The Purposes of the American Economic Association (To be published as Front Matter in the upcoming Journal of Transformations, Volume 2, 2013)

By Chandrashekar (Chandra) Tamirisa, (On Twitter) @c_tamirisa

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I had proposed a book thesis to the Library of Congress (LOC) for the Henry A. Kissinger Chair through a faxed application in 2010 from the fax machine of the Industrial Output section of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. My references were two members of Congress from my US State of Maryland whom I had contacted and a former professor of mine. I also sought an introduction to and reference from former Speaker of the US House of Representatives Newt Gingrich, an academic historian by training, whom I had the opportunity of meeting later for his book signing at Mount Vernon in Virginia. The LOC never acknowledged the receipt of my application.

My book proposal was about the calendar, civilization and US foreign policy. I then received in the mail a calendar from the American Economic Association (AEA) with all of its academic stars since its founding in 1885 as if suggesting that the homo sapiens is now superseded by the homo economicus. Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz, working on global development at Columbia’s Earth Institute together with Jeffrey Sachs, gave a keynote in 2010 about homo sapiens and homo economicus at the Allied Social Sciences meetings where Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke defended Fed policy using the Taylor Rule, in my view to his great embarrassment.

I was treated unceremoniously by the Fed forcing me to the leave the institution after it had rejected three technical papers which I had submitted to the Finance and Economics Discussion Series (FEDS) because I was a non-economist staffer. Supposedly, in the judgment of the editors of the AEA journals to which I had later submitted the same papers, I needed a co-author mentor to work with as I was new to the field and had not published before but that my ideas my were of Nobel caliber.

My subsequent treatment was even worse. My IMF economist wife had dispatched me to a mental health institution turning a normal divorce case into a gratuitously acrimonious situation because my aspiration to a Nobel was purportedly delusionary both according to her and the court system that wanted me to get my head checked. The Nobel Committee is aware of this and of my work.

David Colander, a well-known economist, had published several self-reflective papers on the AEA. I had read the founding papers of the Association and its Anglo-Germanic Protestant purpose (in a secular society). It was a R(r)evelation to say the least. Below I present the purposes of the Association from the AEA’s website at with the intent of critiquing them to prove why the AEA is obsolete:

“The purposes of the Association are:

  1. The encouragement of economic research, especially the historical and statistical study of the actual conditions of industrial life.
  2. The issue of publications on economic subjects.
  3. The encouragement of perfect freedom of economic discussion. The Association as such will take no partisan attitude, nor will it commit its members to any position on practical economic questions.”

Elementary economics is about three economic sectors: agriculture, since the beginning of civilization; industrial life, since the advent of the industrial revolution; and services, a growing global sector with agriculture and industrial life as its foundation. Therefore, the first purpose is defeated if economists overextend themselves beyond it, which they routinely do, as if civilization is a neoclassical dynamic general equilibrium with technical change, the source of industrial life, outside that model and beyond the intellectual grasp of the economist.

Homo economicus is a very high aspiration for what otherwise ought to be a profession consumed by industrial statistics at the bottom of the political-economy totem pole of intellectual life. This same critique applies to publications on economic subjects. Neither farming nor the services of economic analysts are pertinent to economic science.

The final purpose has been fully discredited since the end of World War II. John Maynard Keynes, Paul Samuelson and Milton Friedman have raised the profile of economists (along with their wages) by being partisan to guide the political process to answer practical economic questions, when by their very affiliation and purposes it is not the job of economists to make public policy.

The dismal scientists need a new purpose and if they do embrace it they will cease to be economists and economic science is not ready to educate such economists. My recommendation for the Committee at Sweden’s Riksbank, the oldest central bank, therefore, is to end the Economics prize and merge it with the Peace Prize for the applied social sciences and the humanities.


About Chandrashekar (Chandra) Tamirisa
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