How complexity thinking could reboot our approach to public policy
Hi Kasey, Steve Keen isn't exactly an unbiased critic of the economic establishment :) The story is way more nuanced than you present it; professional economists across all sectors (public, private, NGO, universities), not just in the US but worldwide, have been analyzing and modeling economic systems using a wealth of pragmatic approaches for many many decades now, using the "standard model" of general equilibrium as one of many conceptual frameworks rather than as gospel. Just as an example, from 2006-2010 I worked as an economic modeler for a Brazilian thinktank, working with and for multiple government organizations, large corporates and international organizations like the UN. The models we used included system dynamics (of Limits to Growth fame, originally inspired by population dynamics from ecology and first applied to economics in the 1960s); input-output models (which got Leontief a Nobel in 1973); game-theoretic models of auction pricing (Nobel in 2020), agent-based models (Nobel in 2005)... Hardly the picture of a Sauron-like economic fundamentalism that Keen and others paint.
Interestingly, many of these ideas came out of people, universities and thinktanks associated with the high-modernist era: system dynamics was born at MIT, game theory from von Neumann's wartime work at IAS and Rand Corporation, ABM also trace their origin from von Neumann... Indeed, one can fairly say that high modernism's emphasis on control and predictive power was exactly what led researchers in the 40s to 60s to invent what is now cybernetics, complexity theory and chaos theory, first in an attempt to get better at controlling and predicting and only later realizing that these were the wrong goals! This closely parallels the Hilbert program's search for the ultimate proof of the completeness of mathematics, which bred the beast that destroyed it: Kurt Gödel's incompleteness theorems.
This story is still going on, BTW. Come join us in the world of decentralized economics, you'll see lots of economic possibilities heavily inspired by complex adaptive systems that are just on the verge of becoming reality :)
[One last fun note: your library of economic possibilities includes the Georgist staple, the Land Value Tax. Did you know that this concept was independently proposed at around the same time as George by... Léon Walras?]
I was lucky enough to be exposed to critical thinking about economics in college: both my BSc and MSc were born out of a bunch of economics professors worried that the dot-com bubble might happen again because people wouldn't understand neither economics nor technology.
Half of my professors were economists and the other half were physicists and we went deep into breaking down models, from the static ones into the world of complexity theories.
Thank youuu! I’ve been waiting for such an article. They like to say that Western philosophy made its biggest mistake in abstracting. Dynamically complex systems theory is a good lens more commensurate with reality. Now I wonder, what are the methodologies of doing this work? Maybe forms of emancipatory, participatory practices (Ledwith etc)?
I see that we, through our abstracting, have lost our ability to make sense of experience (emergent, changing, wavy). This might be the intellectual way back! <3 it is I believe
Very insightful and definitely yes the SFI / complexity economics approach is more realistic of actual systems. Current equilibrium approach is a good theoretical baseline
A drawing that evolved over 3 days of visioning exercise from various stakeholders for a vision for agroecology in India. We used recyled materials and organic colours for a eco-friendly and sustainable approach to working methodologies, to illustrate some of the emergent thoughts on how to support a healthy agroecology. May of interest to some.