The Corner

What Is Masonomics?

While there is much debate these days about the current state of macroeconomics (among other places here and here), there is also a debate going on among George Mason University economists about what Masonomics is about, if anything. Does it mean anything to study and teach economics at George Mason University? And if so, what is it?

There is no doubt that George Mason University is a very special place. Where can you find such a high quality of economists and scholars, almost all of them, united in the fight for freedom and the pursuit of ideas, engaged in academic and policy research? Mason counts economists like Peter Boettke (Austrian Economists), Tyler Cowen (Marginal Revolution), Bryan Caplan (econ Log), Alex Tabarrok (Marginal Revolution), Robin Hanson (Overcoming Bias), Dan Klein (Econ Watch Journal), Thomas Stratman, Don Boudreaux (Cafe Hayek), Russ Roberts (Cafe Hayek) and more. George Mason University also shelters nonprofits like the Institute for Humane Studies and the Mercatus Center. For sure, all these people are different, and yet, so similar. How?

So yesterday, Tyler Cowen tried to answer this question during a lunch talk. This morning Arnold Kling reported on Tyler’s comments.

Six attributes of Masonomics:

1. Signalling and self-deception

2. _____ and neuroeconomics

3. Markets always fail

4. Politics is not about policy

5. cultural relativism

6. Try to connect economics to life. As a researcher, you want your research to influence your own opinions and approach to life.

And because Mason is this kind of place, this afternoon, Pete Boettke responds to both Cowen and Kling with an open letter. His response is worth reading for anyone who is engaged in the fight against big government and engaged in the fight for freedom. A small piece:

Yes, Tyler signaling and self-deception abound, but one must always remember that when we talk about signals we also have to talk about not only noise, but also interpretation of the signal. Informational signals are sent, but interpretation and judgement is required to turn that information into knowledge.  Finally, with respect to the claims being made, we have to remember that much of the claim to a unique Masonomics as laid out in the lecture were worked out not in scientific journals, but in blogs and in conversations, etc. We are not talking about unique and significant contributions to the “republic of science” that have met the tests of plausibility and intrinsic value before the declaration of originality can be made. Some of the points have met that test, others have not. Truth in advertising might require that a distinction should be made. Economics is both a public intellectual arena and a scientific discipline. Economics science is advanced within the discipline, not in Washington, or in newspapers, nor in blogs — no matter how interesting the conversation may be.

Also it’s a must read piece for anyone who wants to learn about the impressive intellectual tradition of George Mason University. And the debate goes on.

Veronique de Rugy is a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.

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