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Credentialed Person Repeats My Critique Of Krugman

Pulling the exact same quote as I did here, the head of the Duke Philosophy department has a critique of Paul Krugman's economic methodology that sounds familiar to my ears.

One of the central points is a question that I have asked in numerous comment threads on posts by Krugman, Simon Wren-Lewis and others:

You say we should not have forgotten our "textbook" economics. But the people who disagreed with you are famous textbook authors. What principle can we teach to policy makers that will allow them to listen to you and ignore the economists you criticize?

Here's the piece from Alex Rosenberg of Duke: What's Wrong With Paul Krugman's Philosophy of Economics?

A very good discussion of the article, by a self-described "heterodox" economist of the Nordic variety, is by Lars P. Syll called Paul Krugman -- A Case Of Dangerous Neglect Of Methodological Reflection. My highlighting below points out what I think is the single most frustrating aspect of the economics blogosphere:

Krugman’s explications on this issue is really interesting also because they shed light on a kind of inconsistency in his art of argumentation. During a couple of years Krugman has in more than one article criticized mainstream economics for using too much (bad) mathematics and axiomatics in their model-building endeavours. But when it comes to defending his own position on various issues he usually himself ultimately falls back on the same kind of models. In his End This Depression Now — just to take one example — Paul Krugman maintains that although he doesn’t buy “the assumptions about rationality and markets that are embodied in many modern theoretical models, my own included,” he still find them useful “as a way of thinking through some issues carefully.”

When it comes to methodology and assumptions, Krugman obviously has a lot in common with the kind of model-building he otherwise criticizes.

The same critique – that when it comes to defending his own position on various issues he usually himself ultimately falls back on the same kind of models that he otherwise criticize – can be directed against his new post. Krugman has said these things before, but I am still waiting for him to really explain HOW the silly assumptions behind IS-LM helps him work with the fundamental issues. If one can only use those assumptions with — as Krugman says, “tongue in cheek” – well, why then use them at all? Wouldn’t it be better to use more adequately realistic assumptions and be able to talk clear without any tongue in cheek?

Whether it is Steve Randy Waldman's series on "Welfare Economics" or Noah Smith saying that there's lot's of good empirical economics, all the smart people do a rope-a-dope where they acknowledge valid criticisms but then say that there is a kind of "useful economics" that isn't subject to those criticisms or that is in some way "more humble" and therefore good. What they never ever do is point to a specific example of economics guiding policy in a way that helps people. I've never seen it in a year and a half of reading 2/3rds of the posts linked to by Mark Thoma.

That doesn't mean that liberals like Krugman, Smith (with annoying libertarian tendencies), and Waldman advocate harmful policies. It's just that their reasons for advocating such policies require a high school education that includes a unit on the Great Depression. Their reasons never come from the field of economics. As Lars P. Syll puts it:

I have noticed again and again, that on most macroeconomic policy issues I find myself in agreement with Krugman. To me that just shows that Krugman is right in spite ofand not thanks to those neoclassical models — IS-LM included — he ultimately refers to. When he is discussing austerity measures, Ricardian equivalence or problems with the euro, he is actually not using those models, but rather (even) simpler and more adequate and relevant thought-constructions much more in the vein of Keynes.


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