Thursday, October 11, 2012

Moffat On Suzuki

Mike Moffat has a valid point.  It isn't, as David Suzuki sometimes contends, that economists don't understand "externalities" or claim we should ignore them.  The term is a bit of economic jargon, after all.  No.  The people who ignore/downplay externalities are those folk who, for example, say they want to help clean-up the environment but decry a carbon tax or whine when somebody sticks a turbine out in the lake.

The rest of us, in other words.


Lars said...

Not much of a point. The first fifty or so comments on Moffat's column were mainly devoted to schooling him, and I couldn't find a lot to disagree with there.

On a related point - every time an economist makes reference to a "Nobel-winning economist", or to the "Nobel Prize for Economics", the discussion should be immediately halted until it is unequivocally established that there is no such thing as a "Nobel Prize for Economics", and there never has been. Nobel didn't think that topic was worth establishing a prize for. It's the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel, and it was established well after Nobel's day, by Sweden's Central Bank, in what can only be regarded as an extended and expensive Cargo-cult sort of exercise - the equivalent of stone-age jungle-dwellers building wooden traffic-control towers and clearing brush for landing strips, in the hope that the great silver planes might land and disgorge huge unearned quantities of intellectual legitimacy. Only after we have established that the economist is attempting to add unearned lustre to his or her arguments by invoking the name of Nobel and implying that the authority they quote (reliance upon authority, incidentally, is the mark of a non-science, or at least a second-rate one) belongs in the same company as Pauling or Einstein, only after we have established that neither of these is an acceptable polemical tactic, only then can any debate go on.

Steve V said...

Economists don't know shit, seriously, so tired of taking cues from people who operate in some theoretical world that rarely translates to the one humans actually operate in. Get out of the "lab" boys, your neat and tidy theorems and schools of thought never translate.

Warren K said...

Moffat's a self-important twit. He's unfit to hold Suzuki's shoes.

Holly Stick said...

I had long twitter argument with Moffat and friends over whether economics is a science. I consider it a social science but that doesn't make it a real science. They did not seem to want to accept the difference.

I also like when Dr. Dawg mentioned Jim Stanford, Emm McFarlane (a political scientist) suggested he was ideological. Does that mean other economists are not ideological? Maybe they are just not trained to examine their own assumptions.

jrkrideau said...

After having an economist say basically the same thing: "Well if we run out of x we will find a substitute" I don't have a lot of problem with Suzuki--although I have only seen Moffet's quotes.

Free market economists often seem to think that the market will produce whatever is needed without seemingly taking into account resource constraints, lead times and whatever.

Clearly economists understand externalities in the abstract. I think they invented the word I don't know that they actually understand the implications in most cases.

And of course one of my favourite economic quotes: "Anyone who believes exponential growth can go on forever in a finite world is either a madman or an economist." Kenneth Boulding