Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A Noble Nobel Prize in Economics

Math gods! Economics has become too much about math. I find it curious that economics, which is social science is being vilified for being pushed in the direction of being a social science. Huh?

Curriculum: When I received my PhD in Econ over 30-Years ago Harvard was in a snit about dropping its history of thought requirement. B-schools have been short on ethics training. If it ain't math or quantitative it ain't worth studying.

NOT! - I can't you tell how glad I was that I read Koopman's "Three essays' in graduate school!!??

Ptolemy is dead - Are markets gods? Do all the planets rotate around them? Is there nothing about morality and ethics B-leaders need to know? What about anyone knowing about history (in this case economic history) and 'human behavior', read 'consumer behavior' (woo-hoo social science social science!)? Can the world really be subsumed in a series of equations (Issac Asimoz- read his Foundation series)? Maybe if the equations are complex enough. Maybe it's not just Sci-Fi, but it still is for now. But I doubt we are at that level of understanding for either human behavior or math, indeed I know it.

Math guys may get Econ PhDs from MIT but they work for Social Science wonks - Anyone who does policy work knows the importance of the non-math stuff. Public policy-trained economics often occupy high level jobs since success at some level is more about understanding politics, motivations and advertising (spin) than about having the best quality 't' or 'F' statistic. In any even I am far too suspicious of that quant work since the people with the same opinions keep 'proving' that they right even though guys on the other side keep 'proving' that 'they' are really wrong.

From X + Y = Z to the X-factor -- While 'The Journals' may cringe at this, in my grad work I'd taken a course in law and economics that a was a very useful way to put the quantitative stuff in its place. Up to now the 'quant' stuff was like The Blob, absorbing everything in sight. Models have a role, but its not to be placed on the altar. Broadening what economics is and does is a good thing. This Nobel prize does that.

Our inabilities are many - The inability to construct non explosive derivatives (Danger Will Robinson!, danger!) out of something as simple as a home mortgage should tell you that Quant economists exaggerate their abilities. My Dad helped people buy and sell homes for over 30-Years and never blew anyone up. I guess it takes a village...one of idiots who think they are rocket scientists. If that seems off point then assess our ability to forecast something as fundamental as an exchange rate or even productivity.

Oh, yeah we can forecast things with trend. Good for us. Economics may have been taken down a notch to some but it seems to have found its soul with this award... these awards. I admit to being heartened more by the subject matter rewarded than by the fact that a woman won (shared)the top prize. Good for her, but better for what she did.


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