Wednesday, March 28, 2012
Europe speaks German ! (# Bruegel: 'Europeans can't blog')
of course in reality it doesn't but that particular title comes to mind when reading one contribution of the 'Bruegel debate' which was brought to the author's attention: (by Dirk Elsner @blicklog)
Wirtschaftsblogs: Europäer können bloggen, aber nicht englisch
(economic blogs: Europeans can blog but not English)
Here are some comments in English and German to Mr Lochmaier's piece:
he wrote: "Es mangele uns quasi an Professionalität und Weisheit. Das wiederum hat zu einer teils bizarren, teils interessanten Debatte geführt, die ich versuche in einen größeren Kontext einzuordnen." "There is practically a lack of professionalism and wisdom. That has led to a partially bizarre , partially interesting debate, which i try to put in a wider context"
Well, it seems he as many others felt somehow offended and by just reading the headline of Bruegel* blog's initial criticism some people missed the point completely: The authors of Bruegel never said there was a 'lack of professionalism and wisdom'. What they wanted to point out that there was a lack of communication/interaction between those fine European economists. Which is something completely different (IMHO they got it right!)
Here as a reminder an excerpt from the initial 'provocation': "European blogs are still very much “unconnected”. That is, they use hyperlinks far less than their American counterparts or do it and in a way that doesn’t create two-way debate." source: bruegel.org
he (Lochmaier) wrote: "Mehr zu einer an sich völlig überflüssigen Wortdebatte auf dem Blicklog:" "More to a in itself completely superfluous word debate on the Blicklog" (He calls it superfluous but nevertheless comments on it< arrogance ?)
it goes on: "Mein Fazit dazu: Die ökonomische Leitlinie wird längst nicht mehr allein in den Wirtschafts- und Finanzmetropolen der USA und Großbritannien gemacht, sondern neuerdings auch in deren (Ex-)Kolonien." "My conclusion therefore: The economic direction is far from being given by the economic and financial centers of the USA and the UK but recently also by their (ex-)colonies."
Hmmm .. what colonies did he have in mind ? Malta (independent from UK 1964) or Cyprus (also from UK, 1960) What US colonies in Europe ?
next: "Es gibt sowas wie einen intellektuellen Neoimperialismus, wie ich dieses soziale Phänomen mal nennen würde. Denn alle Schriften auf Englisch erreichen fast automatisch die ganze Welt, während deutsche Publikationen auf dem “Binnenmarkt” verbleiben." "There is something like an intellectual neoimperialism how i would call this social phenomena. Because a writing in English reach almost automatically the whole world whereas German publications remain on the domestic market."
Hmmm.. he calls it "intellectual neoimperialsm" .. The author here calls it "bad luck" that not that many people on the globe speak German. Maybe it's also good luck, who knows.
next: "Natürlich kann es nur wenige Auserwählte geben, denen die breite Masse dann an den Lippen klebt. Doch braucht es das überhaupt? Dürfen nur die von der göttlichen Gnade ihrer Institutionen Auserkorenen und nach oben gehievten Globalökonomen öffentlich im Netz Ruhm und Ehre einstreichen?" "Of course there can be only a few chosen ones to whom the wide public hangs on every word. But is it needed, after all? Are only the from the divine mercy of their institutions chosen ones and lifted to higher grounds global economists be entitled to collect fame and honor ?"
As with the whole piece he misses the point completely. The point is not to "collect fame and honor", but to discuss on a factual basis economic data or conclusions resulting from economic data. They (authors in general and professors in particular) are not chosen by "divine mercy of their institutions" but they had to merit their academic title by hard study and therefore work and their reputation didn't fall out of the sky either.
omitting some sentences it goes on: "Denn auch die führenden Ökonomen haben ja an der Finanz- und Staatsschuldenkrise intellektuell eifrig am Zerfall mitgearbeitet" "Because the leading economists also have eagerly worked intellectually on the collapse during the financial and sovereign debt crisis"
Well the author here also saw the documentary Inside Job (film) but refrains from concluding that if some economists fail all are to be held responsible. And it is a slight difference between failure/lack of ethical rules and willingly bringing down a financial system. It's usually a not a bad idea to name and shame individuals not to apply 'collective judgment' or even 'collective punishment'.
Mr Lochmair goes on for while with some all to familiar 'economists bashing' before he writes: "Hier kann es Europa jederzeit oberhalb der Augenhöhe mit den vermeintlichen Platzhirschen aufnehmen. Wir können alles, aber kein Englisch!"
"Here Europe can match the supposed top dogs above eye level. We can do everything, but no English!"
Yeah sure we can currently achieve no growth, even have a recession in the eurozone whereas the US matches us German speaking Europeans below eye level with some 3% growth and unemployment levels below eurozone's. We can do everything ..sure even chaining non convergent economies to each other by a common currency. Scuttling the eurozone ? Yes we almost did it. Nothing what we can't do !
a last one: "Ich selbst halte mich von solchen neoimperialistischen Stellvertreter-Debatten entfernt" "I keep myself distanced from such neoimperialistic proxy debates"
Maybe best thing to do....
So coming back to the point which the fine authors of Bruegel's* initial blog entry did try to make which is to enhance communication and interaction between economists across borders (both of states and languages) Mr Lochmaier so far lacks completely of getting the message sent by those three authors*.
When Mr Lochmaier finally arrives at his chapters "Science 2.0 = economy 2.0" and "New facebook world for economists" he has to be asked how those exchanges used by "swarm intelligence" should work, when everyone uses his mother tongue ? Or should all be obliged to use German or Esperanto ? What's wrong with English ?
He mentioned Mr Madish, the co-founder of Researchgate and his achievements in bringing scientists closer together and producing faster scientific results. That's the point: results . Results reached by interaction/cooperation of scientists which is exactly the point also Bruegel's blog* tried to make. But judging from previous text analysis the author here comes to the conclusion that Mr Lochmaier is much more interested in the point that economic knowledge shouldn't remain exclusively in the hands of highly educated economists but "belongs to the people".
His point is more "revolution" when he writes: "Vor allem ist Social Media diesseits wie jenseits des großen Teichs kein Selbstzweck, sondern richtig eingesetzt, ein äußerst produktives Instrument, um überkommene weil ineffizient Wertschöpfungsketten aufzubrechen, die sich nur selbst beweihräuchern." "Most of all social media this side as across the big pond (The Atlantic ocean) is no self purpose but properly applied a utmost productive instrument to break open outdated because inefficient value-added chains which are only clapping themselves on the shoulder."
Here again it is much less about results which can be achieved quicker or which may be more accurate but the emphasis seems more to be the destruction of "old structures". Initially it was assumed that Mr Lochmaier's "missionary attitute" was somehow inspired by the political left but a quick search for his educational roots (mentioned in his cv) resulted in an catholic institution for publishing
That might explain the very different approach to economy between Mr Lochmaier and the author here. As the slogan "the realist on economy" shows already a rather pragmatic, unideological approach to the economy. Everything what works is fine, no need for revolution or questioning the existing economists or their educational background. Just a somewhat better coordination, a better use of existing tools in order to achieve sustainability and wealth.
And we certainly don't need to use prejudices and perhaps too far reaching assumptions upon respected members of economic science like Mr Sinn.
Mr Lochmaier writes: "Dazu braucht es aber keine neuen Helden, wie etwa einen alt gedienten deutschen Ökonomieprofessor Hans-Werner Sinn, der sich weder für die neue Welt von Social Media interessiert, noch dass derartige Vertreter die Klaviatur der sozialen Meiden überhaupt beherrschen. Wir brauchen nicht nur ein Facebook für Wissenschaftler, sondern viele kleine offene Netzwerke für die Ökonomie nach dem blinden Wachstumszeitalter." "Thefore there is no need for new heros, like a veteran German econ professor Hans-Werner Sinn, who is neither interested in social media, nor that such representatives know how to handle the keyboard of social media at all. Not only that we need a Facebook for scientists but many small and open networks for economy after the blind growth age. "
Well leaving aside the wrong assumption that an age of growth has ever been blind it is at least unscientific (to put it mildly) to assume that professor Sinn shares no interest in new technological developments like social media when we can't produce a citation to prove this. Even if there was a remark issued by Mr Sinn which shows his lack of interest in social media then it doesn't automatically apply to all his colleagues !
Leaving aside the rather unfactual parts of his pledge to use more 'swarm intelligence' it can be useful to pick some ideas from 'outside' which offer a more optimized version of existing economic models. So different people from different backgrounds can contribute to a common goal which is to strengthen our economies. But as the author here stressed before there is no revolution needed just an adjustment of already existing and mostly proven models. It's all about how to optimize by combining ideas which need to be exchanged best in one language everyone involved understands and not about taking the existing highly qualified persons 'out of the loop' because the masses demand it. We do have some historic examples where such a desire to overthrow the existing structures ended up in total failure ;-)
* = Authors: Jérémie Cohen-Setton, Martin Kessler, Shahin Vallée