HET Montreal 2014

The History of Economic Thought conference in Montreal has just ended and, as always, it was wall-to-wall interesting. I have already given a background report on the paper I gave before it was given and I can now report how nicely it went. Even in HET where historical change is our line of work, there is that dreamworld notion that everything stays as it is without effort so my warning that the history of economics has enemies who would drive it as far as they can from economic theory seems remote and incomprehensible. But the people who would move it are still in executive positions, but now it’s for a new generation to deal with.

The most remarkable aspect of the conference was that there was not a single paper on Keynes. Two, three, four years ago, such conferences were crawling with “Keynes, return of the master” sorts of things. Now, not a one. It’s not that the Keynesians have gone anywhere since it is still impossible to think about macro without aggregate demand. Instead, there is confusion and uncertainty about how to go forward, but try to find a textbook that talks about the national economy without mention of C+I+G. It can’t go away unless economists begin to understand Say’s Law and that’s not happening soon. So it is a sullen quiet resentment that hovers over economics with the vultures ready to pick at the bones of economies that fail to recover due to perceived failures of the various austerity programs. I think the Chinese are more likely to try a market-based solution before the Americans but that really means no one is likely to try one any time soon.

And as a bonus, Montreal is lovely, more similar to Melbourne, as I’d been previously told, than it is to Sydney. But the many “a louer” signs everywhere shows a city down on its luck. But aside from six months of winter with ten foot snow drifts, this seems a very liveable place to be.

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