William Paul Bell Queensland University Researcher

Why is mainstream economics not a social science but ideological mathematics?

Posts Tagged ‘power

Inclusive growth and climate change adaptation and mitigation in Australia and China: Removing barriers to solving wicked problems

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acc_logo_strip_col_bannerThis reports aims to assist the Sino-Australian bilateral relationship adapt to meet China’s new policies and to facilitate a smoother transition to a low carbon future.  Southwest University of Finance and Economics (SWUFE), Chengdu, China and the University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia held a workshop at SWUFE to develop a guide to China’s low-carbon policies and their implications for the Sino-Australian energy trade and sectors.  This report results from the workshop.  Chapter 3 contains the guide to China’s low emission policies and discusses market-based experiments within China’s command-and-control electricity sector.  Chapter 4 discusses Australia’s poorly implemented neoliberal policies within its energy sector and provides an informative market-based case study for China on what to avoid.  Chapter 2 discusses the implications of Australia and China’s low emission policies. Chapter 5 discusses barriers to the transition to a low emissions economy.

Climate change is one of the world’s major challenges.  Others include increasing inequality and poor economic growth, creating a decline in inclusive growth.  Declining inclusive growth and climate change are interrelated wicked problems.  Their solution is technically and economically viable given appropriate investment but the absence of a price on carbon in Australia is a major obstacle to directing investment consistent with a low emissions future.

Australia is transitioning from a mining to a more service orientated economy.  However, Australia’s uncoordinated energy and climate change policy and poorly implemented neoliberal policies in the energy sector are undermining investment confidence and hindering both inclusive growth and the transition to a lower emissions economy.  Energy and climate change policies need bring together to restore investment confidence within the electricity sector.  The Integrated Systems Plan has gone some way to address this problem.  Similarly, Australia’s uncoordinated growth and climate change policies are hindering inclusive growth and the transition to a lower emissions economy.  Growth and climate change policies need bringing together to engender confidence and direct investment compatible with a low emissions future.  Notably, Infrastructure Australia has gone some way to address this issue at the national level but the lack of transparency and independence in other jurisdictions undermines Infrastructure Australia’s effectiveness.

Poor policy coordination is also hindering solutions to a host of other interrelated wicked problems.  These wicked problems include massive increases in retail electricity prices, private school fees and private health insurance, the inability to undertake major tax reform, such as introducing a tax on sugar or carbon or introduce road user charges to replace the declining revenue from fuel excise duty.  There is ample and sound evidence-based research to solve these wicked problems but there is an inability to enact policy in the interest of the electorate.

The key findings of this report are four common barriers to enacting policy to solve these wicked problems.

(1) Political donations present a conflict of interest.

(2) Adversarial politics and political wedging reduce the ability to address complex problems.

(3) There is an absence of academic economists informing the public debate to provide impartial advice.

(4) Unrealistic models of the economy and human behaviour are misinforming policy.

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Real Business Cycle (RBC) and Rational Expectations Hypothesis (REH) contributing to the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) and the Dynamite Prize

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This article discusses how neoclassical economics has contributed to the Global Financial Crisis (GFC).   In particular, how two neoclassical theories, the Real Business Cycle (RBC) and the Rational Expectations Hypothesis (REH) contributed to the GFC and how these theories are false and unscientific.

Edward C. Prescott and Finn E. Kydland were awarded the 2004 Nobel prize in economics for their work in developing the RBC and Robert E. Lucas Jr. was awarded the 1995 Nobel prize in economics for developing the REH. They have been nominated for The Dynamite Prize in Economics that is to be awarded to the three economists who contributed most to enabling the GFC.  The Dynamite Prize in Economics nominates Prescott and Kydland ‘for jointly developing and popularizing “Real Business Cycle” theory, which by omitting the role of credit greatly diminished the economics profession’s understanding of dynamic macroeconomic processes’ and nominates Lucas for ‘his development of the rational expectations hypothesis, which defined rationality as the capacity to accurately predict the future, both served to maintain Friedman’s proposition that monetary factors do not affect the real economy and, in the name of “rigor”, distanced economics even further from reality than Friedman had thought possible.’ Read the rest of this entry »

Hormonal Male Traders producing a Momentum Effect contrary to the Efficient Market Hypothesis and Rational Choice

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Coates and Herbert (2008) study the role of the endocrine system in financial risk taking in a group of male traders in London. They find a positive relationship between a trader’s testosterone level and his daily Profit and Loss (P&L) and between his cortisol level and financial uncertainty, being measured by variance of economics returns and expected variance of the market. They note that rational choice is affected by the levels of the hormones. The more profits the trader made relative to his daily average the higher his testosterone became. Heightened testosterone increases a trader’s preference for risk. The process has a positive feedback, producing a financial variant of the “winner effect”. Additionally, short periods of high volatility increase a trader’s cortisol levels, which increase his motivation and his ability to focus, producing a euphoric feeling. However, prolonged period of elevated cortisol levels produce selective attention on mostly negative events and anxiety, reducing a trader’s preference for risk. Even if the number of traders is small, these hormonal effects could reinforce the momentum effect and cause markets to deviate from rational choice and the predictions of the Efficient Market Hypothesis (EMH). Read the rest of this entry »

GDP as a proxy for well being misses the mark

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The report prepared for the President of France, Nicolas Sarkozy, by two Nobel prize-winning economists, Joseph Stiglitz and Amartya Sen, has proposed ways of improving our measurement of economic performance and social progress (Gittens 2009).  GDP measures the production of an economy.  There are at least three problems with GDP as a proxy for well-being.  First, this proxy may hold for countries outside the OECD membership, where the basics such as shelter, food, access to medical services, and clean water and sanitations are lacking.  Second, what is measured becomes a policy target, in this case a misguided target in OECD countries.  Third, GDP becoming a target circumvents the important discussion of what are suitable measures for well-being.  Equating the level of GDP to the level of well-being reduces the study of economics to an optimisation problem, allowing neoclassical economics the pretence of being scientific.  My post ‘The G8 protests and the logically inconsistent foundations of neoclassical economics’ further discusses this scientific pretence.
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The G8 protests and the logically inconsistent foundations of neoclassical economics

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Neoclassical economics is deductive, using a mathematical axiom-proof-theory format.   Arnsperger and Varoufakis (2006) list the three basic axioms of neoclassical as methodological instrumentalism, methodological individualism and methodological equilibration.   In such an approach the basic axioms have to be correct otherwise the whole framework becomes unsound.   In contrast to the deductive approach, the scientific approach is inductive, forming theories from observation and using prediction to falsify the theories (Neuman 2003, p. 51).   Neoclassical economists have become adept at avoiding empirical falsification by creating ad-hoc explanations as to why their theories fail to work when confronted with empirical evidence, for example the Efficient Market Hypothesis predicting dividend volatility in excess of price volatility but the converse is observed (Shiller 1981).   Falsification avoidance is the sign of a degenerative research program (Lakatos 1976).   So, rather than use empirical falsification, a more suitable approach to disprove deductive frameworks is to use a logical proof showing their axioms lead to an absurdity.   The Sonnenschein–Mantel–Debreu Theorem (Debreu 1959) proves the basic axioms of neoclassical economics are logical inconsistent.   The Sonnenschein–Mantel–Debreu Theorem (Debreu 1959) shows that starting with the first two axioms leads to a shapeless excess demand curve.   The shapeless excess demand curve means that there are multiple equilibria and equilibrium are unstable making the third axiom untenable.   To fix this problem, it is assumed that all goods have constant Engel curves.   A good would have a constant Engel curve if somebody spends the same proportion of their income on the good as their income grew (Keen 2001).   This is an unlikely scenario as when income grows then people consume more luxury goods and basic goods become a smaller fraction of their income.   Can you think of a good with a constant Engel curve?   Colander (2000, p. 3) equates neoclassical economics “to the celestial mechanics of a nonexistent universe” for using theory outside its domain assumption (Musgrave 1981).   That is neoclassical economics as a pursuit in pure mathematics for intellectual exercise is fine but claiming applicability to the real world is misleading. Read the rest of this entry »