Chakrabortty’s working title ‘University Economics: the £9,000 lobotomy’

Pontus Rendahl, a rising star in macroeconomics at Cambridge, makes a revealing comment on my previous post about Aditya Chakrabortty’s idiotic and ill-informed Radio 4 program on economics.  I’ll quote it full here:

I was approached, not by BBC, but by a colleague herself approached by [the] BBC to participate in the program. At that time, the working title of the program was “University economics: the £9,000 lobotomy”. I suppose the title changed to give an air of unbiasedness, and partly to correct the tasteless analogy to tragic mistakes promoted by psychologists fifty so years ago.

Given that angle, I, and so did everyone else declined to participate as we knew that we would be edited to look like clowns. Or, if they couldn’t, leave us out due to “time constraints”.

This is a deeply dishonest piece.

Pontus was right in his forecast.  Danny Quah, one of the ‘mainstream’ voices [can’t help keeping that in quotes, as it’s such a stupid simplification of the stuff that gets taught and researched] was edited to seem somewhat clownish.  Explaining the rational choice model, the implication being that i) mainstreamers only use that model (wrong) and ii) those that do believe in its literal truth in each and every situation (also wrong).

What’s most revealing about Pontus’ remark is that it’s clear that Chakrabortty had already made his mind up about economics before he had listened to participants.  No doubt, at that point, he had the notion that nothing they were going to tell him would sway him from a view he’d already reached.   He already had his angle.  He just wanted fall guys to speak so they could be slotted into the rhetoric.  So, if my previous post gave the misleading impression that Chakrabortty was just incompetent or lazy in avoiding the quick Google that would have verified that the silly things the ‘orthodoxy’ challengers were saying to him were false, I take it back.  It’s clear that he might have known this stuff was probably rubbish, but had decided that the ends [letting everyone know studying economics was a waste of money] justified the means.

FYI Radio 4’s ‘Feedback’ have not deigned to respond to my complaint about Chakrabortty’s program.  Chakrabortty himself, who initially responded to my tweets by saying he was ‘too busy’, has seemingly been ‘too busy’ ever since.  Although he did retweet another’s comment that my post illustrated that ‘this is the problem’.  [The problem being what, exactly:   intolerance of what could have been a proper debate about economics and its teaching being undermined by spouting things that were false?]

And if you haven’t already seen it, read Karl Whelan’s post on the program.  It’s a great read, inspired by a saintly turn-the-other-cheek philosophy, and takes on some of the criticisms levelled at the economics profession constructively.

[Added later]

Postcript:  it should really have been “£27,000 lobotomy” anyway, since it takes 3 years of tuition fees to complete the process.

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