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Notes On Mainstram Economics Is A Cult

Politics / Economic Theory Jul 03, 2012 - 05:30 AM GMT

By: Submissions


Mark Blair writes:

‘Such disdain for empirical verification is not found in the physical sciences.’
Washington’s Blog

Maternal instinct? ‘Probably imaginary. An excuse to justify and perpetuate sexism.’
Encyclopedia of Feminism, Tuttle, L.

' . . . the knowledge that the intellectual establishment has forfeited claims to credibility in the eyes of the public.'
Steven Pinker, The Blank Slate

I recently sent to some friends an essay that is in close parallel to ‘Mainstream Economics Is a Cult.’ The gist of that essay is that in fact many mainstream ideas – including mainstream economics, which is listed in my essay -- are concepts (‘arguments’ in formal logic) that are put into practice even though they are unproven, and remain in place long thereafter in what I call ‘The Zone.’

Now, readers, I beg your patience for a couple of paragraphs, to cover the basics. Sorry, this stuff just can’t be glossed over:
in formal logic, there are two stages in ‘proving’ an argument. The first is to establish ‘validity.’ An argument is ‘valid’ if there is sufficient information in its premises to reach the given conclusion. An example serves best:

Hawaii is an island.
Paris is the capital of France
Therefore, aluminium is lighter than steel.
This is an invalid argument because the conclusion can’t be derived from the information in the premises. Note, though, that all three statements are true.
Here’s a valid argument:
Socrates is a man.
All men are mortal.
Therefore, Socrates is mortal.

This is a valid argument because the conclusion can be derived solely from the information in the two premises.
Having established validity, you check for ‘soundness.’ [Different groups use different terms, but the principle here is rock solid.] What is ‘soundness’? Well, what if you peeked, and found out that Socrates wasn’t a man? Or what if you found an island where men weren’t mortal? Then you would have a sound argument that has been proven invalid, which means that, although it is logical-lookin’, it just isn’t correct.

Okay, now to ‘The Zone’: while studying the relationships between human sexuality and feminist/left political theory, I realised a staggering thing: people who want to believe a particular thing are likely to construct (valid) arguments, then implement those arguments without waiting to determine if they are sound arguments– that is, proving them. As the list of major social theories in The Zone grew, my horror increased: human society doesn’t generally run on the basis of proven notions. Many of its guiding principles are demonstrably unsound.

             For example, the underpinning principles of left and feminist political theory – ‘anti-essentialism’ – have been pounded to bits by the science of the last quarter century; but that hasn’t changed one iota the beliefs and goals of left and feminist activists. What about the earth being flat? That was a commonplace university ‘fact’ for eight-hundred years. What about eugenics? Homosexuality as a mental illness? (and other chunks of the ‘science’ of psychiatry, like electric shock therapy and drapetomania), Institutionalised racism and sexism? the antagonism of western medicine to Everything Else? Behaviourist psychology? The prescriptivist perspective on the teaching of language? religious belief? And I strongly suspect that AGW isn’t ‘A.’

             The List is long and ugly, but my point is simple: Washington’s Blog correctly defines mainstream economics as bogus. I have, I hope, pinpointed the psychological dynamic, the flaw of logic, whereby unproven concepts such as mainstream economics and the other things on The List can ‘function’ decade in decade out:

you construct an argument that suits you (but it’s gotta be a valid argument). You skip the let’s-see-if-correct-first stage. You go straight to implementation (note that you must have sufficient political power to achieve this). You just keep on believing. The technical term is ‘petitio principii.’

Mark Blair has been studying revolutionist and devolutionist political theory for twenty-five years. He owns no stocks or bonds at all. You can contact him at

© 2012 Copyright Mark Blair - All Rights Reserved Disclaimer: The above is a matter of opinion provided for general information purposes only and is not intended as investment advice. Information and analysis above are derived from sources and utilising methods believed to be reliable, but we cannot accept responsibility for any losses you may incur as a result of this analysis. Individuals should consult with their personal financial advisors.

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