Tonight I'm rocking along to the Centre for Independent Studies Grit in the Oyster seminar.
The blurb for the seminar reads:
In the scientific, political, academic or corporate spheres the spirit of this age rewards conformity.
Dissenting views are silenced, often illiberally. To depart from the consensus is regarded as dangerous in many intellectual circles. Academics who plough an eccentric course are seen as deniers of truth rather than its interrogators.
Yet as John Stuart Mill explained in On Liberty, the freedom to state an opinion that runs against the consensus is a pre-requisite of human progress.
The cycle of changing paradigms that philosopher Thomas Kuhn says assists our quest towards scientific knowledge rely on a scientific method that aims to disprove assumptions rather than reinforce them. Intolerance of eccentricity reinforces groupthink in public and private institutions. The potential for costly mistakes is magnified.
How can contrarians be restored to their proper place in the debate? How can business and political leaders break out of the loop of positive feedback and garner counter intuitive advice?
Just as an oyster needs an irritant to develop a pearl, so irritation in civic debate leads a stronger, more resilient civilization.
Of course the orthodoxy I object to most is neoclassical economics.
In the SMH today Ross Gittins pointed out one of the case studies of the weakness of the orthodoxy - the way that markets never actually reach equilibrium. It is also a great example of how ordinary business decisions are motivated by the herd not rationality - of business leaders not being able to "break out of the loop of positive feedback and garner counter intuitive advice?"
More compelling and complete, of course, is the column by Steve Keen in Business Spectator that notes how the University of Manchester closed down a course in heterodox or pluralist economics. In more detail Keen explains why a neoclassical world view based on atomistic rational agents operating at equilibrium fails. He makes the case for the work of Hyman Minsky saying:
The alternative vision of capitalism -- as fundamentally unstable and monetary -- is as discordant with the Neoclassical vision of equilibrium in a barter economy as Copernicus’s Heliocentric vision was to Ptolemy’s Earth-centric model.
Question - will the CIS contrarians want to talk about neoclassical economics - or just climate science?