Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux on February 24, 2015

in Economics

… is from page 57 of William H. Hutt’s 1936 essay “On the Decline of Authority of Economists,” as reprinted as Chapter 4 of Daniel B. Klein, ed., What Do Economists Contribute? (1999) (original emphases):

Moreover, the swamping of economic treatises with mathematics has not only tended to drive away the layman, but has diverted attention from fundamentals to points of analytical interest, and incidentally thereby led to some actual corruption or unjustifiable weakening of basic tenets.  It cannot be argued, of course, that the mathematical method, building on valid and complete hypotheses, can lead to anything but correct results.  Neither can it be contended that this method has not proved, indirectly, of immense value in the development and refinement of the logical framework of the science.  But its intricacies appear to have caused some of those practicing it to lose their continuous intimacy with certain broad unquestionable elements of reality which ought always to dominate in applied theory.  Whilst not actually inducing generalizations from special cases, some economists seem to have given undue stress to curiosa in a manner that has tended to distort their judgment and weaken the authority of economists generally.  And they appear frequently to have shown a lack of judgment or an unregarded hastiness in framing generalizations from unrealistic premises.


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