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The Craft of Economics: Lessons from the Heckscher-Ohlin Framework

Author

Listed:
  • Leamer, Edward E.

    () (University of California, Los Angeles)

Abstract

In this spirited and provocative book, Edward Leamer turns an examination of the Heckscher–Ohlin framework for global competition into an opportunity to consider the craft of economics: what economists do, what they should do, and what they shouldn’t do. Claiming “a lifetime relationship with Heckscher–Ohlin,” Leamer argues that Bertil Ohlin’s original idea offered something useful though vague and not necessarily valid; the economists who later translated his ideas into mathematical theorems offered something precise and valid but not necessarily useful. He argues further that the best economists keep formal and informal thinking in balance. An Ohlinesque mostly prose style can let in faulty thinking and fuzzy communication; a mostly math style allows misplaced emphasis and opaque communication. Leamer writes that today’s model- and math-driven economics needs more prose and less math. Leamer shows that the Heckscher–Ohlin framework is still useful, and that there is still much work to be done with it. But he issues a caveat about economists: “What we do is not science, it’s fiction and journalism.” Economic theory, he writes, is fiction (stories, loosely connected to the facts); data analysis is journalism (facts, loosely connected to the stories). Rather than titling the two sections of his book Theory and Evidence, he calls them Economic Fiction and Econometric Journalism, explaining, “If you find that startling, that’s good. I am trying to keep you awake.”

Suggested Citation

  • Leamer, Edward E., 2012. "The Craft of Economics: Lessons from the Heckscher-Ohlin Framework," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262016877, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:mtp:titles:0262016877
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Enrico Spolaore, 2012. "The Economics of Political Borders," Discussion Papers Series, Department of Economics, Tufts University 0767, Department of Economics, Tufts University.
    2. Lorenzo Rotunno & Adrian Wood, 2016. "Wage Inequality and Skill Supplies in a Globalised World," AMSE Working Papers 1634, Aix-Marseille School of Economics, Marseille, France.
    3. Lorenzo Rotunno & Adrian Wood, 2015. "Wages and endowments in a globalised world," Economics Papers 2015-W11, Economics Group, Nuffield College, University of Oxford.
    4. Brakman, Steven & van Marrewijk, Charles, 2013. "Lumpy countries, urbanization, and trade," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 89(1), pages 252-261.
    5. repec:elg:eechap:14395_3 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item

    Keywords

    econometrics; statistics; Heckscher-Ohlin; economic theory;

    JEL classification:

    • A1 - General Economics and Teaching - - General Economics
    • A2 - General Economics and Teaching - - Economic Education and Teaching of Economics
    • B4 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Economic Methodology
    • C1 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric and Statistical Methods and Methodology: General

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