TRANSCRIPT: Larry Summers on Scientism, Mathematical Tractability & the Cognitive Failure of Modern Macroeconomics

Larry Summers at Bretton Woods on what was driving the macroeconomics which Summers sees as completely unhelpful in the current crisis:

“[The sociology of the macroeconomic profession of the last 30 years was marked by] attempts at “science” and by the tendency to study issues that where more tractable rather than to study issues that were less tractable — and the set of issues having to do with volatility in asset markets, having to do with multiple equilibrium arising from bank-run type phenomena are in a variety of ways less tractable — and scientists study things that they find tractable.”

Let me point out that Charles Darwin created among the most powerful of all explanatory sciences without looking under the lamp post for mathematical tractability nor specific predictions — indeed the many-many relations between genotype and phenotype blocks mathematically tractable relations or reductions in biology.

And note well, as Friedrich Hayek first showed, the science of economic and the science of global brain theory contain the same many-many relations blocking mathematically tractable relations and reductions — and specific predictions of time and place. (See Friedrich Hayek, The Counter-Revolution of Science and The Sensory Order. Wittgenstein demonstrated the same sort of many-many relations between words and/or concepts, see Jaakko Hintikka, Investigation Wittgenstein.)

In other words, what Summers is describing is essentially the academic economists’ version of a Monty Python quest for a bogus “Holy Grail” of fake science — a quest going in circles around the drunkards’ lamp post of the bogus standard of “tractability”. In economics, when the phenomena is mathematically intractable, the “scientists” pretend the phenomena doesn’t exit. In physics, biology, and all other real sciences, when the phenomena proves mathematical intractability, real scientists acknowledge the reality. The do NOT pretend that the phenomena do not exit. This may be a key benchmark allowing us to distinguish between real scientists and fake.

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