Macroeconomics is still in its infancy

From Noah Smith:

“Ed Prescott, who was in some ways the father of modern macroeconomics, passed away recently at the age of 81. I thought this would be a good idea to write about the state of macro as a science. I used to write about this a lot when I first started blogging, so it’s a fun topic to revisit.

Macroeconomics has a bad reputation. I often see people whom I like and respect say stuff like this about the field of economics:

When they say this, I’m pretty sure they aren’t talking about the auction theorists whose models allowed Google to generate almost all of its ad revenue. And I’m pretty sure they aren’t talking about the matching theorists whose models improved kidney donation and saved countless lives. When people say “economists are still struggling to predict the last recession”, they’re talking about macroeconomists — the branch of econ that deals with big things like recessions, inflation, and growth.

It isn’t just pundits and commentators who are annoyed with the state of macro; economists in other fields often join in the criticism. For example, here’s Dan Hamermesh in 2011:

The economics profession is not in disrepute. Macroeconomics is in disrepute. The micro stuff that people like myself and most of us do has contributed tremendously and continues to contribute. Our thoughts have had enormous influence. It just happens that macroeconomics, firstly, has been done terribly and, secondly, in terms of academic macroeconomics, these guys are absolutely useless, most of them. Ask your brother-in-law. I’m sure he thinks, as do 90% of us, that most of what the macro guys do in academia is just worthless rubbish.

This is much harsher than I would put it, but it hints at some of the vicious internal battles being waged in the ivory tower. And even top macroeconomists are often quite upset at their field — see Paul Romer’s (extremely nerdy) 2015 broadside, “Mathiness in the Theory of Economic Growth”.

Ed Prescott’s generation of macroeconomists came into the field intent on fixing this situation.”

Continue reading here.

Posted by at 3:53 PM

Labels: Macro Demystified


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