On the irrelevance of economics

3 Sep, 2019 at 11:32 | Posted in Economics | 1 Comment

I believe that as an economic theorist, I have very little to say about the real world and that there are very few models in economic theory that can be used to provide serious advice. However, economic theory has real effects. I cannot ignore the fact that our work as teachers and researchers influences students’ minds and does so in a way with which I am not comfortable. Can we find a way to be relevant without being charlatans?

stunAs economic theorists, we organize our thoughts using what we call models.
The word “model” sounds more scientific than “fable” or “fairy tale” although I do not see much difference between them. The author of a fable draws a parallel to a situation in real life. He has some moral he wishes to impart to the reader … Being something between fantasy and reality, a fable is free of extraneous details and annoying diversions …

We do exactly the same thing in economic theory … We perform thought exercises that are only loosely connected to reality and that have been stripped of most of their real-life characteristics.

Ariel Rubinstein

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  1. The most serious problem is not the irrelevance of economic theory, as serious as that is. The most serious thing is that, unlike Rubinstein, most economists think that economic theory is the truth, and only truth.


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