[OPE] Chris Harman on the spectre of Keynesianism

From: Jurriaan Bendien (adsl675281@telfort.nl)
Date: Tue May 13 2008 - 14:54:01 EDT

I agree to some extent with this. However, for the prediction of short-term trends, a lot of theory is often unnecessary - just a careful study of empirical trends is often sufficient. But Keynesian theorists failed spectacularly even in forecasting shortterm trends. I studied once what economists forecasted about the economy of 1973-74 and nearly all of them got it wrong, even as regards shortterm forecasts. But since some forecasted spectacularly well, the question arises how that is possible. In my experience, Marxists often assumed that Marx's economic theory has a direct and immediate empirical relevance, when it only described the essence of phenomena, and this results in confusing short-term and long-term tendencies.

However I am not sure if I will be able to complete all that much scientific research in the Netherlands, because getting access to all the literature I require is often difficult and costly. I cannot simply "suck innovative ideas out of my thumb", I need to study carefully what's been done before. Dutch libraries often have unusual collection policies, and it can take months to acquire or find specialist literature I need. To give you a concrete example, I decided that I would donate the Nell/Forstater review copy to the International Institute for Social History (together with other books I no longer use, clogging my shelves) because after all Abba Lerner was a wellknown market socialist, and the Institute has at least four monographs by Lerner in its collection. I have donated many books to libraries in the past, including UVA, IISH and IIRE..

However, the IISH collection specialist decided not to include this book (worth $70-$80 secondhand if you buy from the Internet) in its collection, even although it is not held by any other publicly acessible library in Amsterdam, and I found it back in their sales bin of unwanted books for a few euro. Why would this book - with articles by top economists - not be included in their collection? Given what I know about the contents of their collection, it seems completely arbitrary, or poesis.

For another example - the University of Amsterdam has 2 of Jan Toporowski's books plus one he edited, but not the others. The Free University of Amsterdam, or the University of Utrecht, or the University of Tilburg or Twente have nil. The Erasmus University in Rotterdam has five, the University of Maastricht has four, and the University of Groningen has just one. But why?

In about two-thirds of cases at least, one library in the country does have the text I need, with a possibility of interloan. But there is no rationality in why some libraries have a particular book, and others do not, given that they do "double up" on books by the same author that other libraries already have -  even although they only have some, but not all, works by that author. You cannot simply explain the collection policy in terms of circulation statistics, or collection integration. It has to do simply with acquisitions policy whims.


ope mailing list

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Sat May 31 2008 - 00:00:04 EDT