Knowing and Making Mon, 25 Nov 2019 18:01:01 GMT language
This post by UnlearningEcon prompted me to think again about why economics, despite widely accepted empirical data from behavioural econ, is broadly taught in the same way as before, and why its basic assumptions still underpin much modern research.
Some have a sociological explanation for this. In this view, economists are invested in the old approaches, have spent decades honing specific mathematical skills, and effectively collude to make sure new ideas do not displace the old. The top journals only accept papers that cite the same old work, perpetuating the models. Science, as they say, advances one funeral at a time. No doubt there's something to this, but I don't think economists are quite so closed minded.
There is a clue in the above article:
"...Euclidean geometry, despite being incorrect, is more effective than non-Euclidean geometry in some engineering and architecture."
In practice, it's hard to see why an engineer or architect would even think of using non-Euclidean geometry - unless they are calculating a space probe's route to Neptune (or in a few specific scenarios relating to aeroplane flight paths). In earth-bound contexts, Euclidean geometry is so close to being right that there's no point bringing in non-Euclidean approaches.
UnlearningEcon complains about the use of "as if" theories: when a theory has been empirically disproved by data, why do we keep pretending it's true? Why model people as if they are rational utilitarians when they're clearly not?
A theory is useful because it enables us to predict - and therefore control - the world. Two properties make a theory good at this job:
- It should accurately reflect the world
- It should be practically generalisable
Mon, 25 Nov 2019 18:01:01 GMT language