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Successes and failures in the transformation of economics

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  • Richard Lipsey

Abstract

While acknowledging the successes of modern economics, this paper concentrates on some shortcomings. Many are traced to a single source: the great insights of economics are all qualitative. Economics does not have a theoretical structure that is tightly related to a rich body of data and those seeking to contribute to its ideas operate on widely divergent levels of theoretical and empirical sophistication with little communication between those who operate at different levels. One consequence is that anomalies are tolerated on a scale that would be scandalous in any natural science. Another is that theories tend to be developed in unconstrained ways that are empirically relevant only by accident. Elegant error is often preferred to messy truth. Theoretical tractability is often preferred to empirical relevance. Economists often prefer theories that produce unambiguous policy results over theories that do not, irrespective of their relative evidential bases.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Taylor & Francis Journals in its journal Journal of Economic Methodology.

Volume (Year): 8 (2001)
Issue (Month): 2 ()
Pages: 169-201

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Handle: RePEc:taf:jecmet:v:8:y:2001:i:2:p:169-201

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Related research

Keywords: Methodology; Abstraction; Formalism; Empirical Relevance; Second Best; Industrial Policy; Optimality; Qualitative Insights;

References

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  1. James Tobin, 1956. "Liquidity Preference as Behavior Towards Risk," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 14, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
  2. Stephen R. G. Jones & W. Craig Riddell, . "The Measurement Of Unemployment: An Empirical Approach," Canadian International Labour Network Working Papers 09, McMaster University.
  3. Curtis Eaton, B. & Lipsey, Richard G., 1989. "Product differentiation," Handbook of Industrial Organization, in: R. Schmalensee & R. Willig (ed.), Handbook of Industrial Organization, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 12, pages 723-768 Elsevier.
  4. Richard G. Lipsey & Kenneth Carlaw, 2000. "What Does Total Factor Productivity Measure?," International Productivity Monitor, Centre for the Study of Living Standards, vol. 1, pages 31-40, Fall.
  5. Richard Lipsey, 2002. "Some Implications Of Endogenous Technological Change For Technology Policies In Developing Countries," Economics of Innovation and New Technology, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 11(4-5), pages 321-351.
  6. Chrystal, K. Alec & Lipsey, Richard G., 1997. "Economics for Business and Management," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198775386.
  7. G.C. Archibald & B.C. Eaton & Richard Lipsey, 1982. "Address Models of Value Theory," Working Papers 495, Queen's University, Department of Economics.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Anthony Scott, 2001. "Economists, Environmental Policies and Federalism," The State of Economics in Canada: Festschrift in Honour of David Slater, in: Patrick Grady & Andrew Sharpe (ed.), The State of Economics in Canada: Festschrift in Honour of David Slater, pages 405-449 Centre for the Study of Living Standards.
  2. Dalen, H.P. van, 2007. "Pluralism in economics: A public good or a public bad?," Open Access publications from Tilburg University urn:nbn:nl:ui:12-347616, Tilburg University.
  3. Birolo, Adriano, 2010. "La ricerca economica in Italia tra pluralismo e monismo: i giovani economisti negli ultimi trent’anni
    [The Italian economic research between pluralism and monism: the young economists in the last
    ," MPRA Paper 27219, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  4. Des Gasper, 2002. "Is Sen's Capability Approach an Adequate Basis for Considering Human Development?," Review of Political Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 14(4), pages 435-461.
  5. Oliver E. Williamson, 2005. "The Economics of Governance," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(2), pages 1-18, May.
  6. Zoya Mladenova, 2005. "XX Century and the Evolution of the Economic Theory (Neoclassical Theory: Development of Microeconomics)," Economic Thought journal, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences - Economic Research Institute, issue 5, pages 3-23.
  7. Zoya Mladenova, 2006. "The Evolution of Economic Theory during the Twentieth Century," Economic Thought journal, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences - Economic Research Institute, issue 7, pages 49-71.
  8. Hardt, Lukasz, 2011. "An inquiry into the explanatory virtues of transaction cost economics," MPRA Paper 39561, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  9. Schiffman, Daniel A., 2004. "Mainstream economics, heterodoxy and academic exclusion: a review essay," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 20(4), pages 1079-1095, November.
  10. Hendrik P. van Dalen, 2003. "Pluralism in Economics: A Public Good or a Public Bad?," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 03-034/1, Tinbergen Institute, revised 18 May 2004.
  11. Lind, Hans, 2007. "The story and the model done: An evaluation of mathematical models of rent control," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 37(2), pages 183-198, March.
  12. Stuart Birks, 2013. "No Ethical Issues in Economics?," Economic Thought, World Economics Association, vol. 2(1), pages 3, April.
  13. Gasper, D.R., 2007. "Problem- and policy-analysis for human development: Sen in the light of Dewey, Myrdal, Streeten, Stretton and Haq," ISS Working Papers - General Series 18743, International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University Rotterdam (ISS), The Hague.

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