unemployment?’

    They’ll look at the data, interpret it and come to you with an answer, whether that is an empirical fact or not, or explain how we cant know.

    A political economist doesn’t answer that question but instead would theorize about the role institutions and political action have in producing unemployment.

    And one who actually was a political economist or actually studied it and knew at least what it isn’t and who isn’t one, would say that in the past economics as a science and political science used to be one and the same. The great economists of old were also political economists, moral philosophers, sociologists and renaissance men and women, who only until academia and the role of public intellectuals go so specialized few could genuinely be expert at a multitude of disciplines.

    Adam Smith being a great example of a polymath.

    A former accountant who writes about economics and is a sometime tax and economics policy wonk is not. I mean, whether he is right or wrong on his economics, its far more interesting and sophisticated than any facebook status-esque rumblings he has on politics. He is less interesting, knowledgeable and or insightful about politics.

    I know people who are political economists the sub-labour list blog posts he publishes are quite far from that.

  20. Luis

    I suppose that the LHTD thinks that exploring the assumptions is politics – in fact that is just economics*. In reality political economy is the intersection between politics and economics – populated by the rational choice political scientists and empirical economists.

    * A lot of the heterodox economists tend to look at the macro modellers and claim that it is all about GE + add flaw and tinker. Which macro has quite a lot of – but in such a complex environment, this isnt surprising. Much of the more interesting stuff has been in micro.

  21. I would have thought a political economist was an economist who knows the answer before he’s intentionally misheard the question.

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