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Are rival theories of smoking underdetermined?

  • Robert Goldfarb
  • Thomas Leonard
  • Steven Suranovic

Some empirically minded philosophers of science argue that the evidence should choose the best theory from among theoretical rivals. However, the evidence may not speak clearly, a problem of 'underdetermination of theory by data'. We examine this problem in a concrete setting, rival theories of smoking behaviour. We investigate whether several uncontested pieces of empirical evidence allow us to choose between two competing theoretical perspectives on smoking, rational choice and non-rational choice, respectively. Next, we develop a more refined taxonomy of smoking theories, and consider the consequences for theory testing. Finally, we examine some normative aspects of theory choice involving the appropriate scope of government action.

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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: 229-251

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Handle: RePEc:taf:jecmet:v:8:y:2001:i:2:p:229-251
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  1. Gary S. Becker & Michael Grossman & Kevin M. Murphy, 1990. "An Empirical Analysis of Cigarette Addiction," University of Chicago - George G. Stigler Center for Study of Economy and State 61, Chicago - Center for Study of Economy and State.
  2. Goldbaum, David, 2000. "Life Cycle Consumption of a Harmful and Addictive Good," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 38(3), pages 458-69, July.
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  4. Orphanides, Athanasios & Zervos, David, 1995. "Rational Addiction with Learning and Regret," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 103(4), pages 739-58, August.
  5. Loewenstein, George & Thaler, Richard H, 1989. "Intertemporal Choice," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 3(4), pages 181-93, Fall.
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  7. Schelling, Thomas C, 1984. "Self-Command in Practice, in Policy, and in a Theory of Rational Choice," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 74(2), pages 1-11, May.
  8. Chaloupka, Frank J. & Warner, Kenneth E., 2000. "The economics of smoking," Handbook of Health Economics, in: A. J. Culyer & J. P. Newhouse (ed.), Handbook of Health Economics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 29, pages 1539-1627 Elsevier.
  9. Frank J. Chaloupka, 1990. "Rational Addictive Behavior and Cigarette Smoking," NBER Working Papers 3268, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Bryan Boulier & Robert Goldfarb, 1998. "On the use and nonuse of surveys in economics," Journal of Economic Methodology, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 5(1), pages 1-21.
  11. Ted O'Donoghue and Matthew Rabin ., 1997. "Doing It Now or Later," Economics Working Papers 97-253, University of California at Berkeley.
  12. Frank J. Chaloupka & Michael Grossman, 1996. "Price, Tobacco Control Policies and Youth Smoking," NBER Working Papers 5740, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Thaler, Richard H & Shefrin, H M, 1981. "An Economic Theory of Self-Control," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(2), pages 392-406, April.
  14. George Loewenstein & Richard H Thaler, 2003. "Anomalies: Intertemporal Choice," Levine's Working Paper Archive 618897000000000784, David K. Levine.
  15. Suranovic, Steven M. & Goldfarb, Robert S. & Leonard, Thomas C., 1999. "An economic theory of cigarette addiction," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 18(1), pages 1-29, January.
  16. New, Bill, 1999. "Paternalism and Public Policy," Economics and Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, vol. 15(01), pages 63-83, April.
  17. Becker, Gary S & Grossman, Michael & Murphy, Kevin M, 1991. "Rational Addiction and the Effect of Price on Consumption," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(2), pages 237-41, May.
  18. Leonard, Thomas C. & Goldfarb, Robert S. & Suranovic, Steven M., 2000. "New on Paternalism and Public Policy," Economics and Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, vol. 16(02), pages 323-331, October.
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