Thursday, April 17, 2014

Was DeLong Right?


After pouring long-thought scorn on Karl Marx and his economics ("I have long thought that Marx's fixation on the labor theory of value made his technical economic analyses of little worth", link), Prof. Brad DeLong revealed how he came to those erudite views:
"The economist Suresh Naidu once remarked to me that there were three big problems with Karl Marx's economics. (…) And, third, Marx was fixated on the labor-theory of value". (link)
Those puzzling about DeLong's opinion finally learned where it came from: he's long thought what Suresh Naidu once remarked to him. DeLong doesn't make any excuses: it's not his fault.

(DeLong's dog never ate his master's homework, either -- if you, like me, were wondering)

But, as DeLong also wrote:
"Thus he vanished into the swamp, the dark waters closed over his head, and was never seen again."
Naidu, understandably, decided to make his own opinion crystal clear:
"The larger point is that Marx's fertile mind generated many ideas, distributed over a lifetime of thinking and writing exactly as capitalism was transforming itself and the world". (link)
To me, this seems diametrically opposed to DeLong's unqualifiedly negative opinion. And if one is right, the other must be wrong, yes? Well, no; not necessarily, it seems. In fact, I must be mistaken, judging by Naidu's closing remarks:
"But all this said, I think Brad wrote a good column, even if the question of 'Was Marx Right?' is fundamentally silly".
So, there, the mystery is solved. However diametrically opposed, everybody's right; DeLong isn't wrong, neither is Naidu. It's all the NYTimes editors' fault, for asking silly questions! And Michael Roberts' too, for making irksome comments!

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What the hell, I also blame Sandwichman, who also commented on Suresh Naidu's guest post at Slack Wire!

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Now you may have noticed I sometimes seem less than impressed by mainstream economists (including many from some of the warring Keynesian sects), among other things for their apparently philistine attitude to Marx.

For instance, lately I've commented on the NewKe(ynesian) Prof. DeLong; but I've also been known to comment on a PoMo PoKe Wunderkind (furiously anti-NewKe, btw, apart from anti-Marxist); even the big cheese himself, Lord Keynes, has not escaped criticism.

Don't get me wrong. I have nothing against Keynesian economists. As a matter of fact, some of my closest friends are Keynesian economists…

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Keynes' Close Friends: Will's Turn.


Another commentator writes to deny Keynes' anti-Semitism. Will, the commentator, likes Antonio Garrido de la Morena's conclusion, but not his argument and instead he advances his own:
"For what it's worth, I think that Keynes's attitude toward Marx was probably a result of a) his elitism, as you say; b) his acculturation in the Marshallian tradition, which posited Marx and others as illegitimate heirs to Ricardo, and Marshall as the legitimate heir who had read the Great Man correctly; c) a generally weak familiarity with the history of economic thought."
So, there, chemically pure: no anti-Semitism whatsoever.

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Will's explanation is straightforward enough, but I have two questions. Fear not, I'll try to make it snappy.

First Question.
Let's assume for a moment your explanation, Will. Based on it, when Lord Keynes, oozing unshakeable confidence, wrote:
"How can I accept a doctrine [i.e. Marxism] which sets up as its bible, above and beyond criticism, an obsolete economic textbook [i.e. Das Kapital] which I know to be not only scientifically erroneous but without interest or application for the modern world?"
He was just faking it. He didn't really know what he was talking about (C in your explanation, Will). It's not his fault, mind you: he was only parroting Marshall and the "Marshallian tradition" (i.e. B), but instead of doing it out of anti-Semitism, he did it out of disdain for the "boorish proletariat" only (i.e. A).

Now, I like that explanation. The anti-Semitism bit aside, it doesn't seem different from mine! But (and that's the first question)… is that supposed to be a defence? I mean, one more of those and Keynes goes back to Epirus alone.

Second Question.
Unfortunately, Will, I can't accept your explanation: you (exactly like Garrido) refuse to consider the evidence of anti-Semitism and want us to follow you.

What part of the quote below, Will, penned in clear English by his Lordship himself, and included in my previous comment but ignored by you, is not obviously, undeniably, offensively, anti-Semitic?
"He [i.e. Albert Einstein] is a naughty Jew boy covered with ink-that kind of Jew-the kind which has its head above water, the sweet, tender imps who have not sublimated immortality into compound interest. He was the nicest, and the only talented person I saw in all Berlin. … Yet if I lived there, I felt I might turn anti-Semite. For the poor Prussian is too slow and heavy on his legs for the other kind of Jews, the ones who are not imps but serving devils, with small horns, pitch forks, and oily tails. It is not agreeable to see civilization so under the ugly thumbs of its impure Jews who have all the money and the power and brains."