Barkley Rosser report

Louis Proyect lnp3 at SPAMpanix.com
Tue Feb 27 16:59:37 MST 2001


[A lively and colorful report on an academic conference from a PEN-L'er
that relates to our discussion here]

Folks, I unsubbed last week while going to the Eastern Economic Association
meetings in New York, but promised michael before hand that I would report
on them. Here it is.

Of the four regional economic associations in the US (Western, Midwestern,
Southern, and Eastern), the Eastern has for some time now been much more
open to heterodox approaches to economics, with a fairly strong tendency
towards the left end of the ideological spectrum, although that is not
absolute with various conservative and mainstream types showing up as well.
This was quite true of these meetings that happened in New York last week.
A few highlights.

One group that has been meeting for several years now in conjunction with
the EEA has been the International Working Group on Value Theory (IWGVT),
run more or less by Alan Freeman of Greenwich U. in England and Andrew
Kliman of Pace University in New York. True to its name, the sessions of
this group involved many people from outside the US, as indeed the EEA does
in general much more than these other regional groups in the US. Freeman
and Kliman are strong supporters of the temporal single system (TSS)
approach to resolving the contradictions and difficulties of the Marxian
theory of value, and these annual meetings have become a kind of running
roadshow of the debates surrounding this proposed approach that claims to
resolve such problems as the Transformation Problem and the Law of the
Falling Rate of Profit.

I shall not go into a lengthy exegesis here of this stuff as I know many on
this list are not interested in it (which is more regularly aired on OPE-L,
run by Jerry Levy, who was in attendance at the meetings). But I can
outline which of the main players were there and how they currently stand
vis a vis each other. Probably the three major critics of the TSS approach
who presented were David Laibman, of Brooklyn College and editor of Science
and Sociey, Fred Moseley, of Holyoke College, known for his empirical
estimates claiming to show a declining rate of profit in the US, and Gary
Mongiovi, of St. Johns University and coeditor of the Review of Political
Economy. Mongiovi is a strong defender of the Sraffian approach and he and
Kliman provided perhaps the sharpest clash of the bunch, with Mongiovi
characterizing the TSS approach as "vulgar" while Kliman criticized the
"physicalism" of the Sraffian approach.

One prominent figure who has participated in these sessions and debates who
was at the meetings but stayed out of this fray this time was Duncan Foley,
now of the New School. He ran a session on Sunday morning on Complexity
theory that I participated in as a last minute all purpose discussant. The
presenters were three of his grad students, one of whom, Mishael Mikalac
was showing how Duncan's maximum entropy statistical equilibrium approach
(see JET, 1994) can be used to derive a power law distribution that can be
used to estimate different wealth distributions. He provided empirical
estimates for several countries. Chris Rude used entropy-based lottery
theory to explain financial markets in an argument I jumped all over (one
conclusion: "professional" traders do better than "amateurs"). Nelson
Barbosa-Filho of Brazil argued with a more straightforward model ("no chaos
theory here," he said) about how capital inflows to a country with a
current account surplus can lead to an exchange rate collapse, and applied
this to Brazil very credibly. I gave Duncan a hard time about the basis for
his entropy maximization argument, but I think he defended it quite well.
Ken Koford of U. of Delaware, the editor of the Eastern Economic Journal
attended this session and apparently wants to publish the papers from it in
the EEJ as a symposium.

Another group very much present were a lot of Post Keynesians (the pkt list
was very quiet late last week). Ric Holt and Steve Pressman have their New
Guide to Post Keynesian Economics coming out shortly from Routledge and are
working on some subsequent volumes. One or the other of them chaired a
bunch of sessions that focused on empirical work along Post Keynesian
lines. One especially interesting paper was by Ronald Calitri of the New
School (a lot of New Schoolers in attendance) who was prophesying a major
global economic downturn on the behavior of a large number of time series.

Another subgroup of Post Keynesians very present were some from England,
with seven from Leeds University alone, led by Malcolm Sawyer who presented
several papers with Phil Arestis of South Bank U. in London. They were in
some of the most heavily attended sessions that were on what is going on in
the EU with the euro and fiscal policy. Jamie Galbraith presented a paper
in one of those sessions calling for the EU to imitate the US in having
community-wide social safety net policies (hard to imagine the US as much
of a model for such things.... ).

There were also several sessions on the "The Dijon School of Endogenous
Mustard, oops, I mean Money: Post Keynesian and Circuitist Theories," with
a faction from Dijon in Burgundy there doing the spreading, although the
godfather of these sessions seems to have been mostly Louis-Philippe
Rochon, formerly of the New School (again!) but now of Kalamazoo College.
However les grands fromages of this school were not in attendance, who have
been in the past and were last summer at the last Post Keynesian Workshop,
Alain Parguez of Besancon and Bernard Vallageas of Paris-Sud.

Also, there was a moderately noticeable faction from U. of Missouri-Kansas
City, with pen-l's own, Mat Forstater, involved heavily in quite a few
sessions. A very well attended one he ran mostly consisted of Robert
Heilbroner criticizing modern economics on various reasonable grounds.

The presidential address was by Peter Kenen of Princeton who has advised
the Treasury Dept. under Clinton (know him, Brad?) and who gave a talk on
"Currencies, Crises, and Crashes." The first 15 minutes sounded pretty
interesting, but I had to bug out to take my daughter to see The Lion King.

There was also a lunch with Deirdre McCloskey that my wife, Marina, said
was very interesting, Deirdre doing her anti-statistical significance and
existence proof dog and pony show. She was also carrying her dog, Jane
Austen, around in her handbag. One line from the lunch was that when she
(then he) was 11, she dreamed of being a girl and having no stutter and
achieved one of those.

Marina and I presented a paper (on the website, kiddies) on "The Transition
Between the Old and New Traditional Economies in India."

I also served as a discussant for a paper by the editor of the Review of
Austrian Economics, Peter Boettke of George Mason University, on
"Conceptions of the State in Post- Communist Political Economy." However,
he did not show and had the paper presented by his first year grad student
coauthor. So, I had to go easy. I agreed with their analysis of why the
transition in Russia has been a mess, but I disagreed with their conception
of the state that somehow leaves out distribution....

Finally, I chaired the roundtable session on Lynn Turgeon that was
advertised on this list. This was very well attended and very lively. I
noted Turgeon's "dialectic," his argument that demand- constrained
capitalist economies could be expanded by military production while
supply-constrained socialist economies would be constrained by it. There
were a lot of personal reminiscences about him by the panelists and the
members of the audience, including several of his former students and
colleagues from Hofstra University. There is a paper available on my
website by the panelists that will hopefully appear in the American Journal
of Economics and Sociology, under the title, "Keynesian Comparative
Economics: The Iconoclastic Vision of Lynn Turgeon."

One issue I brought up was the fact that Lynn was gay. This became an issue
after his death because of a letter that Richard Cornwall wrote that
appeared in an URPE Newsletter that some of you may have seen that
denounced those who put out a memorial pamphlet about him after his death
for not mentioning this fact. Cornwall, who has published a long paper in
RRPE on Queer Theory, declared that Lynn wanted to be out (and about?) on
this and participate in Cornwall's own agenda on this matter. However, we
have not put any mention of this into our paper (after much internal
discussion) because of the fact that Lynn never made any mention of it
publicly in any speech or written outlet in his lifetime. Ric Holt spent
three days tape recording Lynn's recollections of his life and work, and
Lynn never mentioned it then either. The closest I ever saw him come to
coming out was on the pkt list twice near the end of his life when he
brought up Keynes' bisexuality and argued that Keynes' economics should be
considered from this perspective. I suggested that this fact regarding Lynn
may have influenced his sympathy with the underdog, such as the gypsies in
Central Europe facing discrimination. I note that Lynn had a daughter and
was still legally married to his wife, although long separated, at the time
of his death two years ago.

There was also discussion of how Lynn should be characterized. Although
active on pkt and apparently sympathetic with many Post Keynesian ideas, he
never seemed to accept that label. He did label himself in one of his books
as a "classical Keynesian" and as near as I can tell Keynes was probably
the economist he most admired. His last book (1996) was titled, _Bastard
Keynesianism: The Evolution of Economic Thinking and Policymaking since
World War II_, that title drawn, of course, from Joan Robinson very
consciously.

Lynn also labeled himself as a "revisionist" in his 1980 _The Advanced
Capitalist System: A Revisionist View_. That book contains lectures he gave
at Moscow State University in 1978 where he first met my wife Marina (he
introduced us). I think that he used it to show his disdain for the
orthodoxies of both East and West. The earlier versions of our paper had
that in the title, but it has since disappeared.

Finally he also labeled himself as "iconoclastic" and this certainly fit.
Those who knew him realize that he loved to discomfit people with his
unusual ideas. Thus he would speak of how Hitler had succeeded in applying
Keynesian ideas. He voted for Nixon in 1960 because he saw Kennedy as a war
mongerer who would expand the military-industrial complex. He supported the
Reagan tax cuts. I have noted previously how he pointed out the low level
of discrimination in the late Stalin period, and he also defended the
productivity of collective farms in Eastern Europe, the better ag
performance in Hungary compared to Poland supporting his arguments which
even today remain largely unrecognized.

Besides Ric Holt and myself, the other roundtablers were Tim Canova of the
law school at University of New Mexico, and Robert Horn and Marina Rosser
of James Madison University.

In any case, many of us miss his wit and wisdom very much.

That's all, folks.
Barkley Rosser
http://cob.jmu.edu/rosserjb


Louis Proyect
Marxism mailing list: http://www.marxmail.org/





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