RE: [OPE] estimating the severity and duration of a capitalist economic crisis

Date: Sat Mar 29 2008 - 14:09:28 EDT

One thing that attracts me to Marx and the better Marxian research traditions is precisely their track record of successful socio-economic predictions. Of course it is also true that Marxian thought attracts many prophesying dilletantes with skimpy knowledge, who venture to surprise the world with a few bold forecasts they just shake out of their sleeve. 
 At the beginning of the 1960s, both Milton Friedman and Ernest Mandel predicted that the long boom would end as the 1960s drew to a close, and they explained why they thought that, namely near-full employment was not compatible with price stability in the long term. That was a successful longterm prediction. In the social sciences, generally you can make few accurate and useful predictions of events beyond 5-10 years, although you can forecast some long-range tendencies which follow from a particular social structure or demographic structure.
Hi Jurriaan:
I think that Marxians are pretty good at predicting long-term
economic trends for capitalism. They are not very good at all
at predicting short- to medium-term macro trends, including
estimations of timing and severity. 
Marxians are pretty good at predicting firm activity on the
production / cost side but are less good at predicting 
circulation /demand. Business may have a decent record 
re the latter (at least during periods of relative 
market and macro stability). because (as you point out)
it's part of their business.
As for demographic projections, I think that Marxians 
have been pretty good at projecting long-term 
demographic shifts (e.g. from the countryside to 
urban areas; international migration) but not so good 
at projecting much else having to do with demography. 
(general comment, not responding to you, Jurriaan):
On another list, someone wrote yesterday:
"Timing in 'economics' and also in the critique of 
political economy is a fool's game past a certain 
point. So what? We predict the demise of the
patient, but can't predict the date of the demise.
So what?"
To which my response would be: you can predict
the demise of a patient. So what? All class 
societies and modes of production will eventually
die. If that's all you can say, then that's precious
little and you run the risk of being a Marxian 
Chicken Little. Even if we can't predict  
exact dates we should be able to make statements 
which are verifiable or not. If you say that _eventually_
there will be a major economic crisis then you have 
basically said nothing and also inoculated yourself
from criticism since you can say "just wait....".
In solidarity, Jerry

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