Economics as a zoo

Economists should select labels that advance understanding 
 

Thomas Colignatus, February 27 2005 
http://thomascool.eu

JEL A00
 
 

Summary

The world has 6 billion people, and rising, and we like them all to know a little bit of economics. This means that there is a huge market for economic theory, economics textbooks and teachers. As groups of economists have the objective to get a little bit of the action, a key strategy seems to be to label oneself differently, say X, so that all customers can be told that if they want the real thing then they need X. What to think of labels like "realistic economics", "heterodox economics" and the "post-autistic economics network" ? If you don\222t join, are you non-realistic, orthodox and autistic ? Economics is in danger of turning into a zoo. As the animals have taken over the zoo too, there is nothing to control them but common sense. Common sense can be taxed needlessly. The preferred strategy is to provide quality, and then add proper labels that advance understanding.
 

Contents

Introduction *
What is heterodoxy ? *
Post-Autistic Economics Network (PAEN) *
Crisis in economics *
A Guide To What's Wrong With Economics *
ICAPE for Pluralism *
Are students the root cause of all this ? *
Discussion of: AN INTERNATIONAL OPEN LETTER TO ALL ECONOMICS DEPARTMENTS *
Economics and mathematics *
Who is behind the Post-Autistic Economics Network ?*
Heterodoxy in Holland *
Original "economics" as an example of naming a research area *
Other ways to make oneself useful *
Conclusion *

Appendices *

Appendix: AN INTERNATIONAL OPEN LETTER TO ALL ECONOMICS DEPARTMENTS *
Appendix: Tony Lawson\222s discussion "Back to Reality"*
Appendix: Quotes from the PAEN website *
Appendix: A Brief History of the Post-Autistic Economics Movement *
Appendix: List of societies (possibly heterodox ?)*
Appendix: Heterodoxy in Holland *
Appendix: On the definition of economics *

References *


 
 

Introduction
 
 

One of the more difficult things in life is growing up. Gradual growth is hardly noticed, and when noticed, growth seems to come in spurts. For an indefinite period you enjoy vanilla ice cream and suddenly it\222s chocolate. Chocolate it will be for another indefinite period of time - until something else comes along again. Actually, this example of ice cream flavour concerns a sideways movement, of little consequence except perhaps for you body weight. Real growth consists of ups and downs that concern conceptual insights of some consequence. Each joyful gain also involves a painful loss of something that used to be familiar and that was dear, but that is suddenly exposed as being limited and no longer adequate. Each joyful gain of insight also comes with the thought \221how could I have been so stupid not to see that before ?\222.

So let us consider economics as a zoo.

That hurts, doesn\222t it ? We used to see economics as a wonderful body of theory, a conceptual window on society, and a respectful profession. Let us now consider it as a bunch of animals, all in their cages or aquaria, some ferocious and some silly, some well-groomed and others unkempt. What animal is qualified as ferocious or silly depends of course upon the eye of the beholder, as for example an elephant apparently can be scared of a mouse. But a zoo it is.

The curious thing is that the animals in our zoo seem to have created that zoo themselves. Some economists get together, call themselves "macro-economists" and suddenly distinguish themselves from other economists. Those others bow graciously and accept the label "micro-economists" with some pleasure, probably since they did not belong to the group that called themselves "macro-economists" in the first place. Then, in some other area behind the bushes, some economists create a cage "monetary economics" and suddenly all the other animals who don\222t actively seek that label are suddenly considered, apparently, to be "non-monetary economists". The list is apparently endless, with noses, beaks, claws, feathers, stripes, and apparently also the smell and texture of the droppings. Of particular interest are of course the mating rituals.

The zoo recently saw a new aquarium erected by some beasts that label themselves with "heterodox economics". So beware, if you don\222t jump into that aquarium and swim with them as well then you better consider yourself to be "orthodox". Supposedly, this "heterodoxy" is intended to become very popular within the academia and on television and the internet, so, if you fail to join them (click on their \221join us\222 link at their internet site), prepare to tell your dean (if not wife and kids) that you still demand some respect for your "orthodoxy".

The following discussion and appendices reproduce material found on the internet. The internet is in constant flux and it may be that some of these resources will no longer be there in the future. It seems important that we keep some record of the current zoo, so that future students of the evolution and history of economic thought can arrive at a better understanding of how it all was. Admittedly, when the internet resources disappear at some time, it will no longer be possible to verify that these links existed (at that location), but that is a problem that we don\222t need to solve here.

The world has 6 billion people, and rising, and we like them all to know a little bit of economics so that there is a huge market for economic theory, economics textbooks and teachers. All animals in the economics zoo seem intent on grabbing a small piece of the action, and one key element in their strategy seems to consist of building a separate cage to indicate to visitors that their kind is the most important zoological variety. As the animals have taken over, there is nothing to control them but common sense. But common sense can be taxed needlessly.
 
 

What is heterodoxy ?
 

Four respectable editors of heterodoxy are:

Dr. Frederic S. Lee, University of Missouri-Kansas City
Dr. Steve Cohn, Knox College
Dr. Geoffrey Schneider, Bucknell University
Dr. Paddy Quick, St. Francis College
They compiled the January 2005 73 paged "INFORMATIONAL DIRECTORY FOR HETERODOX ECONOMISTS: JOURNALS, BOOK SERIES, WEBSITES, AND GRADUATE AND UNDERGRADUATE PROGRAMS", available at http://l.web.umkc.edu/leefs/htnf/HeterodoxDirectory.pdf . The directory is too large to include it in an appendix, let us hope that the link survives for a while.

One can suppose that this directory determines what heterodoxy is. Apart from possible error (not well-defined), a \221sufficient though not necessary\222 condition for heterodoxy is inclusion in that directory. If you want to be recognised as heterodox, and aren\222t in the directory yet, please contact the editors \226 though please understand that they are not obliged to make a new directory. Note that www.hetecon.com has also a list of economic societies, see the appendix, though it does not follow that you are heterodox if they list you (and vice versa).

Perhaps it would be heterodox to laugh, and orthodox to keep a straight face, but, please don\222t laugh. It is tempting to start to laugh, as when one visits the monkey section in the zoo and sees how their behaviour is so similar to proper human conduct though funnily different. But please, Fred Lee and his co-editors are serious academics and they really deserve our consideration. The directory can be considered a serious piece of work. It requires a lot of work to consider all journals and economics departments and it is not easy to determine which is "heterodox" and which is "orthodox". That point should be clear, whatever the yardstick of measurement.

My only comment is that it does not seem wise to call yourself "heterodox" so that by implication all other economists are "orthodox" \226 whatever one wishes to imply by that.
 
 

Post-Autistic Economics Network (PAEN)
 

If it hadn\222t been for these editors, I would not likely have heard of the "Post-Autistic Economics Network" (PAEN) at http://www.paecon.net

This is wonderful. You call everyone else "autistic" and yourself "post-autistic" (which might as well be \221dead\222 since autism seem incurable), and you have achieved a great leap in human understanding. After this naming it seems pretty clear, at least to the animals belonging to your own cosy cage, how the next stage of blaming will proceed.

The PAEN website features some quotes from well respected economists like Mark Blaug and Charles Wilber. Those quotes indicate some serious issues indeed. See the appropriate appendix. It is not clear however whether these economists are part of PAEN or not. Everyone is free to quote them, and these quotes may be simply sources for inspiration \226 and a source for confusion that the people who have been quoted didn\222t target for.

The appendix on the history of PAEN states that it was started by students. This would explain the rather loose and creative choice of the word "autistic". 
 
 

Crisis in economics
 

The research by PAEN has resulted in two books that are featured on their website. 

This is the first book \226 with data taken from the Amazon.com link (where Amazon.com apparently does not suffer from the crisis in economics):

The Crisis in Economics, Publisher: Routledge; 1 edition (May 1, 2003)
by Edward Fullbrook "Most of us have chosen to study economics so as to acquire a deep understanding of the economic phenomena with which the citizens of today..." (more)

Product Description:
Charts the impact the PAE Network has had so far and constitutes a manifesto for a different kind of economics - it features key contributions from all the major voices in heterodox economics including Tony Lawson, Geoff Hodgson, and Sheila Dow.

After the authors described the crisis in 2003, it wasn\222t solved yet, and this apparently required another book.
 
 

A Guide To What's Wrong With Economics
 

This is the second book \226 again from the Amazon.com link:

A Guide To What's Wrong With Economics, Publisher: Anthem Press (December 1, 2004) by Edward Fullbrook

Product Description:
From the 1960s onward, neoclassical economists have increasingly managed to block the employment of non-neoclassical economists, narrow the economics curriculum offered by universities to students, and made their theory increasingly irrelevant to understanding economic reality. Now, they are even banishing economic history and the history of economic thought from the curriculum. Why has this tragedy happened? At this time of accelerating momentum for radical change in the study of economics, "A Guide to What\222s Wrong with Economics" comprehensively examines the shortcomings of neoclassical economics and considers a number of alternative formulations. In it, a distinguished list of non-neoclassical economists provide an examination of some of the many worldly and logical gaps in neoclassical economics, its hidden ideological agendas, disregard for the environment, habitual misuse of mathematics and statistics, inability to address the major issues of economic globalization, its ethical cynicism concerning poverty, racism and sexism, and its misrepresentation of economic history. In clear and engaging prose, "A Guide to What\222s Wrong with Economics" shows how interesting, relevant and exciting economics can be when it is pursued, not as the defense of an antiquated and close-minded system of belief, but as a no-holds barred inquiry looking for real-world truths. This book is a must-read for all economists and their graduate students, as well as for the general reader.

My problem is: why do these versatile and productive economists actually need two books to explain the problem ? Is the problem with economic science so huge that that it cannot be explained in one book ? And can\222t it, please, be solved ?
 
 

ICAPE for Pluralism
 
 

There appears also to exist an "International Confederation of Associations for Pluralism in Economics" (ICAPE) at http://www.icape.org . There is also an internet forum with 13 registered members and not much activity at http://p200.ezboard.com/bicape .

Their mission statement on that forum is: 

(8/21/03 1:11 pm)

"ICAPE Statement of Purpose 

ICAPE is dedicated to the idea that pluralism and intellectual progress are complements. This is not to say "anything goes," but that each tradition of thought (Austrian, feminist, old and new institutionalist, Marxian, neoclassical, Post Keynesian, Sraffian, etc.) adds something unique and valuable to economic scholarship.

Achieving productive discussion and debate across schools of economic thought is not a simple matter. There are many institutional and practical obstacles to pluralism. It is precisely by helping to remove those obstacles that ICAPE hopes to render a service to the community of economists throughout the world. In 1993, our founders outlined four goals for ICAPE:

1) to publicize and help develop a multiplicity of approaches to the scientific analysis of economic activity;

2) to promote a new spirit of pluralism in economics, involving critical conversation and tolerant communication among different approaches, within and across the barriers between the disciplines;

3) to campaign for greater pluralism in the range of contributions to economics journals and in the training and hiring of economists; and,

4) to coordinate the activities of economists and economic associations who share one or more of the above aims.

Though the particular means used may vary over time, ICAPE\222s activities are always inspired by these aims."

Again, why is there the suggestion that normal economists like me don\222t have "critical conversation and tolerant communication" etcetera ? 

It is a bit curious that, when you want to see pluralism, you move to a separate location and no longer join the discussion with the others. From where stems the need for a new location in the zoo, with a nice new fence and perhaps a moat to be really proud of ? 
 
 

Are students the root cause of all this ?
 
 

The internet provides the wonderful facility to formulate a petition and collect co-signers. Harvard students used it, now 720 strong, at http://www.petitiononline.com/ec10alt/petition.html

"To: The Faculty Members of the Harvard Economics Department

We, the undersigned, believe that Harvard has a responsibility to provide its eight hundred introductory economics students with a more balanced perspective than is currently offered in Social Analysis 10: Principles of Economics, commonly known as Ec 10.

We are therefore delighted that Stephen Marglin, the Walter S. Barker Professor of Economics, has proposed to teach a one-semester alternative introductory microeconomics class. This proposed class will cover the same material as the first semester of Ec 10 and use the same text as Ec 10 does, but it will attempt a better balance and coverage of a broader spectrum of views in the Readings/Workbook. It will also examine the assumptions of economics critically, so that students can assess the limits as well as the strengths of economics. Taken with the second semester of Ec 10, we believe that students would receive a solid introduction to the principles of economics.

We believe that a liberal arts education should not only teach students the accepted modes of thinking, but also challenge students to think critically and deeply about conventional truths. In the spirit of a liberal-arts education, we urge the esteemed members of the Harvard Economics Department to approve Professor Marglin's proposed course.

Sincerely,

The Undersigned"
 
 

One doesn\222t have to be a student to enjoy such a class by Stephen Marglin, and these Harvard students thus show themselves a tribute to their university. A problem may be that a balanced perspective is difficult to achieve even over a lifetime, so clearly, there is the economic problem of acquiring that balanced perspective with the limited resources that are available, and it is not clear whether the petition covers all angles.

Tony Lawson\222s discussion "Back to Reality" (see that appendix below) also refers to students. Are students really the root cause of all this new activity in the economics zoo, or are they only responsive to sounds created by some established dinosaurs of rhetorics ?

Note that Lawson\222s discussion wavers a bit. All will agree that the use of mathematics in economics should not be a dogma. The point however is that mathematics has proven its value, thus has earned its position in the curriculum. Why doesn\222t Lawson straightforwardly acknowledge this and defend its use ? He states: "The point is not to reject mathematical methods a priori, but to use such methods as and when appropriate." It would be more fortunate to say: in economics, it is impossible to avoid it, and one cannot qualify as a good economist when one doesn\222t have a decent base in mathematics. Lawson says: "Thus the heading in Le Monde of 31/10/2000: "Les mathématiques, condition nécessaire mais pas suffisante aux sciences économiques" is actually quite wrong." But that is wrong itself and the proper amendment would be: "Les mathématiques, condition nécessaire (selon économistes modernes) mais pas suffisante aux sciences économiques". Why doesn\222t he say that ? It couldn\222t be that he is afraid of students, so perhaps there is a deeper cause with his concept of \221reality\222 ?
 
 

Discussion of: AN INTERNATIONAL OPEN LETTER TO ALL ECONOMICS DEPARTMENTS
 
 

[The following Open Letter has been taken from http://mouv.eco.free.fr/english/touverte2.htm . The letter is included again in the appendix so that one can read it \221as is\222. In the current section I add my comments in blue so that there now is also an Open Reply.]

AN INVITATION FOR RECONSIDERATION

Economics needs fundamental reform - and now is the time for change.

This document comes out a meeting of 75 students, researchers and professors from twenty-two nations who gathered for week of discussion on the state of economics and the economy at the University of Missouri - Kansas City (UMKC) this June 2001. The discussion took place at the Second Biennial Summer School of the Association for Evolutionary Economics (AFEE), jointly sponsored by UMKC, AFEE and the Center for Full Employment and Price Stability.

The undersigned participants, all committed to the reform of our discipline, have developed the following open letter. This letter follows statements from other groups who have similar concerns. Both in agreement with and in support of the Post-Autistic Economics Movement and the Cambridge Proposal, we believe that economic theory, inhibited by its ahistorical approach and abstract formalist methodology, has provided only a limited understanding of the challenging complexity of economic behavior. The narrow methodological approach of economics hinders its ability to generate truly pragmatic and realistic policy prescriptions or to engage in productive dialogue with other social sciences.

Comment: This seems to be a misunderstanding. Economics has no "ahistorical approach and abstract formalist methodology". There are some researchers who adopt this approach, perhaps most at American academia for most of their time, but this does not preclude the existence of other approaches. If you are true students of the history of economic thought then you know that great economists like Marshall, Walras, Keynes, Hicks, Tinbergen all adopted flexible methods to suit their problem at hand. // TC All economics departments should reform economics education to include reflection on the methodological assumptions that underpin our discipline. A responsible and effective economics is one that sees economic behavior in its wider contexts, and that encourages philosophical challenge and debate. Most immediately, the field of economic analysis must be expanded to encompass the following: Comment: Part of economic methodology is precisely the neglect of those other angles. Understanding advances by concentrating on simple assumptions and developing their consequences. One does not get far by including the whole universe right from the start. If you do: where to begin ?! // TC 1. A broader conception of human behavior. The definition of economic man as an autonomous rational optimizer is too narrow and does not allow for the roles of other determinants such as instinct, habit formation and gender, class and other social factors in shaping the economic psychology of social agents. Comment: It is all too obvious that man is not an autonomous rational optimizer. There is no science in observing that. But, in the methodology paragraph, that you require yourself, it will be explained that we can use this model to clarify what a rational outcome would be \226 so that we better understand where man deviates. One of the wonderful discoveries is that there often is a rationale where one did not suspect one. // TC 2. Recognition of culture. Economic activities, like all social phenomena, are necessarily embedded in culture, which includes all kinds of social, political and moral value-systems and institutions. These profoundly shape and guide human behavior by imposing obligations, enabling and disabling particular choices, and creating social or communal identities, all of which may impact on economic behavior. Comment: Glad you discovered that too. This might be modelled as decision making under constraints. // TC 3. Consideration of history. Economic reality is dynamic rather than static - and as economists we must investigate how and why things change over time and space. Realistic economic inquiry should focus on process rather than simply on ends. Comment: Glad you discovered that too. One wonders whether you want to study the random play by children, though, or the purposeful effort by mature human beings to survive and to improve their living conditions. When we observe the historical process, would it not make sense to try to discover the ends that people pursue ? Even if their end is \221conspicuous consumption\222 ? 
Let us also suppose that you are really interested in history. In that case you will want to explain that Keynes and Tinbergen, supported by the economics profession, helped governments to adopt a different kind of policy, so that it is no longer likely that we end up in another Great Depression. But, can you properly understand that and explain that to others, when you don\222t understand the mathematics behind those theories ? // TC
4. A new theory of knowledge. The positive-vs.-normative dichotomy which has traditionally been used in the social sciences is problematic. The fact-value distinction can be transcended by the recognition that the investigator's values are inescapably involved in scientific inquiry and in making scientific statements, whether consciously or not. This acknowledgement enables a more sophisticated assessment of knowledge claims. Comment: Beware, this is not a dichotomy, where the positive opposes the normative. Instead, facts and values form different dimensions and are present at the same time. A good economist has learnt that the commodity space is enlarged with a utility index along another dimension. Indeed, scientists aspire at value-free science, and the best way to do so, is that implicit values are made explicit. In practice, economists are often more liberal and less dogmatic than other scientists. // TC 5. Empirical grounding. More effort must be made to substantiate theoretical claims with empirical evidence. The tendency to privilege theoretical tenets in the teaching of economics without reference to empirical observation cultivates doubt about the realism of such explanations. Comment: Yes, empirical relevance is the prime goal of the Econometric Society, founded by Tinbergen, Frisch and other in the 1930s. It is curious that they were considered revolutionaries in their days. Empirical relevance appears a complex activity, requiring lots of mathematics and computers. Note, though, that mathematical economics, without explicit reference to reality, still remains important, since it helps to sharpen definitions and can provide a framework that can sometimes be related to reality \226 see the \221definition & reality methodology\222 // TC 6. Expanded methods. Procedures such as participant observation, case studies and discourse analysis should be recognized as legitimate means of acquiring and analyzing data alongside econometrics and formal modeling. Observation of phenomena from different vantage points using various data-gathering techniques may offer new insights into phenomena and enhance our understanding of them. Comment: This is an open door. It is strange to define econometrics and formal analysis so narrow that other useful methods are excluded. // TC 7. Interdisciplinary dialogue. Economists should be aware of diverse schools of thought within economics, and should be aware of developments in other disciplines, particularly the social sciences. Comment: Definitely. Economists can\222t be perfect but it would be useful if they approach that ideal. John Maynard Keynes had a nice quote on what it takes to be a good economist. It helps if one also speaks Spanish, Russian and some Chinese. Nowadays, though, not to be forgotten, is the skill of using Google. // TC Although strong in developing analytic thinking skills, the professional training of economists has tended to discourage economists from even debating - let alone accepting - the validity of these wider dimensions. Unlike other social sciences and humanities, there is little space for philosophical and methodological debate in the contemporary profession. Critically-minded students of economics seem to face an unhappy choice between abandoning their speculative interests in order to make professional progress, or abandoning economics altogether for disciplines more hospitable to reflection and innovation. Comment: Seriously ? Generally, critically-minded people, with strongly developed analytical thinking skills, spot weak chains in existing work, quickly publish these, and gain immediate recognition for their sharp reasoning. What are those other disciplines, more hospitable to reflection and innovation ? Are those Art History or English Literature, that surprised the world with the innovation of the \221art of motor cycle maintainance\222 ? I\222m sorry, rhetorical hyperbole does something to my nerves. // TC Ours is a world of global economic change, of inequality between and within societies, of threats to environmental integrity, of new concepts of property and entitlement, of evolving international legal frameworks and of risks of instability in international finance. In such a world we need an economics that is open-minded, analytically effective and morally responsible. It is only by engaging in sustained critical reflection, revising and expanding our sense of what we do and what we believe as economists that such an economics can emerge. Comment: (1) This new horizon actually is plain old economics. It doesn\222t have to \221emerge\222 since it already exists. Read Marshall, Pigou, Keynes, Tinbergen, \205 Select your topic, and off you go. 
(2) A key question is how autistic you can get. Suppose that you are told that you need mathematics to do economics, and then you reply that don\222t want that. Who shows some autism here ?
(3) Are you sure that you want people without some competence in mathematics to deal with all those complexities and risks ?
(4) The students here reflect concerns that have also been voiced in the circles of so-called "other globalism" (that e.g. oppose the IMF and Worldbank). See Colignatus (2005b) for a longer discussion of this. // TC
Economics and mathematics
 
 

An important topic in economics is the relationship to mathematics. 

There is no need to extend on this issue since there are already many expositions on this issue. Especially students of the history of economic science will know about those expositions, though Robert Heilbroner\222s "The Worldly Philosophers" is no good guide on that angle.

The key point would be to find the right balance between human capacity and the challenge provided by the subject of discussion. This is no different from life in general. Hardly anything can be established in general, it depends per person and for the subject of discussion. Some are more mathematically inclined than others, some might have no feeling for mathematics but then should not burden themselves with economics either. It is useful, though, to realize that most people can master basic mathematical skills, and the basic insight is that one needs good teachers of mathematics.

One angle that I may draw attention to, however, is the use of Mathematica. This is a software language and computer environment that greatly facilitates the use of mathematics. It remains useful to exercise with pen and paper, since mathematical thought still differs from the (current) interface with the computer. However, once it comes down to creating practical outcomes, the computer takes away the tedium, and Mathematica provides a wonderful working space. See the Shone (2000) on Mathematica and see Cool (1999) "The Economics Pack" for an example application to economics. Hal Varian's work of course is another great example.

Another point to consider is that students with good mathematical skills would benefit from a boot camp in rhetorics and the theatrical arts. Still too often one encounters politicians with surprisingly good rhetorical and dramatic skills who blunder in basic logical error. This not only happens when they have sex with an intern or go to war in Iraq but it also happens on national economic policy. It will help the economy that good economists have learnt that they may need to speak up to restore economic clarity (whatever happens to themselves or that politician afterwards). Economists currently trained in the academia may have the presumption that when a politician expounds some fine rhetorical line, that the statement is well researched and warranted, like decent economic research, but it is useful to have been exposed to people, for example at that boot camp, who appear to be able to expound fine rhetorics but don\222t know what they are talking about.
 
 

Who is behind the Post-Autistic Economics Network ?
 

Who considers the PAEN website www.paecon.net doesn\222t find a clear statement who is behind it. It would be possible to send them an email and to query this explicitly, but why bother if they don't care themselves ? The short history compiled by Edward Fullbrook 2001, who also compiled those PAEN books (in English 2003 and 2004), relates that it all started with French students (who tend to speak and write French). The short history mentions the quick involvement of teachers, and soon there was a visit to Tony Lawson\222s "realist workshop" at Cambridge (UK) university. Who considers the webpages of that workshop finds them available at www.paecon.net. Either these pages were simply copied or Tony Lawson is a main supporter of the PAE network. 

The workshop\222s history states:

"The Cambridge realist workshop has been meeting regularly on Monday evenings since 1990. The realist emphasis originated with the common perception of a group of Cambridge economists, that modern economics pays too little attention to the nature of material it aims to illuminate. In consequence, an early workshop objective was to assess how method can usefully be adapted to insights into the nature of social material. Once instituted the workshop quickly broadened its themes and now encompasses almost any sort of discussion in the field of methodology or the philosophy of science. Its emphasis is pluralist and critical. A concern with relevance remains central however." It is useful to read that the pluralist and critical emphasis doesn\222t prevent relevance.

And one does hope that realism in Cambridge is not limited to Monday evenings only.
 
 

Heterodoxy in Holland
 
 

A particular problem originates with "heterodoxy" in Holland. 

Fred Lee\222s directory mentions CHIMES, ERIM and EIPE of Erasmus University in Rotterdam, the Institute of Social Studies (ISS) in The Hague, and the MERIT and UNU/INTECH of the University of Maastricht. Specifically no other departments at those universities, or other universities in Holland.

A point is that the directorate of the Dutch Central Planning Bureau (CPB, originally founded with the help of Jan Tinbergen who became its first director) has been censoring economic science since 1989, and that Dutch economists have not protested against that. Also those Dutch "heterodox" economists keep silence about that censorship of science.

The implication seems to be that "heterodoxy" does not buy more integrity in science. That is, in Holland. They are all for "pluralism" as long as they can pursue their own research. Academic freedom provides these "heterodox" economists with an umbrella for undoubtedly serious academic effort, but still within the cosy ivory tower. Where above Open Letter referred to "economics that is open-minded, analytically effective and morally responsible", well, this apparently is not something that naturally follows on all areas where one would wish to see open-mindedness, analysis and moral responsibility. That is, in Holland.

I\222m particularly disappointed in Arjo Klamer whom I told about the censorship of economic science more than a decade ago and who has paid little attention to it. Perhaps this censorship is not interesting enough for him, with no obvious impact factor like his earlier interviews with John Hicks, Robert Lucas, etcetera, but it seems to me that censorship has some prime interest value of itself. (You also have to put a stop to censorship before you can find out what it concerns.)

But, my disappointment in Arjo is no different from my disappointment in other economists, also those who are "orthodox" according to the "heterodox". The basic problem resides with the economics profession in Holland as a whole. 

Hence, "heterodoxy" and "post-autism" provide no reason to repeal my advice to boycott Holland till that censorship of economic science has been resolved \226 see Colignatus (2004). Last January I added the advice that all Dutch professors of economics are dismissed for lack of taking action on this censorship. My argument is subtle, unfortunately the paper is in Dutch, Colignatus (2005a).
 
 

Original "economics" as an example of naming a research area
 
 

I have included an appendix with selected paragraphs from DRGTPE where I discuss the definition of economics and the historical evolution of the name and research area. Please consider that appendix carefully. It can provide an example of how to label things.

It obviously is important how one defines and labels a research area. For example, if one were to define medicine as \221the theory and art of avoiding malpractice suits\222, then one might capture a key component of modern medicine, but one obviously misses out on issues of equal importance. 

In the history of economics, it is interesting to see how the more neutral sounding distinction of "macro-economics" versus "micro-economics" once tended to replace the more political sounding "political economy" versus "economics". 

It may be noted that often "Marxism" adopted strands of "political economy", and that French society has strong socialist roots. In principle this is fine, but there may also be deep ideological issues behind all this which issues not really belong to the realm of science.
 
 

Other ways to make oneself useful
 
 

The journalist Herbert Blankesteijn had an interesting report on Wikipedia (Dutch NRC-Handelsblad February 19 2005). Wikipedia shows surprising quality and stability. 

It comes to mind that, instead of having all these websites of "heterodoxy" and "post-autism", where nobody can correct you and you are in danger of losing yourself in cosy entanglement with the other animals of mutual self-selection, you could also participate in that wider project, with, admittedly, exposure to other thoughts and criticism. 

A good format seems to be:

  • Use wikipedia for entry of common conceptions and standards (for the general public)
  • Use wikipedia as well as a portal to other resources (particularly on the internet)
  • Use wikinfo for protected contributions (that others cannot change) (for the general public)
  • Use econwpa for professional contributions (that you can link to in wikipedia and wikinfo)
  • Use the journals if you don\222t mind publisher profits
  • Use your own site where you don\222t want to burden those other resources (namely for activities, logistics, sizeable reports)
One aspect is that economists for example use Google and JEL codes. It is not likely that an economist, who is suddenly labeled by others as "orthodox" (like me) and who hasn\222t heard about "post-autism" (I just found out), will use Google to find out about "heterodox economics" and "post-autistic economics". But if we all use Wikipedia as a reasoned guide to our subjects then interesting material has a fair probability to be seen in the course of our natural activity. 
 
 

Conclusion
 
 

My suggestion and hope is that our colleagues think again about naming their research area "post-autistic" or "heterodox" or "realistic". Note that Economic Societies might help out by allowing more "chapters" to suit the interests of the members so that there is less need for separate "associations". By remaining within the confines of an Economic Society, there still should be some communication between the chapters, while this is less likely for different associations.
 
 


Appendices




Appendix: AN INTERNATIONAL OPEN LETTER TO ALL ECONOMICS DEPARTMENTS

[Taken from http://mouv.eco.free.fr/english/touverte2.htm]
 
 

AN INVITATION FOR RECONSIDERATION

Economics needs fundamental reform - and now is the time for change.

This document comes out a meeting of 75 students, researchers and professors from twenty-two nations who gathered for week of discussion on the state of economics and the economy at the University of Missouri - Kansas City (UMKC) this June 2001. The discussion took place at the Second Biennial Summer School of the Association for Evolutionary Economics (AFEE), jointly sponsored by UMKC, AFEE and the Center for Full Employment and Price Stability.

The undersigned participants, all committed to the reform of our discipline, have developed the following open letter. This letter follows statements from other groups who have similar concerns. Both in agreement with and in support of the Post-Autistic Economics Movement and the Cambridge Proposal, we believe that economic theory, inhibited by its ahistorical approach and abstract formalist methodology, has provided only a limited understanding of the challenging complexity of economic behavior. The narrow methodological approach of economics hinders its ability to generate truly pragmatic and realistic policy prescriptions or to engage in productive dialogue with other social sciences.

All economics departments should reform economics education to include reflection on the methodological assumptions that underpin our discipline. A responsible and effective economics is one that sees economic behavior in its wider contexts, and that encourages philosophical challenge and debate. Most immediately, the field of economic analysis must be expanded to encompass the following:

1. A broader conception of human behavior. The definition of economic man as an autonomous rational optimizer is too narrow and does not allow for the roles of other determinants such as instinct, habit formation and gender, class and other social factors in shaping the economic psychology of social agents.

2. Recognition of culture. Economic activities, like all social phenomena, are necessarily embedded in culture, which includes all kinds of social, political and moral value-systems and institutions. These profoundly shape and guide human behavior by imposing obligations, enabling and disabling particular choices, and creating social or communal identities, all of which may impact on economic behavior.

3. Consideration of history. Economic reality is dynamic rather than static - and as economists we must investigate how and why things change over time and space. Realistic economic inquiry should focus on process rather than simply on ends.

4. A new theory of knowledge. The positive-vs.-normative dichotomy which has traditionally been used in the social sciences is problematic. The fact-value distinction can be transcended by the recognition that the investigator's values are inescapably involved in scientific inquiry and in making scientific statements, whether consciously or not. This acknowledgement enables a more sophisticated assessment of knowledge claims.

5. Empirical grounding. More effort must be made to substantiate theoretical claims with empirical evidence. The tendency to privilege theoretical tenets in the teaching of economics without reference to empirical observation cultivates doubt about the realism of such explanations.

6. Expanded methods. Procedures such as participant observation, case studies and discourse analysis should be recognized as legitimate means of acquiring and analyzing data alongside econometrics and formal modeling. Observation of phenomena from different vantage points using various data-gathering techniques may offer new insights into phenomena and enhance our understanding of them.

7. Interdisciplinary dialogue. Economists should be aware of diverse schools of thought within economics, and should be aware of developments in other disciplines, particularly the social sciences.

Although strong in developing analytic thinking skills, the professional training of economists has tended to discourage economists from even debating - let alone accepting - the validity of these wider dimensions. Unlike other social sciences and humanities, there is little space for philosophical and methodological debate in the contemporary profession. Critically-minded students of economics seem to face an unhappy choice between abandoning their speculative interests in order to make professional progress, or abandoning economics altogether for disciplines more hospitable to reflection and innovation.

Ours is a world of global economic change, of inequality between and within societies, of threats to environmental integrity, of new concepts of property and entitlement, of evolving international legal frameworks and of risks of instability in international finance. In such a world we need an economics that is open-minded, analytically effective and morally responsible. It is only by engaging in sustained critical reflection, revising and expanding our sense of what we do and what we believe as economists that such an economics can emerge.

Signed by:

Ricardo Aguado Spain Universídad del País Vasco
Dr. Stephen Dunn UK Staffordshire University
Dr. Eric R. Hake USA Eastern Illinois University
Fadhel Kaboub Tunisia University of Missouri
- Kansas City
Nitasha Kaul India University of Hull, UK
Peter Kimani Kenya University of Nairobi
Meelis Kitsing Estonia London School of Economics
Agim Kukeli Albania Colorado State University
Joelle Leclaire Canada University of Missouri
- Kansas City
Áine Ní Léime Ireland National University of Ireland
- Galway
Hui Liu China University of Ottawa
Claudia Maya Mexico National Autonomous University of Mexico
Dr. Andrew Mearman UK Wagner College, USA
Jaime Augusto Torres Melo Colombia London School of Economics
Vassilis Monastiriotis Greece London School of Economics
Alfred Ng Yau Foo Malaysia University of Missouri
- Kansas City
José Alfredo Pureco Ornelas Mexico National Autonomous University of Mexico
Jairo J. Parada Colombia Penn State University
Franziska M. Pircher USA University of Missouri
- Kansas City
David Pringle Canada University of Ottawa
Dr. James F. Smith USA University of Vermont
Pavlina R. Tcherneva USA Center for Full Employment and Price Stability, UMKC
Ermanno Celeste Tortia Italy University of Ferrara
Eric Tymoigne France Université de Paris - Nord
Benton Wolverton USA University of Missouri
- Kansas City
Questions, comments and critiques may be directed to David Pringle (pringle_djg@hotmail.com) or Áine Ní Léime (ainenileime@hotmail.com).
 
 

Appendix: Tony Lawson\222s discussion "Back to Reality"

[Taken from http://www.btinternet.com/~pae_news/texts/Lawson1.htm
and in particular http://mouv.eco.free.fr/english/tback.htm ]
 

Tony Lawson
Cambridge University
Faculty of Economics
Sidgwick Avenue
Cambridge CB39DE, UK
E-mail: Tony.Lawson@econ.cam.ac.uk
May 2001


In recent months a number of French students, joined by some of their lecturers, have initiated a debate on the state of modern economics. The debate turns on the question of which research methods are appropriate for the investigation of economic reality. As so often in the past, a French debate has provoked an international response. Because of the importance of this debate to the future of economics it is essential to be clear about what is issue, especially in these pages where the debate began.

Simply put, the message from the students is that there is insufficient pluralism in the modern economics faculty. In particular, there is a widespread insistence on the use of just one set of methods: those of mathematical modelling.

A standard response to this observation, one which is also found in recent pages of Le Monde, and the one I would like to address here, and is that this emphasis is unavoidable just because economics needs to be scientific, where being scientific necessitates the use of mathematics.

When stated as starkly as this I think it will be seen that the response is inadequate. Most clearly it begs the question as to why economics needs to be scientific. But actually, its central deficiency is to presume unquestioningly that a science necessarily uses mathematics. Such a presumption is false. What is more, a little reflection on the nature of natural science suggests that there is every reason to suppose that even an economics almost devoid of mathematics can yet be scientific in the sense of natural science. Thus the heading in Le Monde of 31/10/2000: "Les mathématiques, condition nécessaire mais pas suffisante aux sciences économiques" is actually quite wrong. Let me briefly elaborate.

I take it we all agree with the French students that illuminating social reality is the primary objective. Certainly, I find few, if any, commentators rejecting this goal explicitly. The point here is that mathematical methods of the sort used by economists are (as with any methods) useful to the task of illuminating reality only under certain conditions. Specifically, the usefulness of the sorts of mathematical procedures in question is restricted to systems in which event regularities (deterministic or probabilistic) occur. Thus for those who suppose that science means using mathematics, the assertion that economics can and ought to be scientific is, in effect, a claim that event regularities prevail in the social realm.

Maurice Allais, one of France's great economists, has formulated this claim explicitly when he writes:

"The essential condition of any science is the existence of regularities which can be analysed and forecast. This is the case in celestial mechanics. But it is also true of many economic phenomena. Indeed, their thorough analysis displays the existence of regularities which are just as striking as those found in the physical sciences. This is why economics is a science, and why this science rests on the same general principles and methods of physics" (Allais, 1992, p. 25). But Allais is actually quite wrong in both aspects of his claim. Econometricians repeatedly find that their supposed correlations are no sooner reported than they are found to break down; social event regularities of the requisite sort are hard to come by. And, more to the point, it is just not the case that event regularities are essential to science. Let me defend this claim.

Actually, although the successes of natural science are widespread, event regularities of the requisite sort are rather rare even in the natural realm; outside celestial mechanics they are mostly restricted to situations of well-controlled experiment. Furthermore, most of the results of well-controlled experiments are successfully applied outside the controlled experiment where event regularities are not at all in evidence.

We can make sense of these observations only by realising that the aim of the controlled experiment, and of science more generally, is not the production of an event-regularity per se, but the identification of an underlying mechanism that can account for it. Gravitational forces may give rise to an event regularity in an experimental vacuum, but gravitational forces continue to act on autumn leaves wherever the latter may fly, and help us to send rockets to the moon.

It is an understanding of the mechanism not the production of an event regularity that is the essential goal here. The controlled experiment constitutes a human intervention aimed not at producing an event regularity for its own sake but at empirically identifying (or testing a theory about) an underlying mechanism.

Medical researchers are not interested in correlating the temperature of a patient with the intensity or location of spots on the patient's body, but with identifying (and counteracting) the virus or cause behind the symptoms.

In short, if there is a unifying feature of (pure) science, it is the search for causes behind phenomena regarded as of interest. If there is an essential component common to all successful science it is this movement from phenomena at one level to their explanation in terms of causes lying at a deeper one. Mathematics is useful in the few (typically experimental) cases where surface phenomena are correlated. But science goes about its work of uncovering causes even where correlations in surface phenomena are not to be found.

So science is quite feasible in economics. It entails identifying the causes of phenomena of concern, say of high levels of unemployment or poverty. If mathematical methods are useful to this process, then so much the better. The central point, though, is to recognise that whether or not they are useful mathematical modelling methods are not necessary for any research process to qualify as being scientific in the sense of natural science. My Cambridge colleague Professor Amartya Sen was correct when recently in Le Monde (31/10/2000) he observed that mathematics is not a unique foundation of economic science. In fact it is not a foundation of economics-as-science at all.

Actually, it is my own view that we can go further than this. We have good reason to suppose that the scope of relevance of mathematics is very limited indeed in the social realm. For example, it can be demonstrated that not only the poor success rate of modern economics, but also the phenomenon of modern economists repeatedly making assumptions known to be wildly false, are due to mathematical methods being employed where they do not fit. These are amongst the assessments I defend at length in Economics and Reality (Lawson, 1997). But they not essential to the points being made by the French students, and I put them aside here. The students' "complaint" is only that, in modern academic economics departments, mathematical modelling is pursued for its own sake. They argue, and I agree, that we should start with (or at least not neglect insights concerning) the nature of reality. The point is not to reject mathematical methods a priori, but to use such methods as and when appropriate.

One final point. I have set out a conception of science that some will contest. It is possible indeed that it will prove inadequate. Or time may show that my pessimism about the relevance of mathematical modelling for economics is unfounded. All knowledge is fallible, after all. But to recognise that any argument or claim can turn out to be wrong is to acknowledge, at the same time, a need for non-dogmatic, indeed more pluralistic, approach in the academy.

This, of course, is just the first and most fundamental point of those of us who are unhappy with the state of modern economics. The objective is not to replace one dogma by another. Certainly it is not an a priori rejection of the use of mathematics in economics. Even less is it a rejection of the possibility of economics as science. And nor is anyone suggesting an abandonment of standards of rigour in the return to relevance. Rather, the goal is simply to open up the economics academy to a more intellectual orientation, allowing, in particular, the combining of high stands of research with a return to variety and greater (albeit critically informed) pluralism in method.

References

Allais, M. (1992) "The Economic Science of Today and Global Disequilibrium", in Baldassarri M. et. al Global Disequilibrium in the World Economy, Basingstoke: Macmillan.

Lawson, T., (1997) Economics and Reality, London: Routledge.
 
 
 
 

Appendix: Quotes from the PAEN website

[The following quotes have been taken from the PAEN website. No references provided there.]
 
 

"Modern economics is sick. Economics has increasingly become an intellectual game played for its own sake and not for its practical consequences for understanding the economic world. Economists have converted the subject into a sort of social mathematics in which analytical rigour is everything and practical relevance is nothing."
Mark Blaug
 

"[Economics as taught] in America's graduate schools... bears testimony to a triumph of ideology over science." 
Joseph Stiglitz
 

". . . the close to monopoly position of neoclassical economics is not compatible with normal ideas about democracy. Economics is science in some senses, but is at the same time ideology. Limiting economics to the neoclassical paradigm means imposing a serious ideological limitation. Departments of economics become political propaganda centers . . ."
Peter Söderbaum
 

"Economics students . . . graduate from Masters and PhD programs with an effectively vacuous understanding of economics, no appreciation of the intellectual history of their discipline, and an approach to mathematics that hobbles both their critical understanding of economics and their ability to appreciate the latest advances in mathematics and other sciences. A minority of these ill-informed students themselves go on to be academic economists, and they repeat the process. Ignorance is perpetuated"
Steve Keen

"The human economy has passed from an "empty world" era in which human-made capital was the limiting factor in economic development to the current "full world" era in which remaining natural capital has become the limiting factor "
Robert Costanza

"Most courses deal with an \221imaginary world,\222 and have no link whatsoever with concrete problems." 
Emmanuelle Benicort
 

"All of these textbooks fail to explain how prices are determined in \221markets\222\222 and thus how markets work. Where do prices come from? Who determines them? How do they fluctuate? These questions are never addressed, even though it is through the price mechanism that the \221invisible hand\222 is supposed to operate."
Le Mouvement Autisme-Économie
 

". . . mainstream economists seek knowledge through numbers to stop the messy reality of people, processes and politics dirtying their invisible hands." 
Alan Shipman

"Multinationals are everywhere except in economic theories and economics departments." Grazia Ietto-Gillies

". . . the economist must engage him or herself as a citizen with convictions regarding the public good and ways of treating it, rather than as the holder of universal truth that he or she substitutes for discussion in order to impose it on us all."
André Orléan
 
 

"The Taliban, and its variety of fundamentalist thinking, has been the most controlling and oppressive regime with regard to women in contemporary times. Contemporary academic economics, and contemporary global economic policies, are gripped by other rigidities of thinking \226 what George Soros has dubbed \221market fundamentalism.\222 Fantasies of control are operative in both phenomena, and gender is far from irrelevant to understanding their power, and their solution."
Julie A. Nelson
 

"There is an urgent need for a more realistic economics of the environment, with theories and analyses that can help to create environmentally sustainable economic activity." Frank Ackerman
 

"Modern economics is not very successful as an explanatory endeavour. This much is accepted by most serious commentators on the discipline, including many of its most prominent exponents"
Tony Lawson

"Because mathematics has swamped the curricula in leading universities and graduate schools, student economists are neither encouraged nor equipped to analyze real world economies and institutions."
Geoffrey M. Hodgson

". . . the concepts of uneconomic growth, accumulating illth, and unsustainable scale have to be incorporated in economic theory if it is to be capable of expressing what is happening in the world. This is what ecological economists are trying to do."
Herman E. Daly

"The application of mathematics to economics has proved largely unsuccessful because it is based on a misleading analogy between economics and physics. Economics would do much better to model itself on another very successful area, namely medicine, and, like much of medicine, to adopt a qualitative causal methodology."
Donald Gillies

"Economic history courses have been disappearing from classrooms across the world. Once a compulsory part of economics education, they have been relegated to the remote corners of \221options\222 and even closed down."
Ha-Joon Chang
 

"In Smith is a forgotten lesson that the foundation of success in creating a constructive classical liberal society lies in the individuals\222 adherence to a common social ethics. According to Smith, virtue serves as \221the fine polish to the wheels of society\222 while vice is \221like the vile rust, which makes them jar and grate upon one another.\222 Indeed, Smith sought to distance his thesis from that of Mandeville and the implication that individual greed could be the basis for social good. Smith\222s deistic universe might not sit well with those of post-enlightenment sensibilities, but his understanding that virtue is a prerequisite for a desirable market society remains an important lesson. For Smith ethics is the hero-not self-interest or greed-for it is ethics that defend social intercourse from the Hobbesian chaos."
Charles K. Wilber
 
 

Appendix: A Brief History of the Post-Autistic Economics Movement

[Taken from http://www.btinternet.com/~pae_news/history.htm]
 

 
Stage One


The movement began in France in June 2000, when a group of economics students, under the banner \223autisme-économie\224, published on the web a petition protesting against:

  • economics\222 "uncontrolled use" and treatment of mathematics as "an end in itself", and the resulting "autistic science", 
  • the repressive domination of neoclassical theory and derivative approaches in the curriculum, and 
  • the dogmatic teaching style, which leaves no place for critical and reflective thought. 
The autisme-économie petition argued in favor of:
  • engagement with empirical and concrete economic realities, 
  • prioritizing science over scientism, 
  • a pluralism of approaches adapted to the complexity of economic objects and to the uncertainty surrounding most of the big economic questions, and 
  • their professors initiating reforms to rescue economics from its autistic and socially irresponsible state. 
Some economics teachers in France responded with a petition of their own. It supported the students\222 demands, added to their analysis, and lamented the cult of scientism into which economics had in the main descended. The professors\222 petition also called for the opening of a public debate. 

That debate began on the 21st of June, when the French national newspaper, Le Monde, reported on the students\222 petition and interviewed several prominent economists who voiced sympathy for the students\222 cause. Other newspapers and magazines followed suit. As the French media, including radio and television, expanded the public debate, fears among students and teachers of persecution ifthey spoke out diminished and the number of signatories to their petitions increased. This fuelled further media interest. Jack Lang, the French Minister of Education, announced that he regarded the complaints with great seriousness and was setting up a commission to investigate. He put the venerable Jean-Paul Fitoussi, president of the l'Observatoire français des conjonctures économiques (OFCE), in charge and instructed him to report within a year.

Stage Two

 
The movement now entered its second stage, as it sought to capitalize on its official recognition and expand the public debate. And meanwhile the movement became international.
 
In September 2000 the first issue of the post-autistic economics newsletter appeared. It told of the events in France and encouraged people elsewhere to learn and take heart from them. The response was overwhelming. Teachers and students forwarded the email newsletter on to their colleagues and posted it on a score of web sites.By its second issue in October, the pae newsletter had subscribers in 36 countries.
In the beginning the neoclassical mainstream chose to ignore the PAE Movement. But by autumn it became clear that the call for reform, in France at least, was not about to go away.In October Le Monde carried in one issue three pages of articles on the movement, including an ambiguous interview with Amartya Sen. It was about this time that the traditionalists changed tactics and launched a counterattack.It included a long article by Robert Solow in Le Monde, another by Olivier Blanchard, and the publication of a counter petition \226 a plea for the status quo.
These mainstream initiatives, however, backfired. Solow\222s article came across as imperialistic and condescending, while the petition, which was mainly an MIT affair, left observers shocked by its cynical misrepresentation of the students\222 demands.Most of all, however, people on all sides seemed surprised at how feeble were the arguments offered for blocking the reforms proposed by the PAE Movement. 

Meanwhile the autisme-économie students, led by Gilles Raveaud, Olivier Vaury and Ioana Marinescu, organized public debates on the issues they had raised in their petition.Through the winter and spring these events took place at universities all over France, some attracting audiences of more than 300. Articles continued to appear in the French press regarding the issues raised by the movement. In February 2001 L\222économie politique devoted an entire issue to the debate. In articles and interviews in the French national press, various French economists of note, including Bernard Paulré,Olivier Favereau, Yann Moulier-Boutang, Jean Gadrey, and André Orléan, came out on the side of the students.Over 200 French academic economists signed the petition supporting the students.

In November www.paecon.net was launched to give international direction to the PAE movement, which by now was receiving media attention around the world. At the beginning of December, the French student leaders Gilles Raveaud and Ioana Marinescu appeared in a roundtable \223The Future of Economics\224 at an international conference in Leeds, UK.This event forged important links between the movement in France and emergent initiatives elsewhere.At about the same time James Galbraith flew to Paris to meet with student and academic leaders of the new movement. In January, Galbraith replied to Solow in the fourth issue of the post-autistic economics newsletter.

Olivier Vaury re-designed and re-launched Austisme-économie as a French and English website.Meanwhile other PAE-related websites were springing up in various countries. These included one created in the UK by Oxford University students, which came about following an appearance by Raveaud and Marinescu at the Cambridge Workshop on Realism and Economics. 

Throughout the academic year (2000-2001), lobbying of Fitoussi\222s commission was intense. It included a special spring visit to Paris by members of the Executive Committee of the International Economics Association.Big guns and bold maneuvers were called for, because it was perceived by both sides that success by the French reformers would, in all likelihood, have effects far beyond the French borders.Concessions won there would in time be demanded in other countries, not just by other students, but also by the thousands of academic economists whose fidelity to the neoclassical mainstream is more survivalist than intellectual.

This broad academic interest was reflected in the rapid evolution of the post-autistic economics newsletter into a journal featuring short, well-written essays and attracting a diverse range of contributors, many of them leading names in the profession. The e-mail journal now has nearly 5000 subscribers, mostly academics, from over 100 countries. Subscriptions are free at www.paecon.net or by clicking here.Recent contributors to the journal include: James Galbraith, Frank Ackerman, André Orléan, Hugh Stretton, Jacques Sapir, Edward Fullbrook, Gilles Raveaud, Deirdre McCloskey, Tony Lawson, Geoff Harcourt, Joseph Halevi, Sheila C. Dow, Kurt Jacobsen, The Cambridge 27, Paul Ormerod, Steve Keen, Grazia Ietto-Gillies, Emmanuelle Biencourt, Le Movement Autisme-economie, Geoffrey Hodgson, Ben Fine,Michael A. Bernstein, Julie A. Nelson, and Jeff Gates. Back issues are archived at the paecon website.
 

In June \223the Cambridge-27\224, 27 embattled economics PhD students at the Cambridge University, published their petition \223Opening Up Economics\224.By \223opening up economics\224 they mean becoming mindful of the limitations of the \223competing approaches to understanding economic phenomena\224, of\223learning their domain of applicability\224, and of using \223the best methods for the question at hand\224 rather than \223restricting research done in economics to that based on one approach only.\224Their petition now has over 500 signatures (the impressive list of signatories is at http://www.btinternet.com/~pae_news/Camproposal.htm You may sign it and add your name to the list by clicking here.In September a cognate petition appeared, that resulted from a meeting of 75 students, researchers and professors from twenty-two nations who gathered in Kansas City for a week of discussion on the state of economics.A list of this petition\222s signatories is maintained at http://www.btinternet.com/~pae_news/KC.htm .You may sign it by clicking here.

People expecting Fitoussi\222s report to be a whitewash were surprised when it was released in September.It proposed enough reforms to win the support of autisme\226économie.And enough for Jack Lang, the French Minister of Education, to speak of fundamental reforms which he has promised to carry through.

Fitoussi\222s report, L'Enseignement supérieur de l'économie en question, calls for the integration of debate on contemporary economic issues into both the structure and content of university economics courses.It means real debate, not neoclassical opinion presented on its own or with only token alternatives.Such an open environment would preclude the standard practice of keeping the ideological content of neoclassicism hidden from students. This change alone would radically transform economics teaching, with inevitable and incalculable effects to economics itself.
 

Stage Three
 

This is where we are now.Economics has not experienced such pressure to change since the 1930s.Then the complaint was its inability to explain the Great Depression and to effect a recovery.It responded by inventing macroeconomics.Today, the indictment is both more general and more serious: economics as taught in universities neither explains contemporary reality nor provides a framework for the critical debate of issues in democratic societies.The PAE Movement is about bringing economists of goodwill together to change that.
 
 

Edward Fullbrook 

November 21, 2001
 
 

Appendix: List of societies (possibly heterodox ?)

[The following societies are listed at the "Heterdox economics portal" at www.hetecon.com at 
http://www.open.ac.uk/socialsciences/hetecon/societies.htm
 

Amsterdam Maastricht Summer University

Agent-Based Computational Economics

Association for Evolutionary Economics

Association for Institutional Thought

Association for Social Economics

Cambridge Realist Workshop

Centre for Research in Institutional Economics

Conference of Socialist Economists

CUSP: Youth Marketing Reaches Fourty

Canadian Women Economists Network

Eastern Economic Association

European Association for Evolutionary Political Economy

European Memorandum Group

European Society for the History of Economic Thought

History Economics Society

International Confederation of Associations for Pluralism in Economics

International Economics and Philosophy Society

International Society for New Institutional Economics

International Working Group on Value Theory

International Association For Feminist Economics

International Confederation of Associations for Pluralism in Economics

International Joseph A Schumpeter Society

International Society for Ecological Economics

Japan Society of Political Economy

Postgraduate Economics Conference

Progressive Economics Forum

Post-Autistic Economics Network

Society for the Advancement of Socio-Economics

Society for the Advancement of Behavioural Economics

Society for the Development of Austrian Economics

Society of Heterodox Economists

Union for Radical Political Economics
 
 
 

Appendix: Heterodoxy in Holland

[The following is taken from the "directory of heterodoxy".]

ERASMUS UNIVERSITY ROTTERDAM, THE NETHERLANDS

Erasmus Center for History in Management and Economics (CHIMES) and Erasmus Research Institute in Management offer a four-year international PhD program in Economics, Management and History. The mission of the PhD program is to train future generations of international researchers in the field of economics, management and history. PhD candidates follow a customized and state of the art course program, which fits their academic background and CHIMES\222s research program. During the project, each candidate is coached intensively by senior CHIMES fellows and by co-supervisors from our international scientific network. PhD Projects in Economics, Management and History at CHIMES cover a variety of themes, such as business history and organizational behavior, the role of business institutions in economic development, the pattern of breaking routines with entrepreneurial innovations, and business enterprises as vehicles of economic and management thought. 

For more information: contact Ms. Annette Bartels at abartels@fbk.eur.nl or examine the web site at http://www.chimes.nl.
 
 

ERASMUS UNIVERSITY ROTTERDAM, THE NETHERLANDS

The Erasmus Institute for Philosophy and Economics (EIPE) invites students to apply for

its GRADUATE PROGRAMME in philosophy and economics. The focus of the programme is on interdisciplinary areas where the Philosophy and Methodology of Economics, on the one hand, and Institutional Economics, on the other, meet (with particular attention paid to the new developments in science studies and to the new economics of institutions and organizations). The programme is strongly international. Its working language is English. Ideally, applicants have a Master's degree in economics or in philosophy, or are close to completing such a degree. Those with a strong Bachelor's degree will also be considered. The programme is in two parts. The first part provides a one-year MPhil Degree and it can be done separately. It consists of a set of foundational courses on topics that range from the philosophy and rhetoric of both mainstream and heterodox economics to the foundations of new institutional and evolutionary economics. The core courses are currently given by Mark Blaug, John Groenewegen, Arjo Klamer, Uskali Maki, Deirdre McCloskey and Jack Vromen as well as visiting professors (such as, in 2000-2002, by Gregory Dow, Wade Hands, John Davis, Claude Menard, and John Dupre). Overall, EIPE has some 20 Members who participate in its activities, including teaching, and whose areas of expertise cover a broad range of fields and topics, from philosophy of science, social epistemology, social ontology, and internet ethics to theories of rationality, transaction cost economics, organization theory, game theory, and cultural economics current list of members comprises Gerrit Antonides, Mark Blaug, John Davis, Igor Douven, Sanjeev Goyal, John Groenewegen, George Hendrikse, Jeroen van den Hoven, Maarten Janssen, Arjo Klamer, Barbara Krug, Theo Kuipers, Deirdre McCloskey, Uskali Maki, Bart Nooteboom, Paivi Oinas, Laszlo Polos, Ronald Spekle, Ruth Towse, Jack Vromen, Richard Whitley, Theo van Willigenburg). The MPhil will be useful for those who want to have a solid introduction to the areas covered; those who want to upgrade their knowledge close to the frontline research on these themes; and those who want to prepare themselves for PhD research at EIPE or elsewhere. After the MPhil, students can apply for the second part of the EIPE Programme, the PhD programme. PhD theses focus on topics related to the EIPE Research Programme "Institutions". EIPE organizes a regular research seminar with internationally renowned experts presenting papers. It also runs a PhD seminar to provide a forum for discussion of the work in progress by its graduate students. Moreover, it organises international workshops and conferences on a wide range of topics.

For more information: about the institute, the graduate programme, and application procedures see our web site: http://www.eur.nl/fw/philecon/ contact the secretary of the institute, Loes van Dijk (vandijk@fwb.eur.nl, +31-10-408 8967).

INSTITUTE OF SOCIAL STUDIES IN THE NETHERLANDS

It is at graduate level (entry requirement is BA economics). The offers a 6.5 weeks diploma program in Feminist Development Economics, in the period end of May - early July, each year. It is a pluralist diploma, with heterodox emphasis, drawing mainly from institutional, social, and Post-Keynesian economics. The course is practical, hands-on with many group exercises. The course has several modules: on macro and micro feminist development economics as well as a module on exploratory feminist data analysis, feminist economic methodology, and a workshop on feminist development economic policy. The course convenor is Irene van Staveren. Among other lecturers on the course are Haroon Akram Lodhi and Diane Elson. 

For more information: Contact: Prof. dr. Irene van Staveren, ISS, P.O. Box 29776, 2502 LT THE HAGUE, THE NETHERLANDS. Phone: (31) 70 42 60 602. Fax: (31) 70 42 60 799. e-mail: staveren@iss.nlwebsite: www.iss.nl

UNIVERSITY OF MAASTRICHT, THE NETHERLANDS

MERIT and UNU/INTECH together offer a PhD Program in Economics and Policy Studies of Technical Change. The program is designed for students who are interested in exploring the theoretical, institutional, and policy issues underlying technological change and in studying the role of technical change in fostering economic growth and development in both industrialized and developing countries. 

For more information: write to MERIT-UNU/INTECH PhD Programme, P.O.
Box 616, 6200 MD, Maastricht, The Netherlands. Website at http://www.merit.unimaas.nl .
 
 

Appendix: On the definition of economics
 
 

[The following text has been taken from DRGTPE p11-12. For references, see there.]

Political Economy is the science of the management of the state. More in general, \221economics\222 is Greekish for \221management theory\222. Marshall already explained that \221economics\222 is wider than \221political economy\222, see his "Principles of economics" (1947:43). The proper definitions are:

  • Economics \221in a narrow sense\222 puts the approach, methods and tools, of the discipline central, and looks at a variety of subjects.
  • Political Economy puts the subject, the management of the state, central. 
  • Economics \221in a broad sense\222 joins the \221narrow sense\222 and Political Economy.
One way to view these distinctions is to visualize a matrix with the sciences in the rows and the subjects in the columns. The common economist may to some extent neglect the inputs of the other disciplines, but the political economist must draw on the resources of philosophy, history, law, sociology, politicology, social psychology, biology, physics and so on. Political Economy is, just by definition, the study that tries to integrate all human knowledge about the management of the state. Political Economy is, in that respect, the proper continuation of ancient philosophy on that subject matter.

Confusions easily arise when these definitions are not understood. 

The reasons to adopt these definitions are rather mundane. The King - and the ruling elite - can derive their wealth (a) from exploitation or (b) from general productivity growth. The latter is more advantageous in the longer run. Productivity can be increased in basically two ways: by technology or by management. For example, computers can add to our wealth, and we must have technology to be able to have computers. But a room full of computers does not present much value if we don\222t manage their use. So technology and management are the two sides of the coin of human wealth. Though no study should neglect either side, there of course is advantage in some specialisation of those studies. The engineers take one side, the economists the other. 

Psychologists and artists might object to that view, and argue that proper training in enjoyment and in particular the arts could teach people to enjoy life so much more, requiring neither additional engineering nor economics. In a sense, this viewpoint would seem to be correct. In another sense, it apparently isn\222t sufficient. Human beings get used to levels of wealth, and require more wealth. It would be economics again to study why people are not happy eating bananas and watching sunsets. And dealing with issues like this, is management again.
 
 

[The following text has been taken from DRGTPE p266-270. For references, see there.]
 
 

The body of the text explains the difference of and relationship between \221economics\222 and \221political economy\222. I propose that we all stick to those definitions. But it remains useful to relate to definitions provided by other authors.

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Marshall (1890, 1947, p1 and 43) first equates Political Economy and Economics, and then splits them up again:

"Political Economy or Economics is a study of mankind in the ordinary business of life; it examines that part of individual and social action which is most closely connected with the attainment and with the use of the material requisites of wellbeing."

"Economics is thus taken to mean a study of the economic aspects and conditions of man\222s political, social and private life; but more especially of his social life. The aims of the study are to gain knowledge for its own sake, and to obtain guidance in the practical conduct of life, and especially of social life. The need for such guidance was never so urgent as now; a later generation may have more abundant leisure than we for researches that throw light on obscure points in abstract speculation, or in the history of past times, but do not afford immediate aid in present difficulties. 

But though thus largely directed by practical needs, economics avoids as far as possible the discussion of those exigencies of party organization, and those diplomacies of home and foreign politics of which the statesman is bound to take account in deciding what measures that he can propose will bring him nearest to the end that he desires to secure for his country. It aims indeed at helping him to determine not only what that end should be, but also what are the best methods of a broad policy devoted to that end. But it shuns many political issues, which the practical man cannot ignore: and it is therefore a science, pure and applied, rather than a science and an art. And it is better described by the broad term "Economics" than by the narrower term "Political Economy"." 

Here, \221economic aspects and conditions\222 refer to the provision for food and shelter, the working life etcetera. Nowadays we would tend to include more subjects, and still say that \221economics\222 is involved in it. To us, \221economics\222 sets in (as a sufficient but not necessary condition) as soon when some preference decision is to be made. Marshall\222s tools, as for example the scissors of supply and demand, have been applied to this wider area of application too. This indeed may well be the luxury situation that he expected. 

By consequence, it is useful to still use the name \221economics\222 for the wider subject areas, even though allowing for more subjects causes less \221economic content\222 than Marshall perceived. Economics thus is characterised by the approach, method and tools used. On the other hand, \221political economy\222 then concentrates on one particular subject: the management of the state. Much of Marshall\222s "Principles" will, paradoxically, then be relevant for political economy.

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Gambs and Komisar\222s 1968 textbook "Economics and man", chapter 1, gives a nice overview of the various definitions that early economists have provided. A longer quote (of those quotes) usefully enriches our understanding of the definition of \221political economy\222.

"What is economics all about? It is often defined as the science of wealth or as the study of how mankind gets its living. Statements like this are certainly useful, but they are also too general. When we try to take the next step, we get into trouble. We meet difficulties in pinning economics down because its practitioners are in disagreement about the scope and nature of their science, and attempts to particularize lead to protests from opposing schools of thought. The only definitions on which agreement is possible are broad ones like those given above, or humorous ones like "Economics is whatever an economist wants to talk about."

The reader may have misgivings about studying a science in which disagreements arise at the very start. His doubts are indeed well founded but should not too quickly turn him away. After all, there are still differences of opinion even in astronomy and physics, chemistry and biology. Psychology remains a free-for-all. No considerable field of knowledge is so completely understood that all of its scholars speak with the same voice. The process of reaching a balanced conclusion often requires a sifting of the testimony of contradictory witnesses. In any event, stress on differences should not obscure the fact that all sciences, including even economics, agree on many things. There is, besides, an enormous store of historical and descriptive matter\227economic facts\227that is well worth knowing and concerning which there is little dispute. We shall hope that the burden placed on the reader of suspending judgment and viewing the same things in different lights will not be too heavy.

One of the dominant schools of the day looks upon economics as study of what happens when we try to reconcile the scarcity of things with the insatiable wants of human beings. Most things worth having, except the air we breathe are scarce \227 scarce enough, at least, to command a price and not to be available to all in generous quantity. Among the less dominant and dissenting schools is one that considers the study of the disposal of scarce goods too restrictive. Some members of this class focus their interest on the moral codes, business practices, social institutions, legal framework, and the like under which we get our food, clothing, and shelter. They study an economic system \227 capitalism, for example \227 in much the same way that an anthropologist studies the Klamath Indians or some primitive tribe of a South Sea island. They ask, and try to answer, questions that have little to do with the disposal of scarce goods.

The student may find it helpful to examine the definitions given below. They represent the thought of several periods and schools. In these definitions the older phrase "political economy" is more or less equal to the modern word "economics."

Oeconomy, in general, is the art of providing for all the wants of a family, with prudence and frugality \205. What oeconomy is in a family, political oeconomy is in a state (Sir James Steuart, 1712-1780).

Writers on Political Economy profess to teach, or to investigate, the nature of Wealth, and the laws of production and distribution: including directly or remotely, the operation of all causes by which the condition of mankind, or of any society of human beings, in respect to this universal object of human desire, is made prosperous or the reverse (John Stuart Mill, 1896-73).

Political Economy treats chiefly of the material interests of nations. It inquires how the various wants of the people of a country, especially those of food, clothing, fuel, shelter, of the sexual instinct etc., may be satisfied; how the satisfaction of these wants influences the aggregate national life, and how in turn, they are influenced by the national life (Wilhelm Roscher, 1817-94).

Political Economy or Economics is a study of mankind in the ordinary business of life; it examines that part of individual and social action which is most closely connected with the attainment and with the use of the material requisites of well being. Thus it is on the one side a study of wealth; and on the other, and more important side, a part of the study of man (Alfred Marshall, 1842\2271924).

Economics is a study of the "community\222s methods of turning material things to account" (Thorstein Veblen, 1857\2271929)

Economics ... is concerned with that aspect of behavior which arises from the scarcity of means to achieve given ends (Lionel Robbins, 1898\227 ).

. . . Economics is ... a social science; that is, it deals with the behavior of men in organized communities. Its special province is the behavior of social groups in providing the means for attaining their various ends (Wesley Mitchell, 1874\2271948).

The theory of economics \205 is a method rather than a doctrine, an apparatus of the mind, a technique of thinking, which helps its possessor to draw correct conclusions (John Maynard Keynes, 1883\2271946).
 
 

A few comments on the above may help. The first definition, by Steuart was conceived before much formal and sustained thought by a succession of scholars had been given to what we now name "economics". Steuart was a mercantilist, primarily interesed in the wealth of the British crown and its capacity to support a navy, pay soldiers, and build and maintain the King\222s highways. His concern was not with the nation as a whole \227 the artisans, farmers, and other men of low degree. In contrast, the next definition, by Mill \227 a very acceptable definition even today \227 does consider the society as a whole. It also calls attention to the "laws of ... production and distribution." which are still at the forefront of economic interest. With the exception of the definition given by Lionel Robbins, all of the others reach down \227 like Mill \227 into the entire community. Veblen and Mitchell are dissenting economists (\205) Yet both echo the phrase of Marshall, a major orthodox economist, about "the attainment . . . of the material requisites of well being." Marshall, Robbins, and Mitchell place emphasis on human behavior. This is a desirable emphasis, lest we forget because of our shorthand way of speaking that human beings are the cause of economic phenomena. For example, economists are much concerned about the rise and fall of prices; but prices do not rise and fall. Human beings mark them up or down. The majority of American standard or orthodox economists would endorse the definition given by Marshall, not only because it is a good one, but also because of his great authority. Yet Robbins\222 \227 so completely different\227would also meet with great favor. What economists like about this pithy definition is that it goes to the heart of an issue which engrosses many of them: how to reconcile scarcity or the niggardliness of nature with the unlimited desires of man. Economists like to say they will not be needed in heaven. The reason is that in paradise, wants are few and resources boundless. Its inhabitants will never have to decide how much to spend and how much to save, how heavily to tax, how much butter to give up in order to have guns.

The definition given by Keynes, the most widely acclaimed economist of the 20th century, is a rather puzzling one. Economics is here defined partly as a "technique of thinking." What does this mean? Obviously, any organized body of knowledge directs the mind in ways that are foreign to other organized bodies of knowledge. The chemist thinks about how atoms combine, whether they combine explosively or quietly, what happens when you restructure the atoms of a molecule. In this sense, we get a unique "technique of thinking" in almost any specialized activity, including economics; indeed, even baseball, football, and other sports impose a special technique of thinking, But is his all that Keynes has in mind? Certain well-known techniques of thinking include induction and deduction. Behaviorist psychologists \227 at least in the early days\227reduced thinking to inaudible speech; the philosopher John Dewey described thinking as problem solving. Without clarifying, Keynes seems to claim for economics a unique method of ascertaining truth\227one which is either a substitute for or an addition to the more widely known methods suggested above; something you would not find in a book of logic, only in a book of economics. If this is his meaning, we must reject the definition, for the method of scientific investigation and techniques of thought are the same for all kinds of data; and in any case, there is a difference between the concerns and data of economics and the method of studying it \227 a difference which is not recognized in the Keynesian definition.

The question whether economics is really a science cannot be answered easily. Astronomy, chemistry and physics have spoiled us with their split-second accuracy and such infallibility of prediction that we are inclined to look with disdain at the social sciences. Biology has not scored the successes credited to the physical sciences, but it still outpaces economics by a good deal. If, however, science is thought of as an attitude, a willingness to put aside prejudice, self-interest, and the unverified wisdom of the authority, then economics will fare moderately well."

This ends the longer quote.

Gambs and Komisar themselves state: "The economist\222s job in our society - as it would be in simpler societies - is to study all of our decision-making forces, practices, and traditions, and to decide whether they are promoting the general welfare." (p14)

My own notes on all of this: (1) Keynes\222s quote likely refers to the \221science\222 claim for economics, and has less to do with its subject matter. See the discussion on Hicks in chapter 19. (2) Robbins\222s definition, though popular as it is - since it focusses on a clear phenomenon that can be frequently seen - thus is inadequate on the whole. It is an engineering\222s definition, a rephrasing of \221efficiency\222. It is useful to highlight some aspects, but no more. It neglects policy stagnation that causes a state of inefficiency to endure. It neglects evolution and power that for example affect the income distribution. Robbins\222s definition is like defining a map as \221a piece of paper that contains street names\222, forgetting all the other useful things that map makers provide.

\226

Mankiw (1998:4) defines: "Economics is the study of how society manages its scarce resources." 

This again mixes \221economics\222 (the approach) and \221political economy\222 (a subject). I am not in favor of this, see the introductory discussion. The \22110 principles\222 that Mankiw himself provides in his first chapter give a nice view on the economic approach to problems - quite like Keynes\222s definition - but do not tell us much yet about the management of the state.

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Piet de Wolff (1911-2000) introduced the distinction \221macro-economics\222 and \221micro-economics\222, in his 1941 article on elasticities, in The Economic Journal. His distinction is plain technical, and his \221macro-economics\222 appears to be just another word for \221aggregate\222. I surmise that the economics profession quickly adopted the word \221macro-economics\222 since it sounds more professional and less political than \221Political Economy\222. It sounds as a distinction that can be made within economics, without having to visit the other sciences. The problem with equating macro-economics with Political Economy however is that Political Economy also is interested in distributional aspects - while macro-economics by definition looks at the aggregate only. A problem with publishing a book on micro-economics (and using that word as the title) is that good micro-economics of course also includes the macro-economic feedbacks and constraints. So my suggestion is to use the \221macro\222 and \221micro\222 words as technical terms only (better sounding than \221aggregate\222 and \221disaggregate\222), and not write books with those titles or create professorial chairs on those \221subjects\222.
 
 

References

Note: Econwpa is the Economics Working Paper Archive
Note: Colignatus is the name of Thomas Cool in science. Some archives may not recognize that name.
 

Blankesteijn, Herbert (2005), "Wie het weet mag het schrijven", NRC-Handelsblad February 19 2005 (Dutch)

Colignatus, Thomas (2004), "After 35 years of mass unemployment: An advice to boycott Holland", ewp-get/0405001, http://econwpa.wustl.edu/eprints/get/papers/0405/0405001.abs

Colignatus, Thomas (2005), "Definition & Reality in the General Theory of Political Economy" (DRGTPE), Second Edition, Dutch University Press, January 2005, ISBN 90-3619-172-6, see www.rozenbergps.com

Colignatus, Thomas (2005a), "Advies tot ontslag van alle hoogleraren economie", Januari 1 2005, (Dutch) available on the internet at http://thomascool.eu/Thomas/Nederlands/TPnCPB/Artikelen/AdviesOntslagHooglerarenEconomie.pdf

Colignatus, Thomas (2005b), "On the political economy of world government: a short discussion of the role of the World Economic Forum and the World Social Forum and indicating the possibility of a World Parliament", January 16 2005, ewp-get/0501002, http://econwpa.wustl.edu/eprints/get/papers/0501/0501002.abs

Cool, Thomas (1999), "The Economics Pack, Applications for Mathematica", Scheveningen, JEL-99-0820, ISBN 90-804774-1-9, available at www.rozenbergps.com

Lee, Frederic S., Steve Cohn, Geoffrey Schneider, Paddy Quick (2005), "INFORMATIONAL DIRECTORY FOR HETERODOX ECONOMISTS: JOURNALS, BOOK SERIES, WEBSITES, AND GRADUATE AND UNDERGRADUATE PROGRAMS", January 2005 http://l.web.umkc.edu/leefs/htnf/HeterodoxDirectory.pdf .

Shone, Ron (2000), "Mathematica v4.0 for Windows 95/98/NT", The Economic Journal, Feb 2000 pp F171-186