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Successes and failures in the transformation of economics

  • Richard Lipsey

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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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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  1. Chrystal, K. Alec & Lipsey, Richard G., 1997. "Economics for Business and Management," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198775386, March.
  2. repec:cup:cbooks:9780521436786 is not listed on IDEAS
  3. 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.
  4. G.C. Archibald & B.C. Eaton & Richard Lipsey, 1982. "Address Models of Value Theory," Working Papers 495, Queen's University, Department of Economics.
  5. James Tobin, 1956. "Liquidity Preference as Behavior Towards Risk," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 14, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
  6. 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.
  7. Robert E. Hall, 1980. "Employment Fluctuations and Wage Rigidity," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 11(1, Tenth ), pages 91-142.
  8. repec:cup:cbooks:9780521577014 is not listed on IDEAS
  9. Stephen R. G. Jones & W. Craig Riddell, . "The Measurement Of Unemployment: An Empirical Approach," Canadian International Labour Network Working Papers 09, McMaster University.
  10. 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.
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