Modern economics — an assumption-making Nintendo game

23 September, 2015 at 12:52 | Posted in Economics | 2 Comments

In advanced economics the question would be: ‘What besides mathematics should be in an economics lecture?’ In physics the familiar spirit is Archimedes the experimenter. aaaaafeynBut in economics, as in mathematics itself, it is theorem-proving Euclid who paces the halls …

Economics … has become a mathematical game. The science has been drained out of economics, replaced by a Nintendo game of assumption-making …

Most thoughtful economists think that the games on the blackboard and the computer have gone too far, absurdly too far. It is time to bring economic observation, economic history, economic literature, back into the teaching of economics.

Economists would be less arrogant, and less dangerous as experts, if they had to face up to the facts of the world. Perhaps they would even become as modest as the physicists.

D. McCloskey


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  1. Being as I am a fairly chaotic individual, I can’t in fact remember whether I already sent you a link to Willem Buiter’s long, magnificently contemptuous piece on “The unfortunate uselessness of most ‘state of the art’ academic monetary economics”,

    I thought to look the piece up recently because Paul Krugman seems quite happy to quote Buiter on his blog without ever getting around to mentioning who the guy is on record as believing that Krugman’s “Dare To Be Silly” models are a dangerous waste of time.

    (Apologies of course if you already knew about the post. Mentioning the thing purely ICYMI.)

  2. The truly most scary thing about the elegantly written polemic, which you have quoted, is the date of original publication: 1991.
    A lot has changed in the nearly 25 years since. Donald is now Deirdre. A lot has changed in the practice of economics even, but not enough that the relevance of the article’s critique is fading.

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