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Old 2016-06-05, 09:33   #1
clowns789's Avatar
Jun 2003
The Computer

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Default (Pseudo)-Mathematics in Economics

I’m curious if anyone on this forum is familiar with the mathematical methods used in economics. There has been a push in recent years to increase the quantity and complexity of math used in the field, which is intended to increase the level of rigor in publications but in reality often leads to a situation in which the author tries to “sound smart” using high-level mathematics improperly.

Economist Paul Romer wrote about this phenomenon last year, using the term “mathiness” to describe it. It’s certainly something I’ve seen in academic economics, and this 5-page paper sums it up well.

Feel free to reply below if you’re at all familiar with the topic and have any thoughts, or are just curious and want to learn more.
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Old 2016-06-05, 16:08   #2
jwaltos's Avatar
Apr 2012

5378 Posts

I have a formal background in economics but have never used the degree within a profession. My perspective is that you need to specify the kind of economics you are referring to. A Harvard behavioural economist had posted very interesting results on his page years ago. It's difficult to mathematize behaviour. The best papers are written by Nobel laureates within their area of expertise and the mathematics is solid.
The only analogy that quickly comes to mind is that predicting economic behaviour is like predicting the weather. There is folklore, fact and fiction and each have their own fan club.

Last fiddled with by jwaltos on 2016-06-05 at 16:20 Reason: Fine structure post.
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Old 2016-06-06, 07:45   #3
Nick's Avatar
Dec 2012
The Netherlands

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Are you aware of thiese initiatives?
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Old 2016-06-07, 04:01   #4
clowns789's Avatar
Jun 2003
The Computer

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J. Waltos: I have seen a shift towards behavioral economics in recent years, which is promising, although I don't agree with everything in that school of thought. The weather analogy is good, and I remember a professor who once chided that economists created weathermen so someone would be wrong more than them.

Nick: I have heard of PCES, and agree with their take on economics education and neoclassical economics. I hadn't heard of Rethink, but that looks interesting as well. There is certainly something lacking when economics doesn't seem to have the practical value it should. Instead of being a "dismal science", it should reflect the real world and provide answers on how to ensure a more stable and prosperous future for all.
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