No, Productivity Does Not Explain Income

January 17, 2020

Originally published on Economics from the Top Down. Did you hear the joke about the economists who tested their theory by defining it to be true? Oh, I forgot. It’s not a joke. It’s standard practice among mainstream economists. They propose that productivity explains income. And then they ‘test’ this idea by defining productivity in … Read more

Rethinking Causation in the Social Sciences

January 11, 2020

Originally published on Economics from the Top Down. For the last few weeks, I’ve been thinking about causation in the social sciences. As with many instances of reflection, this was prompted by rejection. A political economy journal recently rejected a paper that I had submitted. The paper (available here) studied the correlation between hierarchical power … Read more

Problems With Measuring Inequality

January 4, 2020

Originally published on Economics from the Top Down. Economists often talk about income inequality the same way a doctor would talk about a child’s height. Just as a doctor would say “Sylvia continues to grow taller”, economists say things like “US income inequality continues to grow”. (Full disclosure, I’m sure I’ve said similar things). On … Read more

The Legacy of Aaron Swartz: The Fight for Open Access

December 23, 2019

Originally published on Economics from the Top Down. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been thinking a lot about Aaron Swartz. Swartz was an internet pioneer who, in his teens and early 20s, made huge contributions to computer culture. Among other things, Swartz helped develop RSS (which organizes web feeds), Markdown (a simple language for … Read more

What If Scientific Impact Could Be Negative?

December 16, 2019

Originally published on Economics from the Top Down. Scientists live and die by their scientific ‘impact’. For the uninitiated, ‘impact’ is a measure of a scientist’s contribution to their field. While there are many measures of scientific impact, almost all of them focus (in some way) on citations. So if more people cite your papers, … Read more

Are We Measuring Inequality the Wrong Way?

December 9, 2019

Originally published on Economics from the Top Down. In a recent blog post called “How Not to Measure Inequality”, the anthropologist Jason Hickel argues that economists measure inequality the wrong way. Hickel thinks that standard measures of inequality (such as the Gini index), underestimate global disparities. The problem, according to Hickel, is that economists measure … Read more

Call For Papers: Energy, Institutions and Society

November 29, 2019

Originally published on Economics from the Top Down. I’ve been asked to create panels for the upcoming International Conference on Thermodynamics 2.0. The conference aims to bring natural and social sciences closer. It will take place at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Massachusetts, USA from June 22-24, 2020. I’m calling the panel(s) Energy, Institutions and Society. I’m … Read more

The Allure of Marxism … And Why It’s a Mistake

November 26, 2019

Originally published on Economics from the Top Down. Karl Marx is probably the most important social scientist in history. But while his influence is beyond compare, Marx’s legacy is, in many ways, disastrous. Few thinkers have inspired so many people to commit crimes against humanity. Think of Stalinist gulags. Think of the Ukrainian famine of … Read more

As it Dies, We Talk About the ‘Free Market’ More

November 18, 2019

Originally published on Economics from the Top Down. In The Growth of Hierarchy and the Death of the Free Market, I argued that economic development involves killing the free market. What was the evidence? As energy use increases, so does the relative number of managers. This growth of managers, I argued, indicates that economic development … Read more

Can A Service Transition Save the Planet?

November 12, 2019

Originally published on Economics from the Top Down. Let’s talk sustainability. Unless you’re an anti-science crank, you probably agree that we’ve got a problem with carbon emissions. We need to drastically cut emissions to avoid catastrophic climate change. On this we should all agree. The question that’s open for debate is how to cut emissions. … Read more

Where’s the Barefoot Revolution in Economics?

November 6, 2019

Originally published on Economics from the Top Down. Yesterday I was reminded of what got me interested in economics. I’ll preface this by saying that I make my living as a substitute teacher in Toronto. It’s not glamorous, but it pays the bills. It gives me time to do research from outside academia. When I’m … Read more

The Growth of Hierarchy and the Death of the Free Market

October 29, 2019

Originally published on Economics from the Top Down. Do you believe in free markets? Do you think that unfettered competition is the best way to organize society? If so, this post is intended to shake your faith. No, I’m not going to argue that free markets are bad. Instead, I’m going to show you some … Read more