Friday, September 30, 2011

Economists should act more like historians

Russ Roberts provided an excellent interview about the nature of economics in a recent EconTalk podcast, with interesting takes on the extent to which economics is a science, and what we mean by "science".  Listening to it, I had this thought.

As they write articles and seek publication, economists make repeated efforts to take a complex world and simplify it to a few forces, or a few mathematical models.  We all know the world is too complex for one model to handle, but our institutional reward system discourages acknowledging this.  I believe that if economists acted more like historians, meaning they were rewarded for composing articles and books articulating the complexity of the world and the importance of personality and circumstance in addition to economic constraints, we would seem wiser in our writings, and probably less politicized on television.

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