Piketty #4: Escape from Groupthink

The important point is mainstream economics has difficulty acknowledging work from such sources because to acknowledge is to legitimize. That creates the strange situation in economics whereby something is not thought or known until the right person says it.”

Isn’t that true in any tribe?  It’s not obvious to me how to distinguish, on a day to day basis, when it’s a bad or a good thing.  Though, the list drawn from Group Think isn’t a bad start.

Thomas Palley is suggesting that the economics profession is undergoing a kind of phase change.  That it is comes to grips with the realization that it’s been making many of the mistakes enumerated on that list: Illusion of invulnerability, collective efforts to rationalize, absence of questioning, belief in the the group’s inherent morality, stereotyped views of enemy leaders, direct pressure on any member …, self-censorship, illusion of unanimity, and self-appointed mindguards.

I’m surprised that I’m not aware of any literature, say a cookbook, on how groups escape from the group think.  It’s almost the definition of a group is that it exists to maintain focus; and so the best it can do is drift toward a different focus.  Of course the MBA solution to this problem is leaders, layoffs, reorganizations, and manipulation of incentives – all of which are crude.  And the high-tech version of this is particularly brutal – we let the old firms wither and create new firms from scratch.

I have observed situations where a group slowly loses it’s grip on the consensus delusion.  It only keeps going thru the motions.  The self censorship and mind guards continue to do their work, but it becomes more and more half hearted.  In that context when the layoffs come the level of outrage is tempered.  The group members are then envious of those who jumped ship before the boat’s leaks became so apparent.

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