Friday, April 11, 2008

Surely you're joking, Mr. Nadeau

George Mason University environmental science professor Robert Nadeau has a very strange article up at Scientific American magazine.
[T]he mathematical theories used by mainstream economists are predicated on the following unscientific assumptions:
  • The market system is a closed circular flow between production and consumption, with no inlets or outlets.
  • Natural resources exist in a domain that is separate and distinct from a closed market system, and the economic value of these resources can be determined only by the dynamics that operate within this system.
  • The costs of damage to the external natural environment by economic activities must be treated as costs that lie outside the closed market system or as costs that cannot be included in the pricing mechanisms that operate within the system.
  • The external resources of nature are largely inexhaustible, and those that are not can be replaced by other resources or by technologies that minimize the use of the exhaustible resources or that rely on other resources.
  • There are no biophysical limits to the growth of market systems.

He goes on to argue that Economics is not therefore a serious science and we can ignore all that economists have to say about, for example, the environmental crisis.

Apart from noting that I have heard a more coherent critique of economic theory by Ali G, I have only one thing to say to Mr. Nadeau. Read a book, sir. Read a book.

(Hat tip: Reason's Hit and Run Blog.)

6 Comments:

Blogger Ashutosh said...

I am a subscriber to Sci Am and I can say that 50% of the articles are worth reading, 30% are average quality, and 20% are total hype and crap. This article seems to belong to that last category.

7:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Despite his claims (which amount to academic fraud), it is easy to verify that Nadeau isn't an environmental science professor, he's an English professor at GMU. Which solves the mystery of how he manages to so utterly misunderstand basic economics, but not the mystery of why Scientific American would publish his sophomoric musings.

4:40 PM  
Blogger Kunal said...

Yeah, I saw that GMU's English Department Page lists him as part of that faculty, but I figured that if Scientific American magazine thinks he's an environmental scientist, he probably is. He seems to have written a bunch of stuff on the history of science and the environment. Of course, if all his interdisciplinary work is like this article, well, then maybe he should stick to deconstructing I, Rigoberta Menchu.

8:06 PM  
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