One more thought on the Nick Rowe post on heterodoxy and mainstream.
As you all know, I consider myself a mainstream economist - but I also find a lot of the self-styled heterodox people interesting. Part of this is that I find intellectual history interesting, but I also think there are genuinely neat ideas out there. I don't think I'm unusual on that point.
So the question is, if you happen to think those neat ideas are the most important ideas (I don't know if I'd personally go that far), how do you - as a self-styled heterodox economist - promote them?
You probably shouldn't do it by insulting mainstream economists and claiming they don't understand things or that they're ideologues.
You're probably better off saying "Hey look - I know you don't usually think of the time structure of production in your models, and that's fine because you're talking about other stuff. But we all know that in actuality some production processes take longer than others, right? Well if you think about it, lower interest rates should encourage longer production processes, all else equal. On top of that - if you have most producers operating with a particular length production process, when the interest rate is reduced a disproportionate share of new loans are going to go to new investors (obviously), and because of what we noted earlier those new investors are going to have longer production processes than the existing population of producers. That's kind of a neat little dynamic, isn't it?"
Say that to a mainstream economist. Or better yet - write it up formally.
That whole paragraph would be quite amenable to any mainstream economist. I've personally thought it was a "neat little dynamic" ever since I first heard about it, and I always enjoy reading new research on it (particularly empirical research).
Unfortunately this is usually not what we get. What we get is Austrians haranguing mainstream economists for (1.) not understanding that capital is heterogeneous, or (2.) not understanding that the interest rate coordinates intertemporal decisions. There are two problems here. First, neither is true. Second, both claims make mainstream economists think that the Austrian has a very weak grasp of economics. In a lot of cases that may well be true.
That's not to say one can't do critiques. Just know that if you're critiquing mainstream science you are by definition taking issue with the consensus of a lot of very smart people.
That makes me nervous. I can't personally think of any element of economic science where I think every mainstream consensus (because it's true - sometimes there are a couple mainstream answers) is wrong. I think it should make most people nervous.
But trying to dismantle the mainstream is a very different proposition from suggesting a neat idea to the mainstream that maybe doesn't get as much consideration as it deserves. There's a lot out there to think about. Lots of interesting things have been missed.
So why not present it that way? Why not use honey instead of vinegar?
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