Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Chait is economically illiterate, Part 2

Amid his latest attacks against Marxism, I recently made the point that Jonathan Chait does not in fact appear to have much knowledge about economics. This was just an educated guess, but it seems like a good one: other writers like Freddie deBoer and Ryan Cooper seem to have noticed the same thing. As Matt Bruenig notes, his criticism of Marxism "is indistinguishable from the right-wingers with anime avatars on Twitter" and what they have to say about it; to my knowledge, he has never made any point on the topic that you couldn't find in a typical Free Republic thread, with its sage Margaret Thatcher quotes and chuckling about breadlines.

Anyway, in case that isn't enough background, here's something I just noticed in the background of an old Bloggingheads screencap:

If you don't recognize this on sight, ask a first year liberal arts student: he'll tell you that this is clearly the distinctive cover of Sloman and Wride's Economics, probably the Seventh Edition, which is the textbook they give you when you're trying to knock out your econ gen ed requirement en route to that communications or political science degree.

Finding Economics on the shelf of a guy who's spent the last week lecturing scholars and historians about Marxism is like finding Physics for Dummies on the shelf of a guy trying to correct Stephen Hawking on quantum mechanics. I cannot stress how remedial this is. We don't have to guess at what Chait knows about Marxism, because here is the Economics explainer, in full (click to expand):

That brief call-out box is literally all Economics has to say about Marxism, and if you are a semierudite dilettante like Chait, it is all you will ever know. Marxists know this because they have typically studied Marxism and orthodox neoclassical economics. Not only do they know what Chait doesn't know - they know what he doesn't know that he doesn't know.

Of course, there's a simple way for Chait to prove me wrong about all of this: show some knowledge of Marxism. Tell us about the books you've read and the classes you've taken. Let an actual scholar actually hold your feet to the fire.

Until then, why would anyone assume that Chait knows a damn thing?