In Case You Thought the Economics Profession was Progressing …

It seems the failure of neoclassical 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” have resulted, at least in Australia, in the likely downgrading of numerous journals that cater not to neoclassical economics but to non-neoclassical economics and studies in the history of economic thought (HET). There has been a predictable closing of the ranks. Steve Keen wrote an article on the situation in late September.

To summarize the Australian 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 history of economic thought (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. It can be noted 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). 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 establishment’s response to being exposed for its follies is to seek the eradication of alternative viewpoints, 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 the economics profession within Australia is just an isolated one and the response at the international level will be more intelligent. However, there is a history of this kind of behavior. It was exhibited, for instance, in the aftermath of the capital debates. What followed in quick order were the spin-serving establishment of The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences, the exclusion of non-neoclassical research from neoclassical-run journals, and the removal of alternative voices from the economics departments of some of the more prestigious universities. The exclusion of non-neoclassical research from the neoclassical 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.