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Economics, History, and Causation

  • Randall Morck
  • Bernard Yeung

Economics and history both strive to understand causation: economics using instrumental variables econometrics and history by weighing the plausibility of alternative narratives. Instrumental variables can lose value with repeated use because of an econometric tragedy of the commons bias: each successful use of an instrument potentially creates an additional latent variable bias problem for all other uses of that instrument - past and future. Economists should therefore consider historians' approach to inferring causality from detailed context, the plausibility of alternative narratives, external consistency, and recognition that free will makes human decisions intrinsically exogenous.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 16678.

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Date of creation: Jan 2011
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Publication status: published as Morck, Randall & Bernard Yeung. 2011. Economics, History, and Causation. Business History Review 85 : pp 39-63
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:16678
Note: CF
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  1. Deepak Lal, 1993. "Poverty and Development," UCLA Economics Working Papers 707, UCLA Department of Economics.
  2. Rajan, Raghuram G. & Zingales, Luigi, 2003. "The great reversals: the politics of financial development in the twentieth century," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 69(1), pages 5-50, July.
  3. Henry, Peter B. & Miller, Conrad, 2008. "Institutions versus Policies: A Tale of Two Islands," Research Papers 2012, Stanford University, Graduate School of Business.
  4. Randall K. Morck, 2005. "A History of Corporate Governance around the World: Family Business Groups to Professional Managers," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number morc05-1, October.
  5. Caroline Fohlin, 2005. "The History of Corporate Ownership and Control in Germany," NBER Chapters, in: A History of Corporate Governance around the World: Family Business Groups to Professional Managers, pages 223-282 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. David L. Weimer, 1986. "Collective Delusion In The Social Sciences: Publishing Incentives For Empirical Abuse," Review of Policy Research, Policy Studies Organization, vol. 5(4), pages 705-708, 05.
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