Mainstream economists and ‘pedestrian snipers’

10 March, 2016 at 09:52 | Posted in Economics | 5 Comments

To a mainstream economist, theory means model, and model means ideas expressed in mathematical form … These models, students learn, are theory … Students also learn that the legitimate way to argue is with models and econometrically constructed forms of evidence …

Because all models are incomplete, students also learn that no model is perfect. Indeed, students learn that it is bad manners to engage in excessive questioning of simplifying assumptions. Claiming that a model is deficient is a minor feat – presumably anyone can do that. What is really valued is coming up with a better model, a better theory. And so, goes the accumulated wisdom of properly taught economists, those who criticize without coming up with better models are only pedestrian snipers …

T2ac821f215503092c7cd7db99d9fe4eaherefore, imagine my reaction when I heard feminists from other disciplines apply the term theory to ideas presented in verbal form, ideas not containing even the remotest potential for mathematical expression. ‘This is theory?’ I asked. ‘Where’s the math?’

Diana Strassmann



  1. You cannot divide all by a-b because this is zero (a=b ==> a-b=0).

    Sorry, math rules are not bad.

  2. The last move is wrong.

    Which reminded me about the meaning of theory: a theory is a deductive system where the final proposition follows logically from the more general propositions AND is an explanation of a proven hypothesis!

  3. The good old “division by zero fallacy”.

  4. I think that if you really want to tear down mathematics as a logical language the Banach-Tarski paradox is a better starting point than these.

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