It is no surprise that there will be many interesting heterodox conferences in the year 2013. Aside from already-established annual conferences, a few new as well as young conferences are included in this issue of the Newsletter. In particular, the 1st World Keynes Conference will be held in Turkey (June 2013) with the general theme of “Attacking the Citadel: Making Economics Fit for Purpose.” This conference is certainly heterodox and pluralistic in nature. We hope many heterodox economists will participate in and support this new conference. Not to mention, following three previous successful conferences, IIPPE has just announced its 4th annual conference taking place in the Netherlands (July 2013) under the theme of “Political Economy, Activism and Alternative Economic Strategies.” Check out other interesting calls for papers in this issue.
I (Ted) spent the last week of October in Berlin at the 16th conference of the Macroeconomic Policy Institute (IMK) at the Hans-Boeckler-Foundation, Research Network Macroeconomics and Macroeconomic Policies (FMM). While there were many interesting papers, what also made the conference exciting was the inclusion of graduate students from several local universities, many of whom were being introduced to heterodox economics for the first time. I found the plenary session extremely interesting; in fact, I’d rate it “triple A” based on the presenters who I would characterize as Amusing, Arrogant, and Angry. You can read more about the conference here. However, for me, the plenary also raised a question about “political economy,” especially as it relates to mainstream economists. Michael Kumhof, one of the chief macro DSGE model builders for the IMF, showed that the equilibrium model could generate results consistent with heterodox approaches. Regardless of whether one believes in equilibrium-based models or not, I think his results make it clear that conservative results from the equilibrium models are the result of the conservative bias of the inputs used. For example, one can show that Ricardian Equivalence holds and deficits don’t stimulate demand if one inputs the unrealistic assumption of a representative household maximizing utility over the lifetime.
A further point on the political bias of conservative economists was made in a recent post by Cathy O’Neil (a member of OWS’ Alternative Banking Group) on the blog Naked Capitalism titled “Glenn Hubbard: Economic Whore.” She describes several instances where Hubbard makes claims based on questionable empirical substantiation. Specifically, she refers to a recent paper in which Hubbard et al. argue and support the Romney economic plan as superior to all aspects of the Obama plan. To counter it, she references a piece by Ezra Klein in which he asked economists cited in the Hubbard paper about their results,
“Each of these sections include supporting documents from independent economists. And so I contacted some of the named economists to ask what they thought of the Romney campaign’s interpretation of their research. In every case, they responded with a polite version of Marshall McLuhan’s famous riposte. The Romney campaign, they said, knows little of their work. Or of their policy proposals.”
It’s clear that, despite the cloak of economic objectivity, their results are pushed to support an agenda. O’Neil thinks Hubbard’s agenda is Treasury Secretary in a Romney administration. We’ll find out in a few weeks…
Tae-Hee Jo and Ted P. Schmidt, Editors