Interview With Mark Blaug

27 May 2006 at 12:47 am Leave a comment

| Peter Klein |

You readers with a passion for economic methodology (yes, both of you) will enjoy this interview with Mark Blaug. (HT to Rafe Champion, who calls Blaug "the man who did more than anyone to generate the cottage industry of 'new philosophy of science applied to economics.' ")

One excerpt: Blaug's problem with contemporary economics is

not just that economics has become technical; it is that economics prizes technicalities above everything else, and that is why I call it formalism. Formalism is the tendency to worship the form rather than the content of the argument. That is the kind of subject it has become. We care only about the form in which an economic theory or hypothesis is presented, and we care almost nothing about the actual content of the hypothesis.

I have my own problems with formalism, but I think Blaug overstates his case. His characterization may apply to general-equilibrium models in macroeconomics, growth theory, and some other fields, but in applied microeconomics (contract theory, agency theory, labor economics, parts of industrial organization) the situation is not nearly so dire.

Curiously, when asked how economics has progressed in the last half-century (previously discussed here), Blaug doesn't mention microeconomics at all, but says we've learned a lot about "how to deal with inflation, how to deal with unemployment . . . about steering the economy in a macro sense." (Who knew the guy had such a great sense of humor?)

I suppose most of our readers will agree with Ed Leamer that economic methodology, "like sex, is better demonstrated than discussed, though often better anticipated than experienced."

Entry filed under: - Klein -, Methods/Methodology/Theory of Science.

Should the Term “Neoclassical” Die? Non-Monetary Compensation

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