Dismal Quackery

The other day, I made a crack about the soft sciences, psychology, sociology and so forth, comparing them to astrology and economics. It was in the context of the replication crisis that is roiling fields like psychology. The soft sciences are trying hard to pretend it is problem in all science, but that’s not true. Anyway, someone gave me grief for slandering astrology, because the early strides in astronomy and even astrophysics were due to people trying to improve astrology. If you believe in that stuff, precise measuring of the movement of stars and planets is important.

I think most empirically minded people have long ago concluded that psychology is quackery. When I was a kid, talk therapy was the rage. The schools were hiring “counselors” and having kids sit down and talk about their problems. Even as a kid I knew it was nonsense. Talking someone out of being insane or depressed is slightly less nutty than slaughtering a goat and reading the entrails. Imagine if someone claimed they could talk you out of a broken leg or cancer. But, quackery seems to to stick around much longer than logic says it should.

That’s the pattern we are seeing with economics. The colossal errors in the field should have discredited it a long time ago, but economist are still the court magicians of the modern state. This post by Tyler Cowen is a good example of dressing up uninformed opinion with the jargon of economics to make it sound like science. As Steve Sailer pointed out in the comments, economists have yet to offer a plausible explanation for how the post-nationalist world could operate. The only possible answer is that it would be based on force.

Europe is a great example of just how wrong modern economics has been about pretty much everything. The totality of mainstream economics has been cheering the Euro project for decades, even when it was pretty clear that the single currency was a disaster for many of the members. It has all the cyclical defects of hard money and none of the benefits. The open borders part of the project has resulted in a flood of non-Europeans, who have upset the social order, threatening the stability of the Continent.

This is not the first time modern economics has been outlandishly wrong about Europe. This post by Greg Cochran is a great reminder of just how absurdly wrong the field was about the realities of communism. The best estimates by the court magicians overstated communist economic output by two or three times reality. This despite the fact they had first hand observations of the state of these communist countries. Westerners, including western academics, traveled throughout these countries and could observe the squalor first hand.

In the 80’s, an acquaintance was getting sent to Moscow on government assignment. His family held a going away party as he was expected to be there for two years. Everyone was asked to bring something he could use in Russia. He got things like cartons of cigarettes, blue jeans and small bottles of liquor. The Russians turned a blind eye to this type of smuggling because they wanted the stuff too. The customs agent would take something for himself and maybe set you up with his cousin Yuri to sell the rest. Everyone, except economists, knew the score.

Of course, the birth of economics as a distinct field from political-economy was roughly 100 years ago, with the publication of an economic textbook by Alfred Marshall. Economist were just as wrong about reality then as they are today. Prior to the Great War, globalism was all the rage, just as it is today. A 1910 best-selling book, The Great Illusion, used economic arguments to demonstrate that territorial conquest had become unprofitable, and therefore global capitalism had removed the risk of major wars. A few years later Europe was murdering itself in the worst war in human history.

Science gets lots of things wrong. The scientific method assumes this, which is why test results are published, along with the methods, so others can challenge the results. Negative results are still results and add to the stock of human knowledge. In economics, they get fundamental elements of their field wrong and manage to subtract from the stock of human knowledge in the process. The problems facing Europe today are problems people understood well 50 years ago. Thanks to economics, policy makers are now forced to relearn what their grandparents took for granted.

The root of the problem is that statistics are not science and economics is pretty much just statistics applied to commerce. It’s not worthless, but it is limited. Probability and correlation can point real scientist in the right direction, but they don’t explain the mechanics of cause and effect. We know that smoking correlates with emphysema, but biologists figured out why one causes the other. Per capita chicken consumption correlates with US oil imports and only an economist would suggest one causes the other. Know what is happening is not the same as knowing why.

Calling back to where we started, most quackery manages to have some benefit, even if it is to just some make people feel happy. Astrology is right about the movement of the stars, at least as far as charting them. Horoscopes are stupid, but a harmless way for people to feel good about the uncertainty of life. Alchemy was a confidence racket, for the most part, but it eventually gave us chemistry. Even climate science has some utility, despite the massive fraud. Economists are fond of calling their racket the dismal science, but that’s not fair or accurate. It’s really just dismal quackery.

58 thoughts on “Dismal Quackery

  1. Thinking about it a little more. This “glorious future” thing is really a law of physics for Progressives. The usual application is that we’re just one more trench or gulag full of people that refuse to get on the “glorious future” train.

  2. I teach HS Econ. A really smart kid asked me whether or not it was mostly BS. I went full Jackie Gleason… Hammina hammina…. Spot on about psch- it’s all made up.

  3. In the process of divorcing her psychopath husband my daughter had to endure being evaluated by a county psychologist, $6000 later he concluded that she was ‘histrionic’ because she sobbed when she told her story. His conclusion on the nut job? Good ole boy, misunderstood. So, ask me how I feel about psychologists.

  4. The problem is that economics are, like all the sciences, ruled by political correctness. This mental illness causes hallucinations, delusions of superiority, and false sense of divinity, leading to falsifying observations to reach a predetermined conclusion.

  5. Speaking of psychology, I once had college professor who first made his fortune in the real world prior to teaching his Industrial Psychology class. He told me something once I never forgot, and years later, I found it to be a contributing factor of economic causation within free market societies and a great benefit to me personally.

    He said: “Achievement strengthens and accelerates motivation.”

    Speaking of astrology, I once dated a Gemini. We didn’t last very long because I couldn’t stand both of her personalities.

  6. There are competing religious sects in the Cult, each with its own high priests, rituals, acolytes and sacrificial rites. Economics is one, environmentalism is another. The priests read entrails and talk to the gods. The king pays them for the answers that he hopes will keep him in power.

  7. You think economists have failed, but they haven’t. I’m sure they’ve made assurances, away from the public, that they could produce all the money a political could ever want to spend, and on that point they have been true performers. I believe, that in the end it’s going to end badly, but make no mistake, economists have been judged, up to date, on a pure meritocratic basis.

    • @DFC “You think economists have failed, but they haven’t.”

      With this kind of “reasoning” POSident Obama has succeeded.

      Current economists in the mainstream and especially since Keynes’ General Theory have been NOTHING BUT CHEERLEADERS justifying government spending. They have done NOTHING except to extol politicians making bread out of stones.

      Dan Kurt

      • Even better they’ve made money out of nothing. Don’t get me wrong I’m not saying there won’t be a price to be paid, because I think there will be, but up to this point they’ve been true to their promises. That’s better than politicians can say.

  8. “The root of the problem is that statistics are not science and economics is pretty much just statistics applied to commerce.”

    Ludwig von Mises was an economist who made a career out of arguing that statistics ARE the “root of the problem” and that “statistics applied to commerce” is NOT economics. Mises once criticized Lord Keynes by writing: “It is assumed that the evolution of economic science culminated with Alfred Marshall and ended with him. The findings of modern subjective economics are disregarded.”

    You make the same error.

  9. Because they are a central pillar of the overclass infrastructure, (not to mention the basis of their claim to rule) the reputation of the so-called social sciences deservedly share in the blame for the manifest failures of the overclass’ current utopian project(s). In particular, their collective extravagant claims to god-like knowledge and perfection stand exposed as Z-man so ably points out.

    But, does this mean that these ‘disciplines’ are of no use whatsoever_? Arguably not if one can dial out the politically self-serving elements. But this is a difficult and contentious task, requiring a skepticism based on considerable knowledge of how humans cloak following their own interests. IOW, based on knowing the historical forms, shuck off the elite con and see if anything useful is left.

    For example, Niall Fergusson in The Pity not War presented a different and more likely interpretation of Normal Angell’s Great Illusion mentioned in the post. Fergusson posited that it was actually/also an effort to pursuade the dissatisfied great powers (Germany in particular) not to challenge the status quo. IOW, unlike earlier colonial expansions that arguably profited England, France, Russia, et al, given that there were now few unopposed colonial opportunities left, Germany could not hope to profit economically from the great power war that would be required to expand its colonial possessions, as it desired. Coincidentally, the English Empire happened to be then on top to the old order. Coincidentally, Angell happened to be a scion of the English elite.

    But, as the linked wiki entry says, a defense of Angell’s book is that he did not claim great power war was impossible, just futile as a profitable economic proposition. In this limited claim he was proven right by WWI. However, that this was the actual limit of his claim can easily be disputed on the basis of his subsequent work as an internationalist progressive in service of the Versailles Treaty status quo.

    The pattern, then, is a logical, limited economic demonstration, providing new insights to the people of the day (who thought colonialism to be profitable) used to bolster vast political utopian claims whose weight it could not bear

    Re psychology, I came to the same suspicions as an undergrad in the ’60’s: Five or so mutually contradictory theories about the very basics of the subject meant that only one, at most, could actually be right. But as others have noted, I do know people inside the normal range who have been helped greatly by talk therapy (the limited claim).

  10. “There are no objective methods for detecting the presence or absence of mental illness.” –Thomas Szasz

    • “No objective methods”?

      Szasz was an opportunistic huckster who mad a fortune on his pathetic book “The Myth of Mental Illness” and nothing more.

      There are oceans of scientific literature using “objective methods” proving beyond a doubt that there is, in fact, plenty of mentally I’ll people out there.

      He was a fraud and helped set back therapy and the public’s perception of it back decades.

      Szasz was to psychology as Rachel Carson was to DDT (except Carson has the blood of tens of millions on her hands, mostly third-world deaths from malaria and the like).

  11. Psychology and economics both want to be sciences, but they forget that science is DEscriptive, not PREscriptive. The further you get from the lab bench, the greater the temptation to sneak in that deadly little word “should.” As in, “my research indicates X; therefore you / society should do Y.” Any intellectual discipline, even psych, can be used to produce good results (as Fuel Filter says with Behaviorism) in a very limited, very specific context, for an individual. Anything further than that falls victim to the generalization paradox (all generalizations are wrong).

  12. Don’t be too hard on psychology as a whole.

    There are plenty of strict behavioral psychologists around who base their clinical work on Skinnerian principles.

    I used to teach a grad course (for five years running) in behavioral analysis for masters-level students strictly based on Skinner’s findings. I was also a behavioral consultant/interventionist for many years and had great success in those trenches.

    Strict behaviorists bypass emotions, thoughts and beliefs as side products of behavior and, if skilled, are able to get their clients and patients to “manipulate” the reinforcers and punishers in the environment to successfully bring about adaptive behaviors to extinguish and replace the maladaptive (what we call “target behaviors”).

    The *only* case failures I’ve had are the ones where there was non-compliance in the implementation of the various reinforcers (R+ and R-) and punishers (P+ and P-) or the maladaptive were so self-reinforcing (such as sexual behaviors) it was impossible to counter them.  That’s why jails and prisons exist.

    Wikipedia has a comprehensive entry on Skinner, another on reinforcement theory and the replicated experiments and studies that back this up as the only sort of intervention strategy that not only works, but is also efficacious over time.

    I could go on and on, but that’s it in a nutshell.

    • BTW, it also works quite well for people with mental illness, including all but the most hardcore psychotics (except diabolical narcissists like Obama).

    • Perhaps there is an analogy to be made with Garrett’s description of capitalism. It was a talent that a few men had, and only after it’s great successes did academics describe it as theory. The more academics worked describing capitalism, the worse they became at understanding it. There is a type of mind that expects facts to follow theory instead of theory following experience.

  13. @ thezman – To your point “Europe is a great example of just how wrong modern economics has been about pretty much everything.” I’m sorry, but I must take exception to this comment as it is completely off base.

    In the old DDR, the idea of fighting unemployment and looking superior to the west was digging holes and filling them in. If you correlate this to total economic activity of gross GDP, of course their numbers look deceptively good. But everyone knew it was nonsense.

    But let’s look at GDP in the US. It has continued to increase since 2006, yet over 7-million manufacturing jobs have completely disappeared in that same time. From 2000-2009, the US lost nearly twice as many jobs as Germany, and was second in manufacturing job losses only to the UK at around 35%. GDP may be up, but I would argue the economic outlook and quality of life has not improved for the average American citizen over the past decade. GDP only reflects industrial output, it does not reflect quality of life. It is a poor measurement of well-being, satisfaction and standard of living.

    Germany recognized its manufacturing under-performance in the 1990s and enacted a range of comprehensive economic reforms to increase the competitiveness of its economy. Reforms which included making its tax code more competitive, increasing investment in apprenticeship programs, and increasing investments in industrially relevant R&D. Germany also introduced the Kurzarbeit (short-time work) program to keep skilled workers at work on a part-time basis, with government subsidies to offset the reduced salary, rather than laying them off and putting them into unemployment lines as is standard practice with American companies.

    America simply failed to enact policies that supported the competitiveness of its manufacturing base. NAFTA, various free trade acts and off-shoring of medium and low skilled workers devastated entire industrial sectors from textiles to durable goods. American investments in R&D have declined over the past decade and a half, and its tax codes make it globally uncompetitive – which is why large US corporations have elected to move their operations to Europe, particularly Germany and Switzerland. This is why German employment in the manufacturing sector, is around 19.8%, almost double that of the United States, at only 10.3%.

    As to the failure of the common currency, Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal were not exactly economic powerhouses even before the Euro. Most would agree they never should have been allowed to join in the first place As anyone who visited Italy during the 1980’s will remember, it was not uncommon to pay a million Lira for a Coke-Cola and Greece wasn’t much better with its Drachma. As with Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal, the same could be said of many southern states in the US in the south as they are primarily agricultural. Just like southern European countries, southern states in the US have traditionally had much lower standard of living than the wealthy northern states with industrial based economies. Just like Europe; poor in the south, wealthy and industrial in the north.

    I don’t think you really need to look across the great pond to see the failure of modern economics. In America, one only need look across the street at the empty lot where a factory used to be.

    • I agree with you about manufacturing. Unfortunately, a lot of the apprenticeship programs in this country require you to be related to a union member to get in. They open up when there’s high demand sometimes (which is how my late husband got into the machinist’s union to build nuclear power plants.) We have too many companies that are unwilling to train workers.

      A lot of the decisions were made to benefit the wealthy, with little consideration of the effects on workers.

      • notsothoreau – I suspect the American apprenticeship programs have simply followed the trend of manufacturing. There isn’t a demand for them, so there’s little point in opening a school to teach skills no one will be hired for. It’s revealing that the US Occupational Outlook Handbook (http://www.bls.gov/ooh/) currently lists their “featured occupation” as web developers. Good luck growing an economy with that skill set.

        If you want a good look at the direction of where your country is going, just look at the list of Top-10 careers listed on their website (http://www.bls.gov/ooh/most-new-jobs.htm) They are all service occupations. Mechanical engineers, electrical engineers and skilled manufacturing technicians aren’t even listed.

    • Karl, you said “America simply failed to enact policies that supported the competitiveness of its manufacturing base.”
      Excuse me, we already in acted policies, it is called the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights, but the grandaddy of them all is the Declaration of Independence, and the war fought in leu of it. This economic tyranny called things like NAFTA and the TPP, they was one of the most important causes why we had a revolution against the British economic empire to begin with.
      What the political elite, and it’s crony’s did was fail to obey the rule of constitutional law. They never asked any of us. They went around our consent because the motherfuckers knew we dirt people would never go for it. So tell me, how do we inact further “Policies” to protect our jobs and prosperity Karl, when the sonofabitches go behind our back as they have and repeatedly do? Another revolution? Revolution is an idea that is gaining a certain level of popularity these days.
      What you refer to as our government, has absolutely no legal or moral power to make foreign treaties without the consent of the will of the governed. That is pretty well defined clause in the USC as to what is not permissible. And it has no right to use that illegitimate power to destroy or usurp our liberty as in unfettered economic freedom.
      It is about as unlawful as unlawful gets in at least economic terms to render bills of attainder against any one or any economic activity.
      There is so much wrong with what the bastards have done in economic tyranny alone it defies a complete cataloging. Dismal Quakery not withstanding.

      • @ Doug – In my opinion, based on the level of corruption displayed in your country at the highest levels, the US Constitution and Bill of Rights basically became null and void the minute corporations became entities. It should have been clear to all Americans during the events that lead up to the 2008 crash, that the banks, in collusion with the US Government, intentionally did everything possible to benefit themselves, while showing exactly how little cared for either of these historic documents or the lives of the people they where written to protect. To those you have voted for and put into public office, who swear to protect your country and its interests, those documents are nothing more than antiquities of a by-gone era, sealed in glass for the public to look at. You should be angry. Very angry.

    • @Karl, your first sentence is not supported by the rest of your post. I don’t think there is any question that “Europe” has failed. That really has nothing to do with America. Similarly, the complete miss by western economists with regards to the Soviet block is has nothing to do with the Euro Project.

      That said, the complete failure of American policy makers to protect the American Main Street economy is juts another log on the fire we should be using to burn every economist in the West.

      • @ thezman – Germany has a very solid economic model which is working, and has been working very well for decades and is pulling the rest of Europe. Unemployment rates have averaged 5.65% from 1950 until 2016 and our government is not off-shoring jobs in favor of quarterly profits. Nearly half our population, 43% of us, own our homes outright. No German economist has proposed the idiotic concepts of sub-prime loans, variable mortgages, unsecured credit card loans and our banks don’t loan money to people who can’t possibly repay their debts. In 2010 we paid off our reparations for WW1 and still had the money for the reunification of East Germany. Meanwhile our national debt to GDP is 71.20%, a steady decline since 2010

        Our universities are free, meaning no German student graduates with any school debt and our trade schools and apprenticeship programs are full. Anyone who wants a job can find one and future forecasts are outstanding for all levels of skilled and semiskilled workers out to 2025 (1). I might remind you that GE bought Alstom last year for 10.6 billion (USD) and has moved it’s European headquarters to Switzerland while announcing shutting down the Chattanooga plant where nearly 300-workers will lose their jobs. Fortunately the VW plant is just down the street and employs more than 3,200 people so hopefully some can find work there. Pfizer, Walgreens, Tyco, Covidien and dozens of US companies are also heading to Europe because of economic incentives.

        Germany has managed to pull the rest of Europe along, especially the southern European countries who have historically dismal economic records no thanks to political corruption and unstable government policy. Consider that Spain, which was ruled under a dictatorship until 1975 and has a current youth unemployment of nearly 50% has been doing considerably better than the single-currency bloc as a whole, grew in the first quarter of 2015 by 0.4%. Spain’s recent growth rate is among the highest in the euro area. A small improvement I will grant you, but improvement none the less.

        No German city, or European city for that matter, has declared bankruptcy like Detroit or Stockton. So yes, I would say the European economic model is working quite well.

        http://www.cedefop.europa.eu/en/publications-and-resources/country-reports/germany-skills-forecasts-2025

        • I would have to agree with Karl. Germany has been the strong man of Europe since post – WWII, after recovery that is. However, hopefully with Trump as President, a swift change in Corporate Tax rate, Capital Gains Taxes and Foreign Income Tax rates will stem the tide of companies both leaving the US and moving jobs offshore. The tax rates in the US are a disgrace but that is the child of Wash. DC.

          With China on a buying spree, companies like GE, who are now owned by the Chinese, may still move anyway as part of the economic war going on but with some sound policy changes the playing field can be changed to favor Americans again. We have been forced to play da foosball with our hands tied behind our backs and our shoe laces tied together for the sake of global trade. Time to set the American juggernaut loose!

          • @ LetsPlay – It’s important to note that unlike the various states across the US (California, Michigan, etc), European countries did not enter the world market on a level playing field following WW2. To be fair, we must compare apples-to-apples and look at all of Europe, not just Germany, when comparing the European economic models to that of the US

            After WW2, Germany had a huge advantage as it was the only country to receive US financial help though the Marshal Plan. Much of German industry that remained was literally dismantled and hauled off to East Germany and/or Russia. For example, Zeiss, well known for optics, actually had one in East Germany and one in West Germany.

            The fact is, after 1946 the Brits were broke, France was never much of a serious industrial player and southern Europe (Italy, Greece and Portugal) were barely industrialized and Spain was under a dictatorship until 1975. While the US was able to consume most of what it produced in the post war boom, Europe was consuming German goods well above those produced by other European countries, including the UK. In fact I believe the Brits were still rationing up until 1957. (@ UKer- can you confirm this?)

            Germany was able to benefit from a clean slate, huge capital investment and above all, a strong German work ethic. All new manufacturing equipment, excellent apprenticeship programs and university education all combined to turn our economy around and sustain it. While Germans do have an excellent standard of living – we live modestly and within our means and have never been caught up in a consumer mentality.

        • Germany spends less on its defense than the US spends on high school football. No offense, but Germany has been our “good” Puerto Rico since the end of the war. There are a lot of things you can do different when you don’t have to worry about national defense. Further, if Germany was a a US state, it we would tell German jokes rather than West Virginia jokes.

          America has plenty of big problems, but let’s not pretend Germany is some sort of paradise.

          • @ thezman – I never said Germany was, nor would I imply it to be one. But we still have a few things that do work – so give credit where it’s due. To the point of defense spending, Germany has been the largest occupied country under US forces since 1945. As the saying goes “Wieso eine Kuh kaufen, wenn Du nur 1 Liter Milch brauchst”. (Why buy a cow when you only need 1 liter of milk)?.” I think we could agree that the US military could have left anytime, especially after the Wall came down since NATO was well established. But I know, I know…someone had to keep an eye on those pesky Russians and the Fulda Gap.

            Actually, those jokes would be Bavarian.since they are our West Virginians. 🙂

            In all fairness, when comparing the US to Europe, economically, Germany would probably be closer to California while Portugal is probably closer to West Virginia. And that’s excluding San Marino and Andorra.

          • @Karl, I don’t disagree that Germany has done a better job protecting their manufacturing base. The Germans have been more sensible with regards to pubic finances as well. But, I could make a good argument that they were able to do these things because a) America is going bankrupt keeping the peace and b) the Euro project has allowed crafty German businesses to pillage the less crafty parts of Europe. German exports to Italy and Spain are significant and paid for by credit money generated by European banks.

          • @ thezman – Fair comments. But I have a difficult time with the idea that somehow America bankrupted itself trying to keep Europe safe for the past 70-years. Germany was only allowed a limited defensive military, and was geo-politically split in half and occupied by the Americans, French and British with the USSR (DDR) getting the East. And you may remember that when German Colonel called in an airstrike on a tanker truck in Afghanistan that led to the death of 100 Afghans, many of them civilians, the Defense Minister had to resign. How exactly is the German military supposed to function under these conditions? I’m sorry, but you can’t have it both ways. So, yes, I get your point. But please be fair in your judgment.

            And without defending German banks, Germany can’t make the Greeks pay their taxes, or the Spanish increase their industrial output any more than we can fix the revolving door of Italian politics or the horrible quality of French cars. But we can continue to produce and sell them cars, trucks, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, washing machines, dishwashers, electrical appliances and fixtures of excellent quality and low cost to ensure a high standard of living for all Europeans.

          • @Karl, I don’t think fault really matters. It evolved the way it is because of the circumstances following the war. My point is simply that Germany can do things the way they do them because of extraordinary circumstances that cannot be replicated in the US. That does not excuse our idiocy. It’s just that Germany is a terrible model for a continent-sized nation nestled between two big oceans.

            None of this has much to do with the foolishness of the European project. Liberal trade and movement was a great idea, along with settled borders. That makes for peace an prosperity. The single currency and political union are essentially a suicide pact with Angela Merkel as the cult leader. The fact that every Western economist refuses to acknowledge it speaks poorly of the field.

          • True – what works well here for us won’t work there. Different attitudes about many things including work ethic, education, savings, health care, etc. As for the Euro…guess we will see.

          • Karl, I hate to break this to you, but the Z Man is correct– if Germany was a US state, it’s median income per person would be noticeably lower than West Virginia’s ($34K to $37K, at PPP). And our home ownership rate is 66%, compared to your 43%… and most of our homes, actually are HOMES, not apartments. One of the most surprising things to me about living in Europe was just how poor you all are– there’s quite a bit of truly beautiful architecture, but that’s the leftovers from centuries of head start over us. The people who live there have strikingly less stuff, live in much smaller places (with much less heating in the winter and cooling in the summer), eat out much less, travel less, pay hugely more in taxes, etc. etc. etc. And Germany is MUCH better off than other places. Don’t get me wrong, I loved living there and don’t in any way want Germany to give up what makes it unique– but as a model for us? Nein, danke.

            You should see Europeans when they first come over here to live– they go BONKERS when they first set foot in a Walmart. Which is why the immigrant flow is virtually entirely from Europe, to the US, of course.

          • @ Janet – Are you kidding? The average US household has $130,922 in debt — $15,762 of it on credit cards. Not to mention 71% of college students graduate with an average of $25,000 in student loan debt. And who exactly holds the mortgage and lean on your houses and cars – you or the banks? Approximately 62% of Americans have less than $1,000 in their savings accounts and 21% don’t even have a savings account.

            And you think we’re poor?

            Do you want me to start on the topic of how the US stacks up on education, work, healthcare and paid holidays? Everyone in the EU is entitled to 30-days holiday a year, paid time off. Ini fact we have to take 2-consecutive weeks every year by law. While you have the right to a gun, we have the right to time off. Which is why you see us running around the States on two or three week holidays. You do know that more Germans visit America than Americans visit Germany, right? That pretty much goes for most of Europe too.

            As for home ownership, America is about 17th in the world behind Spain and Italy. You did know that around 25% of German housing was obliterated during WW2? You also knew the German banks were not so solid in the 60’s, resulting in a low number of home loans? So you know why we rent more than we own? You knew all this, yes?

            Next time you visit Europe, you might talk to the people and ask why we live the way we do. You can speak a second or third language like most Europeans do, right?

        • Germany is the owner of a bar that loans money to its customers so they can buy the liquor. This business plan can only work for so long.

      • I would agree that Europe, the EU, has failed but within the EU, Germany is the bright spot. I think the best summary for things like BREXIT are a bunch of disinterested parties making decisions by committee about things in places they know nothing about but treating them as “parts is parts.” People don’t like being treated like “parts” especially when they are left to sit outside and rust and decay without essential care and recognition for the value they still possess. In their Ivory Towers they think THEY are all that matter and that attitudes shows in everything they do.

        Although, I would still caution that there is still an element of subversion and elitism within Germany that wants to help bring on the New World Order right quick with or without the EU. So not all economics are well in the state of Germany.

  14. So the backlash to all the “consensus” of science today is pressure to apply the scientific method. Of course, those wanting to push a certain consensus want a short-cut, they are lazy in thinking, doing the hard work, and really don’t care about truth per se, they are after something else … money.

    You cover quite a range of topics here. I find that the deductive reasoning is best applied in comparing the goals of each “discipline” instead of inductive reasoning. For instance, while a lot of psychology does fall into the “bogus” category, there are some things I find helpful. Maybe not directly to me but maybe to others. Take learning models. The study of how people learn has resulted in knowledge that is factual. Some can learn by reading, some by listening, others more effectively by hands-on doing. Cognitive abilities vary but finding ways to help people live better lives is a positive result.

    I would also argue that “talking” about problems can be good for some people. Take for instance, someone experiencing PTSD or other emotional trauma. Some people might just need time to process what happened and can do this by going fishing or taking a vacation at the beach. Others might write about the issues and come to better understand their issue. Others may reach better understanding by vocalizing or explaining to someone else. What is important is the process of thinking through what happened and by doing so, coming to terms with certain facts, assumptions, unknowns, etc. and achieving some kind of emotional peace and closure. So per these kinds of examples, I don’t just condemn the entire discipline. There is good work being done amidst the crap that is also put forth as science.

    Personally, I am a science minded guy with an engineering background. When I was in school I did not care for the soft sciences and considered them too mushy. I still don’t care for much of it but I do understand now that it is part and parcel of life as we are dealing with human beings.

    I am also a Christian and I believe in the Bible. People attack the Bible constantly and over the ages have tried to eradicate it from history only to fail. Science has taken the task of proving that it is just a bunch of stories but when lawyers, scientists, and others have endeavored to do so, many have wound up becoming believers because they could not validate their original claims. When faced with a body of evidence that still leaves some room for proof needed, there in lies the issue of faith.

    Too many people put their faith is beliefs like Keynesian economics, Socialism, etc, which have all be proved historically, time and time again, to be utter failures at improving the human condition. I attribute much of this to a poor educational system. Here also I don’t condemn all study of economics. A lot of what is observable, deductive reasoning, is solid economic teaching and policy. What is giving the entire discipline a bad name are the charlatans and the repeated use of old models that have been shown to not work at all. In particular, I like Hayek and the Austrian School of Economics. Not that they get everything right but they base their theories on history. They explore and explain what worked and hasn’t worked throughout history and lean on the side of the proof of what has worked.

    The left is simply lazy wanting to take shortcuts, fool people to achieve their ends, and of course, have no honor to worry about in the scientific community. Why not? Because they have “consensus” on their side. And consensus is just another word for belief, not proof.

    On the other side, what has given capitalism a bad name is the dishonesty, corruption, and global greed that puts unbridled profits above all else, above, people, above country, above the environment (and no, I am not a Greenie!).

    • @ LetsPlay – Well said! I am so sick and tired of how many Germans go on about the horrors of capitalism and how the west is responsible for all the evils in the world. Of course I always remind them the public tram they took to work is only possible because of capitalism, along with all the hospitals, clinics, libraries, roads, power plants and water treatment plants in Europe and everywhere else the west has built them.

      I must say seeing that little twitch in the corner of their eye is so satisfying as they glare at me and go back to their Starbucks double-latte and turn up the music on their iPhone.

  15. Any serious field of study in which controlled experiments cannot be conducted, is not and cannot be a science. In these pseudo-scientific fields, what is considered correct is basically what its most influential practitioners determine is correct and this is often biased by the political ideology of the practitioners.
    And because funding for “research” is governed by those most influential, any research results contrary to the accepted dogma will either never get published or have a very rough time getting published.

    The absolute worst scam artists are economists and that entire field is a joke, a fraud. You really need to check out some of their papers. They are chock full of advanced mathematics (way beyond calculus or differential equations) and impenetrable econo-jargon used to “prove” their hypotheses and theorems.
    Note that NONE of their theories are amenable to controlled experiments. Thus, if the results are elegant enough and mathematically “rigorous,” then you now have a new economic theory and its originator may earn a Nobel Prize for economic “science.”
    Their theories are so good that economists have a 1000% perfect record of being incapable of predicting absolutely anything in the real world (most recently, the 2008 financial crisis; the worst economic dislocation since the Great Depression of the 1930s). They also have a 1000% perfect record of providing excuses as to why their theories, when applied to the real world, never work. They never, ever question their theories.
    Think about that; a “science” that has zero predictive ability when actually applied.

    As for their use of statistics, that too is a big joke. When constructing a statistical model, you have to assume, a priori, which variables are of importance and which are not (and this assumes you even know which are the variables of importance). And in a complex system – like an economy – you simply do not know this with any degree of reliability. And the more complex a system is, the more variables are involved and eventually you will find a correlation(s), irrespective of cause and affect.

    Economics became a joke when they developed “physics-envy.”

    In one of Paul Samuelson’s early editions of Economics, this Nobel Prize winner stated that the jury was still out in regards to which economic system was superior; that of the USSR (communism) or that of the USA. I guess all the dense math he utilized was incapable of offering an answer. It never occurred to him to visit the USSR and just look through the store windows (and find them empty), view the long lines for butter, shoes, etc., and notice the 15 year waiting period to buy a Trabant quality piece of shit auto for which you had to pay , IN ADVANCE, at the time you placed your order.

    At least an astrologer can tell you where all the planets and stars will be any time hence. Just don’t ask an economist where interest rates will be in 6 months.

  16. Wonderful line, Z Man, thanks: “In economics, they get fundamental elements of their field wrong and manage to subtract from the stock of human knowledge in the process.”

  17. I’ll take Astrology for $200. Wacky as it is, tt least it is isn’t trying to rob you blind of your hard won fruits of your labor, it is about trying to find some kind of truth about life and the imponderables of the universe. Not much harm in that. Economics is like a cake made out of feces, you can put all the frosting you want on it, it is still about screwing the little guy and it still tastes like feces. And you need the state to enforce it’s rules. The only rule of how economics works unless your a financial crook or banker is the rule of supply and demand. Everything else about it is a con. It is either free unfettered commerce, or it is a system of theft by the powerful. For if anything whatsoever can be said about the “science” of economy in a positive sense, those who make the rules about it sure haven’t made out the worse for wear for their snake oil.

  18. For example:

    I’m an Aquarius (astrology) and an ENTP (psychology):
    ENTP: Quick, ingenious, stimulating, alert, and outspoken. Resourceful in solving new and challenging problems. Adept at generating conceptual possibilities and then analyzing them strategically. Good at reading other people. Bored by routine, will seldom do the same thing the same way, apt to turn to one new interest after another.

    Aquarius: Although an Aquarius may act emotionally detached at times, they really do care, especially about their friends. Aquarius zodiac sign thrive on creativity, and because of this they tend to wilt in environments that are not conductive to their talents. An Aquarius is likely to get side-tracked at work or school when it comes to the mundane. On the other hand, if a project calls for creativity, an Aquarius personality will jump on it, wanting to prove their skills. The Aquarius personality traits show they want to have things their way, and they are not afraid of causing some trouble in order to get there. Aquarius can be seen as a rebellious sign if you look at it in a good light, but authority figures may see Aquarius as simply stubborn.

    sources: http://www.myersbriggs.org/my-mbti-personality-type/mbti-basics/the-16-mbti-types.htm
    http://www.sunsigns.org/personality-traits-of-zodiac-signs/

      • I was burdened with being a textbook Virgo, which sounded like the dullest sign of all (although we are superb caregivers, and God knows I’ve done enough of that!). Then I found out the Ingrid Bergman and Sophia Loren were also Virgos. I felt better immediately.

        As for psychologists, my few scrapes with them found me ending up listening to them. Did nothing for me except make me feel more normal, which may have been the point?

        • I feel that way about being a Taurus. Why must they make us sound so dull?

          I have a personal dislike of all things psychiatrist. My mom’s boyfriend had been threatening to her and was in custody. The shrink had him released and didn’t bother to notify us. He later admitted that he was afraid of the guy. Fortunately, the boyfriend was not violent towards her physically and we got through it. But common courtesy demands that you notify the family in a situation like that.

  19. Mainstream economics is full of various flavours of Keynesians, who are quite happy to see governments spend like drunken sailors in the bad times, and who then quietly refrain from pointing out that they should be also stashing away savings during the good times.

    On Europe, even 30 years ago, with the first ruminations of the “hard ECU”, there were papers written pointing out that absent massive transfers between states, such a currency would be vulnerable to asymmetric shocks, exactly as we have seen. The assumption seems to have been that the theory of the “beneficial crisis” would continue to hold (when things go wrong, the answer is always “more Europe”) and that the economics would follow the politics.

  20. Here’s the Amazon link to John D. Mueller’s “Redeeming Economics: Rediscovering the Missing Element”

    https://www.amazon.com/Redeeming-Economics-Rediscovering-Missing-Enterprise/dp/1932236953

    From a talk by the author on the book:

    “So, economics is essentially a theory of providence: it describes how we provide for ourselves and the other persons we love, using scarce means that have alternate uses.

    “Scholastic ‘AAA’ economics (c.1250-1776) began when Aquinas first integrated these four elements (production, exchange, distribution, and consumption) into an outline of personal, domestic, and political economy, both positive and normative, organizing Aristotle’s contributions according to Augustine’s framework. The scholastic economic theory was taught at the highest university level for more than five centuries by every major Catholic and (after the Reformation) Protestant economic thinker before Adam Smith — notably Lutheran Samuel Pufendorf, whose work was used by Adam Smith’s own teacher to teach Smith economics, and also highly recommended by Alexander Hamilton.

    “Classical economics (1776-1871) began when Adam Smith cut these four elements to two, trying to explain what he called “division of labor” (specialized production) by production and exchange alone. Smith was addressing the main drawback of scholastic economics, which lay not in the theory itself, but the routine assumption that the economy did not grow in the long run — which had been true on average for about two millennia. To explain growth, Smith and classical followers like David Ricardo undoubtedly advanced the two elements Smith retained. But it was an oversimplification.

  21. Like the saying goes: if all economists where laid end to end, you’d have a long line of assholes.

    • I thought the saying was: If you laid all the economists from end to end — they would not reach a conclusion.
      [but don’t ever attempt to lay them all. You’ll pick up some nasty STDs]

    • Was it Truman who wished he could only hire one armed economists? Something about eliminating the “on the other hand” caveats….

      • That’s funny, I had never heard that one. The only other economist joke I can remember off hand is the one about how economists accurately predicted eight of the last five recessions, or something to that effect.

        Speaking of wonk jokes, one of my very favorites: Three statisticians are hunting in the woods. Suddenly a deer leaps out from behind a tree. The first statistician shoots and misses five feet to the right. The second one shoots and misses five feet to the left. The third one jumps up and cheers, “Yes, I got him!”

    • I heard the saying as: If they laid all the world’s economists end to end, I wouldn’t be surprised

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