Skip to main content

Stephen Marglin on Heterodox Economics

I have lots problems with Marglin's views, not just on heterodox economics, but on the mainstream too. Marginalism (neoclassical economics), the supply and demand story that emerged in the 1870s, is not simply about efficiency. It is about a certain type of efficiency (factors of production are fully utilized). There are different views of efficiency, and certainly that was the case for the authors of the surplus approach (Smith/Ricardo/Marx), for whom efficiency was essentially about capital accumulation, i.e. the wealth of nations. Also, the problem is not that the mainstream ignores income distribution, but that it provides an untenable position on income distribution (to each according to its productive). In contrast, for the surplus approach authors income distribution depends on class conflict.

From my point of view, Marglin is very close to presenting a post-modernist view of critiques of the mainstream, that is, several alternatives to the mainstream are acceptable, as the much as the mainstream is. This is Deidre McCloskey's view that economics is about the rules of conversation, rhetoric. I'm more of a realist, I think there is an external reality independent of my views about it, and that there are, besides logical aspects, facts that allow us to discern between theories that are not correct (the mainstream) and theories that have not been proved wrong (classical-Keynesian). For my view on heterodoxy read this.

PS: Marglin's syllabus here. Thanks to Pedro Américo for the tip.


Popular posts from this blog

What is the 'Classical Dichotomy'?

A few brief comments on Brexit and the postmortem of the European Union

Another end of the world is possible
There will be a lot of postmortems for the European Union (EU) after Brexit. Many will suggest that this was a victory against the neoliberal policies of the European Union. See, for example, the first three paragraphs of Paul Mason's column here. And it is true, large contingents of working class people, that have suffered with 'free-market' economics, voted for leaving the union. The union, rightly or wrongly, has been seen as undemocratic and responsible for the economics woes of Europe.

The problem is that while it is true that the EU leaders have been part of the problem and have pursued the neoliberal policies within the framework of the union, sometimes with treaties like the Fiscal Compact, it is far from clear that Brexit and the possible demise of the union, if the fever spreads to France, Germany and other countries with their populations demanding their own referenda, will lead to the abandonment of neoliberal policies. Aust…

A brief note on Venezuela and the turn to the right in Latin America

So besides the coup in Brazil (which was all but confirmed by the last revelations, if you had any doubts), and the electoral victory of Macri in Argentina, the crisis in Venezuela is reaching a critical level, and it would not be surprising if the Maduro administration is recalled, even though right now the referendum is not scheduled yet.

The economy in Venezuela has collapsed (GDP has fallen by about 14% or so in the last two years), inflation has accelerated (to three digit levels; 450% or so according to the IMF), there are shortages of essential goods, recurrent energy blackouts, and all of these aggravated by persistent violence. Contrary to what the press suggests, these events are not new or specific to left of center governments. Similar events occurred in the late 1980s, in the infamous Caracazo, when the fall in oil prices caused an external crisis, inflation, and food shortages, which eventually, after the announcement of a neoliberal economic package that included the i…