Thursday, May 28, 2015

Paul Romer — Mathiness and Academic Identity

Paul Romer clarifies his position on mathiness.
I see a marked deterioration in the progress that economics is making as a scientific discipline. I point to objective evidence that economics is not functioning as a scientific discipline should. The problem seems to be getting worse. 
Science is about establishing what is true. Scientists say what they believe. They support their claims with evidence and logic. They evaluate seriously the claims that other scientists make. They admit when they are wrong.
Science is not like an inter-faith congress, where everyone is supposed to listen, in tolerant and respectful silence, to recitations of dogma that maintain sub-group cohesion.
I could be wrong. I’ll listen and admit it if I am persuaded that I am wrong. But until logic and evidence show that some other position is closer to being right, I will say what I think because I care about more about protecting science in general and economics in particular than about avoiding hurt feelings.
Paul Romer
Mathiness and Academic Identity

Btw, in the post Romer makes clear that the issue is about economic power and economic rent, although he does not use those words.
For example, one of the things that the people I criticize are campaigning for is a methodological restriction to models with price-taking. For them, price-taking is dogma. To make the case for this restriction, they are not presenting scientific arguments grounded in logic and evidence.
I do not think that the outcome of this campaign over methodological dogma will have any effect on national politics or actual policy decisions. Nor do I think that the proponents of price-taking are fooling themselves into thinking that the outcome of this campaign will have any affect on national politics or actual policy decisions. They are fighting to preserve a sense of academic group identity grounded in a common defense of this dogmatic position.
I have written that Stigler and Friedman opposed Chamberlin’s theory of monopolistic competition because they did think that letting this deviation from Marshallian price-taking into mainstream economics could influence national politics and actual policy decisions. But that was then. This is now.
I suspect that path dependence explains why economists at the University of Chicago still make hostility to monopolistic competition central to their sense of academic identity, but if so, it is a vestigial holdover from battles about national politics from the 1950s to the 1980s, not part of an ongoing battle over national politics.
Many of us don't view this argument as "vestigial" and about academic politics. It is very much an article of faith of neoliberal dogma that the Chicago School largely initiated, promoted and continues to maintain as an ideological political lever.

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