Re: It's a philosophy, no?

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I would think it is a prescriptive theory of history, grounded somewhat in economics, but I am by no means an expert.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 09-12-13 2:38 PM
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A multi-level not-marketing scheme.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-12-13 2:39 PM
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Blame Karl Popper.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 09-12-13 2:40 PM
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"....economics"


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 09-12-13 2:46 PM
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Marx was full of shit but not in a way we can understand anymore. I mean, I suppose we could if we read him, but that's thousands of pages to read.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-12-13 2:53 PM
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Further to 3: Popper, who identified as a Marxist in his youth, famously declared Marxism (and Freudian psychoanalysis) to be pseudoscience, contending that they do not make empirically falsifiable predictions. Any undergraduate philosophy of science course is going to assign Popper or Popper derivatives, so it is not surprising that Marxism gets indicted along with astrology.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 09-12-13 2:54 PM
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I blame society German society.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 09-12-13 2:55 PM
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Say what you will about Marxism, at least it's an ethos a pseudoscience a philosophy.


Posted by: MAE | Link to this comment | 09-12-13 2:55 PM
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4 gets it right of course. "Marxism" (whatever that means) is neither more nor less a pseudoscience than is orthodox economics.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-12-13 2:55 PM
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Marx was an economist. (And also a political theorist.)


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 09-12-13 2:58 PM
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I mean, both are based around models (the labor theory of value, homo economicus) that are demonstrably untrue. Doesn't make either useless, just pseudosciences.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-12-13 2:58 PM
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"Marxism" (whatever that means)

This is something I've never quite understood. If it means someone who believes communism is a historical inevitability, then I guess I'm not a marxist. Whereas if it just means you're generally sympathetic to the demands in the Communist Manifesto, then I guess I am a marxist.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 09-12-13 3:03 PM
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Marxists are heebie's people?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-12-13 3:04 PM
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In the "rootless cosmopolitan" sense.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-12-13 3:06 PM
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I'd actually be more charitable than Halford. Marxism and classical economics are models so unrealistic as to be pseudoscientific, but they do both provide some important and useful insights.

For example, from classical, the notion that trade and competition are powerful motives is pretty useful and interesting and usually right. From Marxism, the notions that history is driven by economic forces, that class is the organising concept of society, that capitalism is driven by competition but all the competitors want to be monopolists, are all useful, interesting, and usually right.

Importantly, you don't have to believe in unemployment as a force for religious salvation or in compulsory children's gulags to make use of either.


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 09-12-13 3:08 PM
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6: I suppose, according to Popper, that any system of thought which does not purport to practice empiricism is a pseudoscience, in which case we can neatly divide everything into science and pseudoscience.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 09-12-13 3:09 PM
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I don't think 11 is using a terribly useful definition of pseudoscience. Is classical mechanics pseudoscience?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-12-13 3:10 PM
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I'll sign on totally to 15, and give a solidarity fist bump for the hell of it too.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-12-13 3:11 PM
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12: the French used to have a distinction between a Marxist, who believes in the inevitable triumph of the world revolution and the achievement of communism etc etc, and a marxisant (literally, one who speaks the language of Marx), who uses Marxist thinking but doesn't necessarily believe in the quasi-religious aspects, even though they might be very radical and possibly violent.


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 09-12-13 3:13 PM
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17 -- Here's a good paper on the issue. Basically, economists aren't even particularly concerned with whether or not their models describe reality. They are used as argumentative tools that are supposed to illuminate real-world situations by analogy. Basically, Emerson was and is completely right -- they are basically just like lawyers, folks with a powerful argumentative toolkit that can be deployed in the service of a number of different ideologies, but for the most part are captured by and ideologically committed to protecting the rich.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-12-13 3:14 PM
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Would depend on the undergrad philosophy of science course, I suppose. It's not all Popper, all the time. Although it wouldn't surprise if there are vulgar Popperians out there teaching. FWIW, you do get Marxists who claim that dialectical materialism is scientific. So I guess someone might dismiss that as pseudo-science.

The demarcation problem doesn't really tend to concern philosophers of science that much these days. It'd be more a historic curiosity or something taught as part of an undergrad survey course.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 09-12-13 3:19 PM
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I have no interest in arguing for the worthiness of economists, but "pseudoscience" should mean something other than "annoying and deceptive in many instances" and in any case the rational actor theory -- wrong though it is -- was one of the best ways to get analytical traction to study aggregate behavior for many years, and anyhow actually isn't an unfalsifiable shibboleth as shown by the fact that many economists (who, again, might be worthless pieces of shit) work with other models (cf., as ever, Kahneman).


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-12-13 3:21 PM
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If it means someone who believes communism is a historical inevitability, then I guess I'm not a marxist.

Yeah, to be more precise, Popper's "pseudoscience" critique was aimed at historical materialism and Marx's claim to have discovered the "scientific" laws that govern the course of history. I don't think he had a problem with Marx's endorsement of progressive income tax.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 09-12-13 3:22 PM
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You know what field has models that are demonstrably false, and a poor record of predictive accuracy? Climate science. Want to claim that for pseudoscience?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-12-13 3:23 PM
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Hoo boy troll bait.

both are based around models (the labor theory of value, homo economicus) that are demonstrably untrue.

Consider this provisional and playful

A truth has only a utilitarian meaning. You pick a side before you assemble your tools. The LTV, as an assumption, is necessary for the proletarian revolution just as homo economicus is necessary for capitalist exploitation.

This may or may not be in opposition to the way "science" views itself. I view science not very differently than the above, as also being determined by its tools, calculus, telescopes, cyclotrons. Science is remarkable for its ability to create new tools.

Randall Collins Sociology of Philosophy goes into the history and epistemology of science in depth, and the push algebra and calculus gave it around Descartes. I should check my notes.

Resnick & Wolff, Competing Economic Theories is largely about epistemology.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 09-12-13 3:24 PM
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I agree with 22.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-12-13 3:24 PM
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Further to 20, and everyone should read the paper linked therein:

Put differently (and I'm not either a philosopher of science or a scientist or even someone who can do basic math) my understanding is that classical mechanics sets out theories which are then testable by data, and which, after being confirmed by the data, are now understood based on that experimentation to hold true for the world in which classical mechanics apply. For something like climate science, you don't expect perfect results in your prediction -- but you do expect that you're articulating theories that either will or won't be confirmed by actual data about the real world.

Economic models don't work like that -- they are understood specifically not to model reality or to tell you much about reality. Everyone knows that their conclusions and their "laws" don't apply to the real world, only to the models themselves. The models are intended to be, and can only seriously be understood as, analogies to reality that may or may not be useful in helping to clarify thought. That's not a terrible thing in and of itself, as long as its properly understood.

But, as often as not, especially in policy debate, economic jargon and concepts are often given excessive weight and presented as actually conclusive "scientific" authority, which ultimately obfuscates thought and dresses up what's basically an argument over values with a fake veneer of technicality (see my being pissy with Knecht in the other thread).


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-12-13 3:29 PM
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re: 25

FWIW, various forms of instrumentalism are extremely common in the philosophy science.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Instrumentalism
http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/scientific-realism/#AntFoiForSciRea

It's arguably how lots of famous scientists [Mach, Einstein, etc.] saw science.

* the wiki article isn't very good.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 09-12-13 3:29 PM
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Resnick & Wolff

The sharp differences in the three economic theories' basic objects suggest that the objects of theories do not exist out there in the world just waiting for theorists to observe and theories to explain them. The world we see and the objects we find in it are shaped by the theories we use to analyze them. Here, it is important that we not get caught in a new wrinkle on that old question about which came first, the chicken or the egg. We cannot and we need not resolve the question whether the objects we find in the world came first and our theories second, or vice versa.

Rather, human beings are always observing and thinking at the same time.

What we see is shaped in part by how we think just as how we think is shaped in part by what we see. Marxists observe class and theorize about it; their theory plays a role in influencing what they see just as their observations shape their theorizing. Neoclassicists observe individual-maximizing behavior and theorize about it; their theory plays a role in influencing what they see just as their observations shape their theorizing. Keynesians observe aggregations of individuals consuming a socially conventional portion of their income and theorize about it; their theory plays a role in helping to shape what they see in the economy just as their empirical observations shape what and how they
theorize.



Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 09-12-13 3:33 PM
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The demarcation problem doesn't really tend to concern philosophers of science that much these days. It'd be more a historic curiosity or something taught as part of an undergrad survey course.

Right, which is what I inferred the course to be from heebie's description.

And 22 is right.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 09-12-13 3:34 PM
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O(n)T: Marshall Berman, pseudoscientist, died today. I have to admit to being sad about this, even sadder than I am about the NASA frog.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09-12-13 3:37 PM
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Christ, Berman's wiki page sucks.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09-12-13 3:38 PM
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While agreeing with 15, what amuses me about the labor-theory-of-value thing is that John Huston tried to express it as homespun wisdom in a way that doesn't stand up to the least scrutiny. (Sinec gold is also valuable when found lying on the ground.)


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 09-12-13 3:39 PM
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22's not wrong in its own terms. But it doesn't get at what specifically is different about economics. It's not actually interested in producing a science that describes reality with laws -- or even generally-correct observations.

It's a case-based discipline that, at its best, comes up with formal models that set out interesting cases that may or may not be helpful for actually thinking about the real world. What's annoying is when people take that reasoning-by-analogy and try to use it as a bludgeon in arguments that are really about policy or values or empirical reality, which economics can't even purport to address.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-12-13 3:39 PM
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A truth has only a utilitarian meaning. You pick a side
before you assemble your tools.

I might disagree with bob's principles, but I have to give him credit for his fidelity to them in daily commenting life.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 09-12-13 3:39 PM
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27 but you do expect that you're articulating theories that either will or won't be confirmed by actual data about the real world.

That's a little uncomfortably simplistic, isn't it? Most things aren't "confirmed" or "not confirmed", they're kinda-sorta-true to different extents.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 09-12-13 3:43 PM
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R & W

Overdeterminist Marxists thus insist that they, like everyone else, are producing distinctively partial explanations. Their Marxian partial explanation is different from the alternative but likewise partial explanations. Each is partisan in its particular way. While overdeterminist Marxists presume that all theories and explanations are partial, their own included, nearly all neoclassical and Keynesian theorists presume that final causes of events exist. Such neoclassical economists believe their theory can and will find and disclose those final causes and thereby yield a complete explanation. Such Keynesians believe the same for their quite different theory. For both such theorists, once discovered, these final causes by definition cannot be reduced to anything else. That is why such theorists believe that they have produced (or will produce) a complete explanation.

Their answer to this question has two parts: (1) class as an aspect of social life has been neglected in and by other theories and theorists, and (2) that neglect of class has prevented people from constructing the kind of societies that Marxists would like to see. A theory of social structures and historical changes that is partial to (emphasizes) class, the overdeterminist Marxists argue, can help remedy the neglect. In economics, such Marxists point out, neoclassical and Keynesian theories ignore or dismiss the existence of class, exploitation, and class conflict. Marxists want to direct attention to class because they see it as a part of social life that will have to be changed if social justice is to be achieved. Marxists clearly feel that their theory will stimulate the needed attention. Notice that their justification of the focus on class is not a claim that it is some final and ultimate determinant of historical change, but rather a judgment about how analytical thought can and should be oriented to influence and achieve social goals. That is why Marxists make class their particular starting point and conceptual tool in analytical thought.

All for now. Maybe Collins later.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 09-12-13 3:43 PM
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36 is certainly right (and you know infinitely more than I do). But I don't think you guys in physics say "we just don't care whether or not the experimental data demonstrates that [theory x] does not hold true in the real world [at least to some important extent]."

Economics as practiced does not care much about whether or not its most basic premises are true or false, or whether its models describe reality. If the model is a good model, it's a good model and might be helpful for how people think about things, so it's a good model.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-12-13 3:48 PM
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Most of what I see young economists doing, much like political scientists and a lot of psychologists, is just "data science". And coming up with a model of human motivation that explains a data set and then seeing if the model generalizes to other analogous cases doesn't seem like a crazy way to study human social reality.


Posted by: Criminally Bulgur | Link to this comment | 09-12-13 4:16 PM
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While I think in many ways you're right about what economic models actually accomplish, and how we should think of them, I don't think most economists (or, more importantly, policy analysts and people with real power who have economics training) think of them that way, or would be willing to say "experimental data is irrelevant". The exact rhetorical moves will differ from economist to economist, but they will generally insist that there's a feedback mechanism from model to empirical data, and that this ought to guide our thinking about which the right models are (at least when you're talking about anything policy-relevant).

High theorists are perhaps more likely to have your view, though.


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 09-12-13 4:17 PM
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Berman's All that's Solid Melts is an interesting book, I just read it a few months ago. Sort of combination of urban history of NY/history of modernism/Walter Benjamin. It was written in 1982, so it's still a 70s book . . . if it had been written ten or fifteen years later, it would have been very different. NY changed quite a bit.


Posted by: bjk | Link to this comment | 09-12-13 4:22 PM
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38.2 isn't very fair or accurate.

The models come second, and are to used to manipulate the "measurable quantities."

National Income, unemployment, interest rates, productivity, profit, wages. Etc.

These things, concepts, units, whatever they are, and the definitions of these things, are where economics starts. Here is why Krugman can argue with the freshwaters (easily) and the post-Keynesians (barely), because at the level of units they speak the same language.

Are these economic entities totally different, even in kind, from temperature, acceleration, mass?


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 09-12-13 4:24 PM
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Sure, I agree with the premise that (some, but not all) people think that there's a "feedback loop" between model and reality. That's where the "useful to think with" part comes in -- it's a case based, analogical discipline, and you want your analogies to be at least somewhat useful in thinking about real world problems. And sometimes mainstream economics can be very useful indeed to think with about these problems, as Alex says above. [So can Marx]. But the problem, or one problem, with the science label is that what constitutes that feedback loop is incredibly ideologically mediated -- since, again, economics is fumbling around with premises that are fundamentally false and which everyone agrees do not actually accurately describe how the economy works. So the discipline is mostly used to sharpen and formalize arguments -- which, to be clear, has an important value in and of itself -- but the arguments can be deployed in a large number of ways (although the ones that favor the rich are deeply ingrained within economics for a number of reasons). And in its public presentation there's a very very strong tendency within the discipline to deliberately confuse the simplified model (which, at bottom, everyone knows is false) with the real world for purely ideological purposes.

So I don't think mainstream economics is useless. But it's very much not providing a scientific model for how the world -- or even the economy -- actually works, and to that extent I'm pretty comfortable with the "pseudoscience" label, particularly given the longstanding hubris of economists in claiming the mantle of science for themselves.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-12-13 4:29 PM
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43 to 40.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-12-13 4:31 PM
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Or, shorter me: Emerson is right.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-12-13 4:34 PM
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I'm curious whether the category of social science can exist in Halford's world.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 09-12-13 4:35 PM
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21: I picked up an anthology just last week titled Philosophy of Pseudoscience: Reconsidering the Demarcation Problem, that deals with this.

Several contributors allow that Popper's original demarcation problem, which sought the distinguish what he considered science from everything else, from astrology to UFO-ology to Marxism to metaphysics, was too broad and probably not a very useful enterprise. They argue, though, that the narrower demarcation problem of distinguishing science from specifically those things that put on the trappings of the more established physical/biological sciences in order to push some financial or political agenda, might still be worthwhile. Particularly because pseudoscience seems to be an identifiable type in way that "everything that's not science" isn't. Certainly holocaust denialists and Intelligent Design creationists have more in common with each other than they do with either genuine historians or genuine biologists.

In reference to pseudoscience support communities, one of the authors coins the term "belief buddies", which I thought was kind of cool.

With regard to Marxism, the pseudoscience description might sound a bit strange today just because even self identified Marxists don't go on and on about how they've discovered the Objective Scientific Laws that govern history much these days.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 09-12-13 4:38 PM
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I endorse Halford's position re: economists and economics.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 09-12-13 4:39 PM
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Marxists are heebie's people?

Mostly 14, but also explicitly: we contain communists. In multitudes.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09-12-13 4:45 PM
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It's certainly possible that pseudoscience is a system of thought that unlearns over time. The ddt/baccy/climate pseudoscientific system seems to have got cruder and stupider. Similarly, the transition from weaksauce postnewkeynesian to hardcore village austrian/austerian economics suggests negative learning.


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 09-12-13 4:51 PM
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the rational actor theory -- wrong though it is -- was one of the best ways to get analytical traction to study aggregate behavior for many years,

I don't know what this means, unless 'one of the best ways' just refers to one of the best ways to get paid and invited to conferences while studying aggregate behavior. The rational actor hypothesis was a tool used in constructing larger models that served a particular view of the world, generally politically motivated. No one even made much of a pretense of testing those models empirically against models informed by other hypotheses. Because A) that wasn't the goal, B) it was impossible anyway. There's always been lots of empirical work in economics but until recently little mainstream interest in building models that weren't based on perfect rationality assumptions. More recently, you get perfect information relaxed (while maintaining rationality assumptions), then behavioral economics, but even that isn't much of a divergence from rational actor models (still methodologically individualist, just put more structure on particular 'errors' people tend to make).

and anyhow actually isn't an unfalsifiable shibboleth as shown by the fact that many economists (who, again, might be worthless pieces of shit) work with other models (cf., as ever, Kahneman).

I think it is pretty much unfalsifiable, in that there is no set of aggregate outcomes that could not be explained by a set of rational actors with a particular set of preferences and information. Kahneman's work is brilliant psychology but it's not really economics -- it just unpacks certain weird and self-contradictory heuristics people use in a very systematic way. It's not like before Kahneman any thinking person thought people were all that rational.

But as I understand it 'falsifiability' has been pretty much rejected in philosophy of science.

Most things aren't "confirmed" or "not confirmed", they're kinda-sorta-true to different extents.

yes, but as Halford has been saying economics has almost no empirical predictive power. It has the most power in settings that have been specifically designed and created to 'make' its assumptions true (e.g. regulated financial markets), and even there it's very problematic (which is why big banks prefer hiring physicists to economists, and why finance theory itself has limited value beyond no-arbitrage conditions that were in many cases understood ).

I think it's questionable whether 'science' is the right way to think about social theory anyway, or the right way to think about aggregate human behavior. If you think that the reliability of natural law is what makes the 'hard sciences' so fantastically predictively successful, there just may not be a corresponding kind of 'social law' that is reliable in the same way.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 09-12-13 4:58 PM
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My comment hung around for half the evening while I did other stuff so I missed a lot of the stuff above. What Bulgur said in 39 is exactly right about how a lot of economics is done in practice.

Also, meant to try to link to this fascinating paper in discussing how people didn't need modern economic theory to apply no-arbitrage conditions to financial markets, but didn't close the brackets.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 09-12-13 5:03 PM
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how they've discovered the Objective Scientific Laws that govern history much these days.

After 150 years, we have refined these terms: discovered, objective, scientific, laws, govern, history and even "these days," everyday life

At the heart of the everyday life, then, is the figure of uneven development generated by capitalism as it enters societies at different moments and different rates of intensity

In this regard, modernity provided a framework of temporal imminence* in which to locate all societies. This was a conception of modernity rarely, if ever, imagined by classic theorists like Durkheim, Weber, and Simmel. If modernity was driven by the desiring machine of capitalism, promising to install its regime of production and consumption everywhere, the everyday, serving as a minimal unification of the present and signaling the level of lived experience and reproduction would, in fact, negotiate the compelling demands of homogeneity through the mediations of a past that constantly stood in a tense, often antagonistic, relationship to the present of the new.
...Harootunian

*That's what it read. I still think some editor got confused about "immanence"...but not sure.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 09-12-13 5:07 PM
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what makes the 'hard sciences' so fantastically predictively successful

Science!

We will apply heat to this beaker of water with a thermometer inside...and see if the Pirates win the Series.

Wait! That is not we claim to predict.

Will the experimenters order pizza or chinese? Will somebody "get lucky?"

If only economists were able to limit their predictions to what was easily measured and consensually agreed as an advance in knowledge.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 09-12-13 5:17 PM
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This bit from the OP:

I did the obnoxious thing where you get hung up on what's not the point, and derail the story

reminds me of what keeps happening in my class this semester. I make some offhand comment like "what I'm telling you here has an implicit assumption that [X] isn't an important effect, which is usually going to be true of what we do in this class, so don't worry about it", and then I get a long string of questions about [X], which is exactly the thing I didn't want to cover.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 09-12-13 8:38 PM
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I make some offhand comment like "what I'm telling you here has an implicit assumption that [X] isn't an important effect, which is usually going to be true of what we do in this class, so don't worry about it", and then I get a long string of questions about [X], which is exactly the thing I didn't want to cover.

I think you can actually just not mention the assumptions. I know you love truth and that's admirable, but it might be ok.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 09-12-13 9:04 PM
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No, I'm pretty sure that would make him a pseudoscientist.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09-12-13 9:08 PM
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If only economists were able to limit their predictions to what was easily measured and consensually agreed as an advance in knowledge.

They can -- if economists could just manage to forecast their made-up 'GDP' metric a year or two in advance, everyone would be satisfied. But even that is out of reach.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 2:47 AM
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I'm not sure how many scientists would be happy to take Popper's word on what is and is not a science these days.

The point about Marx is that he was both a theorist and a political activist. When he was in theorist mode, he was very analytical and quite shy of making absolute predictions- in dialectical thinking by definition there are always two possible outcomes from any situation: resolved/not resolved, and Marx was profoundly aware of this. In activist mode he sounded as definite and single minded as any other campaigner; politicians don't go around saying, "If elected, if all these problematics are resolved favourably, and in certain contingencies, we will do X", they say, "Elect us and we will do X."

Obviously the two modes of operation overlapped in Marx's mind, but unless you read him with a determinedly hostile prejudice it's usually clear enough which is to the fore at any one time. So yes, his contributions to economics and political theory were as scientific as the limitations of social science permit*, provided that i. you recognise that you're not living in the third quarter of the nineteenth century, and that Marx's writing is not some kind of religious canon, and ii. that you understand that subsequent events are data, and can be investigated using Marxist methods, but can't be reinvented to fit some kind of "Marxist" necessity.

None of which is to say that the bullshit peddled in the USSR or Maoist China was anything other than religion. And let's not mention Juche.

*Yeah, yeah, Labour Theory of Value, yadda, yadda. Sure, it's deeply flawed, but this was only demonstrated conclusively in the last 50 years. Marx took it wholesale from Smith and Ricardo, and you don't hear people dissing them as pseudoscientists.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 3:19 AM
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I'm not sure how many scientists would be happy to take Popper's word on what is and is not a science these days.

Quite a lot of scientists, I think, since folk-philosophy-of-science among scientists often seems to consist of a bit of Popper/falsification, and not much else.

You'd find almost no philosophers prepared to take Popper's word for much at all, these days.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 3:22 AM
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You'd find almost no philosophers prepared to take Popper's word for much at all, these days.

His paper on Parmenides is one of my favorite things in the historiography of philosophy. I like the Plato book for its historical judgment (and I don't mind the anti-fascism). I like the central ideas in the Marx half of the second volume of The Open Society and its Enemies. But for all that, ttaM is still mostly right.


Posted by: beamish | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 3:57 AM
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You'd find almost no philosophers prepared to take Popper's word for much at all, these days.

Not unless they can fail to disprove it, certainly.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 4:00 AM
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My adviser rants amusingly about the excessive influence of logical positivism on our field. I bet ttaM would enjoy those rants.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 4:32 AM
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Marx took it wholesale from Smith and Ricardo, and you don't hear people dissing them as pseudoscientists.

Smith's version is much closer to modern utility theory than to Marx. And I don't think even Popper would call the LTV pseudoscience, because it makes falsifiable predictions.

Marx actually makes quite a few falsifiable predictions, some of which (tendency to monoply, tendency of capitalism to spread beyond its present borders) are so well established today that people think them trivial and therefore devalue Marx's contribution; others are clearly wrong, or right only in exceptional cases.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 4:36 AM
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47: even self identified Marxists don't go on and on about how they've discovered the Objective Scientific Laws that govern history much these days

Kinda like to unpack this one a bit. Did they ever? I'm thinking of Emma Goldman, for instance, as someone who seems to praise Marx (and Freud and Nietzsche and Havelock Ellis etc.) somewhat uncritically. But I think what a lot of those folx in the fin de siecle were responding to was not so much the positive statements of various theorists and philosophers, but the effect they had on overturning the staid dogmas that were prevalent in that era. So it's not so much that they were saying "Marx is scientific," but that they were saying "not-Marx is not-scientific."

Of course, I'm well aware that there were and are plenty of True Believers who do fall back on "it's an Iron Law of History!" fairly often. But you get those folx with any ideology. Except anarchism. Because we're Perfect Little Unique Snowflakes.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 5:01 AM
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Freud is another good one to ask if he counts as a scientist.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 5:05 AM
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Because except for castration anxiety, he was just making shit up.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 5:16 AM
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Block 16777215 turns out (with the new version of e2fsprogs) to be located in inode 409774! Which has an extent of 3 and is associated with 10 files! Decrypting the pathnames, though, just gives me either errors or else a list of the files in the top of my /home/ and messages about them not existing.

Also, when e2fsck hits that block, it either finds so many references (or goes into an infinite loop) that the output dumped into terminal eventually causes gnome-terminal to bloat out until the system runs out of RAM and indeed of swap.

Now dd'ing the whole mess off to a removable disk preparatory to getting rid of inode 409774.


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 5:42 AM
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At last! You had us on tenterhooks there Alex.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 6:05 AM
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preparatory to getting rid of inode 409774

I don't like the sound of that. What's an "inode"?


Posted by: Opinionated Testicle | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 6:06 AM
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I'm always surprised by the low status of Popper in philosophy of science. It's the one idea of philosophy of science that actual working scientists find useful, and yet philosophers of science are always quick to distance themselves from him. It makes zero sense to me.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 6:08 AM
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65: There really was a "scientific Marxism" that's mostly died out. Marx in Capital was aiming for a prediction that capitalism would collapse for mechanistic reasons. The direct heirs to this tradition are Marxist economists, but almost nobody believes in the framework of Capital in an unmodified form.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 6:14 AM
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71: I assume the views of both scientists and philosophers of science are colored in different ways by the fact that Popper is more flattering to scientists than the commonly known alternatives.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 6:17 AM
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Sorry. 73 should have been from me.


Posted by: Opinionated Testicle | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 6:18 AM
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Without Popper, maybe we wouldn't have to see Pet/er Wo/it being quoted in every news article about string theory.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 6:20 AM
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Economics is a perfectly legitimate science, though economists tend to be corrupt.

Krugman (for example) largely predicted the economy of the last four years, using the tools of the science of economics.

Sure, Emerson's critique is valid in a polemical sense. Economics, as practiced, is so corrupt that it might as well not be a science. Practitioners of the science of economics aren't as influential as the charlatans in the wider world, and perhaps not even in the academy.

But there's also a whiff of anti-intellectualism about the Emersonian critique. It suggests, incorrectly, that economics is inherently invalid.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 6:20 AM
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71: Smart people have patiently tried to explain to me why falsifiability is a useless or misleading concept. I just don't get it.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 6:23 AM
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but almost nobody believes in the framework of Capital in an unmodified form.

Almost nobody believes the the framework of On the Origin of Species in an unmodified form either, for the similar reason that it's critically wrong in some respects, which aren't all the fault of the author. But most people would say that scientific Darwinism persists.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 6:30 AM
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debugfs: block_dump 16777215
0000 0000 0000 0000 0000 0000 0000 0000 0000 ................
*
2720 0000 0000 0000 0000 0000 0000 ffff ff00 ................
2740 0000 0000 0000 0000 0000 0000 0000 0000 ................
*
3620 0000 0000 0000 0000 0000 0000 ffff ff00 ................
3640 ffff ff00 ffff ff00 ffff ff00 ffff ff00 ................
*
4000 ffff ff00 ffff ff00 ffff ff00 0000 0000 ................
4020 0000 0000 0000 0000 0000 0000 0000 0000 ................
*
4400 ffff ff00 ffff ff00 ffff ff00 ffff ff00 ................
*
4720 ffff ff00 ffff ff00 ffff ff00 0000 0000 ................
4740 0000 0000 0000 0000 0000 0000 0000 0000 ................
*
5640 ffff ff00 ffff ff00 ffff ff00 ffff ff00 ................
*
6000 ffff ff00 ffff ff00 0000 0000 0000 0000 ................
6020 0000 0000 0000 0000 0000 0000 0000 0000 ................
*
6400 0000 0000 ffff ff00 ffff ff00 ffff ff00 ................
6420 ffff ff00 ffff ff00 ffff ff00 ffff ff00 ................
*
6720 ffff ff00 ffff ff00 0000 0000 0000 0000 ................
6740 0000 0000 0000 0000 0000 0000 0000 0000 ................
*
7640 0000 0000 0000 0000 ffff ff00 ffff ff00 ................
7660 ffff ff00 ffff ff00 ffff ff00 ffff ff00 ................
*
7720 ffff ff00 0000 0000 0000 0000 0000 0000 ................
7740 0000 0000 0000 0000 0000 0000 0000 0000 ................
*

weirdly, it seems to recur every 8 inodes at the moment.


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 6:35 AM
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65 In its Leninist variant Marxism was presented as Science and practiced as religion with Marx's works as the word of god and their meaning was what was set out by the orthodox prophets and the official theologians/theoreticians of the Holy Church/Party. But all of the writing emphasized the 'scientific aspect.

provided that i. you recognise that you're not living in the third quarter of the nineteenth century

But that's the problem with Marxism - it didn't recognize that. Marx was an amazing analyst of early industrial capitalism. However, once the one two punch of the second industrial revolution and political/labor activism began to hit in the late nineteenth century it became clear that his analysis no longer applied in its most important practical aspect, namely that capitalism couldn't deliver sustained growth in the living standards of the industrial working class in the most economically developed countries.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 6:38 AM
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I can't figure out if 80 is in the wrong thread or not.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 6:38 AM
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One test of whether you have a good definition of science is that Freud isn't science.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 6:39 AM
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77: I think it's just bullshit to get around the fact that what science actually does is induction and almost nobody actually working gives a shit about how justified that is on philosophical grounds.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 6:43 AM
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You do the induction, then you subject it to falsification. The falsification is secondary.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 6:44 AM
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I'll adopt the view of Stephen Jay Gould here and say that scientific racism was science 150 years ago and pseudoscience today. Error is not intrinsically unscientific.

Also: 22 is correct and complete.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 6:45 AM
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How wonderful that an actual empirical investigation of a problem (sympathies btw ALex, bad days at work often have a similar "wtf is wrong with this particular example, my detection tools are shit" dynamic) is interwoven with a philosophy of science exchange.

ttaM or Helpy-Chalk or chris y, or anyone knowledgeable for that matter, what is Feyerabend's reputation these days?


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 6:46 AM
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Does anyone have any idea why that particular lump of stuff would recur in so many inodes but only after about the first 19400000?


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 6:48 AM
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Has the fs been resized?

It's hard to tell from what you write whether the problem comes from hardware corruption or OS manipulation of the fs.

Guessing wildly, periodically recurring problems are unlikely to be caused by hardware corruption, but rather by two pieces of software that disagree on how something should be represented-- journalling, recocovery, resizing, don't know how to narrow those down. I guess this is obvious, having written it.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 6:56 AM
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First I'll need to know what type of assumptions you're making about causality.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 6:56 AM
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89: yes, gparted crashed during an offline resize. I have no evidence of any hardware issues and the smartd metrics are good.

also just found some dumps I forgot - contain the message "No magic number at block 884: end of journal".

and some of the dramas with e2fsck were due to so many 16777215s getting dumped to stdout that gnome-terminal bloated out all the available memory.


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 6:59 AM
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Agree with 87.1. Let's watch Alex try to solve this problem and see if he does it in a particularly Popperian way.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 7:00 AM
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Alex uses gnome-terminal?!


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 7:02 AM
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urxvt, bro!


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 7:02 AM
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I had enough wholemeal linux and thought I'd go Ubuntu. This has replaced the periodic $DISPLAY is not set KDE crises with slightly more frequent grub rescue> ones. and now this five alarm pissmerchant.


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 7:09 AM
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85: Yeah, see, that makes perfect sense to me, but I see people use that as an argument about the inherent uselessness of falsifiability, when in fact, it shows that falsifiability is a very useful concept.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 7:11 AM
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Gah, this is ridiculous. What I want is to know where the immensely long list is that sends e2fsck off in circles. It's generated another 500MB text file and still got to 3.5GB of RAM before I killed it.


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 7:14 AM
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Pooping is useful, but really I don't see why some people keep going on and on about it.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 7:15 AM
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87: Last I heard, his good reputation survived the science wars, even though all sorts of people with similar views got slammed for excessive relativism.

I was never quite sure why otherwise hard-nosed, hyper-rationalist types gave him a pass, while saying that the "strong program" in the sociology of science represented the end of civilization. It may just be because he was older and European.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 7:19 AM
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I never understood Emerson's "lawyers" analogy. If anything, economic theory seems closer to a sophisticated intellectual theology, like Catholic natural law theology. It's an elaborate attempt to explain the Ways of the Market to Man -- the theodicy of capitalism.

Economics isn't quite as bad as Halford says, though there's something to his criticism. Most economics these days is straightforwardly empirical. The finding that economics cannot explain economic growth rates of different countries is an actual scientific, empirical finding by economists, for example.

And theoretically, there's nothing intrinsically illegitimate about using toy models whose assumptions are false. It's a proof of concept for an explanation. If you want to argue that A and B cause C, then a toy model where A and B cause C is evidence that your theory is at least logically coherent. Many folk beliefs about the macroeconomy don't even meet that test.

And yet, toy models have an unhealthy hold over the mind of economists. There's a big gap between "it is theoretically possible for supply and demand to be equal in every market simultaneously" and this actually being the case.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 7:22 AM
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85 sounds about right, I think consistent with Duhem-Quine, which I actually only know from Quine. Gibbs-Duhem relations are pretty cool, amazing that those got developed before statistical mechanics.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 7:26 AM
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And yet, toy models have an unhealthy hold over the mind of economists.

I actually don't think this is particularly unique to economists, either; any field where you're trying to model enormous, fundamentally chaotic nonlinear systems you're going to end up with a lot of (or almost all, even) people working with the models that are tractable and sort of hoping that they'll have something to do with reality. The difference between economics and, say, computational neuroscience is that economics lays claim to a voice on policy. On the other hand the same pathologies (models with assumptions that are known to be false, ideology, important policy implications) are all present in climate science and yet people here are willing to comdemn one and not the other (and other people elsewhere are willing to do the opposite). I'm still not saying economics isn't bullshit but the biases might not all be on the side of the practicioners.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 7:33 AM
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102: I know next to nothing about climate science or computational neuroscience, but that first sentence is clearly right in my experience.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 7:36 AM
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I <3 toy models.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 7:37 AM
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practicioners

That's spanish for doing-things-people.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 7:39 AM
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104: me toooooo!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 7:39 AM
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ah, vi has finally managed to open the fsck dump.

Multiply-claimed block(s) in inode 2765059: 4671303 4671303 4671303 4671303 4671303 4671303 4671303 4671303 4671303 4671303 4671303 4671303 4671303 4096 6445960 4671303 4096 6445960 4671303 4096 6445960

this then repeats, 30 odd times.
then one of these:

Multiply-claimed block(s) in inode 2773494: 4671303 4671303 4671303 4671303 4671303 4671303 4671303 4671303 4671303 16777216 16777216 16777216

which then reduces, one event for 4 inodes, one 4671303 per line, to just the 16777216s.

somewhere in the 293xxxx series, you start getting lots and lots of 16777215s per inode.


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 7:41 AM
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102.1 is right for fluid dynamics. An early example for climate is the Lorentz system, a three-mode truncation (so hugely unrealistic) of the Fourier representation of the equations of motions.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 7:42 AM
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On the other hand, I appreciate the full complexity of the data by making models with six thousand cases and two degrees of freedom.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 7:42 AM
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I've been trying to put together an 80000 by 750 matrix to regress on for a week now. I think it's almost done? Then I'll feed the results I get out of it into a highly unrealistic toy model.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 7:44 AM
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Er, 800,000, not 80,000.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 7:44 AM
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107. sed -n '100,110p' is a handy way to browse chunks of big files. Tedious, but you're not stuck with editor memory.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 7:45 AM
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110, 111: Just don't overfit.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 7:47 AM
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Thanks, lw. I was just trying to coax grep to find the lines involved and go to the start of the line.


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 7:48 AM
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I was thinking I'd split it up into train and test blocks, maybe. I dunno. The possibilities will be manifold once I actually have the binary matrix instead of a low of apparently-very-slow-to-process CSVs full of strings.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 7:50 AM
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I was mostly joking about fit. I never have even close to that many point of data.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 7:53 AM
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99: The intro to Against Method makes it sound like he doesn't really mean what he's saying. Feyerabend taken seriously would be a much bigger threat to science than anything by Latour.

85: Freud engaged in induction -- he generalized from his case studies.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 7:53 AM
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117.2: If he had the power of the internet at this hands, he would have found enough people who wanted to sleep with their mothers to form statistically-supported ideas.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 7:57 AM
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115. Depending on how slowly your toy model chews o the data, you might consider bootstrapping. If that's too slow, Jackknife methods approximate the error estimate, possibly not suitable for publication but good enough to see what's happening.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 7:59 AM
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119: I think once I have my matrix things will actually be pretty fast. I did just steal a bootstrap book from somebody else's desk in case it comes to that.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 8:01 AM
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Bootstrapping: The Wonderbra of Statistics.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 8:02 AM
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OK, it's inode 2937950 that contains several thousand repetitions of block 16777215.


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 8:06 AM
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Oops, somehow I thought bootstrapping and jackknifing were the same thing.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 8:08 AM
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But now I am enlightened.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 8:10 AM
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If he had the power of the internet at this hands, he would have found enough people who wanted to sleep with their mothers to form statistically-supported ideas

If he had had the power of the internet at his hands, he might have applied Occam's Razor and concluded that the discomfiting number of female patients reporting sexual abuse at the hands of their fathers indicated a startlingly high frequency of sexual abuse by fathers among the fin de siècle Viennese bourgeoisie.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 8:13 AM
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Feyerabend game up the other day, and I had to admit to not having read him. He's one of those odd gaps. I haven't read Lakatos, either. Neither featured much in my education in the philosophy of science, but that doesn't mean much, as what I was taught tended to focus on other more recent areas of the philosophy of science, and the epistemology of science more on recent debates around scientific realism, or on the more UK-centric 'strong programme' when looking at other areas that weren't mainstream 'analytic' phil. of science.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 8:16 AM
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126: have you been following the recent, ever-higher-wordcount Kieran Healy-caused internet blow-up on those topics? I have been dipping in now and then and kind of loving it, since I happily fail to care about the issues involved.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 8:19 AM
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I did read some Feyerabend once, but it was about 40 years ago, so I can't remember much about it. Also it leaves me supremely unqualified to talk about how he's regarded these days.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 8:20 AM
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I've read Lakatos but don't know anything about Feyerabend.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 8:21 AM
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One of the logicians in my program was very fond of Proofs and Refutations. For all the philosophy of science associated with Steinfraud, you'd think I'd be more up on the stuff, but no. I'm pretty sure the actual philosophers of science still read him.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 8:22 AM
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My vague impression is that within the philosophy of science 'school' in which I was educated he wasn't much read these days, but not because he is regarded as a charlatan or idiot.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 8:22 AM
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In case it's unclear (or maybe since it's certainly unclear), "him" in 130 was meant to refer to Feyerabend, and I know that it was Lakatos who wrote P&F.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 8:22 AM
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I'm impressed by Alex's dedication to this. What's on that disk?


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 8:23 AM
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re: 131

Further to 131, I think not read because the current locus of debate/interest was elsewhere, rather than because of anything else.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 8:23 AM
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100 - my view of law is that it's basically like Catholic theology, in fact the two are basically interconnected. I think we're actually saying something close to the same thing. Powerful modes of argument when you accept certain (probably false) premises, and very helpful for clarifying thinking -- but not actually intended to, or really capable of, describing reality. Also, a lot of analogic reasoning. None of which is bad in and of itself. But can become very bad if you start thinking your deliberately unrealistic, ideology-based theology actually describes or explains the real world.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 8:24 AM
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An early example for climate is the Lorentz system, a three-mode truncation (so hugely unrealistic) of the Fourier representation of the equations of motions.

But when applied to emotions, tells you the exact ratio of good things to bad things necessary in life to be happy.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 8:24 AM
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133: Basically all my stuff.

Anyway, I used debugfs to dump that inode to a file. the file got to 28 GB! how so?


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 8:29 AM
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And, again, there's a big difference between simplified models that you're using as a first stab at actually describing a complex system, and simplified models that you know can't, won't, and don't describe the system, but that might be useful for clarifying particularly bad arguments about how the system works.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 8:30 AM
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138: Do you know enough about any social science to tell the difference between the two?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 8:31 AM
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Maybe?


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 8:33 AM
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I think a major problem with economics is that it has one foot in the business world, and business is a totally different culture from math. Scientists at giant drug firms are still scientists in some sense, but in another sense you can't really trust them because they're also business people. Economists have the same issue.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in." (9) | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 8:35 AM
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Someone (a physicist, maybe Weisskopf?) is quoted as saying that an ideal scientific explanation reduces a problem to a simple part and a small part. So the "toy model" critique just means that the non-simple part hasn't been kept small.


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 8:42 AM
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Meant to say "science" not "math".


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in." (9) | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 8:43 AM
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I think pretty much any health-related science is going to have a totally different culture from math and will involve business people in some sense. To answer most questions takes hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars with of data collection. You don't need tied to a drug company to get that, but you're not going to get the money without somehow convincing somebody there is a potential payoff down the line.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 8:44 AM
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144 to 141 and before seeing 143.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 8:44 AM
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138: I don't know what "particularly bad" is, but I think you're misunderstanding the degree to which sciences that study big, complex systems are driven by toy models informed by -- and hopefully predictive of -- data. Not in a "first pass" kind of way, but in a "these are the tools we use to try to understand this system, and it will always be thus" kind of way. This can certainly lend itself to ideological fuckery, but is not the cause of it.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 8:45 AM
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141: My sense is that the big issue with economics is that the incentives are fucked up. The class of people who endow professorships and prizes have interests best served by economic models that deprecate any kind of government intervention in the market. Economists are not stupid, so those are the models that are most popular. The fact that some economists do not favor those models just goes to show that the relentless focus on incentives is misguided.

This is all informed by a fairly comprehensive ignorance of economics as actually practiced.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 8:48 AM
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146 -- I may be misunderstanding you, but the distinction I'm making is the extent to which the toy models are supposed to be informed by, and predictive of, actual data. I don't think there's anything wrong at all with simplification per se, if that's the only tool available to you and you're conscious of the limits imposed by the simplification. What makes much of economics different (and it may be getting better on this front)is that the toy models aren't actually meaningfully informed by (or meant to be meanigfully informed by) data or meaningfully predictive of (or meant to be meaningfully predictive of) the data. Thats not what the models do. They are supposed to provide interesting examples of "cases" which, given certain premises, might be useful for informing thought about how one might create particular economic results (eg, what's the best way to design an auction). But that's closer to the kind of reasoning you find in law and theology -- given certain premises, what are good or bad arguments? There's also an empirical strand in economics, of course, but it doesn't seem to much affect the use of these models, at least AFAICT.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 8:59 AM
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I think you're thinking of economics as practiced in Op-ed pages and undergraduate classrooms.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 9:03 AM
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127: I haven't followed that, but a few years ago he posted a long discussion of Mackenzie's Engine not a Camera that included lots of interesting stuff about STS and is probably relevant to this thread.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 9:05 AM
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Actually my understanding is that it's on the Op-Ed pages and undergrad classrooms where economists claim or imply that their models meaningfully relate to the data (usually by picking a handful of carefully designed analagous cases, which as I say isn't at all the same thing), and outside that realm where they admit that at the very most they're talking about ways that might be useful to think about individual examples, not a powerful science that describes and explains reality.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 9:08 AM
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Maybe that might fit management stuff, but it sure doesn't sound like economics.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 9:13 AM
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Scientists at giant drug firms are still scientists in some sense, but in another sense you can't really trust them
I think you are thinking of pretty high up managers here, many of whom were never scientists to start with. I'm pretty comfortable with, peer-reviewed publications on dead projects, patent literature, etc. Pharma does do a bunch of sketchy things, including pushing new treatments which are marginally effective (or statistically no better unless you massage your data carefully), but I think most people I know working in pharma would be really insulted to know that what they're doing isn't real science.


Posted by: ydnew | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 9:14 AM
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I wasn't saying it wasn't real science, it is real science and so is economics. The problem isn't that Economics is a pseudoscience it's that it has a culture corrupted by business, and other sciences can have the same problem.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in." (9) | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 9:18 AM
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Demographics and Inflation International Graphs 1950-2040 Steve R Waldman tries to explain the 70s by use of the baby boom in a chart frenzy

toy models aren't actually meaningfully informed by (or meant to be meanigfully informed by) data

The above isn't that new. Economics has always been about the data. First at banks and firms, micro, then aggregate and national numbers started to be compiled, because economists wanted and needed them to do macro.

DSGE and IS/LM are equations to punch numbers into. This is done everyday, by thousands of wonks worldwide.

I don't know enough about micro to know how it is used in a firm.

The problem with economics is not distance from data.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 9:19 AM
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Anyhow, I linked the article already in this thread, but to reiterate much of what I'm saying is drawn from this piece, which makes the points much more carefully and with more detail. It strongly avoids the "pseudoscience" label, which is obviously pejorative, and is very sympathetic to what economists do, but I'm going to stick with the claim that if mainstream economics is a science, so are theology and law (and of course you can make claims that these are also sciences, I suppose).


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 9:25 AM
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My dad has spent a bunch of time thinking about the recently published critique of economics from ethical grounds Economics of Good and Evil by Sedláček. The author liked my dad's review.

I haven't finished the book, and it deserves more than an offhand summary, but here goes: Sedláček basically claims that economics is currently damaged because practicioners (S doesn't distinguish much between academics, bankers, and financiers) have chosen to ignore the sociologic and historical basis of their actions and ideas, and also to ignore moral consequences.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 9:31 AM
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If you look at the work of, forex, these "international bright young things" of the economics profession, you could find lots of reasons to think that economics has problems as a discipline. For example, you could say the analytical tools this discipline has are too blunt to really explain the complexity of human social phenomena. That they don't engage with data or attempt to describe reality doesn't really seem like a very useful line of critique, though.


Posted by: Criminally Bulgur | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 9:33 AM
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156: That piece is economists speaking to other economists about a subset of what they do.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 9:34 AM
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Also, ignore the infuriating way that article I linked in 158 is written.


Posted by: Criminally Bulgur | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 9:36 AM
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I think you are thinking of pretty high up managers here, many of whom were never scientists to start with.

I wish I could believe that, but what about all the scientists who sign their names as authors to papers they know the pharma companies have written, often chopping up analyses and changing hypotheses to reach the desired conclusion? Or bad papers in subpar journals meant to drive off-label use?


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 9:37 AM
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I guess I'd suggest that you're not sufficiently distinguishing what parts of drug development can be corrupted by business interest. Early research is fairly black and white - did my cells die or survive in my assay? I'd suggest that it's because people (and their behavior) are extremely complex and difficult to model, plus there's an incentive at some point to have a particular outcome that it looks less like pure science (ie cherrypicking subpopulations or using junk endpoints). I am not sure what the economics equivalent is of a simple but relevant system that would be testable. (I think social science has similar problems.) However, as written, it sounded as if you were suggesting that anything coming out of pharma isn't reliable because new drugs are profitable. There's a huge amount of data generated before a questionable clinical trial that would be terribly stupid to modify/over-interpret/shade.


Posted by: ydnew | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 9:38 AM
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Right, but that subset is the economic theory and models that supposedly make the discipline distinct and provide its unique power for policy analysis, and what purportedly accounts for its "scientific" status (vis a vis other social sciences, or more generally). I don't think anyone has a problem with big data number crunchers, assuming that they're doing that part of their jobs correctly, and the limiits of their conclusions are properly recognized. But the claim of "economics" to "science" rests on something other than just "we train people who can competently run data analysis."


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 9:39 AM
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163: The claim of economics to "science" rests mostly on it being able to carry out methodological debates of the type in which the paper you linked to is written.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 9:46 AM
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To take another example, agrobusiness. Lots of scientists there, and lots doing good and interesting science. But still I don't totally trust them. I feel the same way about economists.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in." (9) | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 9:49 AM
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162 to 154 seeing 161, but yeah, in that case, there's a clear profit motive. And the complex system (actual patients) where it's possible to rework your ambiguous data. And the researchers' ethics are garbage, yes. (BTW, I most often see stuff like that in work where the pharma company funds a prof at a med school to do the studies because it's off-label for a drug where they've already got FDA approval. Funding is generous and will likely continue is the drug works in the application, plus the company provides statisticians and other "support" which amounts to oversight.) But in general, I think that in terms of the number of results published by pharma, the actual clinical data are dwarfed by the more basic research publications on technical journals (chemistry, biochemistry, biology) which is pretty much useless to laypersons, and I think most of that is fairly reliable work.


Posted by: ydnew | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 9:51 AM
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Very few people compare physics to theology or law even though Einstein used analogies to make some of his points (e.g. the elevator in space).


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 9:53 AM
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I wish there was a punch button on FB so I could punch the next person who posts the Einstein "If you can't explain it simply you don't understand it" button, even though I don't find it obnoxious at all that he said that, and agree with the basic premise, to an extent.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 9:55 AM
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Fair enough. I suspect that also a lot of economics work is solid good science as well. It's hard for me as an outsider to know which exactly are the good part and which is the bad. I didn't mean to single out pharma in particular (I'd originally thought of agrobusiness as the example).


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in." (9) | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 9:55 AM
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158 -- interestingly, almost all of those people are basically running data analysis, not even trying to develop economic theory, mainstream or otherwise. That (could be) fine and useful work and provide some information about individual cases, but it's pretty far from any attempt to use the modeling and theoretical tools of mainstream economics as an actual science of the economy. And the article basically concedes as much. I actually take that as a pretty optimistic statement about current younger practitioners in economics, but it's not much reason to credit mainstream economics as a powerful predictive or explanatory science about the economy.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 9:56 AM
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I'll punch myself, if it makes you feel better.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 9:56 AM
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It's the one idea of philosophy of science that actual working scientists find useful, and yet philosophers of science are always quick to distance themselves from him.

I don't know what counts as philosophy of science, but I think actual working scientists use Occam's Razor and the idea that "all models are wrong, but some are useful" (I never before knew that was written by the man who gave his name to the Box-Cox test!).


Posted by: Tia | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 9:56 AM
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171 to 168.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 9:57 AM
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The corrected graphs in 155 are really interesting as they tend to show -- I think -- Turkey getting rich very quickly at about the same time that Japan and the U.S. tanked. This is assuming that the rate of growth of the labor market far exceeding the rate of growth of pricing essentially means people working and being able to buy things, while the rate of growth of the labor market falling below the rate of growth of pricing generally means people not working while prices increase.

I have no idea what happened in Turkey's economy or if my analysis of the graphs is correct.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 10:00 AM
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170: It's nearly impossible to run data analysis without some theory being used, implicitly or not. They may be avoiding grand theories or formal theory or whatever economists call their overarching frameworks of theories (i.e. what Lakatos would call a research program).


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 10:02 AM
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167 -- I think you're missing the point, , but I think I've also pretty much said my peace on the topic. Einstein did not only or even primarily used analogies in developing his models, and his models were primarily directed to developing generalized, accurate rules that described reality, not interesting cases that can provide powerful rhetorical traction (by analogy) for the analysis of individual cases, if certain premises are accepted.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 10:08 AM
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agrobusiness

Here at Fightco, our vertically integrated ass-kicking enterprise delivers far greater return-on-punching compared to traditional, small batch fight producers, while allowing for much greater quality control over the duration of the fightcycle.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 10:11 AM
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But I suppose it could have something to do with building an oil pipeline.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 10:11 AM
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and his models were primarily directed to developing generalized, accurate rules that described reality

I don't see how economists aren't doing that. They are trying to describe reality at one level of analysis or by making assumptions that they know aren't accurate at another level of analysis.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 10:12 AM
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175 -- sure, I'll agree with that. But again I think that's pretty far from the claim that mainstream economics actually has a theoretically-developed, predictively-powerful science of the actual economy as it exists in the real world.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 10:13 AM
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Incidentally, asking for economics to be predictively powerful is a bridge way too far; most of the fields we've been discussing are barely predictive at all, and generally in limited cases where the models have been designed to work. Nate Silver's book (the part I've read, anyhow) is pretty good on this.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 10:16 AM
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I'll certainly agree that they can't predict the real economy as it exists with any great accuracy, but I don't see what that has to do with being science or not.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 10:17 AM
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I haven't read Nate Silver's book because I got it confused with Moneyball and I could give a shit about baseball.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 10:19 AM
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179 -- Again, I think I've pretty much made the point so we may be talking past each other. I'll excerpt from the piece linked in 156:

When one engages in rule-based reasoning, one is expected to state rules that are accurate. To this end, the domain of applicability of the rules should be clearly de ned. Observing counter-examples to the rule suggests that the rule has to be revised, or that its domain should be restricted. By contrast, when one employs case-based reasoning, there is no domain of applicability, and no universal statements are involved. A speci cation of the domain of applicability is replaced by a similarity judgment. This similarity judgment is often hinted at by the economist analyzing the model, but it is not part of the formal model. Moreover, the readers of a model may not agree with its author about its similarity to various problems. Rule based knowledge is not complete without the "user's manual" that speci fies the domain of applicability. By contrast, case-based knowledge allows for greater flexibility, separating the "hard" knowledge of cases from the "soft" judgment of similarity.
Rules can be refuted by cases. By contrast, cases are not contradicted by other cases. Typically, for a given prediction problem di fferent cases will suggest diff erent predictions. The reasoner should then consider the totality of cases that make a certain prediction, judge their similarity, and compare it to that of each other possible prediction. The method applies even when some of the cases are theoretical. For example, assume that a theoretical analysis of the "ultimatum game" (Guth, Schmittberger, and Schwarze (1982)), in which utilities are only de fined by monetary payoffs, suggests that player I will o er a minimal amount to player II, and that player II will accept the o ffer. Next assume that an experiment reveals a diff erent outcome. If one conceives of the model as a general rule, one would have to conclude that the rule was violated, and perhaps re-de fine its scope of applicability. By contrast, if the theoretical analysis is construed as a case, as is the experimental result, the two coexist peacefully. Given a new prediction problem, an economist who is asked to make a prediction would have to ask herself, "is this real problem more similar to the theoretical analysis, assuming common knowledge of rationality with purely monetary payoffs, or is it more similar to the experiment?" In making this judgment the economist may draw on her knowledge of the players, the amounts of money involved, the time they have to make a decision, and so forth. Neither the theorist nor the experimentalist is expected to state a priori which real life problems belong to the same category as their case. Their job is only to contribute these cases as additions to the literature, and to leave similarity judgments to the practitioners who might use these cases in real life problems.

Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 10:24 AM
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Sure, I'll agree with 181. I mean, the fact that economics isn't predictively powerful, at all, is an important thing to know, but doesn't mean that it's not science. The distinction I'm trying to get at is that it's not for the most part even intended to be a rule-based science.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 10:27 AM
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I don't know, maybe it's that in economics cranks who support the status quo, or, better yet, further enriching the rich, are taken far more seriously than cranks in real sciences. And by 'taken more seriously' I mean given virtually all the public attention. And generously supported.

If it looked like astrologers could persuade the public in general that it should give more money to the rich, we'd see very well funded astrology foundations, and 90% of mainstream news about the stars would be given from the angle of how rich people deserve more.

I'm a Libra, I can't help giving analogies.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 10:33 AM
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I'm not saying cranks are whores. It's that useful cranks get the airtime.

If this is happening in physics or applied geology or whatever, I don't know about it.

The accusation from the cranks is that this is what is happening in climate science. I don't believe it, but this is, on my part, essentially faith based.

I'm Pisces rising, I have faith in the unknowable.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 10:39 AM
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But I do think that those graphs are probably valuable tools in explaining real things that happened -- Japan and the U.S. got poorer very quickly at the same time that Turkey got richer -- which could be of use to people. Inasmuch as it is using data to explain things that happened, making such graphs seems, I don't know, scientific. It is of course a deductive kind of scientific rather than an inductive kind. But then again, deduction rather than induction is a hallmark of the scientific method, I recall.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 10:42 AM
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I think the authors are making a much narrower methodological/philosophy of science point than you are. For example:

These two modes of reasoning exist also in statistics. Rule-based reason- ing is akin to learning a distribution function, whereas case-based reasoning is related to data-based methods such as kernel estimation and nearest-neighbor approaches.

If you go on, you'll see that their "cases" are actually specific theories, most of which are actually about data and trying to predict data. And I can't believe I read that thing. They are using "cases" very different from the ordinary use of the word.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 10:45 AM
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189 to 184.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 10:45 AM
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Induction is more commonly of use in storytelling. It can be also be of use in cobbling together legal arguments, though of course the arguments themselves must be deductive.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 10:48 AM
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I think the authors are making a much narrower methodological/philosophy of science point than you are

I agree with this, but didn't feel like making a case for it, because:

I can't believe I read that thing


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 10:52 AM
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All I can think of when I look at the title of the OP is "Say what you want about the tenets of National Socialism, Dude, at least it's an ethos".


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 10:55 AM
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It was better than the other stuff I was supposed to read.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 10:55 AM
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193: likewise.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 10:59 AM
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The problem with econ is that begins from the perspective of the economist but not of a participant. That's why a book like Mankiw's begins with "thinking like an economist." Instead economists need to begin with "thinking like a consumer" and "thinking like a firm" and "thinking like a government." Astonomers aren't planets, but neither are firms or consumers or economists. But since economists don't take that approach, they know nothing about accounting or about how firms make decisions. The evidence of this is that you can graduate with a degree in economics without knowing the first thing about accounting. For instance, here Dean Baker totally fails to understand the difference between assets and equity. And no, book value is not total assets. This is like a physicist not knowing algebra.

http://www.cepr.net/index.php/blogs/beat-the-press/david-brooks-thinks-that-romney-and-bain-are-about-efficiency


Posted by: bjk | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 11:00 AM
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189 -- I take their point to be that, at most, (almost all) economic models provide a useful starting point for thinking about the real world -- is this situation, analyzed in a wholistic manner, one that is more similar to model x or model y? Is model x even internally coherent? There's nothing wrong with that kind of analysis and properly understood it can be very useful. But the connection to reality comes not with the models themselves -- which, again, are not designed to describe reality, at all, and can be directly contradicted by both empirical data and by other theoretical models -- but in the practitioner's assessment of the similarity and applicability of the model to the real-world situation. They are a kind of toolkit for analogic reasoning. Again, properly cabined and understood, that's fine. But going back to the OP, which is where this all started, it means at the end of the day that mainstream economics isn't much different from Marxism, as a body of thought that contains some useful insights that one might apply to understanding the world, but doesn't contain a "science" of the economy that's meaningfully similar to the natural sciences. If you want to call it a "science" anyway I guess that's fine, but it's certainly fairly distant from the claims of (some) practicing economists to have developed an actual (descriptive or predictive) science of the economy.

(I'd argue that both theology and law contain similar insights, similar reasoning styles, and can be similarly useful and dangerous, but that's really my own point and probably needs to be spelled out more).


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 11:01 AM
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Astonomers aren't planets

If we moved them to the right place, they could be planetoids.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 11:02 AM
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I wish there was a punch button on FB so I could punch the next person who posts the Einstein "If you can't explain it simply you don't understand it" button, even though I don't find it obnoxious at all that he said that, and agree with the basic premise, to an extent.

If it helps, he is also reported to have said, "Things should be made a simple as possible, and no simpler.

Both quotes could be spurious. The one I gave seems to be the product of composer Roger Sessions misremembering and distilling a more anodyne and less pithy comment. The one you quote seems to be entirely unsourced.

It is also important to remember that when Einstein talked to lay people, he frequently made shit up that sounded good in order to make them go away.

In any case the "...and no simpler" quote is much better.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 11:03 AM
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But the connection to reality comes not with the models themselves -- which, again, are not designed to describe reality, at all...

That's talking about one class of models (aka game theory or formal models). That's certainly not the whole of economics.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 11:06 AM
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Re:71

As well as Moby's answer (which has a lot of truth in it), philosophers tend to have issues with it as a plausible answer to the demarcation problem, and the idea that observations falsify theories tout court has huge conceptual problems. Also, from a sociological point of view it doesn't reflect actual practice.

They have no problem with the idea that it can sometimes be a useful conceptual tool, or an informal rule of thumb, or a helpful way to approach certain problems.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 11:09 AM
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200 -- OK. What are the meaningfully rule-based portions of economic theory? Which of those rules have been established by data? I'll grant (and have granted) that there's lots of empirical, data analysis type work done in economics. But again competent number crunching is not the claim mainstream economics makes to being science.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 11:11 AM
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I don't think that competent number crunching is necessary or sufficient for science.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 11:12 AM
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193, 195: Me too.


Posted by: MAE | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 11:13 AM
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203 -- me too!


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 11:17 AM
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202: This misstates the question, which should be, "has the empirical analysis produced rules which accurately predict phenomena (in this case, human behavior)?" And the answer is yes. The supply-demand curve would be an obvious example, and I might have other better ones if I had ever taken an econ course.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 11:22 AM
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I don't like the definition of "rules-based" (i.e. as opposed to "case-based") used in that paper. There are numerous economic theories that are well established against data. Short-term predictions of unemployment, GPD, etc. are pretty much routine and certainly more accurate in terms of R-squared than anything I'll ever do here.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 11:28 AM
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206: the supply demand curve is not empirically established, it's established by assumption. And it can easily be wrong in practice (in the common case when people take price as a signal of quality, or more rarely in the case of Giffen goods). It's a useful and interesting logical tool for trying to understand how markets work under certain assumptions, but it's not a scientific law by any stretch.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 11:28 AM
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207: I can do a very accurate prediction of tomorrow's temperature (at least as measured by r-square) by fitting a trend line to the last 30 days of temperature. Tossing in the mean temperature typical for tomorrow's date will amp my r-square even higher. Yet I know precisely nothing about climate science.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 11:30 AM
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@196

That is a very perceptive comment. That would also explain why Randy Waldmann's head-slappingly obvious connection between inflation and demographics apparently comes as a revelation to most economists. Or how economists tend to think the Minsky cycle is some far-out theory that has nothing to do with the business cycle.


Posted by: bjk | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 11:30 AM
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208: In the same respect, the basic physics equations are augmented to account for friction in order to better predict outcomes. The fact that economists have modified the curve in response to additional data would seem to be indicative of science, and not lack of it.

As to it not being empirically established, I would have to leave that issue to better informed people, but I would guess that there is data underpinning the theory, and always was.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 11:33 AM
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Are you calling your own comment perceptive?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 11:34 AM
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212 to 210.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 11:34 AM
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Who else is going to? And not just once.


Posted by: bjk | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 11:36 AM
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210: Is this the unfogged equivalent to self-citation?


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 11:39 AM
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It's entirely possible that there is a science of economics practiced somewhere, but when major figures are having disputes over issues that others considered settled for almost a century it's hard to view them as a community of scientists. I'd also dispute the equivalence between economics models and those of climate science, but I'm having trouble articulating why. It seems to me that climate models approximate reality in a way that, say, models assuming rational behavior (for some idiosyncratic definition of rational) don't. That is, take the DSGE assumptions listed here. They are all false, obviously, but more importantly it's easy to imagine their falseness altering the model in critical ways over the time scales and conditions we are interested in. (While searching for that, I found this comparison of climatology to economics.)


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 11:42 AM
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Also, I'm not sure that I'd count Randy Waldmann slapping his head as rules-based. Economics is hard because lots of stuff happens at the same time and pulling apart what the key factor is sometimes not possible because history doesn't give you degrees of freedom.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 11:43 AM
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Perhaps the issue with predictive economics is the fact that what one is attempting to predict -- which is human economic behavior -- is necessarily impacted by the knowledge obtained regarding prior behavior. This is going to be true for any social science, but especially so with economics, since the people who are trying to predict the phenomena are often consulted by the actors themselves. This doesn't make it valueless, but it does make it complex and interesting.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 11:44 AM
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Moby, no one is suggesting we can slap Waldmann's head and expect good theory to result, at least not everytime. It's just a good starting point.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 11:46 AM
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216: I'd think of it in Lakatos's terms, because I'm not going to read any more philosophy of science, as a science with several competing research programs.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 11:47 AM
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bjk should now be banned, but I am going to agree with him that 196 is a very perceptive comment. I always tell people (undergrads in particular) that if they could only take one single course to help them understand the economy, then accounting would be it. Then some law courses. Afterwards comes economics.

211: sorry text , but what are you talking about when you say 'the supply demand curve'? The assumption that supply curves slope up and demand curves slope down, the combination of that assumption and the auxiliary assumptions that give you a market-clearing equilibrium where supply and demand curves meet?

The Marshallian supply-demand model does not have its origin in empirical evidence but in assumption. Since it says nothing about the magnitude of real world effects, it is compatible with a vast range of empirical outcomes, and in that sense can be 'verified' by any case where a shift in the curve produces the predicted directional shift in quantity or price. (And when the predicted result does not occur a good economist can come up with explanations for that too). That is not a degree of predictive accuracy that is compatible with science, and I don't think people needed to wait for modern economics to figure out that when there's a bad grain harvest the price of bread will rise.

Yes, the Marshallian model can be useful in understanding the real world. It really is a good toolkit for thinking about markets, although it can be quite deceptive and misleading unless you really understand all the highly unrealistic assumptions and have modeled through what happens when they don't hold. But talking to your uncle who has been in business for a while can also give you a good toolkit for thinking about markets, if a less systematic one. Whatever the answer to the problem of scientific demarcation, 'professors do it and it can be useful' is not it.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 11:51 AM
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although it can be quite deceptive and misleading unless you really understand all the highly unrealistic assumptions and have modeled through what happens when they don't hold.

Isn't looking at when certain assumptions hold a large portion of the empirical research done by economists?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 11:55 AM
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Isn't looking at when certain assumptions hold a large portion of the empirical research done by economists?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 11:57 AM
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221: I suppose the idea would be that supply and demand are inversely related. Is there no data supporting that?

Oh it looks like you answered my question:

in that sense can be 'verified' by any case where a shift in the curve produces the predicted directional shift in quantity or price.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 11:57 AM
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Seeing as I'm about to be banned, I might as well point out that @86 is wrong, scientific racism is more scientific than ever. Economists wouldn't scratch their head over "growth theory" and say "we don't have any idea what causes growth!" if they just looked at Lynn and Varhanen's IQ and Wealth of Nations.


Posted by: bjk | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 11:58 AM
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If that's your idea of good economic theory, go have fun with it.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 12:02 PM
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People spend entire careers banging their heads against an open door. Just trying to help out. It's like the theory of continental drift. So obvious it couldn't be true.


Posted by: bjk | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 12:12 PM
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It could be true, but it isn't. But the fact that it's nominally obvious isn't why.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 12:14 PM
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Given that this weird subdiversion was started with a reference to Gould, I think I should point out The Mismeasure of Man is a very good book on the topic. And that it's really hard to know anything about the history of the study of IQ cross-nationally/racially/culturally and think "But this time it isn't being doing in transparently biased ways."


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 12:19 PM
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Doing s/b done.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 12:20 PM
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229: what's amazing to me is that the book cited in 225 didn't even do a good job of finding a correlation between IQ and GDP (looking at wikipedia). I'd think that was a gimme.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 12:22 PM
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I don't really care either way, and despite what it looks like, no interest in jacking this thread. For those who are interested, this is worth checking out, if you haven't seen it before.

http://www.lagriffedulion.f2s.com/sft.htm


Posted by: bjk | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 12:23 PM
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If you want to find something correlating with IQ, let me know.


Posted by: Opinionated Cyril Burt | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 12:23 PM
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229: and yet -- if I'm reading you right -- it's a lesson that Andrew Sullivan can't seem to learn.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 12:25 PM
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What the fuck? Do we have a quota for scientific rascists, or something?


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 12:26 PM
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235: Affirmative Reaction.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 12:27 PM
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This is a very good very short summary of the problems with economics as a discipline. This part seemed relevant to this discussion:

Given such uniformity of approach, one would expect economic theory to be remarkably consistent with available evidence, free of substantial controversy and to offer clear explanations of phenomena such as business cycles, income distribution and firm behaviour. But this is not so: economists have not found a universal explanation or collection of explanations for, say, the business cycle, and also differ on how best to counter it. Economic theory is historically rife with controversies over its internal consistency and relevance, and often problems are conceded or even pointed out by influential theorists. Paradoxically, though a large degree of economic work nowadays is empirical, key theories are rarely (or never) truly falsified.
One such example is the IS/LM model, which remains a cornerstone of modern undergraduate macroeconomics, and is used by influential economists in policy discussions. This is despite the fact that the model's creator, John Hicks, criticised and disowned the model decades ago. He believed that the model - which was supposed to be an easily digestible interpretation of John Maynard Keynes' famous General Theory - did not include a role for irreducible uncertainty, which was fundamental to the concepts IS/LM was trying to espouse. The result was that it was not possible to interpret the time period of the model in a way that rendered it internally consistent. Now, the mere fact that it was the model's creator who disowned it doesn't mean he was right, but it should at least make us sit up and pay attention - after all, the creator of a model is surely best placed to understand it. Despite this, the criticism is rarely mentioned (or even known) by IS/LM's modern adherents, or taught on courses.
There are many such examples of persistent, but flawed, economic theories: production functions and the Solow growth model are still commonly used, despite the Cambridge Capital Controversies, in which the creators of the models conceded key points about the validity of their approach. DSGE persists despite the fact that that dominant versions failed to help central banks foresee and ameliorate the 2008 financial crisis. Neoclassical theories of the firm persist despite the fact that studies of the firm show firms barely even understand economist's approach, let alone adhere to it. Game Theory is widely loved by economists, despite being falsified in experiments and having no useful application in the real world so far, something admitted by notable game theorist Ariel Rubenstein. Utility maximisation persists as an explanation of consumer behaviour, despite a myriad of evidence that contradicts it: most notably time inconsistency, which shows that people's decisions change so much over time that they cannot really be said to be acting on coherent preferences.
The standard economist's response to such criticism is "oh it's just a tool, a simplification, not reality". At worst, this roughly translates as "there is no event, argument or alternative that could make me abandon my theory completely". This mentality is effectively a crude version of Milton Friedman's Methodology of Positive Economics, where Friedman argued that economic theories should not be judged by their assumptions but by their predictions. Yet Friedman's essay lacked coherence, as he failed to offer any falsifiable predictions, and actually twisted his logic to dismiss early evidence contradicting neoclassical theories of the firm. Friedman's essay has met many refutations, one of which was by influential economist Paul Samuelson, who argued that a theory is really a collection of hypotheses, all of which are refutable and hence subject to continual revision, and - contrary to what Friedman implies - there is not a clear cut that can be made between the internal mechanics of a model and the 'predictions' it makes.
It would be completely wrong to suggest that economists never tackle interesting problems like behavioural biases or institutions: in fact, both of these problems are quite in vogue in mainstream economics. However, they almost always retain the methodology outlined above as a starting point, and try to annex a particular anomaly to their core framework: the 'frictions' approach described by Noah Smith. The result is that it's hard to find an economic model that does not retain a few unrealistic characteristics in areas that are not deemed to be under investigation, something economists will readily admit. But if we know the concepts or assumptions we are using are largely wrong, why continue to use them? Science progresses by changing its framework to make it as consistent with available evidence as possible, not by exploring any every documented departure from its framework as an isolated 'anomaly'. Economists seem to think the neoclassical approach is the default starting point for economic analysis, but I don't see how this role is deserved.
The irony here is that, though economics is often touted as the king of social sciences due to its mathematical and scientific approach, economists seem to take their theories - their 'way of thinking' - as a starting point through which they interpret reality, rather than as a truly falsifiable framework. The result is that the way economic models are used has more in common with something like Karl Marx's historical materialism than science. However, unlike marxists, economists are (erroneously) wont to see their approach as neutral

Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 1:45 PM
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I like that one much better.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 1:55 PM
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Me too.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 2:00 PM
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Possibly because "try[ing] to annex a particular anomaly to their core framework" is pretty much how Lakatos described science operating.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 2:01 PM
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Yeah, but the broader point is that the framework sucks (and obviously sucks) to the point where it's no longer legitimate to call it a working scientific framework at all, and really hasn't been for a very long time.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 2:07 PM
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Something definitely sucks at what it's trying to do.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 2:16 PM
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||

In a cafe. Two dudes talking about grad school, tv writing, and now cracking each other up over the pronunciation of "neologism" and "tangenital" [sic]. I like them.

|>


Posted by: k-sky | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 2:29 PM
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243 Invite them to the blog!


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 2:47 PM
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Since it says nothing about the magnitude of real world effects, it is compatible with a vast range of empirical outcomes, and in that sense can be 'verified' by any case where a shift in the curve produces the predicted directional shift in quantity or price.

Supply and demand was an interesting example for text to use, since it really is based on assumption -- I'm pretty sure I've seen a couple of empirical investigations of whether the laws of supply and demand actually apply, and it's "cute" because everyone knows it's true without needing any evidence.

You can't actually observe supply and demand curves out in the real world. At best you can see the price and quantity sold at any particular moment in time, which theoretically is the intersection of the demand and supply curve. If the price and quantity changes, that's presumably because of changes to at least one and possibly both curves, but without further assumptions you don't know how much to attribute to each. You basically have to make a number of assumptions and/or hope for some convenient natural experiment (focus only on weather-related changes) in order to draw any substantive conclusions about the curves.


Posted by: Disingenuous Bastard | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 2:56 PM
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The article in 237 links to this nice article about an alternative model (similar to the one outlined by Waldmann). The groundless simplification favored by Krugman and others ends up promoting interventions that favor the financial industry at the expense of the real economy.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 3:01 PM
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222, 223, 240: Economics follows scientific forms in ways that from the outside can look sort of OK. But when you get inside you can see exactly what Halford is talking about. (I suppose I should admit that I used to be an economist and still keep up with the literature for my work). When you really feel it is when you work through the literature on what should be a relatively straightforward issue, e.g. does an increase in the minimum wage increase unemployment, and find an intractable debate lasting decades in which agreement never comes because there is an almost infinite space of theories compatible with the observed facts. I mean, it's an illuminating debate, you definitely come out of it having thought much more deeply about e.g. wage-setting and hiring than you did before, but it's not like you feel like you're participating in a process that converges toward a scientific answer.

The economy is one of the most complex social institutions there is, and really trying understand it involves elements of historical and institutional analysis, sociology, psychology, political science, and more. All of these are lower-status fields than economics, and earnings are far less than in economics, which has had great material success by using a set of assumptions that permit you to assume away the messy stuff and *pretend* to understand the economy through highly mathematical models that are impenetrable to outsiders. Economic theory clearly predicts the course a rational academic would choose.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 3:10 PM
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At best you can see the price and quantity sold at any particular moment in time, which theoretically is the intersection of the demand and supply curve.

Just curious: when is the amount of goods available on the market not, under any theory, understood to be its "supply". And keep in mind that I have never taken an econ course, so forgive the simple questioning -- when is the price of an item not representative of demand?


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 3:11 PM
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This I find amusing:

You can't actually observe supply and demand curves out in the real world.

I think it's commonly understood that you can't actually observe an electron walking about on the street; nonetheless we have come to the conclusion that they exist based on empirical data, and we call that activity "science".


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 3:15 PM
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248: There is no single 'demand', there is a set of responses to price determined by utility functions (or valuation or whatever). Furthermore, price is always an interaction of demand and supply, not simply one of them. E.g. in my town diamonds are much more expensive than water, but if the supply of water was as limited as the supply of diamonds than the price of water would be astronomically higher than diamonds. So I'm not sure what it means to ask whether the price of an item is representative of 'demand'.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 3:16 PM
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250: Yes, to be clear I would not be so obnoxious to believe that anyone is confused about whether there is a single demand for all types of goods. It seems to me that your example regarding diamonds and water indicates that you do actually understand what "supply" and "demand" mean. As we agree that they can be measured, I'm not sure how many additional ways you can look like an ass on this thread. But feel free to try.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 3:22 PM
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251: Your question in 248 was incoherent and hard to understand, partly because you stated it badly and partly because you don't know what you're talking about. The observed price of a particular good is only representative of the 'demand' for that particular good at a single point where the supply curve intersects the demand curve (assuming market clearing) so the price of an item is not representative of its entire demand curve, even though it does indicate a single point on that curve. (We are talking about one particular good here, not 'all types of goods'). Furthermore observing additional price/quantity pairs over time will not in general trace out the demand curve for you, since the price/quantity change could easily be resulting from a shift or change in the demand curve over time, not shifts in the supply curve tracing out a single demand curve. Draw yourself some pictures if you don't get it.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 3:34 PM
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252: Yes, you can keep looking like an ass, but I'm not sure if you actually look more like an ass now than you did before.

The observed price of a good is indicative of its demand at that particular place and time. I'm glad we agree on that. It is a measurement of demand. While I've never taken econ, I can read, and can't help but try to improve your tortuous sentences.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 3:38 PM
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Episode 250-253

In which we find out if someone who is ignorant of economics can win an economics argument by calling someone an ass. It's a very special episode!


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 3:42 PM
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Your question ... was incoherent and hard to understand, partly because you stated it badly and partly because you don't know what you're talking about.

It would be so awesome if I could get away with saying that to students in class.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 3:45 PM
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From what I can tell, we learned in this episode that the supply-demand curve is a rule which the study of economics has created, and which can be observed in action through empirical study.

Strike that, I haven't actually learned anything; I had to tell someone those things. Then he went away.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 3:46 PM
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I haven't actually learned anything

Certainly true! New Unfogged motto?


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 3:47 PM
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The incoherence is so difficult to engage with. I had a student come to my office hour on Wednesday and mumble half-sentences at me for ten minutes while I kept repeating "it isn't clear to me what you're trying to ask", until finally I went to the blackboard and said something true that involved a few of the words the student had used, at which point the student smiled and mumbled even more rapidly for a minute or two and seemed pleased and then rushed out of my office.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 3:48 PM
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That's similar to the question answering technique where they blurt out a word or phrase that they guess might be relevant to the answer and hope that the professor assumes from that word or phrase that they know the answer and explains it for the class.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 3:52 PM
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What about the technique where you provide an example which ends a long and ridiculous argument and begins a round of insults from non-participants (which you really enjoy)?


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 3:55 PM
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Perhaps there are bonus points where the argument the student ended was semantic and painful to read?


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 4:14 PM
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Furthermore observing additional price/quantity pairs over time will not in general trace out the demand curve for you...

That's very true, but taking a isolated point and analyzing it by assuming it is a point on a theoretically assumed distribution isn't a problem by itself. Or at least if it is economics won't be the only field with a problem. Nearly everything I do involves similar types of assumptions and this is most of is why I found the first paper Halford linked so hard to swallow.

Aside: I don't take issue with 247's general thrust. I'm trained in political science and was always amazed by the shit we couldn't get away with.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 4:15 PM
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Moby is a red-headed stepchild political scientist. I knew it all along.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 4:19 PM
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My new office, about which you all want to know more, I know, falls somewhat short of all that I could hope for in a work space. Not only is it the size of a large closet, not only does it have no windows (again, the resemblance to a closet is quite striking), but it is also amazingly badly soundproofed. And so I have to spend my days listening to people advising undergraduates, conversations that sound like they're right out of 258.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 4:23 PM
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I feel a little bad for the 'don't know what you're talking about' thing, because I'm implicitly faulting you for not understanding a theory which I myself have been arguing throughout this thread is a set of fairly arbitrary assumptions that aren't all that useful. If you did know what you were talking about you would be wasting brain cells! There is no need to understand consumer theory, really!

But anyway, economists don't generally use the term 'demand' the way you do, but instead use it to refer to the entire demand curve. THey might call demand at a particular point 'demand at the margin'. You are free to use the term 'demand' however you want though. Re the question of whether the supply curve and the demand curve can be 'observed in action' all we can really observe is the quantity purchased at a particular price, which given certain heroic assumptions represents a point on both a demand curve and a supply curve. The demand curve is built up by assuming all consumers choose a utility-maximizing consumption level of a a single homogeneous good subject to a budget constraint determined by a price, the supply curve by summing up firms marginal cost curves for that good in their increasing range, assuming perfect competition and that all firms are minimizing costs of production. Then the single market clearing price is rationalized by assuming a decentralized bidding process based perfectly informed consumers and producers aggressively taking advantage of any surplus or shortage.

This only scratches the surface of the invisible theoretical constructs and massive institutional assumptions necessary to get from our innocent observation that so-and-so many turnips were sold at roughly such-and-such a price on a given day to something like a 'point on a demand curve'. (In fact, many observed markets will not let us get to a single point anyway because the law of one price gets violated in the real world, but we can ignore that I guess). Of course, as you point out above, real sciences frequently assume invisible entities. But without much of a payoff in terms of predictive power you might decide that all the utils and production functions and equilibriums aren't worth the trouble and stop assuming that you are seeing this model in action when you count up your turnips.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 4:35 PM
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265 to text.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 4:37 PM
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264: Lack of soundproofing (and its cousin, odd acoustics) is the bane of my existence, although my problem is being overheard.


Posted by: ydnew | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 4:37 PM
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263: I never finished.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 4:39 PM
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268: so you've said. So then you're a political pseudo-scientist.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 4:45 PM
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law of one price

Which is such bullshit. As you go on to note, but I wanted to make that point again.


Posted by: turgid jacobian | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 4:47 PM
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I'm a Phil Collins scientist. Pseu-pseudo-scientist.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 4:48 PM
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265: Let's say that I owned a company which manufactured components which were used by other companies in constructing and maintaining factories. Let's be creative and call these components "widgets". Let's further say that my company puts out a catalogue for various types of widgets. It has customers. But my company needs to know how many widgets to make each year. It needs some way to determine how many widgets will be bought, an accurate predictive model, so to speak. I believe this company would hire someone trained in econometrics to determine, based on observable factors, what the demand for any given type of widget will be. And that determination will be used in deciding how many widgets will be produced.

Let's further say that my friend had that job for awhile.

I would think that he would be using predictive models, through the magic of economics, and that the models would be accurate enough to warrant his salary.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 4:48 PM
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Let's further say that my friend had that job for awhile.

A friend of mine sold amyl nitrite was named Karl and it took me years to figure out that everybody was talking about a different Karl Popper.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 4:52 PM
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I'm not actually contending that I know anything about economics. I just find the argument over whether or not it is "science" to be as irritating as any other useless semantic argument. It's a course of study which uses empirical data to make predictions about the world, which are difficult to make, as the predictions are regarding human actors who have access to the predictive models themselves. Like all other categories of human thought, it is often used by rich people to try and stay rich. The same is true of movies and books, but I still like them.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 4:52 PM
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It needs some way to determine how many widgets will be bought, an accurate predictive model, so to speak. I believe this company would hire someone trained in econometrics to determine, based on observable factors, what the demand for any given type of widget will be. And that determination will be used in deciding how many widgets will be produced.

Uhhhh . . . .


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 4:59 PM
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Now Karl is clean. He has a job selling pepper and cheese-based appetizers to bars.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 5:03 PM
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And estimating how many they can sell at a given price point.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 5:11 PM
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I did a google search on: Supply Demand Identification Problem. Skipping the wikipedia page, I get as the next two links:
http://www.sjsu.edu/faculty/watkins/identification.htm
http://www.andrew.cmu.edu/course/88-301/introduction/identification_problem.html
I have no idea why the second one starts out with talking about Dune; what I want is towards the bottom.

The identification problem in economics has been known about in economics for about three quarters of a century. I don't know if those links will clarify to you why text's example is mis-conceived.


Posted by: Robert | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 5:37 PM
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To get back to an earlier part of the thread, is Latour worth reading?


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 5:50 PM
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278: thanks for those links, particularly the second. The first appears to be a parody, in which case, thanks for that as well. I gather that, even with the identification problem, the supply-demand intersection can be used to determine some real world data. Even if, under a given set of circumstances, only supply can be determined, and in another set of circumstances, only demand, that would still be a useful predictive tool.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 6:19 PM
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I have no idea why the second one starts out with talking about Dune

Tell me of your homeworld, Util.


Posted by: Opinionated Rubber-clad Sean Young | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 6:55 PM
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To get back to an earlier part of the thread, is Latour worth reading?

Latour is fun, because he says everything in this big, French, grand-theory style, but when you unpack his ideas, they are actually quite reasonable and moderate.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 7:33 PM
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Has anyone sat through the Tim Minchin song/movie "Storm"? I just read the lyrics but yayzus, talk about making a decently principled position look like the province of asshole bully phallocrats. I suppose no different than the rest of organized skepticism.


Posted by: k-sky | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 10:15 PM
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(The song is a vignette of him exploding with science-proud rage at a hippie chick at a dinner party who sticks up for astrology and alternative medicine. I was imagining a retort as sung by Bruno Latour, with Minchin in the role of the hippie click.)


Posted by: k-sky | Link to this comment | 09-13-13 10:17 PM
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"The first appears to be a parody"

No, it does not so appear.

"I gather that, even with the identification problem, the supply-demand intersection can be used to determine some real world data. Even if, under a given set of circumstances, only supply can be determined, and in another set of circumstances, only demand, that would still be a useful predictive tool."

That is not what you should gather. One should gather that is not clear whether one can ever observe a supply function (or a demand function) in real world data.

The identification problem is only one issue in trying to map so-called laws of supply and demand to data.

text might also notice that the usage of "supply" and "demand" in the linked pages is different than in his previous statements.


Posted by: Robert | Link to this comment | 09-14-13 3:25 AM
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278. You want to be careful asking economists about supply and demand, or they'll start talking about Robinson Crusoe.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 09-14-13 3:42 AM
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I suppose no different than the rest of organized skepticism.

You think? I've always been fond of Martin Gardner and The Amazing Randi seems to have a pretty self-effacing way of going about it.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-14-13 4:12 AM
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For a guy with "amazing" in his actual name, very self-effacing.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-14-13 4:43 AM
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like the province of asshole bully phallocrats. I suppose no different than the rest of organized skepticism.

Not much different from the rest of organised religion, come to that.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 09-14-13 5:14 AM
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Inode: 2937950 Type: regular Mode: 0257 Flags: 0xff0088af Generation: 16777215 Version: 0xff0088af
User: -256 Group: 16746671 Size: 4355054899200
File ACL: 1095216660480 Directory ACL: 0
Links: 65280 Blockcount: 42632816
Fragment: Address: 16777215 Number: 0 Size: 0
ctime: 0xff0088af -- Tue Jul 28 11:51:11 2105
atime: 0xff0088af -- Tue Jul 28 11:51:11 2105
mtime: 0xff0088af -- Tue Jul 28 11:51:11 2105
Size of extra inode fields: 4
BLOCKS:
(11):16777215, (IND):16777215, (387):16777215 (499):16777215,(500):16777215, (501):16777215 (502):16777215, (503):16777215,

yes! as well as the block id 16777215, all the blocks in that inode have been filled with 16777215! I think I might just change my name to 16777215. a hardware failure is now suspected.


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 09-14-13 5:23 AM
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I am not a number. I am a free 16777215!


Posted by: 16777215 | Link to this comment | 09-14-13 5:26 AM
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I finally had a bit of time this AM so I googled "16777215 ext4" and the 2nd result was your posts in a forum where it looks like you are interacting with one of the principal developers of ext4. So I suppose our "work" here is done*.

*Although, I would have hoped the 24 bit minus one thing would have triggered some more immediate response on how that particular number (or form of number) might come to be generated in an error condition. (Maybe he did and I missed at, as with most computer help forums, I found it hard to follow exactly what was a response to what and whether I'd read everything.)


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 09-14-13 7:40 AM
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One should gather that is not clear whether one can ever observe a supply function (or a demand function) in real world data.

And these auditory waves, are they observed with the eye? Then you will agree with me of course that a sound cannot be a wave, for a wave is thing commonly seen, as on a beach or perhaps in a boat carrying a person far away from this land.

If that first link isn't a parody, it was written by someone in bad need of an editor.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 09-14-13 11:22 AM
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292: his official response is "that's really fucking weird". tonight's discovery: there's another, identically fucked inode 8 further on. same 2^24-1s, same block count, same flags, same weirdly wrong mtime.

mtime: 0xff0088af -- Tue Jul 28 11:51:11 2105


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 09-14-13 12:14 PM
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293: The identification problem for supply and demand is a completely standard and well-known issue that is covered in any sufficiently-advanced course in econometrics.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 09-14-13 1:56 PM
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Thanks Walt. The first link is still incredibly poorly written, while the second one seems to explain the issue well enough. And the fact that a supply function can't itself be observed doesn't entail that it has no predictive value. That's what I was getting at with the garbled Berkeley argument, which is covered in any sufficiently-advanced philosophy survey course.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 09-14-13 2:18 PM
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ANY SUFFICIENTLY ADVANCED PHILOSOPHY IS INDISTINGUISHABLE FROM LOGIC


Posted by: OPINIONATED ARTHUR C. CLARKE FROM PARALLEL WORLD WHERE SCI-FI IS PHI-FI | Link to this comment | 09-15-13 3:29 AM
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255: "Your question ... was incoherent and hard to understand, partly because you stated it badly and partly because you don't know what you're talking about."

It would be so awesome if I could get away with saying that to students in class.

A week ago Friday, I did use "that was the stupidest thing I ever heard in my life, everyone in this room is stupider for having heard it" in a fair-sized meeting. Everyone took it pretty well, but then as a "JP story" it escaped to precincts which lacked the appropriate context. But fuck 'em if they can't take a joke; I've been trolling the place for 27 years, damned if I'm going to stop now.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 09-15-13 11:17 AM
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