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Macaulay’s Problem


  • Marek Hudík



The model of economic man is either empirically testable and false, or it is non-testable and always true. The fact that neither position is entirely satisfactory is called Macaulay’s problem. This paper first reviews and criticizes various attitudes toward this problem and then argues that Macaulay’s problem is a pseudoproblem, because it assumes that the explicandum of the economic man model is individual behavior. Contrary to this assumption it is argued that the model attempts to explain changes of people’s behavior on an aggregate level in response to changes in constraints. The paper posits that all the studied attitudes pertaining to Macaulay’s problem can be reinterpreted and, to a great extent, reconciled in light of this view. It is also argued that this view helps to explain why the usual criticisms of the economic man model miss the point. A method for effective criticism is suggested

Suggested Citation

  • Marek Hudík, 2013. "Macaulay’s Problem," ICER Working Papers 01-2013, ICER - International Centre for Economic Research.
  • Handle: RePEc:icr:wpicer:01-2013

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. R. Duncan Luce & Detlof von Winterfeldt, 1994. "What Common Ground Exists for Descriptive, Prescriptive, and Normative Utility Theories?," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 40(2), pages 263-279, February.
    2. Mas-Colell, Andreu & Whinston, Michael D. & Green, Jerry R., 1995. "Microeconomic Theory," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780195102680, June.
    3. Boland, Lawrence A, 1981. "On the Futility of Criticizing the Neoclassical Maximization Hypothesis," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 71(5), pages 1031-1036, December.
    4. Mongin, Philippe, 1986. "Are “All-and-Some” Statements Falsifiable After All?: The Example of Utility Theory," Economics and Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, vol. 2(02), pages 185-195, October.
    5. Nathan Berg & Gerd Gigerenzer, 2010. "As-if behavioral economics: neoclassical economics in disguise?," History of Economic Ideas, Fabrizio Serra Editore, Pisa - Roma, vol. 18(1), pages 133-166.
    6. Hausman,Daniel M., 1992. "The Inexact and Separate Science of Economics," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521415019, March.
    7. Hausman,Daniel M., 1992. "The Inexact and Separate Science of Economics," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521425230, March.
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    More about this item


    economic man; “as if” explanations; apriorism; rational choice; methodology of economics; empirical content of theories;

    JEL classification:

    • B41 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Economic Methodology - - - Economic Methodology
    • D01 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Microeconomic Behavior: Underlying Principles

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