Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Dangers of Samuelson's Economic Method (Robert Higgs)

In today's Mises.org Daily Article, Robert Higgs writes on how a professor helped send the field of economics on the wrong path by using fancy mathematics to try to explain human action:

We are advised against speaking ill of the dead. In this regard, I am safe, I suppose, because Paul A. Samuelson, whom I intend to criticize, remains alive, although he will soon be 93 years old and therefore cannot be long for this world. When I was first learning economics, in the 1960s, Samuelson was held up by my teachers as the greatest living economist — a genius, they used to say. In the course of my undergraduate and graduate training, I was given no reason to doubt that assessment.

Indeed, a memorably painful part of my graduate education consisted of my attempts to read and understand Samuelson's landmark book Foundations of Economic Analysis (1947), a treatise in mathematical economic theory, patterned after classical thermodynamics, that set the tone for much of what the cleverest mainstream economists would do for decades to come.

Read the rest

Note: Using fancy mathematics has also sent physics and astronomy down the wrong path, but that's a whole another story!

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