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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.

Suggested Citation

  • Richard Lipsey, 2001. "Successes and failures in the transformation of economics," Journal of Economic Methodology, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 8(2), pages 169-201.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:jecmet:v:8:y:2001:i:2:p:169-201 DOI: 10.1080/13501780110047273
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    9. Thomas Mayer, 1992. "Truth Versus Precision In Economics," Books, Edward Elgar Publishing, number 307, September.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Oliver E. Williamson, 2005. "The Economics of Governance," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, pages 1-18.
    2. 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.
    3. 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.
    4. 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.
    5. Lukasz Hardt, 2011. "An inquiry into the explanatory virtues of transaction cost economics," The Journal of Philosophical Economics, Bucharest Academy of Economic Studies, The Journal of Philosophical Economics, vol. 5(1), pages 120-147, November.
    6. Janssen, Maarten C.W. & Karamychev, Vladimir A. & van Reeven, Peran, 2005. "Multi-store competition: Market segmentation or interlacing?," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, pages 700-714.
    7. 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 t
      ," MPRA Paper 27219, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    8. Stuart Birks, 2013. "No Ethical Issues in Economics?," Economic Thought, World Economics Association, pages 1-3.
    9. 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.
    10. Vinca Bigo & Ioana Negru, 2008. "From Fragmentation to Ontologically Reflexive Pluralism," The Journal of Philosophical Economics, Bucharest Academy of Economic Studies, The Journal of Philosophical Economics, vol. 1(2), pages 127-150, March.
    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. Gasper, D.R., 2007. "Problem- and policy-analysis for human development," ISS Working Papers - General Series 18743, International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University Rotterdam (ISS), The Hague.
    13. Gasper, D.R., 2002. "Is Sen's Capability Approach an Adequate Basis for Considering Human Development," ISS Working Papers - General Series 50674, International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University Rotterdam (ISS), The Hague.
    14. 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.
    15. 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.

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