What Are the Questions? And Other Essays: Further Contributions to Modern Economics

What Are the Questions? And Other Essays: Further Contributions to Modern Economics

What Are the Questions? And Other Essays: Further Contributions to Modern Economics

What Are the Questions? And Other Essays: Further Contributions to Modern Economics

Excerpt

My first volume of collected papers (1951) was dedicated to my pupils because of the incentive that they gave me to try to express what I had to say as comprehensibly as possible. The present volume is dedicated to my critics because of the incentive that they have given me to try to think out what I had to say as coherently as possible.

The previous collection of Contributions to Modern Economics (1978) covered a span of fifty years. The present one is mainly concentrated on the dismal 1970s.

The first group of papers -- Analysis -- contains some discussions of methodological principles and a few examples of their application. The methodology is self-conscious. I hold very strongly that the purpose of economic theory should be to try to throw some light on the world that we are living in. (The history of economic doctrines is a separate study.) It should proceed by advancing hypotheses which are in principle refutable. But to sort out the questions to be discussed it is often necessary to pass through a phase of purely logical, a priori argument -- intellectual experiment -- before hypotheses can be formulated. There are many interacting elements in any economic situation; we cannot control our experiments so as to observe the effect of a single change other things remaining the same, still less the concomitants of a difference in a single element in the complex, since one variable cannot display two values at one point in time and space.

Unfortunately, it is often necessary to begin by clearing out of the way unsatisfactory thought experiments which are already established in the field.

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After the Keynesian revolution, what used to be the central topic of textbook economics -- the normal long-run prices of particular com-

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