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Bonus Quotation of the Day…

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… is from page 208 of the 1990 Transaction Publishers reprint of W.H. Hutt [2]‘s 1936 book, Economists and the Public [3] (original emphasis):

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 practising 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 unguarded hastiness in framing generalizations from unrealistic premises.

Sadly, 80 years after Hutt wrote the above, the same regrettable forces remain active in the economics profession.

Among the principal aims of all of the faculty in the Department of Economics at George Mason University [4] is to encourage and teach our students – undergrad and graduate – to avoid falling into this yawning trap of unwisdom and scientistic naiveté that deludes those who do fall into it into mistakingly thinking themselves to be scientific sophisticates.

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