In Case You Thought the Economics Profession was Progressing …

It seems the failure of orthodox macroeconomists to foresee the global financial crisis and the willingness of some of its more extreme members, in the Great Recession that followed, to push for ridiculous remedies such as “contractionary expansionism” has resulted, at least in Australia, in the likely downgrading of numerous journals that cater not for orthodox (i.e. neoclassical) economics but, you guessed it, heterodox economics and studies into the history of economic thought (HET). There has been a predictable closing of the ranks. Steve Keen wrote a good article on the situation in late September.

To summarize the setup briefly, journals are graded A*, A, B or C or left with no grading. The rankings affect university revenues. In its draft journal quality list, the Aus­tralian Business Deans Coun­cil stated its intention to downgrade the leading HET journal, History of Political Economy, from A to B. The Council also intends to downgrade Australian Economic History Review, Journal of Economic Issues, Journal of Post Keynesian Economics and Revue Economique from A to B. The Economic History Review is likely to be downgraded from A* to A. The Review of Black Political Economy is likely to be downgraded from A to C. I’ll note also that the Council intends to downgrade Fiscal Studies from A to B. Apparently the contractionary expansionists know all they need to know about fiscal policy. … The exposure period is now over and the final quality list is expected to be published 30 November 2013.

Keen points out that the Council attributed six of the intended downgrades of heterodox and HET journals to the submission of a single institution, the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS). In fact, UTS recommended every downgrade of heterodox and HET journals but in some cases the Council’s downgrade was less severe than UTS recommended. For example, in the case of the History of Political Economy, a UTS recommendation to downgrade the journal from A to C was opposed by three recommendations for the journal to be upgraded from A to A*. The Council followed the minority view, but downgraded the journal only to B rather than C.

The nature of this development basically sums up the economics profession. The orthodox response to being exposed for its follies is to seek the eradication of alternative viewpoints completely, which will be the result over time if this process continues, because of the funding implications. The response also reflects anti-intellectualism and denial in the attempt to blot out history, especially the history of the development of ideas within the discipline of economics.

Hopefully this reaction of orthodox economists in Australia is just an isolated one and the response at the international level will be more intelligent. I am skeptical, because there is a history of this kind of behavior. It was exhibited by the neoclassical orthodoxy, for instance, in the aftermath of the capital debates. What followed in quick order were the spin-serving establishment of the pretend “Nobel Prize” in economics, the exclusion of non-mainstream research from the orthodox journals and the removal of alternative voices from the economics departments of some of the more prestigious universities (see Nobel-nomics). The exclusion of heterodox research from the orthodox journals has opened the way, of course, for tactics such as the present journal-ranking process to minimize the expression of alternative viewpoints from within the university system.


5 thoughts on “In Case You Thought the Economics Profession was Progressing …

  1. Just part of the broader effort to rush to the support of a teetering neoliberalism. Not going to work. Too many people waking up and realizing that the system is rigged against them.

    Anti-government and anti-establishment feeling is rising fast, shown in part by the rising popularity of Libertarianism in the US among youth, who see themselves are being left out. The growing popularity of Bitcoin is another indicator of this sentiment. As in the Sixties and Seventies, a whole lot of people are seeking alternatives. That led to the counterculture that has spread globally and to the “underground economy” that is now generating billions a year. The Internet and social media are fast becoming the replacement for samizdat in the USSR and the free press (alternative newspapers) in the US. The Internet is also becoming an “invisible university” in which tuition is essentially free other than provider charges. But the net is also increasingly completely free as cities, communities, schools and businesses provide free broadband at least at nodes. Iowa City (where I live) is in the process of installing free broadband access downtown.

    In addition, personal spirituality, holistic spirituality and atheism based on reason and science are replacing institutional and normative religions as people reject traditional authority and start thinking for themselves.

    It’s happening again after 40-50 years and none too soon. This time it’s more global, too, and affecting more classes and types of people.

  2. Good thoughts. I agree there seems to be plenty of hope through alternative means. Thank goodness for the internet.

  3. “In Case You Thought the Economics Profession was Progressing …”

    … you were counting the chicks before they hatched.

    But hopefully you guys are right and the Internet makes a difference.

    We’ll see.

  4. In the past, the principle of the ruling elite was divide and conquer. The way they divide the rest was by keeping them in the dark. When people know what is happening their environment and to others, their consciousness is raised to greater universality. When the know what is happening to others, they experience greater solidarity. When they realize that their thoughts are shared widely, then foundation is laid for common action.

    The ruling elite knows this and tries to keep the people in the dark as much as possible.

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