Sunday, April 18, 2010

anti-samuelson, anti-mankiw?

I recently discovered Linder's 2 volume (4 in the German edition) Anti-Samuelson (1977), a virtual line-by-line critique of Samuelson's popular Principles of Economics textbook. For those not familiar with Samuelson or his work, S is one of the most prolific post-World War II economists in terms of using formal (mathematical) methods to study economic problems. It influenced scores of economic students. The Nobel Commitee's biography of him describes the impact of his work:
His Economics: An Introductory Analysis, first published in 1948, has become the best selling economics textbook of all time. The textbook has sold more than a million copies and has been translated into French, German, Italian, Hungarian, Polish, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish and Arabic. It is now in its fifth edition. "The book's emphasis on different themes has changed with the changing of the nation's economic problems," wrote Business Week in 1959. "The first edition was dominated by the end-of-the-war worry that widespread unemployment would return... later editions put growing stress on fiscal and monetary controls over inflation. In the later editions Samuelson has worked toward what he calls a 'neoclassical synthesis' of ancient and modern economic findings. Briefly, his synthesis is that nations today can successfully control either depression or inflation by fiscal and monetary policies... Some economists feel that Samuelson's book... is really his greatest contribution. It has gone a long way toward giving the world a common economic language." (Source:
I very recently wrote a post about some of Linder's more recent work here. He's a very interesting scholar. His website is here.

Talking with a few of my fellow grad students at UMass, we reflected on the fact that Mankiw has effectively displaced S's text as the standard Principles of Economics text at the top schools -- indeed, it is #1 in terms of economics textbook sales now over S's book. As such, it seems fair to think that a parallel work would rise to criticize it as those students at Princeton had done in the 70s. Unfortunately, this is not the case.

But. A a quick google search of "anti-Mankiw" gives a Mankiw blog post from 2007 as the first link. See it here. The critique Mankiw mentions come from the post-autistic school of economics, a critique that is fundamentally about the argument that mainstream economics is divorced from reality to a point that it loses any practical relevance (Elisa, I'm not sure if you still read this blog but I believe you mentioned this to me 5 or 6 years ago!).

At any rate, check out the link, and let me know if you're interested in writing with me a 2-volume, 350 pg. per volume, line-by-line critique of Mankiw as an instrument of bourgeois ideology. This is the closest thing I could find!

Leave a comment!


  1. I hope that one day Mankiw will have the guts to enable commenting on his blog. Even if it were moderated like Krugman's.

  2. The project planning phase begins tomorrow correct? Do you have a copy of Markiw's book?

  3. congratulations on being deemed a movement by a social scientist (sic).

  4. If Mankiw doesn't want comments, that may have nothing to do with courage. You can still comment on him here. Maybe he just wants to keep his blog simple. You're just flame bait.

  5. Once upon a time, there were people who thought that David Gordon, and Sam Bowles, and Barry Bluestone, and Bennett Harrison were serious economists.

    All these people had one thing in common: They were lousy at math.

  6. incunabular,

    Mankiw used to have comments enabled. I believe he removed that feature due to inappropriate comments. I can't find the link at the moment but I believe it happened around summer of 2008?

  7. found the post: "Why the Comments are Gone"

  8. Sam Bowles still publishes in top journals, and people still talk about his research and his work with Gintis.

    I'm going to go ahead and admit I've never heard of the others, but I'm going to guess that they're being pushed more and more towards "political economy" rather than being embraced by the economics mainstream, which is a shame.

  9. You really are completely full of yourself, aren't you? One wonders if you've ever bothered to work in a real job, or better yet, meet payroll, before buying into nonsense like this. My guess is that you haven't. The study of economic theory is important and useful, and one at which I expended considerable time and effort. The application of that theory is an entirely different matter. Come out of your little isolated tower and enter the real world.

  10. From Herbert Gintis in the 1972 AER:

    ""Dialectical analysis must also be used to explain why increasing numbers of economists are willing to assume the status of outlaw (a rather mild type of outlaw compared to the George Jacksons, Angela Davis's, and Vietcong fighters, but outlaw just the same). In essence, we are subject to the same dialectical laws which produce black rebellion, wildcat strikes at GM, as well as counter-culture and radical student movements. We must be outlaws to preserve our sanity and to seek a decent world for our children. We must be outlaws because, along with other workers, the rationality of our expertise is otherwise divorced from us and perverted toward ends incompatible with our personal self-realization in our work.

    But we will not be outlaws forever. Join us."

  11. I respect but disagree with Mankiw's reason to block comments: "I just don't have the time to police comments and enforce good behavior". I think the whole purpose of blogging is to allow people to discuss our ideas even if they are silly or uncivil.
    Otherwise, I am often in agreement with him and have recently posted this comment on my blog about his ideas on financial regulation.
    So, sorry but I am not a candidate for the anti-Mankiw movement.

  12. Krugman's comment moderation is LAME
    Spent about 10 minutes making a comment, and it was rejected
    And I was not mean or abusive either

    Not having comments enabled kind of takes away from the "discussion" part of blogging
    And it gives the perception that one is not receptive of criticisms or counter arguments

    I'm fairly new to Mankiw's blog
    What was the issue?
    Cussing? Racists comments? Spamming?

  13. I find it funny that someone hiding behind a pseudonym when posting comments is questioning the courage of Mankiw because he doesn't enable comments on his blog.

    Steve Walsh

  14. First of all, I'm THE ONE who got Mankiw to disable comments on his blog!

    And note that he didn't just turn off commenting, he took the additional step of obliterating every remark ever posted there. Realize some people spent a lot of time and energy penning those remarks. AND later on this 'academic' ramped up his censorship another notch by removing all 'Links to this post' from his site - lest any of his ignorant admirers come across a dose of anti-Mankiw content!

    Secondly, his 'blog' is not even a blog. It's merely a linkfest. One will spend considerable time mining it for anything resembling an explicit personal opinion or toothed analysis.

    The man simply doesn't say anything, ever. When he does, it's cowardly through the words of another, it's drenched in ambiguous language ('might', 'could', 'hasn't been proven', etc.), or it's a well-cloaked tautology - 'people respond to incentives'.

    So good luck trying to direct more than a handful of pages against this dissembling, jelly-spined quack!

    The best approach to the joke that is Mankiw has perhaps already been taken by that comic.

    My favorite incident in Mankiw's blogging dalliance was when he, in a very widely read and controversial post, when he undertook a most uncharacteristic action and actually responded to me in the comment section. As his chief and long-time nemesis, I must have really got his blood was boiling as he came out of the woodwork, with chest puffed and nose skyward, and tried to mock me. It totally backfired on him and he embarrassed himself in full view of his fawning readership including many who spent $150+ for his textbook!

    See - Greg Mankiw Swings And Misses"

    I've written quite a bit on this buffoon: his economic ignorance of 'loss leaders', his latent Red State bigotry, how his arguments against nationalized healthcare can be turned elegantly against the massive subsidies of his gold mine - Big Education, how he's always angling for a 'policy job', the hypocrisy of his 6,000 square foot home and his 'climate change'-justified carbon tax, how Mankiw 'shorted' the national housing market at its low in 1989, etc.

    Some of that can be found via my <a href=">Mankiw</a> tag...

    But a lot of it is buried under the weight of my prolific blog output - and I don't think it appropriate to spam-link this thread any more.

    Nice post here. Any punch to Mankiw's stomach always tickles my funny bone! (You know he gets up every morning and vainly googles himself, right? Check your referral stats. It'll say "Newton, MA" even though he lives in Wellesley....and will be a be a direct search for "Mankiw".)

  15. I'd love to help in this effort!

  16. Greg, if all you have to worry about is "Hi There, See You Later", KeriCDN or CaptiousNut when he is not on his meds, I wouldn't worry about it too much! I enjoy your blog, thanks.

  17. Krugman is the anti-Mankiw, isn't he? Even if he isn't completely in disagreement on economic theory, I think he'd be willing to be flexible to write the critique.

  18. I used to visit his blog; despite what Mankiw says, the real reason was that people would shred his arguments, frequently using his own books. He's too much of a fraud to stand up to the internet; he can only survive in the friendlier world of the economics professor.

  19. Well I haven't dissected his textbook, but I did take apart his "Growth of Nations."

  20. I do still read and I'm in on the project. You'll have to handle the heavy mathematical lifting and I can do the flowery prose. :)


  21. I'm amused by the change in direction/tone/content of the comments here. Congratulations (again) on irritating the big man himself, and plz to count me in on the project!!

  22. Since when is being hostile, discourteous, and ad hominem a good thing? if you can't learn to play nice, don't play at all.
    if you have a substantive quarrel with mankiw, have that debate on the merits, rather than attacking him personally.
    i just don't see how you score any points with immature vitriol. it's not terribly convincing and just makes you look petulant.

  23. Mysterious man,

    See my most recent post for more details -- Krugman is not what I have in mind. More fundamental critiques exist.

  24. Daniel,

    If you want to criticize mainstream economics you should come to Latin America. Here you will find lots of adolescents to join your effort to fight the "dominant thinking". Maybe we can make a deal: you come to Brazil and enjoy your stay here, while I go to the US and get the chance to study where i'd like to. It will be good for you, I'm sure you will have fun discussing with panflet readers self-declared "intelectuals", and as a bonus you will have the chance to participate on strikes, street blocking protests, rectorate invasions and other thrilling events. I can't guarantee you will change the world, but you will succeed with the alternative girls =) .

  25. I just wanted to add that the pos-tautistic critique "that is fundamentally about the argument that mainstream economics is divorced from reality to a point that it loses any practical relevance" might not recognize that there is an actual practical relevance for such irrelevance, especially when it comes to dissuading people to study other economic approaches given the perception that economics as a whole simply sucks.

  26. Ian,

    That's a really good point. By encouraging the study of the economic system as though it has been disembedded, if you will, from society, it perpetuates the idea of an economy as a closed system with a nice analytical structure.

  27. If you read Mankiw's blog regularly, you get a lot of:

    1. Self-referential posts. You get the impression that he just sits around and googles himself constantly. Maybe that's why he doesn't have the time for comment moderation.
    2. Links to any articles critical of Obama's policies.
    3. Links to anything critical of Krugman. It's not that Krugman is obsessed with Mankiw. If you read both it's quite obvious it's the other way around.

  28. Mankiw was used to have comments on his blog.

    Mankiw's "Pinciples Of Economics" and "Macro" are very good textbooks, I used his books all major long and go back there anytime I need.

    Although I have strong differences to Krugman, he's still a very solid text book author and academic, his "International Economics" is one the best in the field, same thing can be said about Stiglitz whose public remarks are very weired but has managed to write a terrific book for those studying economics.

    People here are saying Mankiw is anti-Obama and self-centered. Maybe he doesn't like Obama that much, but I don't think he's cocky.

  29. Gintis seems much more interested in neoclassical economics since he left UMass. There might be a lesson in that somewhere.

    Also, the only justification I can imagine for your statement that Paul Samuelson influenced "scores" of economics students is that you don't know the meaning of the word scores."

  30. I stopped reading Mankiw when he said that he would stop working if the marginal tax rate got to 50%.

    That whole argument is so obviously wrong on so many levels that if it had been posted on a blog that allowed comments, there would have been an easy forum to disprove it. Since he did not allow comments, his absurd argument was allowed to stand, and most likely ended up in one of his overpriced textbooks.

    If Delong or Thoma said something that stupid, they would have eventually backed down under pressure of a thousand smackdowns. Mankiw is immune to smackdowns, and impervious to logic. It makes his blog less logical and less defensible than it would be if he allowed oposing points of view.

  31. In "Spreading the Wealth Around:
    Reflections Inspired by Joe the Plumber*
    By N. Gregory Mankiw,Harvard University": Mankiw does not mention a single time about state, local, social security and other forms of taxes. I am no economist but if economics is to be considered a serious form of science then this is an oversight by one of the leading philosophers in the field. Mankiw not only considers this paper to outline the role of federal taxes on society and individuals but also as a political philosophy primitive. The question is why this oversight?

  32. @Dave, I hate to disillusion you, but Delong routinely deletes critical comments.

    Also, I think you have a real problem with logic. There is no way that you can know if Mankiw's statement about his labor-supply function is true or false unless you have observed his behavior under a 50% marginal tax rate, which you most certainly have not.

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  36. I find it funny that someone hiding behind a pseudonym when posting comments is questioning the courage of Mankiw because he doesn't enable comments on his blog.
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  37. That whole argument is so obviously wrong on so many levels that if it had been posted on a blog that allowed comments, there would have been an easy forum to disprove it. Since he did not allow comments, his absurd argument was allowed to stand, and most likely ended up in one of his overpriced textbooks
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