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McCloskey on the role of mathematics in economics


In a recent RWER blog, Lars Syll drew attention to the following quote from U.S. economist Deirdre McCloskey [1]:

“In advanced economics the question would be: ‘What besides mathematics should be in an economics lecture?’ In physics a familiar spirit is Archimedes, the experimenter. But in economics, as in mathematics itself, it is theorem- proving Euclid who paces the halls …

“Economics … has become a mathematical game. The science has been drained out of economics, replaced by a Nintendo game of assumption-making ..

“Most thoughtful economists think that the games on the blackboard and the computer have gone too far, absurdly too far. It is time to bring economic observation, economic history and philosophy, and economic literature back into the teaching of economics.

“Economists would be less arrogant, and less dangerous as experts, if they had to face up to the facts of the world. Perhaps they would even become as modest as the physicists. ”



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