16.12.03

THE METHODOLOGY OF POSITIVE ECONOMICS. Daniel at Crooked Timber takes Brad DeLong to task for his presentation of one dirty little secret of theoretical economics: spelling out the premises in such a way that the results come out, without being too obvious about it. Daniel's editorial comments, however, are a bit much:
So, if it is perfectly possible to summarise the conclusions of the Shleifer implementation-cycles model of the business cycle in a few digestible bullet-points, surely it is counterproductive and unforgivable to shroud the simple underlying points in all this [algebra].
Perhaps not. The bullet-point conclusions might be consistent with common sense. The underlying algebra might be forcing the results. There is, however, some benefit in checking some of the premises, weakening some, tightening others, to see if the underlying results are robust to those changes. In particular, conclusions 3 and 5 (counting the bullet points) suggest incentives for agents to behave differently, and that might call for changes in the underlying algebra.

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