January 10, 2017

Narrative economics and the imperatives of the sitcom

Comment on Tim Taylor on ‘Narrative Economics and the Laffer Curve’


Tim Taylor summarizes: “Shiller’s broad point was that the key distinguishing trait of human beings may be that we organize what we know in the form of stories.”

This is slightly incorrect. It is morons who can only grasp stories, human beings in the full sense organize knowledge in the form of scientific theories. This is known since the ancient Greeks introduced the distinction between opinion (= doxa) and knowledge (= episteme). The fact of the matter is that ― as a rule of thumb ― one percent of a population fits the description of a scientist = human being.

Obviously, Robert Shiller and Tim Taylor are 2000+ years behind the curve: “There are always many different opinions and conventions concerning any one problem or subject-matter (such as the gods). This shows that they are not all true. For if they conflict, then at best only one of them can be true. Thus it appears that Parmenides ... was the first to distinguish clearly between truth or reality on the one hand, and convention or conventional opinion (hearsay, plausible myth) on the other ...” (Popper, 1994)

Plausible myth, narrative, hearsay, story, common sense are simply euphemisms for scientific crap.

The average person dislikes an objective explanation (e.g. the thunderbolt is an electromagnetic phenomenon subject to physical laws) and likes a subjective explanation (e.g. Zeus threw the thunderbolt because he was angry/vengeful/authoritarian). The scientific explanation takes the form of a theory, the non-scientific explanation takes the form of an emotionally reinforced narrative. Almost all societal communication consists of storytelling/blather/wish-wash/truisms, only a tiny part has scientific content.

Economics claims to be a science, yet has never risen above the level of storytelling. What we have is the narrative of how the Invisible Hand of supply-demand-equilibrium turns all to the best ― in the long run. Note well that in 200+ years no proof of this claim has been presented. General equilibrium theory is one of the worst failures in the history of scientific thought.

Within the tiny box of folk psychology, folk sociology, folk history, and folk politics economic storytelling has taken place since Adam Smith: “Smith ... disliked whatever went beyond plain common sense. He never moved above the heads of even the dullest readers. He led them on gently, encouraging them by trivialities and homely observations, making them feel comfortable all along.” (Schumpeter)

Storytelling is the natural form of communication of confused confusers and the sitcom is the format the general public wants economics to be presented. Walrasianism, Keynesianism, Marxianism, Austrianism survive only as social narratives and not as scientifically valid representations of reality.

Storytelling is not prohibited, of course, but there is no place for storytellers in the sciences. So, both orthodox and heterodox economic storytellers have to leave economics now for good because of proven scientific incompetence. This includes Robert Shiller and Tim Taylor.

It is the task of the economist as scientist to figure out how the economy works and NOT to appear in sitcoms and to spoon-feed morons with silly narratives.

Egmont Kakarot-Handtke

Related 'Economics for philosophers' and 'The market economy is inherently unstable and economists never grasped it' and 'The economist as storyteller' and 'If You Meet the Storyteller on the Road, Kill Him' and 'The monstrous utility-supply-demand-equilibrium failure' and 'Economics and the weapons of mass distraction' and 'How to creatively destruct Orthodoxy' and 'Economists cannot do the simple math of profit — better keep them out of politics' and 'Marshall: a monument of scientific incompetence' and 'New economic thinking, or, let’s put lipstick on the dead pig'