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Retrospectives: The Lost Art of Economics

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  • David Colander

Abstract

Economists generally divide economics into two distinct categories—positive and normative—but how applied economics fits within these categories is unclear. This paper argues that applied economics belongs in neither normative nor positive economics; instead it belongs in a third category—the art of economics. Currently, many economists are trying to use a methodology appropriate for positive economics to guide their applied work, work that properly belongs in the art of economics. This three-part distinction is not mine, but dates back to a classic book, The Scope and Method of Political Economy (1891) by John Neville Keynes. In his book, Keynes argued that economists' failure to distinguish the art of economics as a separate branch from positive and normative economics would lead to serious problems. One hundred years later, he has turned out to be clairvoyant.

Suggested Citation

  • David Colander, 1992. "Retrospectives: The Lost Art of Economics," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 6(3), pages 191-198, Summer.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:6:y:1992:i:3:p:191-98 Note: DOI: 10.1257/jep.6.3.191
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    File URL: http://www.aeaweb.org/articles.php?doi=10.1257/jep.6.3.191
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Ronald W. Cotterill & James Brock, 1993. "Antitrust Policy," Issue Papers 02, University of Connecticut, Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Charles J. Zwick Center for Food and Resource Policy.
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    Cited by:

    1. Nicola Giocoli, 2016. "Truth or precision? Some reflections on the economists’ failure to predict the financial crisis," The Review of Austrian Economics, Springer;Society for the Development of Austrian Economics, vol. 29(4), pages 371-386, December.
    2. van Dalen, Hendrik P., 1996. "Pitfalls in the economic analysis of aging," Journal of Policy Modeling, Elsevier, vol. 18(2), pages 157-184, April.
    3. Akhabbar, Amanar & Lallement, Jerôme, 2011. "« Appliquer la théorie économique de l’équilibre général » : de Walras à Leontief
      [Applying general equilibrium theory: from Walras to Leontief]
      ," MPRA Paper 30210, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    4. Dankó, Dávid, 2004. "Elválaszt, avagy összeköt?. A kísérletezés eltérő szerepe a közgazdaságtanban és a menedzsmenttudományokban
      [The differing role of experimentation in economics and in management studies]
      ," Közgazdasági Szemle (Economic Review - monthly of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences), Közgazdasági Szemle Alapítvány (Economic Review Foundation), vol. 0(11), pages 1073-1092.

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    JEL classification:

    • B41 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Economic Methodology - - - Economic Methodology

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