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The Methodology of Modern Macroeconomics and the Descriptive Approach to Discounting

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  • Koen Vermeylen

    (University of Amsterdam)

Abstract

Critics of modern macroeconomics often raise concerns about unwarranted welfare conclusions and data mining. This paper illustrates these concerns with a thought experiment, based on the debate in environmental economics about the appropriate discount rate in climate change analyses: I set up an economy where a social evaluator wants to determine the optimal time path of emission levels, and seeks advice for this from an old-style neo-classical macroeconomist and a new neo-classical (modern) macroeconomist; I then describe how both economists analyze the economy, their policy advice, and their mistakes. I then use the insights from this thought experiment to point out some pitfalls of the modern macroeconomic methodology.

Suggested Citation

  • Koen Vermeylen, 2013. "The Methodology of Modern Macroeconomics and the Descriptive Approach to Discounting," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 13-200/VI, Tinbergen Institute.
  • Handle: RePEc:tin:wpaper:20130200
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Nelson, Julie A., 2008. "Economists, value judgments, and climate change: A view from feminist economics," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 65(3), pages 441-447, April.
    2. Edward C. Prescott, 2006. "The Transformation of Macroeconomic Policy and Research," The American Economist, Sage Publications, vol. 50(1), pages 3-20, March.
    3. Robert M. Solow, 1956. "A Contribution to the Theory of Economic Growth," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 70(1), pages 65-94.
    4. Richard Tol, 2002. "Estimates of the Damage Costs of Climate Change, Part II. Dynamic Estimates," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 21(2), pages 135-160, February.
    5. Orazio P. Attanasio & Guglielmo Weber, 1993. "Consumption Growth, the Interest Rate and Aggregation," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 60(3), pages 631-649.
    6. William R. Cline, 1992. "Economics of Global Warming, The," Peterson Institute Press: All Books, Peterson Institute for International Economics, number 39.
    7. Hoover, Kevin D., 2006. "A Neowicksellian in a New Classical World: The Methodology of Michael Woodford's Interest and Prices," Journal of the History of Economic Thought, Cambridge University Press, vol. 28(02), pages 143-149, June.
    8. repec:wsi:ccexxx:v:03:y:2012:i:04:n:s2010007812500248 is not listed on IDEAS
    9. Lawrence H. Goulder & Roberton C. Williams, 2012. "The Choice Of Discount Rate For Climate Change Policy Evaluation," Climate Change Economics (CCE), World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd., vol. 3(04), pages 1-18.
    10. Richard Tol, 2002. "Estimates of the Damage Costs of Climate Change. Part 1: Benchmark Estimates," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 21(1), pages 47-73, January.
    11. William D. Nordhaus, 2007. "A Review of the Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 45(3), pages 686-702, September.
    12. Martin L. Weitzman, 2007. "A Review of the Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 45(3), pages 703-724, September.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    modern macroeconomics; methodology; descriptive; prescriptive; discount rate;

    JEL classification:

    • B22 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - History of Economic Thought since 1925 - - - Macroeconomics
    • B41 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Economic Methodology - - - Economic Methodology
    • E13 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - General Aggregative Models - - - Neoclassical
    • O44 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - Environment and Growth
    • Q52 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Pollution Control Adoption and Costs; Distributional Effects; Employment Effects
    • Q54 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Climate; Natural Disasters and their Management; Global Warming

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