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Another misspelling: Gerald Debreu, in seven places (should be Gerard).

This article manages to misrepresent electromagnetics and economics, my main two interests.

Helmholtz was Hermann von Helmholtz not van. He was German not Dutch.

Since this is environmentalists we're talking about though I expect they'll believe everything they read in that entry.

Another misspelling--one that suggests he's listening to too much of the Beatles, specifically, "I Am the Walrus." He spells "Walras" as "Walrus."

Professor Nadeau should withdraw the essay.

Prof. Rizzo is too kind. GMU should withdraw Nadeau.

Even his bio is not quite right. He is a professor of English.

No affiliation with env. policy, at least as listed on their webpage. Perhaps I have the wrong department though.

I've sent the following email to the folks at the Encyclopedia of Earth. I'll let you know if they respond.

To whom it may concern:

You might wish to see this blog post of mine, including the follow up comments from a number of economists, all of which point to very serious errors in Robert Nadeau’s entry on “Neoclassical Economic Theory.”

Yes, there is much economists disagree on, but the errors in this entry are not matters of interpretation; they are matters of historical fact. In addition, the author has made a number of spelling errors in names of very famous economists. This entry would not get a passing grade in an undergraduate history of economics course. Surely you could have found an economist, and perhaps even a specialist in the history of economics, to have written this entry so that your readership would have an accurate picture of neoclassical economic theory’s contributions and limitations.

For an online publication that claims to be concerned with the credibility of its content and that positions itself as the authoritative source for environmental information on the web, you should be embarrassed by this entry and you should call on the author to either fix the errors or withdraw the entry.

I would be happy to point you in the direction of the History of Economics Society if you wish to find someone else who might be interested in providing a more accurate entry on “neoclassical economic theory.”

I hope that for the sake of honest scholarship you will take action on this problematic entry.

Steve Horwitz

In another article by the same author, "Mainstream economics and the political process," he refers to Hayek four times as "Martin Hayek":

I hate to keep nitpicking on name misspellings, but it seems indicative of several possibilities, such as unfamiliarity with the subject matter and/or a cut-and-paste writing process (a subset of the unfamiliarity problem).

Hey, there's bourgeois truth and then there's revolutionary truth.

I wish I could remember how to say that in Russian...


It is sometimes better to engage on the substance, rather than the routine carelessness that characterises most amateur economists such as the author of that entry.

As a personal example, I used to work with someone who could be best labelled an ecological socialist.

My ecological socialist colleague thought I was a neoclassical economist because he was simply not aware that there are numerous schools of thought in economics. He never noticed that if you put two economists together, you will get three opinions.

My ecological socialist colleague suggested I could learn something from ecological economics. The encyclopedia of earth may also be a fan of ecological economics.

I looked up ecological economics and found it to be a predictive failure on a grand scale! This was rather damming because ecological economists are a smug lot who think they have some special insight into the future.

In the 1970s, ecological economists were predicting a population boom and were calling for the introduction of individual transferable birth licences to stop population going beyond the Earth’s carrying capacity. Each of us would get a licence of 1.1 children each. The licence would be in units of 0.1 so it could be traded.

A few decades later, we live a demographic crisis with fertility well below replacement rates in many countries. Plainly, the ecological economists got it wrong.

Another criticism is the entry is a tedious discourse about economists the general public – the audience for the entry - would not have heard of with the exception of Smith, Keynes and perhaps Stiglitz. Why did Friedman get a pass in an entry on economic methodology? He is usually the first of the usual suspects to be rounded up!

BTW, Tom Tietenberg’s entries set a standard for quality that many others in the encyclopedia sorely miss.

I really don't care for this piling on. And when it comes to misspellings, you don't what is to be blamed on zealous copy editors. He often gets the spelling of Walras right, for example, suggesting that the problem is a copy editor, not Nadeau. I don't quite buy into Mirowski's version either, but I don't see why we should upbraid an English professor for being a good student of one of the more important present-day figures in the history of economic thought.


you write: "I really don't care for this piling on. [...] but I don't see why we should upbraid an English professor for being a good student of one of the more important present-day figures in the history of economic thought."

A very smart professor I like very much argues in favor of Big Player theory ( As Steven's post suggests, the Encyclopedia of Earth (EoE) wants to become a big player for Google algorithms, dominating the message space on topics related to environmental problems. As I understand Big Player theory, it says that such dominating actors' "interventions create ignorance and uncertainty." Either you don't believe that EoE can become a big player in Google (which is a reasable guess but has not much to do with Nadeau being a good student of whatever), or you downplay the disinformation produced on EoE.

The link above doesn't work. Try this one:


He deserves to be upbraided because an Amazon search shows he has made his career not as a literature expert but as an incompetent physicist, biologist, physiologist and moral philosopher.

The author of the entry has written two books on economics.

Nadeau’s entries and other work reminds of what Samuelson wrote of Karl Marx: “Although Marx was a learned man, he shows all the signs of a self-taught amateur: over-elaboration of trivial points, errors in logic and inference, and a megalomaniac's belief in the superiority of his own innovations.”

That said, telling someone that they are ignorant is an easier task than dispelling that ignorance and changing minds.

The entry is, at bottom, about scientism.

Instead of mentioning Hayek has the greatest critic of scientism, this is said by Nadeau in another entry “The work of Hayek and Friedman is narrowly predicated on assumptions about the lawful or law-like dynamics of free market systems that the creators of neoclassical economic theory embedded in the mathematical formalism borrowed from mid-nineteenth century physics.”

Does anyone recall Hayek ever using maths?! Instead, Hayek wrote in the Pretence to knowledge “It seems to me that this failure of the economists to guide policy more successfully is closely connected with their propensity to imitate as closely as possible the procedures of the brilliantly successful physical sciences - an attempt which in our field may lead to outright error.”

I appreciate amv's gracious and witty riposte. I don't think I want to go too far in defending Nadeau and I certainly support Popperian criticism! The post just looked like piling on to me and that kind of bugged me. I'm afraid that's as deep as my thoughts go on this particular thread.


It's not piling on when EOE *explicitly* "sells" its product as the authoritative and credible alternative to misinformation about environmental issues on the web. THEY set the terms of the debate and I and other are only taking them up on their own promise.

That's not piling on - that's Misesian imminent criticism. ;)

I agree with professor Koppl. Insisting on misspellings as the ultimate sign of ignorance is like taking as a proof, for instance, that Gabriel Garcia Marquez didn't knew Spanish

I agree with professor Koppl. Insisting on misspellings as the ultimate sign of ignorance would lead to the absurd proof, for instance, that Gabriel Garcia Marquez, according to it's own words, didn't know how to write in Spanish. BTW, for all English speaking economists it's not Leon Walras, but Léon Walras(checked for spelling errors!).

And I still made one :)

What's a lion walrus?

But how many of you have been published in Scientific American?

I love this (from the GMU web site):

"His first book, published in 1981, studied the uses of modern physical theory by postmodern novelists, including Vonnegut, Pynchon and Delillo, and in doing so marked the first scholarly study in the then-new field of science and literature."

No doubt Nadeau is one of the guys who inspired Alan Sokal.

I love this (from the GMU web site):

"His first book, published in 1981, studied the uses of modern physical theory by postmodern novelists, including Vonnegut, Pynchon and Delillo, and in doing so marked the first scholarly study in the then-new field of science and literature."

No doubt Nadeau is one of the guys who ispired Alan Sokal.

Nomen est omen!

No one in insisting that misspellings are the ultimate sign of ignorance. Misspellings are a signal, however, of sloppiness that should give us reason to be skeptical of his scholarship, especially when it's not just one but many. And referring to Hayek as "Martin Hayek" multiple times is not a "misspelling," that's an atrocious error of fact. (As is the reference to "Maria Edgeworth.")

If you read the two pieces linked, there are numerous errors well beyond spelling. Again, if a site is going to explicitly advertise being the credible, authoritative alternative to the nonsense you find via Google, it has set the bar for its own behavior. This sort of sloppiness is WORSE than what one will find on the average Google hit.


I'm starting to see why you came on so strong. But if I follow you, it's not so much Nadeau as EoE that is the object of your ire. Is that right? At first it looked me as if your criticism were more focussed on Nadeau, which made them seem overstated to me.

No, I think it's both Roger. He wrote an article that would probably not get a passing grade in an UG HoT course. EoE failed the peer review process miserably by allowing such an essay to get into "print" without catching both the spelling/name mistakes and the ones of content. Basically he did his "schtick" for them, which is full of problems, and they didn't have a competent reviewer to point them out.

I for one am more terrified by the fact that he got basically identical material with Maria Edgeworth and the same crass errors onto Scientific frikkin American than onto pretentious environmental site of the week.

I'm also unsure whether he would be a target of Sokal and Bricomont as much as he's trying to be them. His reference to all neoclassical economics as fake engineering strikes similar chords as Fashionable Nonsense's accusation that all neoclassical economics is fake science.

I'm not sure, but I think that the misspelling of Edgeworth's first name and of Walras's last and so might be deliberate and are meant to highlight the author's post-modern disdain of economics as a science. All the erroneous names suggest literary figures. That's what I meant. Obviously the two pieces can't be just careless, first hand, unchecked writing (like I comment here usually), because only the economits' names are misspelled, while the idea that he got all those names wrong repeatedly is just very hard to comprehend. Anyway, that was my working hypothesiss.

It's interesting to read articles about your own specialist area in "New Scientist" and "Scientific American". When I've done that before, on radio science and other topics connected with electromagnetism I've discovered them to be very inaccurate. I concluded from that that they're probably very inaccurate about all the stuff they write, and any domain specialist would spot it. Later I asked an electronics systems guy and a materials scientist if they were inaccurate in their areas, they agreed that they were very inaccurate too.

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