Sunday, October 03, 2010

Macro: Outsourced to God Knows Who

Here's a book I'm waiting for: I'd like a single tour d'horizon of all the four-and-twenty warring sects of macro--or at least the "major" sects, somehow defined.  The premise is that I can't think of any field of pretended "science" with less claim to a unified set of first principles, body of belief, common agenda, whatever  (most of "social science" doesn't even pretend to be science anymore, it seems). Note that I say "macro" here and not "economics." Basic micro, as if in a separate universe from macro, presents a reasonably united front: a remarkable range of thinkers from wherever on the spectrum share some core fealty to a version, however vulgarized, of Arrow-Debreu equilibrium.  Opponents, such a they are, find themselves stuck with a tactical embarrassment akin to the difficulty faced by those who think that Shakespeare did not write Shakespeare: they're always up against the main guy,  never free to combat with each other.  "Dissenters" in macro--but can you speak of dissent in a field where there is nothing like general consent?  Macro is far more like "the origin of language"--a field in which the French Academy once stopped accepting papers, there being too many competing views and no chance of any that might be plausible.

You can find good, straightforward narrative history--as, for example, Peter Bernholz' Monetary Regimes and Inflation--or more technical but still largely noncontentious accounts of the mechanics--as, for example, Champ & Freeman's Modeling Monetary Economics.  But I don't know of any single book, at once informed and technically fluent, that is also a fair-minded conspectus.  I suspect that such a book, to achieve its purpose, would have to be the work of a skeptic, a nonbeliever, a nihilist.  And that may be the problem: it may be that nobody but a believer is going to take the time to master the rudiments of even one field in such a murkey landscape. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

i ain't sure what a "conspectus" is. is it a speculator who cons investors into investing in his or her speculation? is it something that doesn't go the way you expect it to -- con and spect using spect in southern talk, as I "spect" he was drunker than he said he was when he tried to hit her, and she flattened him out with a cast iron skillet to the haid.