Monday, March 24, 2008

A Reader Of Mirowski And Georgescu-Roegen?

I don't think I have previously read Robert Nadeau. I know I haven't read this book. But I find his editorial in this month's Scientific American of interest. (Here is a non-gated copy,) I wonder what Jeffrey Sachs makes of this. His column appears immediately before this editorial in the dead trees version.


YouNotSneaky! said...

" A Reader Of Mirowski And Georgescu-Roegen?"

Maybe. Maybe not:

His other books look, um, interesting, as well.

affablerogue said...

There's an extended version of the Nadeau article here.

I dugg it here.

Gabriel said...


Just another "economics doesn't cater to my pet peeve so it's no good" kind of thing.

Plus, again with that non sequitur about mechanics... there's no mechanics in neo-Walrasian G.E. and the last time I checked a scientific theory is better judged by its predictions rather than by the inspiration for some of its older models.

Maybe he should read the Environmental Economics blog (nb, "environmental", not "ecological") and visit any of the hundreds of applied (and/or aggricultural) economics departments out there, to find about the pricing of finite resources and such.

Gabriel said...

It seems I was channeling the environmental economists themselves: Taking economics bashing to the next level (i.e., economics bashing on crack). And I was worried that I was a bit out there with my rhetoric...

Anonymous said...

Overall, the article is weak, but I believe that Robert picked it out because of the claim that neoclassical economics evolved by emulating classical physics.

...the last time I checked a scientific theory is better judged by its predictions rather than by the inspiration for some of its older models.

But the critics claim that G.E. theory makes no predictions. Only with a set of ad hoc assumptions is it possible to generate models which yield strong predictions. Such models are highly stylized (two goods, etc.), so taking them to the data data involves additional judgments involving how to categorize and aggregate data to loosely match the data (though such decisions are often forced upon economists by the agencies collecting the data). It's not clear what is being tested when such models are "taken to the data," or what is being refuted when such models "fail." Applied theory is similar to applied empirical work---researchers are largely engaged in a process of model search rather than the development of theory.


Anonymous said...

Should be "loosely match the theory.


Robert Vienneau said...

affablerogue, thanks for pointing out the extended version. I see Nadeau references Mirowski in that version. I've found another site where he references Georgescu-Roegen.

I like the Ingrao and Israel reference in the extended version. (I agree with Gavin Kennedy that Smith's use of his metaphor doesn't have much to do with Pareto optimality.)

Given the relatively popular audience of Nadeau's article and its shortness, I wouldn't expect it to justify its conclusions. H. E. is correct about me finding the popularization of Mirowski's results to be of interest.

The anti-Nadeau comments Gabriel cites are, to be kind, extremely ignorant. I found out more about ecological economics from Gowdy and Erickson's article in the 2005 volume of the Cambridge Journal of Economics.

YouNotSneaky! said...

"The anti-Nadeau comments Gabriel cites are, to be kind, extremely ignorant."

Care to explain what exactly makes the post over at env-econ "extremely ignorant"? Or at least in any way more ignorant than the ridiculous article which prompted it? And come on, the comments are basically at the appropriate level given the (low) quality of the original article.

Or is this more in the "any and all criticisms of mainstream economics are good simply because they are criticisms of mainstream economics, never mind their actual validity" category.

Anonymous said...

Nadeau is not listed in this department but he is in the Department of English. Not that this discredits him, but SciAm should get this right.

I don't understand why SciAm is choosing this guy over some other more accredited ecological economist to write an article about this subject.

Also looking at his references in the extended version, where are the citations from journals such as JEEM, AJAE or Ecological Economics. It seems the article is very low quality and doesn't even touch the issues that haven been discussed in numerous journal articles.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous says: " where are the citations from journals such as JEEM, AJAE or Ecological Economics".

Well, these journals are not cited because they don't publish profound critiques of mainstream theory. As an example, one study demonstrated that only 8 out of 43,000 papers in the top 20 economics journals reported on studies using agent-based modeling (ABM). That looks like a systematic bias against ABM, a bias which does no credit to mainstream economics.

- pm

YouNotSneaky! said...

On ABM - from what I know of it, it looks like a promising area and will sooner or later probably become part of the mainstream. But at this point I think it's still too new and too "hydraulic". I'm also not sure of the extent of the empirical literature (I know there's some) which does more than just show that a particular functional form can replicate some moment of data if carefully chosen. And anyway, we're still riding the last wave of the "big new thing" - Behavioral and Experimental economics - too long in my opinion but whatever.
So I don't think it's bias "bias". It's just the standard hoops/trends/fashions that affects research like everything else.