I’m taking nominations for the best examples of dismal economic scientists.
While I wait for your suggestions, I’m going to offer two of my own nominations: Tyler Cowen and Paul Romer.
I am nominating Cowen because, in his argument that the economy probably needs a “reset,” he only focuses on lowering workers’ wages. First, he makes no mention of resetting corporate profits or the incomes of those at the very top, as if what they manage to capture were completely off limits. All the adjustment in the new, “grimmer future” will be born by those at the bottom. Second, he completely overlooks the mechanisms of his own economic theory: if lower rates of economic growth are the product of lower rates of growth of available workers (a key factor in the theory of secular stagnation), then the relative scarcity of workers should mean higher—not lower—wages. In other words, Cowen is determined to make sure all the costs of the new, slower-growing economy will be born by shifted onto those who can least afford it. For that reason, I nominate Cowen for the title of dismal economist.
I also want to nominate Romer, who continues to double down on his “mathiness” argument, by asserting (against all the work that has taken place in the philosophy of science in recent decades) that (a) there’s a single truth, (b) that truth can only be obtained via science, and (c) mathematical modeling is the singular method for making progress in science to obtain truth. There are so many things wrong with each of those assertions it’s hard to know where to begin. And I won’t, at least right now. Let me just say Romer deserves his nomination as one of the most dismal economists because of the extraordinary arrogance, pretentiousness, and ignorance of the following statements:
About math:. . .I’ve seen clear evidence that math can facilitate scientific progress toward the truth.
If you think that math is worthless or dangerous, I’m sure that there are people who will be happy to discuss this with you. I’m not interested. I’m busy.
About truth and science: My fundamental premise is that there is an objective notion of truth and that science can help us make progress toward truth.
If you do not accept this premise, I’m sure that there are people who would be happy to debate it with you. I’m not interested. I’m busy.
And please do not write to tell me that science is a social process or that the progress it makes toward the truth can be irregular. I know.
Me, I’m not too busy to discuss either the fundamental injustices of contemporary capitalism or the often-worthless and dangerous role mathematics, truth, and science have played and continue to play in the discipline of economics.
I’m also not too busy to post additional nominations for dismal economists.