Monday, April 8, 2013
Beware of Economists Peddling Elegant Models - By Mark Buchanan
Mathematics can be beguilingly elegant. It can also be dangerous when people mistake its elegance for truth.
Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity might be the best example of elegant math, capturing a wide range of subtle and surprising phenomena with remarkable simplicity. Step toward the practical, though, and physics moves quickly away from elegance to makeshift usefulness. There’s no pretty expression for the operation of a nuclear reactor, or for how air flows past the swept wings of an aircraft. Understanding demands ugly approximations, or brute-force simulation on a large computer.
In one very practical and consequential area, though, the allure of elegance has exercised a perverse and lasting influence. For several decades, economists have sought to express the way millions of people and companies interact in a handful of pretty equations.
“Academic Economics: Strengths and Faults After Considering Interdisciplinary Needs” – By Charlie Munger