‘Communist’ isn’t the cat call it used to be

I see Kiwiblog cat calling the Labour party as Communist, because it wants to have a bunch of policy settings that are seen as either common or at least admissible nowadays – but were revolutionary in the mid-nineteenth century.

I honestly don’t see the point in doing this.  The Cold War is over now, and both social and physical scientists are finally getting free of the constraints inherited from that period.  To say that the Cold War constrained and influenced the debate on what to research, and the rhetoric to use, would be an understatement.  Just read a biography on scientists during the period (eg Lakatos), or listen to an interview where Piketty talks about his willingness to discuss trends in capital to output ratios – with the Cold War open we can have a more open and honest discussion on trade-offs.

Honestly, calling someone out as Communist nowadays means as much as calling them Nazi, I can’t help but ignore whatever is being said.  This is a pity, as inherent in the extremes of Nazism and Communism were negative attributes that can easily be underplayed in policy – ignoring the agency, and value, of the individual.  Instead of cat calling, it is probably better to make arguments along this line ;)

Here  I am not trying to say we can’t disagree with social policies, I’m just saying it is possible to do so on merit.  This is why the discussions about trade-offs, and the limits to knowledge, are what matters.  Furthermore, collectivist thinking is not solely the domain of obvious social policy, but other views that may seem right of centre.  Thinking about trade-offs makes this clearer.

Now, my impression is that social scientists and economists had it a bit better than physical scientists – a lot of economists had Communist sympathies, and fell in love with the managerialist command and control nature of policy.  Furthermore, they saw themselves as these (high status) managers.  This would be a trend that is of genuine concern as it would involve managerialism and valuing the individual as a unit (or production or health), rather than through their capability to live a good life.  These arguments deserve thought, not cheeky political gamesmanship!

General Equilibrium and factor shares

Note:   I want you all to be highly critical of my posts on factor shares – and where you can throw literature at me.  I wrote a bunch of posts in a single day based on one book (and some prior knowledge), I have no appeal to authority here and would love to have your ideas thrown in there :)

I was surprised that there was a chapter focused solely in general equilibrium – and not GE in general, but competitive, neo-classical, GE.  I was especially surprised as such a model isn’t really “built” for distributional analysis – economists often say we need a different framework to do distributional work!

It is a neat chapter though, so let’s pop it in here :) Read more

Neo-Ricardian factor shares

Note:   I want you all to be highly critical of my posts on factor shares – and where you can throw literature at me.  I wrote a bunch of posts in a single day based on one book (and some prior knowledge), I have no appeal to authority here and would love to have your ideas thrown in there :)

Last time I said I thought Neo-Ricardian was Post-Keynesian – it seems like they have similar authors, but the essays focus on different “important elements”.  Furthermore, the direct issues with “neo-classical factor models” are indeed clearer here!  However, the focus seems much more on short-term, and in some ways monetary policy, issues rather than long-term trends in factor shares.  That is ok, but it is important to note that some of the Post-Keynesian models in these chapters are discussing different questions than the questions the earlier part of the book was based on. Read more

Post-Keynesian factor shares

Note:   I want you all to be highly critical of my posts on factor shares – and where you can throw literature at me.  I wrote a bunch of posts in a single day based on one book (and some prior knowledge), I have no appeal to authority here and would love to have your ideas thrown in there :)

We are now in an area which is getting well outside my area of knowledge, so I’m hoping these essays will help tighten me up :) .  I see there is an essay on Post-Keynesian income distribution work and a following one on Neo-Ricardian income distribution work (which I am marginally more familiar with) – I had thought they were the same thing, so hopefully I learn the difference while reading :)

I am sure many of you know more than me – and I’m more than happy to have things explained to me as I’m keen to learn.  Just remember, the goal here is to explore ideas about factor shares and what they mean in a distributional sense – not to dig too far into ideology or policy. Read more

Marshall’s factor shares

Note:   I want you all to be highly critical of my posts on factor shares – and where you can throw literature at me.  I wrote a bunch of posts in a single day based on one book (and some prior knowledge), I have no appeal to authority here and would love to have your ideas thrown in there :)

Now here is an area I don’t know much about.  Alfred Marshall is an amazing economist, Keynes said this about him – yes Keynes – so obviously he has a lot of respect.  He even has the typical microeconomics demand curve named after him (Marshallian demand).  However, it appears he had a distinct model of income distribution – one that was classicalist in its view of rent and factor supply (and its interest in secular changes such as population growth), but marginalist when it came to discussing demand for factors of production.  The model discussed in the essay comes solely from Principles, rather than other work by Marshall.

The description of the elements in Marshall’s theory, from the essay, are as follows: Read more

Neo-classical factor shares

Note:   I want you all to be highly critical of my posts on factor shares – and where you can throw literature at me.  I wrote a bunch of posts in a single day based on one book (and some prior knowledge), I have no appeal to authority here and would love to have your ideas thrown in there :)

Just as a starting point here, if anyone comes on and goes “those neo-classical neo-liberals, like Friedman, this is all ideology – I’ve read Klein”, I am not likely to reply.  The key reason for this is because you’ve already shown a complete unwillingness to debate on reasonable terms, and are trying to base the discussion on prejudiced definitions that aren’t appropriate for this definition of neo-classical economics.

In this context, neo-classical is a description of economists who applied a certain set of methods at a  point in time – economics is a discipline with “many models”, and the development of these tools is of huge value.  The start of this method came with the “marginalist revolution”.

The Marginalists in this case were Jevons, Walras, and Menger.  Those who work in certain areas will recognise some of the names (eg Walras law, Menger as a founder of the Austrian school of Economics).  Fundamentally, the purposefully use of the concept of “marginal” gains and losses (rather than average) allowed us to consider individual choice more directly.  More than that, value switched from having “objective” value in its labour time/cost of production to having “subjective” value (potentially on the basis of “satisfaction” or “utility”).  Note:  This is not to say classical economists didn’t think in this way as well, John S Mill was a student of Bentham and wrote a book called utilitarianism!  But the change in focus did help to “solve” many of the perceived paradox of classical economics (eg Giffen goods).

It is no coincidence that at this time sociology and psychology were ramping up as disciplines.  With the growing acceptance of the idea of a “science of society” a number of ways of discussing social facts were being described.  Within economics, the recognition that it may be useful to think about action stemming from individual choice had found its time, and the mechanistic tools of calculus had a place to help us consider certain assumptions about this choice (methodological individualism) – this compares to the classical use of factor shares, and some prices (wages) being set by social convention.

You will find me say critical things in here, and talk about this literature as a “starting point” to real analysis.  So let us consider it in this way. Read more