Realism and comprehension in economics: A footnote to an exchange between Oliver E. Williamson and Herbert A. Simon
The correspondence between Herbert Simon and Oliver Williamson reveals a history of disagreement ultimately resolved by a reinstatement of mutual respect and agreement. On the surface, the disagreements concern questions about the appropriate trade-offs between realism and comprehension in economic theory, on the extent to which the theory should be based on realistic behavioral assumptions. At another level, however, the disagreements expose a different issue: Whether the sacrifices of realism involved in seeking comprehensible theory are to be experienced as unfortunate but necessary costs or as agonizing falls from grace that may be forgiven but only if accompanied with pain and contrition.
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- Wagner, Alfred, 1891.
"Marshall's Principles of Economics,"
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McMaster University Archive for the History of Economic Thought, vol. 5, pages 319-338.
- March, James G., 1992. "The war is over and the victors have lost," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 21(3), pages 261-267.
- Herbert A. Simon, 1991. "Organizations and Markets," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 5(2), pages 25-44, Spring.
- Williamson, Oliver E, 1988. "The Logic of Economic Organization," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 4(1), pages 65-93, Spring.
- Williamson, Oliver E., 1996. "Transaction cost economics and the Carnegie connection," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 31(2), pages 149-155, November.
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