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« In Memoriam: Dr. John Templeton (1940-2015) | Main | Entrepreneurial Solutions to Adverse Selection Problems »


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Thoughtful post:

(1) The characterization of Stigler in the passage you cite is not far from the way McCloskey characterizes him. As I recall she refers to him as an "ideologue."

(2) Talking about methodology being "relegated" to philosophers is slightly patronizing. The problem with much of what economists (mainstream, at least) write about methodology is that it is necrophilic, expressing love for views that are philosophically and scientifically long dead. Philosophers like Dan Hausmann & Nancy Cartwright regularly embarrass economists on this score. Exceptions? Bob Sugden and Kevin Hoover come to mind. Methodological interventions from economists provide some added value only if they have read work other than e.g., Friedman. Most have not.

This whole conversation about mathiness went from exciting to disappointing. Your points are exactly why.

I started out excited about the possibility of an open discussion about the proper role of math in economics. It was great to see a big name with a chance of being heard starting the conversation. He was attempting to bring the math back to real concepts. His point about calling some mathematical property "location" was important.

However, it quickly devolved into petty name calling and attempts to shun people. It looks like Romer is doing the exact "political" move that he disliked from Stigler and Friedman.

For now, I wait to see if the conversation take a productive turn. The references you list would be a good start. As usual, attributing bad motives to people is not going to productive. Instead, we need a discussion where points are debated on their own ground.

I wonder what leads Romer to think that Stigler's position on Monopolistic Competition was motivated by politics instead of theory.

Nothing I've read suggests that Stigler was on some kind of political mission. In fact, Milton Friedman said Stigler was largely uninterested in political advocacy:

This fits with what Stigler said in Economics or Ethics where he argued that the main job of the economist was to explain the world and that the attempts of economists to preach specific policy proposals were generally unsuccessful (or at least only successful to the extent the public already agreed with them):

Really, Stigler seemed to believe that politics would generally take care of itself as he argued that every social institution had to be efficient or it wouldn't survive in the long-term.

I'll have to read some of the links Romer posted, because nothing I've read about Stigler suggests to me he was on a political mission of any kind.

Shouldn't the major premise be that better theories have more realistic assumptions?

Pete, I don't know the agnotology book but this looks like a horse from the stable you mentioned in that context.

Scientific skepticism is exactly what Romer is calling for. Without a skepticistic bent, you're not doing science.


Skepticism isn't science, criticism is. This is a major confusion.

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