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Economics as a Regressive Science: Negative Intellectual Progress Since the Days of Jean-Baptiste Say Watch

Mark Thoma sends us to Paul Krugman:

Great Leaps Backward: I’ve been watching with sympathy as David Beckworth and Scott Sumner discover that their updated monetarism actually puts them on my side of the great ideological divide — cast into the outer darkness along with John Maynard Keynes and Milton Friedman.

But what does the other side believe?... [Robert Murphy] says that what we call an economic boom is actually something like China’s disastrous Great Leap Forward, which led to a temporary surge in consumption but only at the expense of degradation of the country’s underlying productive capacity. And the unemployment that follows is a result of that degradation: there’s simply nothing useful for the unemployed workers to do.... [W]hat reason do we have to think that it has anything to do with the business cycles we actually see in market economies?...

[T]here are many... problems with the notion of a recession as a supply shock. A short sample: If inflation is a case of too much money chasing too few goods, why aren’t slumps associated with accelerating rather than decelerating inflation, as the supply of goods falls? Why is there such a strong correlation between nominal and real GDP? Why is there overwhelming evidence that when central banks decide to slow the economy, the economy does indeed slow? And on and on.

Oh, and what evidence is there that the economy’s capacity is damaged during booms? Investment rises, not falls, during booms; yes, I know that Austrians take refuge in cosmic talk about the complexity of production and how measured investment may not show what’s really happening, etc., but where’s the positive evidence of what they’re claiming?

The point is that the real world looks a lot like the one Keynes and Friedman envisioned, in which the demand side drives the business cycle. Why should anyone be determined to throw away 75 years of economic thought, to believe that these appearances are deceiving? Why the insistence on taking an intellectual Great Leap Backward?

Well, at that point we’re into talking about the essentially political nature of this thing...