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Sunday 3 December 2006

Oof, you've said a mouthful

WRITING comic novels about academia is heartbreaking, for these days so many academics are beyond satire. The dumbing down is bad enough. Worse is the destruction of breadth and proportion that comes from peering through such blinkers as Women's, Black and Queer Studies. Possibly worst is what has resulted from pseuds like Jacques Derrida and Michel Foucault, who persuaded the gullible to adopt language that makes the humanities impenetrable to outsiders. These emperors have no clothes. Fine scholars on top of their subjects write clearly.

I was once forced to attend a lecture by a postgraduate whose terminology (which I put verbatim into a novel) included the phrases "syntactical hierarchy", "metonomy and the rhetorical treatise" and "enigmatic signifiers". You can't get worse than literary critics, I thought. Then, last week, a chortling businessman showed me a letter in the Financial Times from the John E Cairnes Professor of Economics in the National University of Ireland, K Vela Velupillai.

I've no idea what the Prof was on about, but I cherish these two sentences: "All that 'constrained discretion' is supposed to achieve, even when coherent and applicable, is a rational path towards the real stochastic dynamic general equilibrium prescribed by the currently dominant theory of macrodynamics: real business-cycle theory, the latest incarnation of Lucasian rational expectations macroeconomics, most enthusiastically developed by two recent winners of the Economics Nobel, Edward C Prescott and Finn E Kydland.

"Sadly, even those who call themselves New Keynesian economists adhere to and aim, with their monetary policy prescriptions, to achieve the benchmark real stochastic dynamic general equilibrium configuration derived by these latter-day Lucasians."

Pity the satirist indeed.

Ruth Dudley Edwards

© Ruth Dudley Edwards