Sunday, November 2, 2008

The 18th Brumaire of the Rational Expectations Revolution?

As the financial crisis and incipient global slump only reinforce our appreciation for Keynes - in "textbook Keynesian" form and otherwise - the peerless YouNotSneaky calls for macroeconomics to throw off the shackles of the dynamic, optimizing rational expectations paradigm that is the legacy of Lucas et al. In support, he (she?) invokes the famous billiard player analogy from Milton Friedman's "Methodology of Positive Economics" -
What have they brought us? It is true that our texts were fallible. And it is true that, in the beginning, their critiques shone light upon our misunderstandings. But we mistook a lighting of a candle for a conflagration of divine knowledge. And ecstatic with a small dose of illumination we threw our books upon Savoranola’s fire. Even Michelangelo himself threw his Madonnas onto the pyre (find a relevant link yourself. All I get is wiki).

Yet in end, their promises fizzled once the glow of the ambers died. Having abandoned our faith we were left with trying to build a house out of ashes – micro founded ashes – rather than ad-hoc oaken beams. It is time. It is time we returned to the practical knowledge which had allowed us to built a shelter, no matter how shabby, but which could stand up well in the hail storms, even if we did not understand the engineering principles involved. A good pool player knows how to sink the final ball in its pocket at the end of the game, avoiding the eight ball. The knowledge of the laws of physics is immaterial. Perhaps if the game was played on a table with no friction our detractors would have had something useful to say.

But we have been in the wilderness for a long time. We are weak. It is the truth and let us admit it, our spirits have been starved of intellectual substance for some time. And they may be for some time yet. But our path is righteous. And if we are going to ever get back upon it we need to first assert our own existence. We are MACROECONOMISTS! We have insights which cannot be derived from the cult of Some- kind- of- Maximization- somewhere- by- somebody- for- some- reason (and who knows who or what) = Microfoundations.
Read the whole thing (this means you, Econ 617 students).

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