The economics of wishful thinking and the adventures of rationality
Replying to Queen Elizabeth II who in November 2008 asked why so few economists had warned about the emerging financial crisis, a group of eminent economists of the British Academy, claimed that while this failure had many causes, the most important was principally a failure of the collective imagination of many bright people, to understand the risks to the system as a whole. The paper suggests that this failure is due also to the still heavy influence of the paradigm of rational expectations, that did not provide the intellectual tools to grasp the signs of the impending financial crisis. The paper explores the development of Muth’s rational expectations hypothesis and the parallel development of Simon’s idea of bounded rationality—two opposite views about economic behavior that originated in the same context, during the early 1960s at Carnegie Mellon. It is shown that the latter, while marginalized for decades from the core economic ideas, generated a wide development in cognitive psychology, problem solving and experimental economics that grew up in the last decades and now permit a more profound analysis of human behavior in economic and organizational contexts, that can be the seed of a new thinking in economics. The challenge for economists is to use this new toolbox to incorporate in their models real human behaviors, getting out from the economy of wishful thinking. Copyright Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014
Volume (Year): 13 (2014)
Issue (Month): 1 (June)
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