Author: Robert Hoffman, Ottawa
The body of macroeconomic theory known as the neoclassical-Keynesian synthesis, hereafter mainstream macroeconomics, has dominated the practice of economics since the middle of the twentieth century and is largely unchallenged in institutions that teach economics. Not only does mainstream macroeconomics underlie monetary and fiscal policies intended to promote economic growth, full employment, and price stability, but it also provides the lens through which economic activity is measured and performance is evaluated. Most importantly, it has spawned a generally accepted ideology or conventional wisdom that frames economic issues and ‘acceptable’ policy responses to them. Woe to the economist or politician who strays beyond the constraints imposed by the beliefs emanating from this body of theory. Mainstream economic theory has always had its critics, but the failure of mainstream economists to predict the collapse of 2008 and the failure of the policy responses to the crisis have stimulated a new round of criticism. This paper surveys a range of criticisms made by economists and non-economists alike and finds that grounds exist for the rejection of mainstream macroeconomic theory. It is mathematically incoherent and irrelevant insofar as the assumptions upon which it is based are not supportable; its concepts are abstract and not measurable, and not capable of addressing the real questions of sustainability, economic stability, power, justice, and equity that affect the human condition.
The conclusions reached are:
1) mainstream economic theory took a profoundly wrong path in the mid-twentieth century
2) foundations for a new synthesis of economic thinking are needed capable of addressing the issues that emerged in the late 20th century and integrating findings from other sub-disciplines of economics and other sciences.
On the Need for New Economic Foundations: A Critique on Mainstream Macroeconomics (Robert Hoffman, Cadmus Journal, Oct. 24, 2012)
Bio: Robert Hoffman is one of the seven Canadian Members of the Club of Rome. He is President of whatIf? Technologies Inc., a company that has modelled energy systems for Canada.