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How about macroeconomics practiced now is about using currency denominated debt to produce multiple asset bubbles to benefit the few, while climate science is about using currency denominated debt to produce an (one) asset bubble, an alternative energy one, to benefit the few?

"If central banks succeed in keeping inflation close to target, that suggests that whatever macroeconomic theory the central bank is using is probably approximately right." By that logic, Ptolemy's theory of celestial movement, with the earth at the centre of the universe, was approximately right.

Too much Fed: so you think that they're as bad as us then? Or we're as bad as them?

Brett: you lost me there. If I see someone driving a car, and the car goes more or less in the direction they said they were going to go, I figure they must know at least something about driving a car. But actually, if macroeconomists' predictions were as good as Ptolomeic(?), I would consider that an advance!

Off-topic. Brett did a nice post a few weeks back praising Stephen for *not* confusing voice with tense (unlike other economists)! (Click on his name for the his blog link.) So I'm watching my writing carefully here. How's my English, Jack? In particular: do I misuse/overuse : and ;?

Nick: You're a brave man to make this comparison today!

Winterspeak: yes, touchy ground, isn't it? (BTW, I noticed your comment(s?), on CA, WUWT, or RC, I can't remember which.) So, what do you, as a heterodox macroeconomist, make of the comparison between the QT and AGW?

D2 Climatology does have much longer datasets covering wider extremes, of less usefulness to human caused warming but more to natural variation. Multiple datasets increase data but also confounding influences.

D5 is among the most interesting since all models predict warming though of various amounts.

D6 There is a difference of time scale and magnitude with climate in much longer and larger variations, and much greater risks, potential costs, and filled with externalities. At most macro is concerned with years.

Nick said: "Too much Fed: so you think that they're as bad as us then? Or we're as bad as them?"

Both are bad. IMO, there should not be asset bubbles based on currency denominated debt. And if they are occurring and IMO, there is an imbalance somewhere else.

To be honest, I don't see much of a comparison. D1 is so massive that the rest of the points might as well not exist (from the point of view of understanding the world, at any rate, from a political point of view, the fact that both have been politicized is, of course, relevant).

I recommend the essay, "Social Science as Moral Theology" by Neil Postman on the topic. His point was basically that we are unable to apply the scientific method (research that determines the laws of the universe) in 'social sciences' because our understanding of people is simply too limited and that social scientists are better thought of as story-tellers or narrators as opposed to scientists. i.e. It is not a sliding scale of increasing difficulty as we go from modelling the mathematical world to the human world, it is a qualitative shift to an entirely different domain.

As best as I can tell, macroeconomists seem to have advanced little since at least as far back as the great depression in terms of their understanding of macroeconomic phenomena and ability to predict significant macroeconomic events or remedy macroeconomic problems. One could hardly say the same for climate science. And that's not intended as a criticism of macroeconomists, its just that they're working on a *type* of problem that we, as humans, haven't really figured out how to solve yet, whereas climate scientists are working on a problem which, while a particularly difficult/complex case, is of a type that we have solved repeatedly over the last few centuries (the scientific part, not the political part, obviously).

Take, for example, your points D4 and D5* about how quantity theory has waxed and waned in popularity over the years whereas, for example, the popularity of quantum mechanics doesn't vary much, it is simply accepted as proven fact.

Lord: D2. I was going to say that variance in inflation (looking at everything from deflation to hyperinflation) seems greater than temperature. But then I realised there's no obvious metric with which to compare the two variances, so I'm not sure if what I wanted to say was meaningful.

D6. If climate science "events" happen over (say) decades (or centuries) , and macroeconomic events happen over years, then you would need to adjust the length of data series by a factor of 10, or 100, to make them comparable. (Though I expect they've got more than 10 or 100 times as long a data set than us with some proxies?).

Declan: I Googled "Social Science as Moral Theology" by Neil Postman, and found and read what I think was his essay. Is it very short? Or did I read a condensed version? About a couple of thousand words, max. Reminded me of Peter Winch's book "The idea of a Social Science and it's relation to philosophy".

S5 : Both are very, very dismal these days.

However, on the science front we (as in humanity) have had a pretty good week so far. The LHC is up and running (the Higgs can run, but it can't hide anymore), and it looks like there's finally some progress on quantum gravity.

If this is what you found, then yes, that is it Nick, although I'd estimate it at around 7,000 words.

Nick: I'm taking the 5th!

S1
Do climatologists really think they do generalised equilibrium analysis?

P.S. "trying to understand the interaction between parts of a whole system, with lots of positive and/or negative feedback loops." Is not Controversial - but what has that to do with equilibrium?

Declan: thanks. What I read was a very condensed synopsis.

reason: what I meant was *general* as opposed to *partial* equilibrium. Perhaps if I has said "general (dis)equilibrium" my meaning would have been clearer. But "equilibrium" in economics nowadays doesn't necessarily mean nothing is changing over time; it just means the solution to your model.

Nick:

But do leading macroeconomists behave in such a scandalous way?

Will we find a trove of emails between leading new classical theorists plotting to freeze out that old fashioned Keynesian nonsense by refusing to submit to journals that publish that rubbish? Will we find out that they hide data because it will result in undesirable deficit spending when just letting the price level smoothly adjust will work? Can't confuse the policy makers with some flukey result that we don't quite understand.

Or, we find emails that show efforts to freeze out that silly real business cycle stuff. Let's stop publishing in JPE until they quit publishing nonsense about black box simulations. Or, protecting the world from mass unemployment because of confusion caused by some of that troubling empirical evidence that actually appears consistent with Ricardian equivalence.

I am not a leading macroeconomist. But I have reviewed papers for free-market journals, gave a favorable review, but emailed the editor pointing out that the paper seemed inappropriate to the journal. (The paper argued that a particular governmet program was an efficent mechanism for funneling credit into home mortgages. I didn't know much about the program and so found the paper interesting. And perhaps it had less administrative cost that other programs that when I was reading it pretty clearly blew up a housing bubble.)

Again, thinking about similar journals, suppose they began publishing what I count as conspiracy theories about the Fed. (The secret international bankers who own the Fed are profiting from currency issue.) I could imagine emailing other, free market economists, perhaps including some of the editorial board that I know personally, and saying that something should be done. It wouldn't be that I want to protect the world from the false theories, but rather that publishing it is an embarrassment to the journal. (And if you know the conspricay theories, then just imagine papers that focus on the religious background of the secret international bankers.)

But if JMCB took this attitude regarding new Keynesian or new classical approaches, I would be deeply troubled. I really do think the closest we would come would be, "that's so old fashioned, it isn't worth doing one more paper on more or less the same thing." Or, that approach has no connection to reality and it is a big waste of time. Or, of course, "it doesn't make any sense to me," when the reason is some kind of methodological blinders. I would think such attitudes would be mistaken, but understandable errors.


@Nick
On Ptolemy: The problem with Ptolemy's system was that even though it described the observed data reasonably well, it was completely wrong. It shows that even if central banks succeed in keeping inflation close to target, whatever macroeconomic theory they are using could be completely wrong.

On writing: I'm very interested in theories about language and how people use or abuse those theories to criticize others or assert their own superiority. I'm also curious about documenting varying uses of the language and thinking about what these constructions can tell us about the language and the mind. What I'm not interested in is copyediting or evaluating the others' writing. Obviously you and Stephen are clear thinkers and skilled writers, and it is certainly not my place to tell you how to punctuate a sentence. I make lots of errors of my own.

If, however, you're curious about the frequency with which you use semi colons, I can tell you that the Corpus of Current American English shows a rate of about two semi colons per thousand words, but it might be worth looking only at academic written language to get a better comparator. You could then look at your own writing to see what your rate of usage is. If you're looking for a usage guide, you can do no better than Merriam Webster's Dictionary of English Usage and its sister, Merriam Webster's Guide to Punctuation and Style.

Bill: it's really not as scandalous as you seem to think, nor is it some kind of 'plot'. By way of comparison: if you hacked Krugman's emails, do you really think you'd find nothing but civil disagreement and well wishing for John Cochrane and Eugene Fama?

Anyway, realclimate.org provides some good background information, especially about the few lines that seem to be the favorites of the tin foil hat crowd.

http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/11/the-cru-hack/

Brett: OK. I now get what you were saying about Ptolomy. I must have been a bit dense not to have caught it the first time. Two different but observationally equivalent theories. (Interesting perspective on language.)

Bill: Yes, some of those emails weren't models of scientific rectitude. To my mind, I'm not sure if macroeconomists aren't sometimes as bad, but I don't think it matters as much. The strongest defence against abuse is competition. The existence of (say) the Journal of Post Keynesian Economics makes the editorial policy of (say) JMCB much less important (and vice versa). But the whole episode re-confirms my belief in the value of blogs etc.

The weird thing is, I'm starting to feel more sympathetic to the climate scientists after reading some of that stuff (especially about the Harry_Read_Me.txt file). They have caught a tiger by the tail, and it would be very hard to let go now even if they wanted to. Or even admit doubts. They could be crushed by their own army, as well as by the enemy (switching metaphors in midstream).

Patrick: RealClimate makes no mention of the data that was withheld, obfuscated, or deleted. This is not science, it is anti-science. And evidence of complete fraud.

I don't care whether scientists say nice things about each other. But when they start making stuff up, or hiding/manipulating/destroying data, they should be fired.

Patrick:

I can only assume that you didn't bother to read past the first sentence of my post.

Nick:

Competition in journals is the answer, and not just specialty journals for heterodox thinkers.

reason: "Do climatologists really think they do generalised equilibrium analysis"

No, they don't. Very roughly speaking climate models work like this: They chop the earth's atmosphere into discrete chunks, then they apply physical laws to the chunks. They also have to model interactions with oceans and the land (oceans are modeled similarly). The physical laws are mostly non-linear partial differential equations (e.g. Navier-Stokes, laws of thermodynamic, heat transfer, etc...). It's a dynamic system. A happy equilibrium is not guaranteed. Nor is stability. The system can suddenly reconfigure itself, or in extreme cases tear itself apart (at least mechanical systems do this - not sure if really applies to the climate).

Bill Woolsey:

Are you suggesting that climate scientists play hard ball politics with the science more so than economists?

Interesting. I'm under the impression that wildlife biologists and ecologists (using the term loosely) inside and outside academia couch their papers and conclusions in anticipation of possible political outcomes.

I suspect that the data and conclusions are often massaged. I'm sometimes appalled at the blatant sins of omission.

I suspect that scientists who study natural systems (wildlife, climate) develop an attitude of paternal guardianship, perceive many socio-economic incentives that threaten their animals, fish or eco-system and adjust their data and messages accordingly.

Westslope: When you mix science with politics, you get politics. And the nexus between the two is really close now in many fields. Follow the money, as they say.

Keynesians of all flavors took over mainstream economic journals and have done a plot to silence Austrians from being the correct ones. Keynesians want to subsidize and take over economic policy because it creates more jobs for them and they control everything instead of politicians. The Keynesians are also doing deals with the Chicago people, keep the fed and they'll argue with everything else. Keynesian domination, if you tapped Paul Krugman's email account, you would probably find thousands of emails where he was plotting his attack on Austrians with Obama and Kerry. The government is using every turn to silence Austrians by denying funding and threatening them with law suits and fake tax crimes.

***I'm sorry, this just made me laugh :D ***

The difference between economists and climate scientists is mostly revolved around how governments can silence and not fund research if it interferes with what the government wants to advocate. More consumption taxes would fund government schemes, specially with Gordon Brown's massive deficit from the good years, he needs all the money he can get. His second option is to bring back Thatcher.

I downloaded a torrent with all of those emails, I haven't gotten a chance to read them yet. Are they interesting at all?

Macro is more like the weather and seasons. Change may be significant but one expects a return to normality eventually, even if a depression lasts a decade, and even if we have no personal experience we still have some history. We have some semblance of the agrarian and industrial revolutions, but would we, could we, be prepared for another? Yet, we will adapt.

In climate, I think in terms of axial wobbles, sea levels, desertification, glaciation, and millions of years (and there are records that long), things much longer than a lifespan or even history or the species, and a great deal of permanence of change, into realms we have no experience, no historical record, nor even an archaeological record of sufficient parallel that we can have confidence in how that change will be felt and how well we or the rest of the planet will adapt. Yes, we will adapt, but Europe adapted to the Black Death with 30% less population so adaptation is not necessarily progress.

Or going where no man has gone before, the data may be more useful in the sense we learn something new, but less useful in the sense of relating it to what we already know or knowing what comes next. Or more important, if less useful.

"Anyway, realclimate.org provides some good background information, especially about the few lines that seem to be the favorites of the tin foil hat crowd.

http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/11/the-cru-hack/"

Patrick, you should probably read some more of the emails in question. There are emails about how they control what is published on realclimate.org

Ron: So? Of course they should control what is published. The point that you have to understand is that, in science, NOT ALL POINTS OF VIEW ARE EQUALLY VALID. The same applies in economics: my opinion SHOULD carry less weight than Nick's or Stephen's or Paul Krugman's. But if I have lots of money and power, and I use that money and power to deceive people into believing my crazy pet economic theories and even having them put into practice with disastrous consequences, then I expect real experts would probably try to find ways to shut me up and to bring their more informed point of view to prominence.


Here is an important difference. Check out the AER's webpage here. Notice that each empirical paper has a data link. You either cough up your data (or make clear how to get it) or you don't get to publish. This is a recent thing in economics, but if climate science guys want to rebuild some of their lost credibility they really ought to adopt this practice.

"So? Of course they should control what is published. "

You should really just read the emails, which you obviously haven't bothered to do.

You also might want to try consulting a 3rd party source, rather than uncritically accepting the viewpoint of one of the parties that is directly implicated in the fiasco.

In other news, Fox News reports that Rupert Murdoch does not unduly influence the reporting of Fox News, Patrick accepts uncritically.

I did read some of it. I certainly don't have time to go through the whole archive. What I read was certainly unflattering but I just don't see a conspiracy or a hoax or anything other than a bunch of scientists trapped in a political mess and besieged by powerful interest groups who have NO interest figuring out what's really going on.

And your Murdoch analogy is stupid. Are you seriously suggesting that Exxon and their paid shills are more credible than the climatology profession?

Patrick: your description of how climate science models work is much as I imagined it, and it's much like macro models work. I would call it "general equilibrium" analysis, with the emphasis on the "general" (as opposed to partial). "Equilibrium" used to mean a state that the economy gets to eventually, that doesn't change over time. Now it just means "whatever the model predicts will happen".

The "paid shills" argument cuts both ways. Suppose all the climate scientists suddenly changed their minds, and said global warming was no longer a problem. I think their major funding (from governments) would dry up very quickly.

"Are you seriously suggesting that Exxon and their paid shills are more credible than the climatology profession?"

No. I'm just pointing out that on this particular issue of the email leaks (not climate science as a whole) you managed to pick, out of thousands of articles on the subject, one the most questionable, conflicted sources possible.

"What I read was certainly unflattering but I just don't see a conspiracy or a hoax or anything other than a bunch of scientists trapped in a political mess and besieged by powerful interest groups who have NO interest figuring out what's really going on."

um, there's a bit more to it than that, including the fairly clear evidence of criminal conduct and serious academic malfeasance. Not everyone who sees this as a serious issue views it as evidence of a hoax, as you seem to assume.

Here's a rational, non-denier response:

Pretending the climate email leak isn't a crisis won't make it go away
http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/georgemonbiot/2009/nov/25/monbiot-climate-leak-crisis-response

"The "paid shills" argument cuts both ways. Suppose all the climate scientists suddenly changed their minds, and said global warming was no longer a problem. I think their major funding (from governments) would dry up very quickly."

Possible, I suppose. Though they aren't getting rich, nor would they be unemployed sans GW. Ph.D scientists can usually find employment. Mainly I don't buy it for the same reasons I don't believe economists are hiding the One True Model for fear of loosing their jobs, or that doctors are hiding the cure for cancer.

I'll own to believing that climatologists (or academic economists) are more credible than other groups, even if they do retain all the imperfections of being human.

One qualification: When I say more credible, I mean in their field of expertise.


“Macroeconomists are trying to explain people; climate scientists aren't. People are harder to explain. In particular, people's behaviour depends on what they expect to happen in future, so we have leads as well as lags in our causal modeling. That makes our job harder.”

Macroeconomists are people trying to explain people with a specialized discipline marching tautologically in a circle like true believers explaining the behaviour of people in general.

En masse, they suffer from an idealistic fallacy: that is, they rationalize an abstraction, necessary for theory, but homogenously try to gear it to all reality. Standard economics is engineering with manipulative tools (mostly through models and mathematics), basically “the mechanics of utility and self-interest” as Jevons said.

The job of macroeconomists is not only harder than climate science, it is impossible when chasing prices and preferences for utility maximization when basic values are lopsided and misguided (when self-interest becomes self-love).

Positively, the equilibrium of self-interest and utility is valuable as a mean between the extremes of greed and fear. The problem is economists appear to absolutely fear fear and in a panic typically follow the money and fall into the arms of Greedy -- and lose their equilibrium.


One more point relative to people’s behaviour and expectations for the future where the mechanics and mathematics of economics is void. People have purpose. I recall Hegel saying (and it’s one thing Schopenhauer, who hated him, agreed with him) about mathematics being the science of quantification par excellence, but cannot qualify purpose with any calculation. So, how is purpose dealt with in economic science and included in your models?


There is corrupting behaviour in every system, less so in science than other societal systems, I believe. As such, its to be expected in climate science. The present popular puff is typical of propaganda that inflates a personal cause and hypes every negative in the opposition no matter how trivial.

As ego (self-interest) void of empathy is a crucial component in the sociopathic behaviour of psychopaths it follows that as selfish interests increase along those individual paths, corruption and greed will increase with pet theories and petting practices. They are Greedy’s pets and like dogs love to be petted.

In climate science one line of evidence has been exposed as corrupt. This corruption is relevant and effects reliability along that line. Undoubtedly there is more, but it’s probably a few among the several hundred lines of evidence being pursued. As such, the main thrust in the dynamics of climate change remains valid since the consensus in science evidently point in the same direction.

In hindsight it was a political mistake to mandate a system to focus on the evidence of human caused climate change without some balance with the evidence of natural causation. It was a decision due to budget constraints as well as that of a niggardly society who devalues the environment, their children and values the love of money and self-love -- and naively believes it is useful to maximize that love as useful. However, when a species is putting 90,000,000 tons of CO² in the air every day, a quantity that keeps increasing, and has serious problems even slowing the increase, I think humanity could be sealing a fate of increasing misery at least.

S: Both economists and climate scientists try to isolate causation and causal factors in large, complex, and often incomplete data sets.

S: Macroeconomics and climate science involve the study of an unobservable amount of data. Macroeconomics is the study of the sum of all the economic decisions made in an economy. Economists must look at samplings of the data, aggregates, or other imperfect measurement of economic activity. The Earth is a big place, with a lot of stuff going on. Solar activity, atmospheric composition, volcanic activity, wind patterns, cloud cover, ocean currents, natural processes, and countless other items affect the climate. Scientists must rely on summaries of these measures.

S: It is difficult to compare data collected from different time periods. The level of unemployment in 1930 is not immediately comparable to unemployment in 1990. Similarly, the level of CO2 in 1020 is not immediately comparable to the level in 1990. The context of the rest of the world is lost. In addition, as new models are developed, economists and scientists track new and different variables than were tracked in the past. Consequently, historical data for some measurements are often unavailable. For example, it is difficult to estimate ocean currents in the 1200s because no one was measuring them. Likewise it is difficult to estimate value-added by industry in 1930 because no one was measuring it.

S: Macroeconomic models and climate models are better at explaining past observation than predicting future outcomes. The models can correlate outcomes with certain data or mechanisms, but they come far from providing a scientifically reliable mechanism for predicting future trends.

D: Predicting future economic changes is worth money. Lots and lots of money. Finance and economics attracts, and has attracted, the smartest people from every field because of the huge rewards for predicting future economic and market scenarios. Predicting future climate conditions is not worth a whole lot of money.

>I think we have more useful data. If we want to look at the effect of money on inflation, we can look at different countries, as well as different historical episodes. If they want to look at the effect of CO2 on temperature, they only have world data.

What about Venus & Mars?. They are different in many ways simultaneously, not just one, but so are the economies of different countries. There is less coupling too. The climate of Venus and the earth are only coupled via the solar output. Economies have many links.

Also there is a MUCH longer history of earth climate data than there is of economic data. It's true it isn't complete, but how much information do we have on corn prices in Africa compared to Europe over even the last one thousand years?

>And we have lots of natural experiments in historical memory. That makes our job easier.
... or harder. Remember the historian of the last century who claimed that history ended with 1815, because "everything after that is hearsay..."

> Predicting future economic changes is worth money. Lots and lots of money. ... Predicting future climate conditions is not worth a whole lot of money.

Climate prediction is also worth lots and lots of money. Flooding most of Bangladesh would not be a cheap. The problem is that it is (probably) a much longer play than a human lifetime. Time constants matter.

The U.S. market lost something like $8 trillion in value in 2008. Bangladesh's 2008 GDP was under $230 billion. Sure there are a couple of hundred million dollars of research monies out there for climate change researchers, but nothing even close to the scale of the money to made on economics and finance.

The historic record for climate data is longer, but it is more sparse and more uncertain. Plus, the Earth is like really old and stuff. Modern economies have only been around for a few hundred years.

Really don’t get it guys. Loof sees no comparison and only categorical differences between macroeconomics and climate science. Putting an array of natural and social sciences and half (macro without micro) of a social science back to back to face each, to compare and contrast causes and effects, is like putting an arm without hands causally on the same level as all the organs working together in common cause.

Economics is making major contributions to the climate sciences. Relative to cause I’ll simply quote innovative economist Richard Tol’s email to me a few years ago: “On global warming: Aart de Vos and I published one of the first papers (in 1993) showing statistical evidence that climate change is human-induced.” Relative to effect there’s the Stern Report.

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