A couple of posts ago I asked whether leading researchers in fields besides physics actively debate on blogs. Well the answer is a resounding “YES,” and one example I recently came across is an active debate between world-class economists on causes of the Great Depression. Even recent Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman gets involved! What I find so surprising about this is they were debating the core concepts of one of the most important events in 20th century economics based on what seemed to be philosophical grounds: whether they were “Keynesians” or “Monetarists.” This also somewhat corresponds to the political parties of Democrats and Republicans respectively.
The basic debate is whether it is better for wealth to be controlled by public (Keynesians) or private (Monetarists) entities. On these blogs the disagreement is whether Keynesian policies caused the depression or brought the country out of it. The fact that there is still no consensus by experts on the causes of the Great Depression is especially troubling at the present time since we appear to be entering a serious recession.
I believe the main problem is that it is difficult to experimentally test macro-economic theories, so economists are left to follow their philosophies. We can only hope that in the future there will be ways to actually test theories, because otherwise is it really a science?
UPDATE: In one week, Greg Mankiw defends Keynsian policies during this recession, and he takes Krugman to task for using philophy instead of a metric! He appears to be the good exception to the rule, by not letting his polical views interfere with his analysis.