The visible hand in economics

Macroeconomics is to microeconomics as …

Posted on: November 1, 2007

This GREAT quote from a commenter on this marginal revolution post:

I’ve always felt that macroeconomics was not economics the way astrology is not astronomy. (*)

That is brilliant.  I have to admit, I work doing Macro, but I heart Micro.

4 Responses to "Macroeconomics is to microeconomics as …"

What can I say, it was an awesome quote. You summed up how most economists feel with a brilliant analogy.

The better one I heard, might even have been on here…

Was that Macroeconomics is to Economics, what Engineering is to Science.

The idea being is that macroeconomics was designed to “fix” a problem and yet it may create more. But Economics is designed primarily to study the world, the same as science is designed to study the world

I think the quote gives Macroeconomics a little too much credit, but if you think about engineering, it was pretty crude in the “young” stages of its inception… so maybe its ok.

Hi Steve,

Indeed, we have heard that one as well. Mankiw is a fan of it. We wrote about it a little bit here:

It is a good way of splitting things up – however, I agree that maybe it gives macroeconomists too much credit as “fixers” 🙂

Paul Romer also came out with a distinction between “realists” and “fundamentalists” – pretty much attack people that were focused on model building. We disagreed with the rhetoric of this distinction here:

However, the valid point there is one of specialisation and scarcity – we might need “practical” solutions and so need some economists to work on that. However, model builders are improving the environment with which to analyse policies in the future.

Currently the discipline may incentivise the wrong sort of student and lead to a socially inefficient allocation of economists – however, it isn’t clear to me which way this inefficient allocation is.

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