Economists respected in the ERE movement

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LookingInward
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Economists respected in the ERE movement

Post by LookingInward » Wed Jun 26, 2019 2:26 am

Hello,

Lately I've been reading about the Economics of the EU, specially about the debt crises that had its height a few years ago. This has renewed my intuition that many people that talk about economists do so assuming unsustainable premisses (growth to infinite, comercial surpluses that last forever, etc). Also, many seem to look at the Economy as a system decoupled from everything else. Meaning that for them, growth and employment is everything, not accounting for externalities or actual quality of life.

I wanted to hear people's opinion on this. Do you guys know of economists who take a more holistic look at the system? Do you think ERE and prosperity are incompatible (I can think of simple thought experiments where this is not true, so my intuition is that the ideas are not incompatible)?

vexed87
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Re: Economists respected in the ERE movement

Post by vexed87 » Wed Jun 26, 2019 2:43 am

"It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!" applies here.

When you say economist, would you be satisfied with someone who has studied economics, or do they have to be actively employed by governing institutions, if the latter, refer to above quote!

The late David Fleming qualifies for the former, as one of the founders of the UK green party, he realised it was important to understand enough about economics to confound and counter the arguments presented by economists du jour, so he studied, I believe at PhD level in economics (I may be mistaken.)

I think you'll find his book Lean Logic interesting, it's got a lot of mentions and praise on this forum.
Last edited by vexed87 on Wed Jun 26, 2019 3:01 am, edited 3 times in total.

LookingInward
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Re: Economists respected in the ERE movement

Post by LookingInward » Wed Jun 26, 2019 2:48 am

vexed87 wrote:
Wed Jun 26, 2019 2:43 am
"It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!" applies here.

When you say economist, would you be satisfied with someone who has studied economics, or do they have to be actively employed by governing institutions, if the latter, refer to above quote!

The late David Fleming qualifies for the former, as one of the founders of the UK green party, he realised it was important to understand enough about economics to confound and counter the arguments presented by economists du jour, so he studied, I believe at PhD level in economics (I may be mistaken.)

I think you'll find his book Lean Logic interesting, it's got a lot of mentions and praise on this forum.
Thinking about it, I think it is better to broad up the definition of economist to someone who has studied it. Like you I am very skeptical of institutional economists

Thanks for the book recomendation :)

vexed87
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Re: Economists respected in the ERE movement

Post by vexed87 » Wed Jun 26, 2019 3:22 am

Oh and the 'New Economics Foundation' is also interesting, although not everyone's cup of tea (read leftist).

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Re: Economists respected in the ERE movement

Post by Solvent » Wed Jun 26, 2019 6:58 am

Economist working among other economists here.

Often journalists, and even more often politicians, paint a very simplistic picture of 'economists say', or what 'basic economics' is. To some extent that's their job (tabloid journalists) or what benefits them (politicians arguing with a certain ideology).

It's a wide profession, too, and while it hasn't been that diverse in the past it is becoming a bit broader in terms of viewpoints. If you want to quote a professional economist saying any particular thing that benefits your argument you can probably find someone suitable.

I'm probably something of an outsider in the profession by happenstance of career path and I am not a PhD, so certainly won't claim to speak for the profession. But to directly quote OP "many seem to look at the Economy as a system decoupled from everything else", I'd strongly push back on that. Yeah, there are a bunch of formal models used in various contexts that might look a bit like that but any idiot knows the model is not the real world, just something to help you think and reason. Of course, a journalist (or someone with a business degree that took the first two years of micro) can look at the model and say "See! Economics believes there is nothing outside of the formal economy!"

As for "for them, growth and employment is everything, not accounting for externalities or actual quality of life". I find this harder to understand, even though it's an accusation I hear from all over the place. My memory of even the first year economics courses in University (and even in high school, actually) includes discussion of externalities, why they're important, and how you should try to think about and account for them. The idea that 'economics doesn't take into account externalities' is a bit mysterious to me. And growth? Well, I work in very poor countries so that influences my view. But growth is pretty much everything. Remember, though, that true growth isn't necessarily GDP, although yeah, of course that's one way to measure it. Growth is having more of what we want. When people are starving, when people are displaced in camps 8 years after a cyclone destroyed their village, when people are dying young of preventable diseases because they don't have access to vaccines, growth is a big deal.

Noah Smith on 101ism is relevant.

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Re: Economists respected in the ERE movement

Post by jacob » Wed Jun 26, 2019 7:09 am

LookingInward wrote:
Wed Jun 26, 2019 2:26 am
Do you guys know of economists who take a more holistic look at the system?
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herman_Daly
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E._F._Schumacher
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicholas_Georgescu-Roegen
LookingInward wrote:
Wed Jun 26, 2019 2:26 am
Do you think ERE and prosperity are incompatible (I can think of simple thought experiments where this is not true, so my intuition is that the ideas are not incompatible)?
That depends on what you mean by ERE and what you mean by prosperity. You should probably define your terms here.

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figmenter
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Re: Economists respected in the ERE movement

Post by figmenter » Wed Jun 26, 2019 9:09 am



prognastat
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Re: Economists respected in the ERE movement

Post by prognastat » Wed Jun 26, 2019 12:18 pm

With regards to ERE and prosperity's compatibility as Jacob said it would depend on your terms, if you mean ERE as in heavily cutting spending and prosperity as owning a lot of shit or growing GDP then they aren't compatible. You could also take a more holistic view on prosperity as human happiness/satisfaction/wellbeing at which point you could make a case that consumerism has actively reduced those and thus reducing consumerism would actually increase prosperity.

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Re: Economists respected in the ERE movement

Post by Riggerjack » Wed Jun 26, 2019 4:51 pm

Solvent pretty much nailed it.

When people talk about economists, they are usually lying. Same as when they cite a study to "back up their scienciness". Odds are good, they don't understand what they are talking about, and assume you don't either.

This applies at all levels. As near as I can tell, Krugman stopped talking about economics before he left Slate. (Though I am still willing to believe there are levels of complexity beyond my perception.)

The way the lie goes is "if we regulate X, like this, Y will happen."

Of course, if we make change X, Y will happen. But rarely is X the actual change we make. And what happens when Y changes? And Z? And what about the subset of conditions that created X?

It's never as simple as portrayed. Economic models are tools for thinking, and they don't do much good if all you are looking for is first order effects.

I like to run the change through a few cycles, to see where the accumulations move, to see the effects. But I can understand why that isn't a popular methed, too.

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