Friday, February 21, 2014


Historians of economic thought divide schools of thought, past and present, into ‘Classical’ and ‘Neoclassical’ economics. Sometimes I am also wont to use too broad a brush and spin all variations of ‘neoclassical’ into the catch-all of ‘modern’ 
The eminent economist, James Ahiakpor, described by others as the ‘”Last Classical Economist” demurs, but is happy to accept a label of being a ‘Classical’ economist, but not necessarily the last one, because such definitive labels cover various sub-schools, depending on different shades of thought that underlines the distinctive qualities ascribed to them across numerous generations of overlapping ‘Classical” and ‘Neoclassical’ thinkers.
Professor James Ahiakpor remarks that “J.M. Keynes used that term [Classical] almost as a slur. That is why several upholders of the classical tradition, including Dennis Robertson and Ralph Hawtrey, shied away from it.  But I embrace that label with pride”.
Of the ‘Neoclassical’ school he refers to its own evolution and distinguishes seven sub-schools within it:
(1) Neoclassical Keynesianism, (2) Post Keynesians, (3) New Keynesians, (4) Monetarism, (5) New Classicals, (6) Real Business Cycle Theorists, and (7) Austrians. Remarking that “I leave out the Marxists.
These avoidable errors are prevalent when practitioners disregard what their predecessors’ actually wrote and distort, often by sheer invention (of which Paul Samuelson on Adam Smith was a classic example, as discussed regularly on Lost Legacy).
Together they outline an evolutionary view of the history of economic thought, which sounds more credible than past economists being patronised by whatever a recent generation says to put down their predecessor’s ideas which they believe are due for a reckoning by their ‘modern’ ideas.
Kuhn’s ideas of “paradigm” shifts might apply here and that is the fascination of the History of Economic Thought.
I am not surprised that so much of the history of economic thought is entangled in not distinguishing the so-called separate schools of its practitioners when account is taken of common misrepresentations after they passed away. 
Thomas Humphrey began this thread on the Blog of the Societies for the History of Economics (SHOE@YORKU.CAand I recommend that readers consult its regular posts  from its various daily contributions from authorities of accurate insights to the evolution of the thinking embedded in past ideas.
Others contributors are from the overly protective schools of those of recent thinking by true believers in what temporarily passes for the so-called truths of those suffering from the delusion that they are absolutely right (Hubris?) and their predecessors’ were absolutely wrong sarcastically. On occasion they  “bless them”, metaphorically, and comfort them for their tragic ignorance with pathetic quips to their students and readers.


Blogger airth10 said...

I just came across this phrase in a column by David Brooks of the New York Times: "In this era, the invisible hand may not be enough."

12:45 pm  
Blogger Gavin Kennedy said...

That statement is in the same class as saying:
"in this era, Santa Claus may not be enough".
Neither Santa Claus nor the invisible hand exists.
The first is an imaginary entity, the second is a metaphor without any evidence for is existence and no such term can be found in mathematical equations purporting to show it at work.
Metaphors "describe their objects in a more striking and interesting manner" (Adam Smith, "Lectures in Rhetoric and Bellers Lettres", 1762, p 29. Moreover they describe the invisible private motives of the person a lead them to an action, where their action has unintended consequences.
Those actions are not described by the metaphor, nor are the unintentional consequences.
If the IH metaphor described an entity's it would not make sense, because an action's intended consequences are not simultaneously intended.

8:05 am  

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