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Lars Pålsson Syll

Lars Pålsson Syll

Professor at Malmö University. Primary research interest - the philosophy, history and methodology of economics.

Articles by Lars Pålsson Syll

Why does someone have to die?

2 days ago

Why does someone have to die?

Till minnet av min vän Bengt Nilsson.
Det gör fortfarande — efter två år — ont.
Det känns ofta — som du brukade säga — ‘förtvivlat.’
Men jag minns också — skratten, glädjen, omtanken, den mäktiga intelligensen, den drastiska humorn, det starka sociala patoset.
Livet går vidare, men kommer alltid att vara lite gråare, lite tristare, utan dig min käre vän.
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Public debt — how much is too much?

2 days ago

Public debt — how much is too much?

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Public debt is normally nothing to fear, especially if it is financed within the country itself (but even foreign loans can be beneficent for the economy if invested in the right way). Some members of society hold bonds and earn interest on them, while others pay taxes that ultimately pay the interest on the debt. The debt is not a net burden for society as a whole since the debt ‘cancels’ itself out between the two groups. If the state issues bonds at a low-interest rate, unemployment can be reduced without necessarily resulting in strong inflationary pressure. And the

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Le ragioni del “No” all’euro: l’esempio della Svezia

2 days ago

Le ragioni del “No” all’euro: l’esempio della Svezia

Per Lars Pålsson Syll l’eurozona non è mai stata in grado di mostrare significativi aumenti a livello di crescita economica dalla sua creazione, ed anzi non ha fatto che accentuare i problemi che in alcuni casi, vedi Grecia, hanno portato a dei veri e propri disastri.
Uno degli argomenti portati a favore dell’euro era che, in caso di adesione, ci sarebbe stata una convergenza a lungo termine in termini di risultati economici come crescita, occupazione, inflazione e debito pubblico. Oggi possiamo vedere che le differenze non solo sono rimaste, ma si sono addirittura intensificate.
D’altronde non vi è nulla di cui rimanere sorpresi: rinunciando alla propria valuta si rinuncia di fatto alla possibilità di

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Frankrikes sak är vår

3 days ago

Frankrikes sak är vår

En lärare i historia och geografi i en av Paris förorter är det senaste offret för en terrorism med globala ambitioner. Läraren hade undervisat om yttrandefrihet och i detta syfte på en lektion i början av oktober visat magasinet Charlie Hebdos karikatyrteckningar av profeten Muhammed …
Militanta islamister i stater och terrororganisationer har visat sig beredda att mörda för att tysta kritik mot deras tro varhelst i världen den förekommer. Detta har varit ett västligt trauma ända sedan fatwan mot författaren Salman Rushdie och hans bok ”Satansverserna” 1989 …
Så länge det inte är fritt fram i Europa att kritisera och håna också islams heliga figurer kommer självcensur att råda och oskyldiga människors blod att flyta. Därför är

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Rom i regnet (personal)

3 days ago

Rom i regnet (personal)

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Till Anna — som fick mig att överleva tre långa gymnasieår på Linnéskolan. Och till Ulf — som skriver den sorts musik som glömskan inte rår på.

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Le consentement

4 days ago

A paedophile writer is on trial in France. And so are a bunch of the most celebrated French ‘intellectuals.’ MeToo has finally reached France. That’s good news.
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Jean-Paul Sartre, Roland Barthes, Simone de Beauvoir, Gilles et Fanny Deleuze … Jack Lang … André Glucksmann, et bien d’autres encore; tous font partie des 69 intellectuels français qui, aux côtés de l’écrivain Gabriel Matzneff … ont signé une tribune publiée le 26 janvier 1977. D’abord dans Le Monde puis dans Libération pour défendre trois hommes incarcérés depuis plus de trois ans pour avoir abusé sexuellement de mineurs de moins de 15 ans.
‘Trois ans de prison pour des caresses et des baisers, cela suffit !’ écrivaient les signataires.
Ils demandaient la relaxe des trois hommes au prétexte que

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Jealous guy

4 days ago

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Fragile

5 days ago

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Truth and science

5 days ago

In my view, scientific theories are not to be considered ‘true’ or ‘false.’ In constructing such a theory, we are not trying to get at the truth, or even to approximate to it: rather, we are trying to organize our thoughts and observations in a useful manner.
Robert Aumann

What a handy view of science.
How reassuring for all of you who have always thought that believing in the tooth fairy make you understand what happens to kids’ teeth. Now a ‘Nobel prize’ winning economist tells you that if there are such things as tooth fairies or not doesn’t really matter. Scientific theories are not about what is true or false, but whether ‘they enable us to organize and understand our observations’ …
Mirabile dictu!
What Aumann and other defenders of scientific storytelling

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Le prix Nobel d’économie 2020

8 days ago

Le prix de la Banque de Suède en mémoire d’Alfred Nobel décerné lundi 12 octobre aux deux économistes américains Paul Milgrom (72 ans) et Robert Wilson (83 ans) renoue avec la tendance majoritaire des attributions du « prix Nobel d’économie » depuis sa création, en 1969 : le couronnement d’une longue carrière d’économistes, le plus souvent nord-américains, vouée à l’élaboration de modèles théoriques d’amélioration du fonctionnement des marchés dans le sens d’une plus grande rationalité …
Pour ce faire, Paul Milgrom a proposé avec Robert Weber dans un article fondateur de 1982 d’analyser le fonctionnement des marchés d’enchères, dont les œuvres d’art, les timbres-poste et les bouteilles de vin étaient plutôt jusqu’alors les produits de prédilection. Car précisément, comment

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Dark Waters

9 days ago

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Great movie. Just watch it.

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Fascism

11 days ago

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Adorno knew Trump was coming …

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Die Übernahme

11 days ago

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Who lights the stars?

12 days ago

Who lights the stars?

Thirty-one years ago. A newly wedded couple celebrating in front of the church in Jönköping where the act took place.
People say time heals all wounds.
I wish that was true.
But some wounds never heal. Even after twenty-seven years you just have to learn to live with the scars.
In memory of Kristina Syll — beloved wife and mother of David and Tora.
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Studying economics — a total waste of time

13 days ago

Studying economics — a total waste of time

One may perhaps, distinguish between obscure writers and obscurantist writers. The former aim at truth, but do not respect the norms for arriving at truth, such as focusing on causality, acting as the Devil’s Advocate, and generating falsifiable hypotheses. The latter do not aim at truth, and often scorn the very idea that there is such a thing as the truth …
These writings have in common a somewhat uncanny combination of mathematical sophistication on the one hand and conceptual naiveté and empirical sloppiness on the other. The mathematics, which could have been a tool, is little more than toy … Hard obscurantist models, too, may have some value as tools, but mostly they are toys.
Jon Elster

It’s hard not to

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Economics education needs a revolution

14 days ago

Economics education needs a revolution

You ask me what all idiosyncrasy is in philosophers? … For instance their lack of the historical sense, their hatred even of the idea of Becoming, their Egyptianism. They imagine that they do honour to a thing by divorcing it from history sub specie æterni—when they make a mummy of it.
Friedrich Nietzsche

Nowadays there is almost no place whatsoever in economics education for courses in the history of economic thought and economic methodology. This is deeply worrying. History and methodology matter! A science that doesn’t self-reflect on its own history and asks important methodological and science-theoretical questions about the own activity, is a science in dire straits.

How did we end up in this sad

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Inference to the best explanation

14 days ago

Inference to the best explanation

One of the few statisticians that I have on my blogroll is Andrew Gelman.  Although not sharing his Bayesian leanings, yours truly finds  his open-minded, thought-provoking and non-dogmatic statistical thinking highly recommendable. The plaidoyer infra for  “reverse causal questioning” is typical Gelmanian:
When statistical and econometrc methodologists write about causal inference, they generally focus on forward causal questions. We are taught to answer questions of the type “What if?”, rather than “Why?” Following the work by Rubin (1977) causal questions are typically framed in terms of manipulations: if x were changed by one unit, how much would y be expected to change? But reverse causal questions are important

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Wage rigidities and men in yellow hats

15 days ago

Wage rigidities and men in yellow hats

It seems reasonable to hope that a successful explanation of wage rigidity would contribute to understanding the extent of the welfare loss associated with unemployment and what can be done to reduce it … Many theories of wage rigidity and unemployment include partial answers to these questions as part of their assumptions, so that the phenomena of real interest are described in the theories’ assumptions. For instance, Lucas concludes that increased unemployment during recessions implies little welfare loss … Lucas’s policy conclusions are not strongly supported …
A fanciful example may illustrate the danger of taking too narrow a view of instrumentalism. You are an explorer seeking contact with the Dafs, an

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Modern macroeconomics — theory based on misleading illusions

15 days ago

Modern macroeconomics — theory based on misleading illusions

Standard new Keynesian macroeconomics essentially abstracts away from most of what is important in macroeconomics. To an even greater extent, this is true of the dynamic stochastic general equilibrium (DSGE) models that are the workhorse of central bank staffs and much practically oriented academic work.
Why? New Keynesian models imply that stabilization policies cannot affect the average level of output over time and that the only effect policy can have is on the amplitude of economic fluctuations, not on the level of output. This assumption is problematic at a number of levels …
As macroeconomics was transformed in response to the Depression of the 1930s and the inflation of the 1970s,

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Economics — an egregious case of theory denialism

16 days ago

Economics — an egregious case of theory denialism

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Using formal mathematical modelling, mainstream economists sure can guarantee that the conclusions hold given the assumptions. However the validity we get in abstract model-worlds does not warrantly transfer to real-world economies. Validity may be good, but it isn’t — as Nancy Cartwright so eloquently argues — enough. From a realist perspective, both relevance and soundness are sine qua non.
In their search for validity, rigour and precision, mainstream macro modellers of various ilks construct microfounded DSGE models that standardly assume rational expectations, Walrasian market clearing, unique equilibria, time invariance, linear separability and homogeneity of both inputs/outputs

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DSGE macroeconomic models

16 days ago

While one can understand that some of the elements in DSGE models seem to appeal to Keynesians at first sight, after closer examination, these models are in fundamental contradiction to Post-Keynesian and even traditional Keynesian thinking. The DSGE model is a model in which output is determined in the labour market as in New Classical models and in which aggregate demand plays only a very secondary role, even in the short run.
In addition, given the fundamental philosophical problems presented for the use of DSGE models for policy simulation, namely the fact that a number of parameters used have completely implausible magnitudes and that the degree of freedom for different parameters is so large that DSGE models with fundamentally different parametrization (and therefore

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Robert Boyer sur le capitalisme et la pandémie

18 days ago

Robert Boyer sur le capitalisme et la pandémie

Pour qualifier la crise que nous traversons, les économistes oscillent entre « crise sans précédent », « récession la plus grave depuis 1929 », ou encore « troisième crise du siècle » – après celles des subprimes de 2008 et de l’euro en 2010. Qu’en pensez-vous ?

Le terme de « récession » s’applique au moment où un cycle économique, arrivé à une certaine étape, se retourne pour des raisons endogènes – ce qui suppose que l’étape suivante sera mécaniquement la reprise, également pour des raisons endogènes, avec un retour à l’état antérieur. Or il ne s’agit pas ici d’une récession, mais d’une décision prise par les instances politiques de suspendre toute activité économique qui ne soit pas indispensable à la

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Revealed preference theory — much ado about almost nothing

19 days ago

Revealed preference theory — much ado about almost nothing

Twenty-seven years ago yours truly wrote an article on revealed preference theory that got published in History of Political Economy (no. 25, 1993).
Paul Samuelson wrote a kind letter and informed me that he was the one who had recommended it for publication. But although he liked a lot in it, he also wrote a comment — published in the same volume of HOPE — saying:
Between 1938 and 1947, and since then as Pålsson Syll points out, I have been scrupulously careful not to claim for revealed preference theory novelties and advantages it does not merit. But Pålsson Syll’s readers must not believe that it was all redundant fuss about not very much.
Notwithstanding Samuelson’s comment, I do still think

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Game theory — theory with little substantive content

19 days ago

Game theory — theory with little substantive content

I don’t see that we are even entitled to assume that reality accords to some model that humans are able to envisage … To say that Pandora knows what decision model she is facing can therefore be taken as meaning no more than that she is committed to proceeding as though her model were true …
The price of abandoning psychology for revealed-preference theory is therefore high. We have to give up any pretension to be offering a causal explanation of Pandora’s choice behavior in favour of an account that is merely a description of the choice behavior of someone who chooses consistently. Our reward [sic!] is that we end up with a theory that is hard to criticise because it has little substantive content.

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