12 September 2009

Maths and Economics

Once again the debate on the use of maths in economics..Krugman has a very good and balanced piece on this.
Some of the comments left behind on that article are also worth reading:

We often forget that when studying humans, which is the root of economics, hypothesis precedes calculation. If your hypothesis is based upon the calculation, you’re missing something.

The problem with math in economics is that most economists are amateur mathematicians trying to fake it.

Learning that some people may have understood your magazine article as “downplaying” maths in economics, confirms my view on how there is a trend on large part of the world to come up with black and white viewpoints on almost everything (regardless of whether there is math in the process). And that they believe deterministic outputs are scientifically correct. If I understood you right, your point was that economics is a grey system with hard to predict dynamics. 

I don’t think you explained this well. What you need to explain is that mathematics can be used to describe an enormous number of worlds, only one of which is reality. The trick is to recognize whether your mathematics is close to reality or whether it describes some imaginary world.

 suppose someone needs to quote Marshall: “(1) Use mathematics as shorthand language, rather than as an engine of inquiry. (2) Keep to them till you have done. (3) Translate into English. (4) Then illustrate by examples that are important in real life (5) Burn the mathematics. (6) If you can’t succeed in 4, burn 3. This I do often.”
No amount of mathematical modelling will provide a solution to the social functioning of bureacracy, professionalization and hierarchy, the nature of health itself and issues of communal and individual responsibility.You need to start asking from whence your basic intuitions of community and social justice are derived.This should take you at the least into a confrontation with the saint of rightwing individualism, Hayek, and an examination of symbolic economics.A confrontation with culture should force the insight that consumption, growth and GDP are not technical questions but emerge out of historical and semantic questions of value and productivity that relate economics to philosophy.

Read more at the website itself..There is also a petition in case readers are interested in signing up, asking for Revitalizing Economics After the Crash.

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