Brad DeLong did a post recently marveling at how little progress has been made on macroeconomic questions over the past eighty years or so.
The good news is that economics at least gives us the tools we need to help explain this phenomenon. After all, there are no particularly strong incentives out of there encouraging people to get big macroeconomic questions right. There is, to be sure, money to be made in writing on big macroeconomic topics. But a Dow 36,000 or a The Forgotten Man will earn you as much money—or more—than a more accurate book would. Nor are there particularly strong considerations of prestige or honor pushing in the direction of accuracy. It’s not as if the Council on Foreign Relations will blackball you or something if you get things wrong. Consequently, any given position—left or right or center or otherwise—that has a requisite level of political or financial clout will have its proponents.
What’s a little strange to me is that so many economists seem so disinclined to look on the dynamics within their own profession in the same cyncical light that they prefer to shine on other things.