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May 20, 2015


Ralph Musgrave

If Northcote Parkinson didn’t set out a law based on the above point, he should have done. The law would run something like:

“Economists will always tend to reduce the rigour required in economics papers because that increases the total number of potential papers that can be written by economists, which in turn helps keep economists employed.”

Matt Moore

Awesome post. I particularly agree that Economic History should be given a far greater role in the teaching of Economics.

Luis Enrique

hence why economists disagree so much.

btw anyone interested in how some (imho) v thoughtful economists think about these questions try this "a model of modelling":


includes concept of weak and strong compatibility with data

mike phelps

A couple of people who have done a lot of work in trying to go beyond "consistent with" are Deborah Mayo and Aris Spanos, both at Virginia Tech. Mayo has come up with an operational definition of a severe test which slays the Duhemian monster and Spanos has shown how econometrics can be done in a wsy that allowslearning ffom data instead of quantification of preconceived ideas. Well worth checking out Mayo's Error Statistics website.


The 80s? Try 2001-04.


Any fool can come up with a 'consistent with' explanation. What tests a theory is what it successfully predicts will happen if this or that condition is changed. Some investigators have the luxury of devising an experiment but economists seem stuck with observing what people do as the world evolves. Sure, there are experiments involving a handful of students trading in some way over a shortish period but IMHO these are social science. Which begs the question 'what truly is economics', does the subject have a part concerned with the maths of Laffer curves etc and another part concerned with what people tend to do under this or that condition and are there yet other parts. Which begs a further question, would it be academically inconvenient to admit economics is a bit of a mish-mash.


Paul Romer's mathiness seems more like Pythagoreanism to me. I would've preferred to call this http://arxiv.org/abs/1307.7006 sort of thing mathiness. Anyway, Mayo hasn't slain the Duhemian monster (nor revived the frequentist one: https://telescoper.wordpress.com/2012/08/19/kuhn-the-irrationalist/ ;-). And the lack of opportunity for experimental economics is a nuisance but I wouldn't worry about it too much: http://www.preposterousuniverse.com/blog/2013/07/03/what-is-science/

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