Macroeconomic Theory Must Be Independent of Human Psychology and Anthropology

Textbooks must present a theory of macroeconomics independent of human psychology and anthropology.

A theory of macroeconomic dynamics is constituted by laws which are conceptually prior to and more fundamental than psychological categories such as utility, time preference, rational expectations, and irrational behaviorism.  The theory will present the laws and norms to which human psychology must adapt.

Accounting is an exercise within common sense.  As such, it is descriptive rather than explanatory, and psychological rather than scientific.

An ‘accountant’s unity’… is a category used in (conventional) accounting.  For Lonergan, (conventional) accounting generally denotes an enterprise within common sense which uses descriptive, as contrasted with explanatory terms (on these terms see CWL 3, 37-38/61-62, 178-79/201-3, 247-48/272-73).  Insofar as that is true, the accountant’s unity is not an adequate index for the normative, explanatory analysis of the productive process. [CWL 15, 26, ftnt 26]

In Lonergan’s circulation analysis, the basic terms are rates– rates of productive activities and rates of payments.  The objective of the analysis is to discover the underlying intelligible and dynamic (accelerative) network of functional, mutually conditioning, and interdependent relationships of these rates to one another.  [CWL 15  26-27 ftnt 27]

Robinson and Eatwell clearheadedly settle on the dynamic bank but their classical baggage of social relations, expectations, profits, wages, prices, etc. hamper their analysis considerably.  It is as if, to use a point already noted from an early manuscript of Lonergan, one attempted to study the performance of the motor car in a manner that included the psychology of derivers, good and bad.  Lonergan’s strategy, on the other hand, is to focus on the car, to look under the bonnet, to seek the rhythms of the engine, to study the mechanics of motor cars in order to find premises for a criticism of drivers, “precisely because the motor cars, as distinct from the drivers, have laws of their own which drivers must respect.” [McShane 1980, 101, 116]

A study of the mechanics of motor-cars yields premises for a criticism of drivers, precisely because the motor-cars, as distinct from the drivers, have laws of their own which drivers must respect.  But if the mechanics of motors included, in a single piece, the anthropology of drivers, criticism could be no more than haphazard. [1] [CWL 21, 109]

The viewpoint of those chapters (Book 2, chapters 1-4) of (Robinson and Eatwell’s) An Introduction to Modern Economics in which we are particularly interested is succinctly expressed by the opening paragraph of chapter two: “The foregoing analysis was designed to illustrate the importance of social relations in the process of production.  Even in the simple agrarian economy, social relations were seen to dominate the way in which production was carried on and the product distributed. … Attention here (i.e. in Robinson and Eatwell’s chapters) is clearly distracted from the structure of the productive process by an equivalent to the psychology of drivers, so that when the structure of the process shows through, it does so without analytic bite. [McShane 1980, 116-117]

our inquiry differs radically from traditional economics, in which the ultimate premises are not production and exchange but rather exchange and self-interest, or later, exchange and a vaguely defined psychological situation. Our aim is to prescind from human psychology that, in the first place, we may define the objective situation with which man has to deal, and, in the second place, define the psychological attitude that has to be adopted if man is to deal successfully with economic problems.  Thus something of a Copernican revolution is attempted: instead of taking man as he is or as he may be thought to be and from that deducing what economic phenomena are going to be, we take the exchange process in its greatest generality and attempt to deduce the human adaptations necessary for survival. [CWL 21,42- 43]

[1]Haphazard means marked by lack of plan, order, or direction (Webster)