Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Sneaky Little Regulationsies. Wicked, Tricksy, false!

Neoclassical Economist
In Benefit-Cost Analyses of Governmental Programs: Elusive Illusions of Science, economist Bill Black lays out the challenges confronting both governments and scientists needing to regulate industry in a world where science and knowledge are so easily manipulated by big money. Complicit in this challenge are the "Theoclassical Economists."  They help create a world where results-based research takes a back seat to ideology, preconception and opinion.

Black describes the "Theoclassical Economists," (I'm still laughing about that one!) whose world is ruled by dogma and theocratic adherence to false ideas, that regards any and all regulation as anathema to the function of industry.  And one of the most important mechanisms for manipulating policy is the infamous "cost-benefit" analysis.
Benefit-cost tests are used as a device to give theoclassical economists extraordinary power to block regulations disfavored by the ruling administration.
Theoclassical economists are implacably hostile to regulation, so benefit-costs reviews could serve as a “choke point” to protect their dogmas – no matter how irrational and anti-empirical those dogmas prove. The core, defining dogma of theoclassical economists is that government is the problem, not part of the solution. They believe government is rarely necessary, that it proves a grave danger to personal liberty, and that virtually all governmental programs are economically illiterate and harm the intended beneficiaries as well as the economy. (emphasis added)
What's most startling is that this kind of dogmatic adherence to demonstrably false premises creates a level of cognitive dissonance that should be hard to maintain.  But as research has shown, such cognitive dissonance actually serves to reinforce the actor's perception of being right in a world where she is persecuted for her beliefs.  It creates a state of victim hood that serves to reinforce the false belief.
Theoclassical economists are infamous for claiming that there are pure “positive” “scientists” devoid of dogma – the most dangerous and self-deceptive form of intellectual denial.
The implicit intellectual proposition underlying this choke point is: economists have a universal, superior methodology for judging the desirability of public policies even in fields in which they are hopelessly ignorant.
Not only that, they never, ever subject this premise to any form of scientific rigor.  It is a "given."  It's the old joke in which a kernel of truth resides:
So 2 economists fall into a deep hole. One says to the other, "What shall we do?" The second one says, "That's easy, assume a ladder..."
The Theoclassical Economist assumes objectivity where none exists.  And certainly no objectivity to understand fields of science for which they are woefully ignorant.

So how does this play out in the "real world" where the rest of us are unable to assume that magic ladder?  Kind of like this.
With regard to policies to counter human-generated global climate change, theoclassical economists have no relevant expertise, no relevant experience, and a raft of unacknowledged personal biases arising from their anti-regulatory ideologies – a trifecta of tragic ignorance and arrogance. (emphasis added)
And that's the crux of the problem.  These economists assume that they have some special insight into the world that others do not.  Not even the scientists who have done the actual research into global climate change.  Ultimately they are forced to fall back to a reductio ad absurdum set of arguments to make the data fit their preconceptions.
The search for some natural self-regulating analog to Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” has led some theoclassical economists to hope that the visible cloud might save the now dangerously errant “invisible hand” that is guiding the economy in the direction of global climate change.
We've been "bitch slapped" by the Invisible Hand yet again.

There are more examples and much more information in the full article.  I strongly urge everyone who is concerned with the direction our economic discussion has taken in the past 20 years to read it.  It's articulate and thought-provoking.

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