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Interdisciplinary signs of hope emerge during summer

Today, continuing in an academic vein, I provide links that may be useful for a range of economics students and other noneconomists. My synopses may be useful to still others, who may be seeking some alternative way of understanding the economy and economics.

History’s importance:
This summer, Phil Mirowski became Distinguished Fellow of the History of Economics Society, one of many professional honors for the scholar who was the usual teacher for the required History of Economic Thought course in the University of Notre Dame Ph. D. program in Economics before it was phased out in order to start a new, completely neoclassical (mainstream) program in the 2000s. Mirowski is with that university’s program in the field of science and technology studies—a scientific link that is notable in a big year from science that also brought a rare total eclipse of the sun in much of North America and a role for natural scientists in opposing the new US administration.
Just to bring one personal recollection into what may be an enlarged conversation about him, I recall Mirowski as an honest and accessible advisor to random graduate students with questions, despite his draw as one of the most well-known researchers in the department. He took time out to talk to me when I drove to campus for a quick visit before making a decision that I had more or less made already to accept their offer of admission and the usual—for them—graduate student aid package. His bio page

He has long had a link on our “Assorted Links” page, along with others this blogger had as teachers at ND. Since graduating and leaving for my first post-Ph.D. job, I have been an occasional casual reader of Phil’s work. Among his works that I have found interesting are a special History of Political Economy issue, Agreement on Demand, an introduction to a book containing the collected works of William Thornton, an early work on the business cycle, some recent work on Minsky and the role of automated trading in financial crises, and work on Benoît Mandelbrot’s fractal dynamics, including fat-tailed stable distributions. He was an early enthusiast of computational economics. Unsurprisingly, the citation for Phil (a strong critic of mainstream economics if nothing else) from the somewhat mainstream HES reads a bit lukewarm. (Call read a “to be” verb here, if you’re a grammatical follower of some kind and wonder how I can use an adjective rather than an adverb.) By the way, the HET webpage also lists an award to G.L.S. Shackle–a source of inspiration for some of my recent work with Tai Young-Taft–for his contributions to the history of economic thought. Fittingly, Shackle saw a key nontrivial role for time missed by the less historically oriented followers of Keynes, in particular via changing and endogenous expectations.

An Eco Analysis
The World Economics Association (WEA) sends its Real World Economic Review (REER) http://www.paecon.net/PAEReview/to me as a member. J. Nørgård and J. Xue, two ecological economists, provide an interesting sample of the type of analysis that they do for their readership of colleagues in a range of heterodox fields. The article analyzes efforts to deal with the greenhouse-gas bind using a formula for the determinants of energy use. While its key formula is only an identity (true by definition), the article deals with a huge problem for humankind without depending on the rickety apparatus of standard economics—utility maximization, etc. If global warming is to be contained, what factors are the key to the effort? In particular, is it necessary or effective to slow down economic growth–in a system that allegedly depends on growth to maintain profits as much as vice-versa?

The abstract begins,

Taking the simple static equation: I (impact) = P (population) ·A (affluence) ·T (technology) as the point of departure, this paper discusses the delusion of decoupling economic activities from environmental impacts (I) by resorting to simply reducing eco-intensities (T), (i.e. increasing efficiencies) through technological advancement.

Upset scientists, fresh off protest lines from earlier in the year, may find something palatable and reasonable here. An earlier post linked to a text in ecological economics.

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