While browsing recently, I ran across an essay by Edward Lunt [The present condition of economic science and the demand for a radical change in its methods (1888)] at the Internet Archive site. The title was intriguing enough to get me to look at its contents, briefly. Then, on reading, I had to laugh at how a lot of what I was reading could be put to use now.
Aside: The site is loaded with digitalized images (use 'Read Online' for a nice presentation that is a close approximate to the real thing) of books and other printed material on a whole lot of subjects.
The topic is of interest today. Hence, the above question. Too, the discussion's context may be somewhat different than now, yet one could almost substitute it into today's environment. In fact, many phrases throughout the book could have come from that written by modern analysts.
There are a couple of differences. We have a lot more data now and associated experience. Is the understanding any better? Too, the 'science' has become more complicated due to the expansion of mathematical thought over the past 100+ years and to the rapid evolution of computational support for abstracted systems thinking.
Again, is the understanding any better? No, quite frankly, I can claim. But, that argument has been central for quite some time.
Does this little essay indicate that there will continue to be a lack of progress? Not necessarily so.
Otherwise, from whence would there be motivation to look at this stuff?
Now, let us look at a little bit from the summary that is just remarkably ageless (page 109):
- What a formidable array of problems stare our statesmen in the face! Industrial and political "deals" and "bosses" are a constant menace to law and order; inflation schemes and a false silver dollar hang over our monetary legislation ...; uniting workmen and consolidating capitalists keep the industrial world in continual ferment; paper-money and the banking questions, Chinese labor and general immigration, ..., giant monopolies, ... where will the list end?
Of course, that Lunt's argument suggests that we lean more toward Adam's ideas shows his insight, at his time. We'll have to further consider the development of his argument at some point after taking a look at his situation.
Here is the Table of Contents, briefly.
- General Bill of Attainder against Economics
- Present Condition of Economics Ludicrously Inharmonious
- Explanation of the Present Ill-Repute of Economics
- General Statement of the English Method
- The Negative Side of the New School
- The Positive Side of the New School
- The Results of our Study
09/19/2013 -- All's not lost. Some accountants see a change that is problematic. But, first, savers are more than just risk averse; they put their actions where their mouth is by being prudent. Now, that was once considered a virtue; in fact, one could argue that it was expected for fiscal responsibility. However, some claim that accounting has removed prudence in lieu of theoretical nonsense leading to annual reports that are incomprehensible. Actually, the computer can make things such, too, so the whole bit that underpins our world seems to have been given a shaky basis (on purpose, to allow rooking the people? - or, through stupidity?). Of course, the side that argues that prudence is quaint (well, it seems to be for quants) is vocal, too. But, we have China asking prudence of Ben and the Fed?
01/17/2012 -- On Steve's work. I've been slowly reading his authorized bio; at some point, more reflection will be forthcoming.
03/16/2011 -- On the rise of the professional politician (will there ever be the citizen polico? that is, those who do not salivate when a buck is passed beneath the nose) toward robber barony.
03/07/2011 -- Actually, this little essay could be a milepost in an analysis that looks at the source of our current problem, from a 'meta' view which gets short shift in these days of the illusory 'Now' and immediate gratification and myopic thinking on the part of the supposed best-and-brightest and more.