On "Stockholm Syndrome" 56

Meet Michael Hudson, a "well known economist and Professor at University of Missouri" (yesterday's Delfi). The "well-known" part is not, strictly speaking, true - not among the economics profession, at least. Further, although Mr. Hudson has a PhD in economics (NYU), during his (long) professional life he hardly published anything in the economics mainstream. However, I think Mr. Hudson is to be watched. He is an interesting person. Also a rather dangerous one.

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What makes him interesting is his other affiliation - being a leading Member of Reform Task Force Latvia (RTFL), "initiated by the Harmony Center (Saskanas Centrs) political alliance" [emphasis mine]. Need I remind you that Harmony Center has a very strong lead in every polls and national election is merely a year away? This task force "brings together people whose ideas … are ahead of our time". There is no shortage of ambition. "We wish a new order" - so says the mission statement [emphasis their].

What makes Mr. Hudson dangerous is a mix of some very sensible ideas with populism and extremism. His "Latvia's Stockholm Syndrome", which likens IMF and EU program to "a declaration of economic war against Latvian labor and industry" is exactly the kind of stuff that media love. The 'Syndrome' paper is a set of poorly structured, rambling attacks on the IMF, EU, neo-liberal economists, banking special interests, etc. It's sheer venom, near absence of coherent argument, and overabundance of flashy metaphors would be appalling to any serious economist. But I suspect it's all exciting stuff to people on the streets.

Lets start with his sensible points. There are two. First, he correctly questions the banks' role in Latvia's economic ordeal. It’s probably true that 'too much has been lent', so that the sum of banks' outstanding claims is (significantly) smaller then the market value of all real estate collateral plus whatever residual claims can be recovered from individual (and corporate) borrowers. Somebody has to incur those losses. There are some very legitimate questions as to whether the present "keep-the-peg" program is not a way to spread the banking sector's losses over Latvia's population at large. If you add State Control (Valsts Kontrole's) report basically saying that Latvian taxpayers fully bailed out Mr Kargins and Mr Krasovickis (of Parex), there are good chances that an increasing number of people would sympathize with this kind of thinking. Mr. Hudson's second sensible point concerns his frequently recurring argument that Latvian tax system is severely biased towards taxing labor and extremely benign in taxing land. Well, I have been talking about this (not the land tax though) for better part of the last five years.

What does Mr. Hudson want? There are lots of slogans that Latvia should "stay away from IMF central planners like the plague", and become "economically independent". I see two practical proposals in the 'Syndrome' piece. The first one is, actually, quite a good one - to introduce a land value tax so as to reduce the tax burden on labor (e.g. personal income tax). Land tax minimizes something that is called "excess burden" of taxes (i.e. distortions) because land supply is perfectly inelastic. William Vickrey (a 1996 Nobel prize winner in economics), for example, advocated replacing nearly all taxes with land value tax to improve economic efficiency. The second suggestion is more 'fun': "Latvia needs to act as a sovereign nation and denominate its debt in its own currency." I presume Michael Hudson means private sector debt, but I wonder whether it also applies to the IMF/EU loan. This is equivalent to a default, of course. My interpretation of Mr. Hudson's justification for this is that unknowing victims of global conspiracy by financial interests need not honor their obligations.

This brings me to what my problem with this is. I, personally, have no illusions that Mr. Hudson is, to put it bluntly, more than a little Marxist. A central theme of his "Syndrome" piece (and other work) is workers being ruthlessly exploited by capitalists with the aid of IMF, World Bank, and their loyal servants - neo-liberal economists. RTFL is trying to position itself as a liberal (U.S. sense) 'New Deal' force (read the "mission"), but have no illusions about it - it is Marxist through and through, rooted in the class-struggle view of the world. The 'Syndrome' is riddled with things like " "free-market Bolshevism", "neo-liberal junk economics", "destructive neo-liberal Lisbon program", and generally equating "business friendly" with "anti-labor".

All in all, however, I think it's good that Michael Hudson is busy developing, as it seems to me, economic ideology of the Saskanas Centrs. Finally, a more serious fight for people's "hearts and minds" is about to begin. The message developed by Mr. Hudson is simple and attractive to the masses - as Bolsheviks' ideas, no doubt, were in 1917. I am afraid there would always be a thriving market for ideas like "it's not your fault you're poor, it's because of a global conspiracy of the rich and powerful". Finally, no matter how fundamentally flawed his ideas are, I am sure Mr. Hudson will be more than a match for Latvia's lethargic intellectual 'mainstream'.

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Komentāri (56) secība: augoša / dilstoša

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The Heterodox Economist > B 30.09.2009 13:54
As you can see here - "I have remote access to JSTOR and other databases, primarily to access, amongst other, New Political Economy and Harper's Magazine" - I said "and other databases" and "amongst other". I log onto a centralized database (from any place on the planet, as this is a remote-access account) where I search by the relevant journal or article, NOT by the database. So whatever jumps out I use, I couldn't care less if it's JSTOR or any other database as I simply follow the link. And now that you've asked - yes, the two are not on JSTOR, but rather on EBSCO (both) and Informaworld (only Harper's). Any further questions, paranoid?

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B > The Heterodox Economist 30.09.2009 13:40
Nice try, Heterodox. Unfortunately, neither New Political Economy nor Harper's Magazine are present on JSTOR, according to this: http://www.jstor.org/action/showJournals?browseType=titleInf...

Bad move again, Heterodox. The list of journals can be easily found, even without database access. Why do I have to do your homework for you?

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The Heterodox Economist 30.09.2009 13:15
What's the matter with you, paranoids? Don't you have more important things to do? How about piecing together a response to what Michael Hudson just replied to Morten Hansen? http://www.diena.lv/lat/business/blog/morten_hansen/michael-...

P.S. As I indicated earlier, I have remote access to JSTOR and other databases, primarily to access, amongst other, New Political Economy and Harper's Magazine.
P.P.S. Take these two facts as axioms: a) I have only posted as "The Heterodox Economist" and b) I am no student of Slava. I need not prove anything. Now let's move over to Morten Hansen's blog - more exciting developments there...

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V Dombrovsky --> Heterodox 30.09.2009 11:11
This show has gone too far, my friend.
You know where my office is. You have eight months to graduation - plenty of time to find some courage. I promise I won't bite.

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Ainars Lodziņš 30.09.2009 10:09
Cienītās dāmas, godātie kungi!Izskatās, ka ekonomikas lauciņš kļūst par ko līdzīgu "templiešu ordeņa" īpašajām zināšanām. Visa diskusija norisinās angliski (tātad - "pietuvinātajiem"). Tas par formu. Par saturu. Ir skaidri iezīmējušies divi virzieni: pirmais, konceptuāli valsts ekonomiskā politika ir pareiza, bet ir tikusi (tiek) greizi realizēta; otrais, kļūdaini izvēlēts valsts ekonomiskās attīstības modelis (vēl tālajā 90-to gadu sākumā) ar visām no tā izrietošajām sekām. P.S.Varbūt diskusijas dalībnieki būtu ar mieru norādīt autoritatīvus pirmavotus (der arī svešvalodās!), kur palūkot pēc idejām? Valstij paniski trūkst svaiga skatījuma!

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Ronalds 30.09.2009 07:16
Carry on digging that hole, HE. Slava should have no problems recognizing you in your next submitted paper.

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Uni. of Latvia student 30.09.2009 06:59
Once again you have clearly failed, Mr. R. Our sentence structure is similar (if that's what you are implying) largely because of (a) the peculiar characteristics of the English language, (b) us not being many generations apart, (c) us being like-minded. I've allowed myself this final conjecture because it is rather apparent that you have some trouble navigating this heterodox landscape that is not confined to your marginal institution and imagined prestige. I'd now advise to stop the silly little guessing game - you're not very good at it. Preoccupied much?

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Ronalds 30.09.2009 06:31
Compare the language and sentence construction -"Uni. of Latvia student" is clearly "HE", unsuccesfully trying to mask himself again.... Oh, the follies of youth!

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Uni. of Latvia student 30.09.2009 06:12
Martins point is very well made. I was briefly one of those "less fortunate" ones. Guess what? JSTOR login details can sometimes be easily obtained through such sites as bugmenot.com. Not to mention the possibility of friends having an access via a private log-in. Guys, you ought to own up to reality.

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Uni. of Latvia student 30.09.2009 06:05
For the record, JSTOR is available at the National Library of Latvia and University of Latvia, not to mention other facilities associated with higher learning. This SSE arrogance is staggering.

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B > Martins on JSTOR 30.09.2009 03:27
While it is theoretically possible that Heterodox has procured JSTOR access rights illegally, it is quite unlikely. Nobody would do it just to do a search on Hudson, so it means Heterodox is routinely using JSTOR for research. A late 90s SSER graduate doing research and yet being so careless with economic knowledge - who could that be?

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B > o 30.09.2009 03:19
Good point. The fun goes on! In fact, according to JSTOR (http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/organization/participantLists/intl.jsp), only four institutions in Latvia have subscription. These are:

Bank of Latvia
National Library of Latvia
Stockholm School of Economics in Riga
University of Latvia, Faculty of Social Sciences

Make your bets on where our friend is based. Bank of Latvia people would not talk like that, I guess. University of Latvia is also unlikely. Going to the National Library just to do a JSTOR search - wow, that would require some really strong motivation.

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Martins on JSTOR 30.09.2009 03:11
By the way, it is actually possible to access JSTOR and other databases (like EconLit, Ebrary, NBER, ABI, Lexis) from any computer anywhere. I am doing my BSc in the States, and here we have user accounts for our college library though which we can access all these libraries. That is, I simply log into my library profile with a given username and password from any computer (some universities restrict access to campus IP addresses, but luckily not ours). Except moral considerations, there really are no reasons why I could not share my login details with a less fortunate friend or relative.

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o 29.09.2009 22:58
Adding to the JSTOR thing I would pinpoint the time of the post. Searching JSTOR during daytime in some random library/institution doesn't sound like an activity of an SSE Riga graduate. Most of them are at their offices at the time (very few workplaces provide with an access to JSTOR).

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Kalvis 29.09.2009 20:49
Slava - excellent blog. While I do think that you may have underplayed Michael Hudsons' academic reputation, I think you are right in arguing that he has begun a slow, steady descent into madness with his populist rhetoric ('bolshevism' and so forth) - this kind of approach plays to the uneducated hordes (perhaps his audience these days?), but contributes nothing to a reasoned debate.

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B > The Heterodox Economist 29.09.2009 20:41
You might have noticed that the discussion switched away from these ideas because one of the contributors decided that it is wiser to discuss the blogger's tone, the (ir)relevance of BICEPS to policymaking, and other similarly exciting matters.

P.S. Surely you don't think we will believe that you are sitting at one of these thousands of participating universities?

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B > Normunds 29.09.2009 20:36
No, let it go on! It's a lot of fun, and there is a parallel version (http://www.politika.lv/blogi/index.php?id=61572) for the real discussion.

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The Heterodox Economist 29.09.2009 20:28
It is such a pity that you waste so much time on me instead of discussing Hudson and Sommers' ideas. I feel that it is becoming a waste of my time too, as, quite obviously, nobody here is able and/or willing to tackle what these guys are saying.

P.S. JSTOR can be accessed remotely through accounts obtained at any of the thousands of participating universities and libraries. And these accounts are not really fingerprint-protected...

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B > The Heterodox Economist 29.09.2009 20:18
By the way, the problem with "advanced calculus" is that calculus is not advanced at all, compared to other mathematical tools that economists use. Before criticizing the mainstream, it is generally useful to get a grasp of what this mainstream is all about.

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B 29.09.2009 20:14
Oh yes, how could I miss the JSTOR thing. Bad move, Heterodox, you should have said you were using Google Scholar. Really, how many institutions in Latvia subscribe to JSTOR? And again, one does not need to consult M. Poirot to figure out that a professional person who has graduated ten years ago would not waste time going to a public library or visiting a much younger friend at SSER just to get some material for an online flamewar.

Dedication is not enough for a revolution, Heterodox. One also needs common sense. If you give away your identity so easily, how can you succeed in the battle against the neo-liberal establishment?

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Normunds 29.09.2009 19:50
Definately a bitter student - how else would he know to say "By the way, why are you so hostile and disparaging towards your students anyways?"

Also, he cannot name any other concrete institution in LV with access to jstore.

But I agree, let the hunt end. We don't need a name, and I fear that with every attempt to mask himself, The Heterodox Economist makes it increasingly clear who and what he is.

But the point is important - if you are to virulently attack a public figure, it is only fair to be open as to your idenity.

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The Heterodox Economist > Normunds 29.09.2009 19:45
Yes, I graduated and then spent 10 years on the Moon.

Hint: take a look at Dr.Dombrovsky and Dr.Vanags' BICEPS e-mail addresses...

Would someone help me get these guys talk ideas finally?

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The Heterodox Economist > V Dombrovsky 29.09.2009 19:31
My goodness, I am becoming sorry for your readers who have to suffer this increasingly paranoid attempt to unmask me. Whatever happened to previous commentator Jeffrey Sommers' suggestion to get back to ideas (and yourself concurring)? Or you are still more inclined to waste your time in unmasking and then attacking commentator personalities (like your article did with Michael Hudson and like you are obviously trying to do with me), instead of responding to ideas brought up by Hudson and Sommers?

P.S. For professional reasons I can not and shall not disclose my personality. But just for the sake of sparing your students whom you would otherwise haunt relentlesly from this day on, please be assured that I am not your student. By the way, why are you so hostile and disparaging towards your students anyways? Trying to degrade your opponents by saying - oh, who are you to argue with me, you're just a student of mine - doesn't do good to your reputation as a teacher.

P.P.S. Apparently, not only does the SSE aim to monopolize the altar of truth in the Latvian economic discourse, but also the public's access to JSTOR. There are at least half a dozen ways of acessing JSTOR while NOT being a student: for example, public libraries or friends/relatives/colleagues/etc studying at SSE Riga or any other reputable educational institution on this planet.

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Normunds 29.09.2009 19:15
Heterodox is probably a disgruntled 2nd year - has excellent English, knows economics only superficially, and has not quite mastered jstore. Pretty feeble attempt to pretend he had graduated in the 90s (if he had, he would have no idea who Slava and Alf are - they were not connected to the SSE 10 years ago!).

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Mordorian delegate 29.09.2009 18:52
I trust, in this regard, that members of Harmony Center, and all Latvian political parties, will be held up to scrutiny based on what they do...
Speaking about populism in all possible senses--is it possible that ability of voters to veto budget or tax laws upon decision of the parliament will change mores of Latvian politicians? What do you both think about it?

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V Dombrovsky --> Heterodox 29.09.2009 18:02
B forgot to mention that access to JSTOR is available only from within the school. So, unless you like to visit and check email ten years after graduation, you're still here. The bottom line is that if you like to get personal, you should not hide behind a fake name. Don't worry, it will not affect our professional relationship. Higher moral order and stuff.

As to you question, I play a tit-for-tat strategy. You should remember we talked about this in class a few weeks ago.

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Jeffrey Sommers 29.09.2009 14:57
Cross-posted from the English site....

September 28, 2009

“Vyacheslav Dombrovsky, Michael Hudson, the IMF, and Me”

It’s common practice when responding to an article with one which either does not understand, or when one has not yet formulated a reasoned critique for to, first engage attacks based on credibility, and second to use ad hominem attacks. Unfortunately, my fellow oarsman at SSE Riga, Vyacheslav Dombrovsky, whom I personally like, does a bit of both in his commentary on Michael Hudson’s “Stockholm Syndrome” article.

Let’s take Vyascheslav’s arguments in turn. The first is that Hudson is not well known, “at least in the economics mainstream.” Well, yes and no. Deference to authority is always a poor reason to accept or reject anyone’s argument, but since the issue has been raised, I will engage it at length. First, Vyacheslav references Michael’s rank as “Professor.” In fact, Michael is the “Distinguished Research Professor” of Economics. This rank is reserved for those at the top of the profession, with each major economics department in the US typically possessing only one such position. In addition to holding this rank at one of the two most prestigious centers of post-Keynesian economics in the US, Michael has also held, or holds, affiliations/positions at Harvard, the New School for Social Research, and many others worldwide. Indeed, on the importance of Michael’s past work, the late (and great) Terence McCarthy of Columbia University noted that Michael had written "One of the most important books of this century" (the 20th century that is).

Yes, it is true Michael Hudson’s career in economics has gone beyond the mere conventional academic mainstream. In addition to being a professor he has worked in private finance and government at high levels. Michael has worked as a balance of payments economist for Chase Manhattan, Arthur Anderson, Continental Oil, along with several other prominent Wall Street (at least before many of his Wall Street contemporaries went to jail). Additionally, Michael, who in Vyacheslav’s article is presented as a Bolshevik ready to be sprung on Latvia in Manchurian Candidate like fashion, was formerly the chief economist for the respected Hudson Institute during the Herman Kahn years (the Institute’s name is only coincidental with Michael’s surname). This think tank was quite conservative then, holding contracts with the US Department of Defense, among others. Michael has also worked for the United Nations and too many countries to try readers’ patience with listing here. In 1990 Michael also founded the world’s first Sovereign Debt fund for Scudder Stevens & Clark. It became the 2nd best performing fund in the entire world in its first year of operation. We can safely say that Hudson is well known on Wall Street and by economists.

To be fair to Vyacheslav he does tender the caveat “at least in the economics mainstream” when referencing how well known Michael is. Let’s unpack this. In today’s times, most are fleeing from anything that smells of the economics mainstream. This month the economics Nobel laureate Paul Krugman published an extended-length article in The New York Times Magazine detailing how the economics “mainstream” (the Chicago School) has essentially got it wrong on the economy the past 30 years. Indeed, other critiques have even been less kind, suggesting that the mainstream of the profession has devolved into an analog of a pre-Copernican “science” using sophisticated, but outdated, mathematics to “prove,” in effect, that the sun revolves around the earth when it comes to the workings of economic systems. Just as in Copernicus’ day, the upholders of the mainstream orthodox ideas do not take kindly to having revealed their mysticism masquerading as science. Indeed, I recall an illuminating conversation with an IMF economist in Riga at the Café Osiris in November of 1995, as Latvia’s economy was collapsing around me. I was treated to a description, in the fashion of Stalin in the 1930s, that they were “dizzy with success” as some street lights were literally being turned off for lack of power. Listening to this I could only think of the Roman historian Tacitus who declared “they make a desert, and call it peace,” as the IMF plan was destroying the economy and calling it development.

Further, on the issue of Dr. Hudson’s visibility, and the related matter of the crisis of the economics “mainstream,” just this month, for instance, on September 8th, the Financial Times (London) published an article, “Why some economists could see it coming,” referring to the bursting of the financial and real estate bubble. The article singles out Professor Hudson as one of the six who described what was happening in great detail. The on-line version of this article (ft.com) reproduces the flow chart Professor Hudson published in a UMKC heterodox economics volume, and reproduced in a 2006 article in Harpers Magazine.

Michael has also recently paired with figures such as the Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz in the pages of Harper’s Magazine (one of the most prestigious and serious liberal magazines in the US) to detail what is in fact the problem with today’s global economy. Indeed, Stiglitz himself has been one of the harshest critics of the IMF, commenting that the IMF largely “consists of third-rank students from first-rate universities.” Moreover, another Nobel laureate, and arguably the greatest economist the Stockholm School of Economics ever produced, Gunnar Myrdal, argued that Michael’s ideas themselves deserved a Nobel. Additionally, Michael has become the go to source on the global economy the world over for media, such as the BBC. For instance, on the day that Alan Greenspan retired from the Federal Reserve, it was Michael Hudson whom the BBC invited to appear on television to comment. The BBC also put his comment on its home page as "quote of the day." Greenspan, once thought of as “maestro” in the economics mainstream, is now seen as (rightly) creating the policies that led the US (and the world following) into the present economic crisis. Additionally, Michael has also had his articles published in the financial press outlets of the economics mainstream, such as The Financial Times, International Economy Magazine, etc. He also routinely appears in the US on National Public Radio and other serious media programs. It is hard to get any more visibility than this.

In short, I have already gone on too long, but I prefer evidence to assertion. In sum, contra Vyacheslav’s assertion, Michael is established and exceptionally well known in many circles, including economics and the business press, but I grant that there are some in the insular economic mainstream of Riga who are less familiar with him. I am sure Vyacheslav is a reasonably careful researcher. Yet, a simple Google check would have revealed how well known Hudson is. I am a bit surprised he skipped this step.

Second, is the issue of ad hominem attacks. It is suggested that Michael is a Bolshevik Marxist in the waiting. One would have hoped these arguments by association would have died in the 1930s USSR—where they were developed to the highest art. That did not happen, despite many hoping this tactic would have at least finally faded as we buried the old millennium while singing “Old Anzine.” But, alas, we see it persists.

Indeed, the Dr. Stranglelovian tendency to see Bolsheviks in every closest can be a bit too well developed in Riga. This May I organized a lecture at SSE Riga with the visiting South Korean professor of Economic History at Cambridge University, Ha-Joon Chang. In that presentation Ha-Joon Chang described the set of policies South Korea used to develop. Vyascheslav clearly irritated with the presentation’s content accused the speaker of defending the North Korean model of economic development! This left our speaker, speechless. How does one even defend oneself against such charges? Like being called a “running dog of the Trotskyist-Bukharin conspiracy” it is both impossible to defend oneself from this, while also a waste of time to try. The contemporary form of this charge that is de rigueur today, however, is to label one a “populist.” Yet, this tired label is already showing its wear. If one means to accuse that one is pro labor, pro democracy, and sees how both are prerequisites to sustain business and wealth creation over mere speculation, as the Nordic economies have done (albeit with some imperfections), then yes, Michael Hudson (and I) are both “populists.”

Vyascheslav also mentions Michael’s affiliation with the Reform Task Force Latvia. This is a think tank in the making that has been designed to address Latvia’s failing economic, political, and social development. Indeed, in the interest of transparency, I too am a member of this group. It is my understanding that the think tank does have support from the Harmony Center party. I have mostly stayed clear of Latvian politics as it has largely struck me for the most part as an electoral oligarchy far distant from democracy. For the record, I also think most politics in the US, unfortunately, is not always much better--nevertheless, procedural democratic mechanisms give Latvians the possibility of changing this, and I hope they do. Michael and I have met two members of the Harmony Center party that at this point we can say we like and respect, Mr. Armands Strazds and Mr. Igor Pimenov. Yet, neither of us can comment on the agenda, policies, nor quality of the whole party’s agenda or leadership. Nor is either of us members of this or any other party. Moreover, we are happy to speak to all political parties regarding economic development. Indeed, in 2006 we met with Prime Minister Kalvitis and implored him to act against the then rising real estate prices. We were sent to the finance ministry, which had no interest in our warning and instead the inevitable, and predictable, crash occurred. Unfortunately, at this stage, given the low level of political development in Latvia, I would only counsel that the public support individuals displaying character and competence in whatever party they may be in. I trust, in this regard, that members of Harmony Center, and all Latvian political parties, will be held up to scrutiny based on what they do, rather than what others say about them. Regardless, any criticisms of that party, or any other, should not reflect on Hudson’s ideas.

Lastly, Vyascheslav does engage some of Michael’s serious arguments, and this is where I wished his article had mostly focused. Vyascheslav states that like Hudson, he finds the tax system unbalanced. I applaud this. Michael and I have a record of stating this in print going back to 2005. Does Vyascheslav? If so, I would applaud this too, but would like to see it as I never recall him saying so back then. Indeed, in 2004 when all the economists I met in Latvia were saying the country was largely on the right track, I already recognized that the pernicious effects of asset (real estate) inflation was creeping in. It was apparent even then that property prices were outpacing the underlying productive capacity of the economy. Meanwhile, economists in Latvia were justifying this with variants of the “market is always” right arguments. At this point I engaged Michael on these issues, and we published the first of several articles in Diena (back to the winter of 2005) in which we warned of the asset inflation, and that a property tax was the quickest way to both pull these prices back, while also making Latvian labor, and thus business, more competitive by reducing its cost through lower taxation on workers. Yet, Vyascheslav sees a class war in which any gain by labor is business’ loss. Instead, we argued, that both wealth creating exporters and labor would benefit from these tax changes, while speculators in property would lose. That is our position in print since 2005, and we stand by it. It was only much later that some Latvian economists later came around to our view.

In short, long ago, Alvin Toffler, the author of Future Shock, stated that "Michael Hudson's brilliant shattering book will leave orthodox economists sputtering." I suspect that Toffler’s quote, as evidenced by commentary on Michael’s recent writing today, will continue being an irritant for conventional thinkers for some time to come.

Ar cienu,

Jeffrey Sommers, visiting faculty, SSE Riga

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Jeffrey Sommers 29.09.2009 14:40
Cross-posted from the English cite....

September 28, 2009

“Vyacheslav Dombrovsky, Michael Hudson, the IMF, and Me”

It’s common practice when responding to an article with one which either does not understand, or when one has not yet formulated a reasoned critique for to, first engage attacks based on credibility, and second to use ad hominem attacks. Unfortunately, my fellow oarsman at SSE Riga, Vyacheslav Dombrovsky, whom I personally like, does a bit of both in his commentary on Michael Hudson’s “Stockholm Syndrome” article.

Let’s take Vyascheslav’s arguments in turn. The first is that Hudson is not well known, “at least in the economics mainstream.” Well, yes and no. Deference to authority is always a poor reason to accept or reject anyone’s argument, but since the issue has been raised, I will engage it at length. First, Vyacheslav references Michael’s rank as “Professor.” In fact, Michael is the “Distinguished Research Professor” of Economics. This rank is reserved for those at the top of the profession, with each major economics department in the US typically possessing only one such position. In addition to holding this rank at one of the two most prestigious centers of post-Keynesian economics in the US, Michael has also held, or holds, affiliations/positions at Harvard, the New School for Social Research, and many others worldwide. Indeed, on the importance of Michael’s past work, the late (and great) Terence McCarthy of Columbia University noted that Michael had written "One of the most important books of this century" (the 20th century that is).

Yes, it is true Michael Hudson’s career in economics has gone beyond the mere conventional academic mainstream. In addition to being a professor he has worked in private finance and government at high levels. Michael has worked as a balance of payments economist for Chase Manhattan, Arthur Anderson, Continental Oil, along with several other prominent Wall Street (at least before many of his Wall Street contemporaries went to jail). Additionally, Michael, who in Vyacheslav’s article is presented as a Bolshevik ready to be sprung on Latvia in Manchurian Candidate like fashion, was formerly the chief economist for the respected Hudson Institute during the Herman Kahn years (the Institute’s name is only coincidental with Michael’s surname). This think tank was quite conservative then, holding contracts with the US Department of Defense, among others. Michael has also worked for the United Nations and too many countries to try readers’ patience with listing here. In 1990 Michael also founded the world’s first Sovereign Debt fund for Scudder Stevens & Clark. It became the 2nd best performing fund in the entire world in its first year of operation. We can safely say that Hudson is well known on Wall Street and by economists.

To be fair to Vyacheslav he does tender the caveat “at least in the economics mainstream” when referencing how well known Michael is. Let’s unpack this. In today’s times, most are fleeing from anything that smells of the economics mainstream. This month the economics Nobel laureate Paul Krugman published an extended-length article in The New York Times Magazine detailing how the economics “mainstream” (the Chicago School) has essentially got it wrong on the economy the past 30 years. Indeed, other critiques have even been less kind, suggesting that the mainstream of the profession has devolved into an analog of a pre-Copernican “science” using sophisticated, but outdated, mathematics to “prove,” in effect, that the sun revolves around the earth when it comes to the workings of economic systems. Just as in Copernicus’ day, the upholders of the mainstream orthodox ideas do not take kindly to having revealed their mysticism masquerading as science. Indeed, I recall an illuminating conversation with an IMF economist in Riga at the Café Osiris in November of 1995, as Latvia’s economy was collapsing around me. I was treated to a description, in the fashion of Stalin in the 1930s, that they were “dizzy with success” as some street lights were literally being turned off for lack of power. Listening to this I could only think of the Roman historian Tacitus who declared “they make a desert, and call it peace,” as the IMF plan was destroying the economy and calling it development.

Further, on the issue of Dr. Hudson’s visibility, and the related matter of the crisis of the economics “mainstream,” just this month, for instance, on September 8th, the Financial Times (London) published an article, “Why some economists could see it coming,” referring to the bursting of the financial and real estate bubble. The article singles out Professor Hudson as one of the six who described what was happening in great detail. The on-line version of this article (ft.com) reproduces the flow chart Professor Hudson published in a UMKC heterodox economics volume, and reproduced in a 2006 article in Harpers Magazine.

Michael has also recently paired with figures such as the Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz in the pages of Harper’s Magazine (one of the most prestigious and serious liberal magazines in the US) to detail what is in fact the problem with today’s global economy. Indeed, Stiglitz himself has been one of the harshest critics of the IMF, commenting that the IMF largely “consists of third-rank students from first-rate universities.” Moreover, another Nobel laureate, and arguably the greatest economist the Stockholm School of Economics ever produced, Gunnar Myrdal, argued that Michael’s ideas themselves deserved a Nobel. Additionally, Michael has become the go to source on the global economy the world over for media, such as the BBC. For instance, on the day that Alan Greenspan retired from the Federal Reserve, it was Michael Hudson whom the BBC invited to appear on television to comment. The BBC also put his comment on its home page as "quote of the day." Greenspan, once thought of as “maestro” in the economics mainstream, is now seen as (rightly) creating the policies that led the US (and the world following) into the present economic crisis. Additionally, Michael has also had his articles published in the financial press outlets of the economics mainstream, such as The Financial Times, International Economy Magazine, etc. He also routinely appears in the US on National Public Radio and other serious media programs. It is hard to get any more visibility than this.

In short, I have already gone on too long, but I prefer evidence to assertion. In sum, contra Vyacheslav’s assertion, Michael is established and exceptionally well known in many circles, including economics and the business press, but I grant that there are some in the insular economic mainstream of Riga who are less familiar with him. I am sure Vyacheslav is a reasonably careful researcher. Yet, a simple Google check would have revealed how well known Hudson is. I am a bit surprised he skipped this step.

Second, is the issue of ad hominem attacks. It is suggested that Michael is a Bolshevik Marxist in the waiting. One would have hoped these arguments by association would have died in the 1930s USSR—where they were developed to the highest art. That did not happen, despite many hoping this tactic would have at least finally faded as we buried the old millennium while singing “Old Anzine.” But, alas, we see it persists.

Indeed, the Dr. Stranglelovian tendency to see Bolsheviks in every closest can be a bit too well developed in Riga. This May I organized a lecture at SSE Riga with the visiting South Korean professor of Economic History at Cambridge University, Ha-Joon Chang. In that presentation Ha-Joon Chang described the set of policies South Korea used to develop. Vyascheslav clearly irritated with the presentation’s content accused the speaker of defending the North Korean model of economic development! This left our speaker, speechless. How does one even defend oneself against such charges? Like being called a “running dog of the Trotskyist-Bukharin conspiracy” it is both impossible to defend oneself from this, while also a waste of time to try. The contemporary form of this charge that is de rigueur today, however, is to label one a “populist.” Yet, this tired label is already showing its wear. If one means to accuse that one is pro labor, pro democracy, and sees how both are prerequisites to sustain business and wealth creation over mere speculation, as the Nordic economies have done (albeit with some imperfections), then yes, Michael Hudson (and I) are both “populists.”

Vyascheslav also mentions Michael’s affiliation with the Reform Task Force Latvia. This is a think tank in the making that has been designed to address Latvia’s failing economic, political, and social development. Indeed, in the interest of transparency, I too am a member of this group. It is my understanding that the think tank does have support from the Harmony Center party. I have mostly stayed clear of Latvian politics as it has largely struck me for the most part as an electoral oligarchy far distant from democracy. For the record, I also think most politics in the US, unfortunately, is not always much better--nevertheless, procedural democratic mechanisms give Latvians the possibility of changing this, and I hope they do. Michael and I have met two members of the Harmony Center party that at this point we can say we like and respect, Mr. Armands Strazds and Mr. Igor Pimenov. Yet, neither of us can comment on the agenda, policies, nor quality of the whole party’s agenda or leadership. Nor is either of us members of this or any other party. Moreover, we are happy to speak to all political parties regarding economic development. Indeed, in 2006 we met with Prime Minister Kalvitis and implored him to act against the then rising real estate prices. We were sent to the finance ministry, which had no interest in our warning and instead the inevitable, and predictable, crash occurred. Unfortunately, at this stage, given the low level of political development in Latvia, I would only counsel that the public support individuals displaying character and competence in whatever party they may be in. I trust, in this regard, that members of Harmony Center, and all Latvian political parties, will be held up to scrutiny based on what they do, rather than what others say about them. Regardless, any criticisms of that party, or any other, should not reflect on Hudson’s ideas.

Lastly, Vyascheslav does engage some of Michael’s serious arguments, and this is where I wished his article had mostly focused. Vyascheslav states that like Hudson, he finds the tax system unbalanced. I applaud this. Michael and I have a record of stating this in print going back to 2005. Does Vyascheslav? If so, I would applaud this too, but would like to see it as I never recall him saying so back then. Indeed, in 2004 when all the economists I met in Latvia were saying the country was largely on the right track, I already recognized that the pernicious effects of asset (real estate) inflation was creeping in. It was apparent even then that property prices were outpacing the underlying productive capacity of the economy. Meanwhile, economists in Latvia were justifying this with variants of the “market is always” right arguments. At this point I engaged Michael on these issues, and we published the first of several articles in Diena (back to the winter of 2005) in which we warned of the asset inflation, and that a property tax was the quickest way to both pull these prices back, while also making Latvian labor, and thus business, more competitive by reducing its cost through lower taxation on workers. Yet, Vyascheslav sees a class war in which any gain by labor is business’ loss. Instead, we argued, that both wealth creating exporters and labor would benefit from these tax changes, while speculators in property would lose. That is our position in print since 2005, and we stand by it. It was only much later that some Latvian economists later came around to our view.

In short, long ago, Alvin Toffler, the author of Future Shock, stated that "Michael Hudson's brilliant shattering book will leave orthodox economists sputtering." I suspect that Toffler’s quote, as evidenced by commentary on Michael’s recent writing today, will continue being an irritant for conventional thinkers for some time to come.

Ar cienu,

Jeffrey Sommers, visiting faculty, SSE Riga

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Jeffrey Sommers 29.09.2009 14:39
Hey, who is the heterodox economist? I have been hoping to meet one in Latvia for 14 years, but with no success! Latvia could have used one in the early 1990s! Indeed, I once proposed the Soros Foundation establish a center for Polanyi studies, as ole George seems to understand his importance, but whereas his foundation in Riga is still stuck in the Karl Popper stage. Still hoping for their evolution on that score :-)

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The Heterodox Economist > :) 29.09.2009 14:20
And, by the way, von Hayek was also a heterodox economist, alongside such diverse greats as Marx, Veblen (American Institutionalism), Galbraith (Institutionalism/Keynesianism), Polanyi (Socialism), Kaldor & Minsky (Post-Keynesianism) and, of course, the man himself - John Maynard Keynes. This is, of course, in addition to the ones I mentioned in one of my earlier posts.

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Jeffrey Sommers 29.09.2009 14:19
I agree with Slava. Less vitriol. Let's get back to the ideas....

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The Heterodox Economist > :) 29.09.2009 13:55
Hurray!!! I've been labeled a Marxist too. What a treat!
I thought McCarthyism was dead, but here it is - living it large...

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reality 29.09.2009 13:53
What does Mr. Hudson want? - What does Mr.V.Dombrovskis from Swedish high school (banks) want?
- Kādus tādus banku speciālistus ir sagatavojuši Mr.Mortens Hansens un V.Dombrovskis, ja Latvijas finanšu sektorā ir ievārītas tik' lielas ''ziepes'' ?

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:) to Heterodox 29.09.2009 13:30
It's quite strange to see a Marxist quoting Hayek ;/

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Tom Schmit 29.09.2009 13:24
I don't know who HE is, nor does it matter to me. The rhetoric misses the points of understanding how we got here and what to do about it. I personally found the Hudson piece light, but what do I know, not an economist. Have fun with the argument about it.

But, HE said something in passing that might concern people at BICEPS. Something about policy irrelevance. Here I am afraid to offend, but we (NGO - Pro Futuro) have had the experience of being dismissed or ignored by some of the principals of BICEPS. The context was in trying to gain support in a very concrete policy discussion with IZM and MK. I have always hoped that it was just lost emails. Does BICEPS engage in the concrete?

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The Heterodox Economist > B 29.09.2009 12:38
Perhaps your inner Mr.Poirot might have also suggested to you that the 'culprit' might just as well be a graduate of the SSER. Which is true in this case. I graduated in the very late 90s, so Dr.Dombrovsky wasn't a Dr. yet. I think you and Slava have a common tone - what's with the "familiarity with economic discipline at the level of "I've heard this name somewhere""? Is that constructive criticism? Also, why don't you instead give an opinion on the two legitimate arguments I raised: a)Slava's arrogant tone and b) the neoliberal labeling of everyone non-mainstream? On the latter point, I don't take such arguments as "look, Hudson is labeling us too". Slava seems to constantly appeal to a higher moral order, then why would you make your case by using your opponents tactic that you so regard as 'inprofessional, non-academic, pupulist etc'? Since nobody has responded to these points, I haven't really had the chance to move on to the real stuff (land and rentier wealth taxation, re-denomination of private foreign-currency debt, industrial and agricultural protectionism etc). And, yes, I agree I should have started with this, not the emotional outrage (which is largely due to my intolerance for intellectual bigotry and BICEPS's eternal arrogance).
P.S. I see no problem in 'lumping together' a few of the heterodox greats that I have widely read and admire.
P.P.S. What's wrong with the term "advanced calculus"? Or, perhaps, you wouldn't agree that's there's too much of it in the mainstream economics. May I suggest Friedrich von Hayek's classic "Pretence of Knowledge" on this issue.

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V Dombrovsky 29.09.2009 09:02
Morten Hansen just jumped in with a very good post in his Diena blog: http://new.diena.lv/lat/business/blog/morten_hansen/michael-...

Also, Jeffrey Sommers of RTFL wrote a pretty good (and balanced) reply on the parallel 'English' version of this blog:
http://www.politika.lv/blogi/index.php?id=61572&&stp=1#cp138...

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B > The Heterodox Economist 29.09.2009 04:18
Wow, everyone is having fun being snobbish and discussing personalities, I wanna do it too!

It's quite obvious that you are an undergrad student:

1. Aggressive tone with few logical arguments
2. Familiarity with economic discipline at the level of "I've heard this name somewhere", as exemplified by your lumping together of Stiglitz, Solow, Wallerstein, etc. (what the hell do they have in common?) and by rather weird claims about what a top journal is.
3. Use of the phrase "advanced calculus" in an earlier post - this sounds like "advanced arithmetics".

Also, there are reasons to believe that you are studying at SSE Riga:

1. Use of the word "bullshit" in a Latvian text in the first post. That's just so SSER!
2. Use of names (Slava and Alf). Why would an outsider do that, huh?

Doesn't take M. Poirot to figure that out.

Don't want to be too mean, in a way it's cool to finally have some people at SSER who are outside the business school mentality - and SSER is IMHO actually to the right of mainstream in economics. But personal insults are not the way to go. Revolution needs anger and energy, but it also needs reason and sound tactics!

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Glassie 29.09.2009 00:47
Yes they are, aren't they? :))

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The Heterodox Economist > V Dombrovsky 28.09.2009 21:03
What amount of arrogance does it take respond to criticism by degrading its author to the level of "one of my students here at the school" who "fall(s) so easily for grand conspiracy theories"? Also, what arrogance does it take to say "all you've seen so far is M. Hudson"? Do you actually know what I have or have not seen, or is it just your narcisstic approach?
And, yeah, Andre Gunder Frank, Giovanni Arrighi, Ha-Joon Chang, Robert Brenner, Peter Gowan, Immanuel Wallerstein, Robert Solow, Mark Blaug and (earlier mentioned) Joe Stiglitz are probably all just a bunch of conspiracy theorists...

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P-P! 28.09.2009 20:54
And what would you want to introduce in addition to current "nekustamā īpašuma" tax (what, besides living area and all exemptions, is there left to tax)?

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B 28.09.2009 20:35
Well, to be fair, not everyone who doesn't think markets are always right or who criticizes IMF & WB is a Marxist. For example, Stiglitz is not.

Hudson is, of course, no Stiglitz (our heterodox friend should know that Journal of Economic Studies and The International Economy are not considered top journals by anyone in the field). This is a random guy from a random university who only became noted in Latvia because Latvia is not exactly a world center of economic research. But whom else can we expect? If Hudson et al keep working on their ideas, some real left wing may even begin to emerge. So we'll have more fun, which is a good thing. Debout, les damnés de la terre!

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NG 28.09.2009 18:43
" The message developed by Mr. Hudson is simple and attractive to the masses - as Bolsheviks' ideas, no doubt, were in 1917."

If we were to look more closely at all the messages conveyed by certain political parties in Latvia, such as LPP and TP, lately, it would be easy to notice that the discrepancy between word and action is stressed even more by the fact that they basically speak things that are appealing to the ordinary voter (as Šlesers does) or to their own supporters (in the arrogant case of TP).

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V Dombrovsky --> P-P! 28.09.2009 18:40
The full burden of tax incidence in case of land tax is on the land-owners. According to standard tax analysis, they can't pass on the tax burden to the buyers. In case of real estate tax it's a bit more complicated - but the incidence is largely on current owners of real estate. Then there is a negative effect on real estate development however, as developers would ask for higher prices to invest.

As to timing, why not now? There is very little risk that such a legislation will push the economy into a recession (we're there already) :)

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P-P! 28.09.2009 18:36
If the property/land taxes are supposed to work against raising asset prices during boom, what is the purpose of introducing them when the bubble has popped - to drive asset prices even lower? Who will incure those losses?

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V Dombrovsky --> Heterodox E. 28.09.2009 17:45
I will remember this day: it's the first time I got some hate-comments. Given such a milestone, I will reply. First, thanks for pointing to my shortage of publications, but it doesn't really change anything. First, I never positioned myself as a "distinguished professor", a "star", or something like this. Second, it does not change the fact that Mr. Hudson's professional publishing record (in mainstream) is not very impressive for a "star".

Next, regarding labeling my opponents "Marxists" and, therefore, shutting them out. Somehow, you overlooked that Mr. Hudson labeled his opponents as being in "neo-liberal junk economics", "free-market Bolsheviks", etc. OK, you might say I should have adhered to a higher standard of discussion, but I don't want anyone to have an impression I can't use their weapons of choice as well. Besides, it is my personal evaluation of Mr. Hudson's world views, whether you like this or not.

In the future, however, please don't bother me (or others) if all you want to say is what a big jerk I am. Or, if you do, be open about it - i.e. state your name, or just tell it to me in person (doing this after you graduate is ok though). Also, you probably don't need my advice but still… You're obviously quite young (and probably one of my students here at the school) and its perfectly understandable that you fall so easily for grand conspiracy theories. Yet, if I were you I wouldn't jump to conclusions about "intellectually degraded economics mainstream". There are lots of impressive people there (they're not in Latvia, unfortunately) but all you've seen so far is M. Hudson. That's a pity.

Also, do be careful with how you read JSTOR. Hudson never published in Journal of Economic Literature. You're confusing someone's review (actually, a pretty positive one!) of Hudson's book for a publication. I couldn't find these other articles you're referring to either.

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The Heterodox Economist 28.09.2009 17:31
Why don't you, Mr. Detective, lead by example and 'take the courage' of revealing your own real name? Perhaps, Ms.Elizabeth would then follow suit too. And whad'ya know, maybe I follow too.
P.S. My name is definitely not Armands Strazds.

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Detektīvs >> heterodox economist 28.09.2009 17:13
vai tik jūs neesiet Armands Strazds, kam nav drosmes diskutēt ar savu īsto vārdu? :)

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Elizabeth > Heterodox Economist 28.09.2009 17:06
Hint: perhaps you should consider using your name when participating in this debate, it would increase chances than you'd be taken seriously.

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Imants Kants 28.09.2009 17:01
Es uzskatu ka pasreizeejajaa situaacijaa internets vairumam ir pieejams. Nebuutu labi soceaalpolitiskaas pseidoparaadiibas paarveerst nestabilos argumentos par stereotipiem valdiibaa. Valdiibu vajag nomainiit!

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NM 28.09.2009 16:02
Labi raksti - tie būtu jāpublicē nozīmīgākā masu medijā.

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boze 28.09.2009 15:55
I agree with economist about this labeling thing. Liberals tend to shut up all their opponents with labels like - marxist, bigot, narrow minded, intolerant.

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The Heterodox Economist 28.09.2009 14:55
Oh, and I forgot to add - what's with the disparagingly arrogant and narcisstic tone, most vividly illustrated by your concluding sentence ("no matter how fundamentally flawed his ideas are, I am sure Mr. Hudson will be more than a match for Latvia's lethargic intellectual 'mainstream")? You must really think that you are some kind of intellectual benchmark here.

I think it is time both you and Alf understood that this exact attitude is part of the reason behind BICEPS's persistent policy irrelevance.

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The Heterodox Economist 28.09.2009 14:38
I agree, Rita. Not that I have let off some emotional steam, I shall be more pragmatic. Let me start with Hudson's credentials. Why don't Dr.Slava run a simple JSTOR scan on "Michael Hudson". That's exactly what I did. And despite the fact that it has never been Hudson's aim, he has indeed published in top 'mainstream' journals. AEA's Journal of Economic Literature (it probably doesn't get more mainstream that this (alongside AER)), Journal of Economic Studies and The International Economy, to name just a few. Quite spectacular for someone who's actually pretty hostile towards economic mainstream. This obviously means that even the mainstream cannot afford to ignore him. By the way, what are your publishing highlights? Baltic Journal of Economics?

Regarding the style of Hudson's paper - of course, it was written in popular language, something that sends shiver down any mainstream economist's spine who is used to the mainstream's favoured research methodology based on the pretentious methods of advanced calculus and econometrics.

P.S. A final not to Rita, please be aware that labelling anyone allegedly leftist a Marxist is the mainstream neoliberals' standard rule of engagement for such any discussion. Does that demonstrate the "ability to form a well-supported argument", as you call it?

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Rita 28.09.2009 14:06
The previous comment by the Heterodox Economist is a wonderful example of the worrying and persistent trend in Latvia's internet discussions: the inability to form a well-supported argument and the passion for personal attacks on the author or fellow internet users. It would be very refreshing if people actually engaged in a discussion about Mr. Hudson's ideas

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The Heterodox Economist 28.09.2009 13:45
Slava, beidz tak atkal liet savu mainstream bullshitu. Tu neesi ne tuvu Maikla svara kategorijai. Un nepaliec smieklīgs te plātoties, ka esi kādu ideju paudis "for better part of the last five years" - Maikls savas idejas pauž jau gandrīz 40 gadus. Un jā, piekrītu, intelektuāli degradētajā ekonomikas mainstreamā Maikls nav 'well-known', toties ārpus tā ir pasaules līmeņa zvaigzne. Tu, savukārt, neesi zvaigzne nekur, pat ne Latvijā.

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