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What is heterodox economics?

Danilo Albán Romero.

The conception of viewing economic science as a discipline where the ideological debate transcends only from a binarism of ideas that discuss whether the implementation of economic models must be capitalist or socialist, not only that it is a misconception from any point that is analyzed, but in turn shows little knowledge of economic theory, and is usually used by demagogue politicians or economists who try to minimize the opinions of their opponents, assimilating them with the economic policy decisions that were made in the worst economic disasters caused by both socialist and capitalist models.

This misconception about what the economic debate is, is crossed mainly by the vector of politics, which usually has led us to a dual discussion about whether the political model that the government should implement should be left-wing or right-wing. But the reality is that in contrast to the aforementioned, economics is such a complex discipline, that its debate cannot be cornered to such simplistic phrases as in economics there are only two ways of doing things "well or wrong", because the reality is that in economics there are many ways of doing things well, and many ways of doing things wrong, and although this seems redundant or similar to the initial, it is not.

Exactly that binary vision of the economy, used generally by economists who want to pretend an intellectual superiority with the objective of convincing the society that the economy is a hard science and that anything that moves away from the opinions of them is pure ideology, it is the vision that has led the teaching of the foundations of economic theory in universities during the undergraduate course to be dogmatic and unquestionable. Although it must be recognized that since John M. Keynes in 1936 exposed his "General Theory of employment, interest and money" there has been a high debate in the field of macroeconomics about state intervention, in the other fields the debate practically does not exist, especially in the microeconomics, where the postulates are taught as a single gospel.

The "accepted debate" (as I call it) that exists mainly in the field of macroeconomics, is what is known in the academic community as the mainstream, and covers only the contrast of neoclassical economics and the Keynesian neoclassical synthesis (also known as neo-Keynesian economics). Note the reader that both schools have the word "neoclassical" in their name, do you think there can be a real debate with high level of questioning, when both positions have literally the same word in their name? Of course not.

Although neoclassicals and neo-Keynesians debates all the time in conferences and writings about economic policy, the debate is not really deep but rather superficial, given that the foundations of both schools lie in two fundamental assumptions of neoclassical theory: the behavior of the economic agent (rationality and optimization) and the assumption of market equilibrium.

But just as there exists the mainstream, there are also numerous other schools that have proposed to demolish neoclassical assumptions to give a more realistic view of economic theory. Thus, what is known as heterodox economics is born, a pluralist vision of the economy that seeks to enrich the economic debate to escape from the unique vision to which we have been accustomed. Heterodox comes from the Greek words heteros (different) and doxa (opinion), and at least in the field of economics, it is precisely that which pursues: different opinions.

Heterodox economics is generally signaled by the mainstream as a set of ideological visions of economics, which is weakly sustainable given that heterodox schools such as the post-Keynesian one, have devoted themselves to developing technical theory based on realistic assumptions and with empirical verification. Likewise, certain orthodox economists (more politicians than economists) with the desire to discredit heterodox economists, often try to associate them with socialism, which is absolutely false. Although within the heterodox approach is the Marxist school, the vast majority of heterodox schools have as their main objective to understand and theorize the functioning of the capitalist economic system, in order to implement economic policies that adjust to reality and not to erroneous assumptions of neoclassical theory. If heterodox visions such as the Schumpeterian evolutionary, support cooperation mechanisms between the public and private sectors to promote innovation, technology, productivity and competitiveness, then, is it socialism to support private production using public resources? Of course not, and therefore the arguments of certain right-wing politicians are nothing but pure demagoguery.

Heterodox economics today is more valid than ever. The failures of the misunderstanding of capitalism have made Nobel prizes, university professors, researchers and the undergraduates themselves, question the teaching of economics in universities. Student movements such as Rethinking Economics today are going around the world, claiming for a more pluralistic education in universities. The challenge is hard, because when sciences are crossed by factors outside the scientific method such as religion and politics, the search for truth gets complicated and hindered. Such is the case of astronomy, which although the heliocentric theory was born in 1543 with the publication of the book "De revolutionibus orbium coelestium" by Nicolaus Copernicus, it was not until 1757 that the theory was accepted by the Catholic Church, after a long fight between Galileo Galilei (who did not see the acceptance of his work, since he died in 1642) and the biblical beliefs that the earth was the center of the universe. Economics today is a pre-Copernicus science, but it has several detractors of the mainstream around the world, which have metaphorically introduced themselves in the character of Galileo Galilei, and are willing to fight against all adversity for the search of truth. This is just starting.

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