Mark J. Perry and Wal-Mart: Why They Shouldn’t Get a Nobel Peace Prize

12:14 am in Uncategorized by BrandonJ

Black Friday, Chicago

Once again, we return to the issue of errors in economics — home of incredibly insight arguments and utterly inane contributions. For the latter category, Professor Mark J. Perry takes today’s award for his contribution of stating Wal-Mart should be given the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize “for improving the lives of millions of low-income consumers globally.

I’ll let that sink in.

It seems awfully difficult to grasp Wal-Mart has improved millions of lives, let alone getting the Nobel Peace Prize . It is as if Perry didn’t stop and ponder what he was writing, though he is deluded enough to believe a corporation, a metaphor for our country in terms of inequality, should be given a prize for peace. I am too afraid to even read other pieces by him if he strongly believes in such an idea.

Perry flat-out ignores most of an op-ed by Princeton University Professor Rebekah Peeples Massengill in the Washington Post, which he cites. For instance, he wrote:

Any neutral observer who looks at the significant economic benefits generated by Wal-Mart in terms of everyday low retail prices for groceries, prescription drugs, clothing, and household items that generate billions of dollars in cost savings for low-income Americans, along with millions of job opportunities in cities across America for low-income Americans with above-market compensation and significant advancement opportunities, could only come to one conclusion: Wal-Mart is truly great for low-income Americans.

With anyone in economics, readers should be extremely suspicious of a neo-classical or neo-liberal believer since they build up their case not by facts, but by rhetoric. In the Economics Anti-Textbook, economists Rod Hills and Tonny Myatt discuss the problem of rhetoric in economics:

Of course, in engaging in this gentle art of persuasion, economists use the full range of rhetorical devices. They use analogies (or metaphors), thought experiments, natural experiments, historical precedents and appeal to authority. Moreover [economist Deirdre] McCloskey argues that the official methodology — predictive power and hypothesis testing — is also rhetorical. Such tests are ornamental, designed to give an argument more authority.

Economist Robert Heilboner, also cited in the book, references McCloskey’s work, which talks about rhetoric and economics, and gives his input over it:

What McCloskey wants economists to understand is that the language of formalism and mathematics is still a language, and therefore inescapably ‘rhetorical.’ Moreover, it is a dangerous language in that it conceals the elements of judgment and moral valuations that are an intrinsic part of economics.

This comes back to two concepts — positive economics and normative economics. The former refers to ideas with facts related to them, while the latter refers to how the world ought to be. This must be noted as Perry uses rhetoric to display his version of positive economics, despite rhetoric having root in normative economics.

Yet, why does Perry ignore Massengill when she offers statistical evidence of who really shops at Wal-Mart? She wrote:

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