Sunday, September 12, 2010

Models tell us more than hindsight

by Tim Harford

Financial Times
September 11, 2010

According to my esteemed colleague Gideon Rachman, economists should be swept off their thrones by historians. Economists have had far too strong a stranglehold on the levers of power, he claims. They think they are scientists. They think they can foretell the future. They are wrong: “pseudo-scientists”, “peddling brash certainties”. Historians such as Gideon and Professor Niall Ferguson, hitherto relegated to backwaters such as the FT’s op-ed page, should at last be paid a bit of attention.

In pondering how to respond, I suffered an acute shortage of brash certainty. Gideon is quite right about the importance of history. When it comes to economics, however, the chief source of brash certainties appears to be Gideon, who wouldn’t know an economic model if it paraded down a catwalk at him.


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