Towards Economic Humility

Gregory Mankiw has a long wonky article on the stimulus:

The question for economists now is whether the administration's assumptions, and the model based on them, were correct. After all, if we could be sure their model was right, we would know what to conclude when their stimulus plan was followed by 10% unemployment: The patient was sicker than they thought, and unemployment would surely have been higher still if not for the stimulus. (Indeed, since Obama's advisors do believe their model was right, this is the conclusion they have reached.)

The trouble is, we have no way of knowing for sure if the model was in fact correct. To react to a model's failure to predict events accurately by insisting that the model was nonetheless right as Obama's economic advisors have done is hardly the most obvious course. Careful economists should instead respond with humility. When their predictions fail as they often do they should not dig in their heels, but should instead be willing to go back to their starting assumptions and question their validity.

2006-2011 archives for The Daily Dish, featuring Andrew Sullivan

Why Principals Matter

Nadia Lopez didn't think anybody cared about her middle school. Then Humans of New York told her story to the Internet—and everything changed.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

A History of Contraception

In the 16th century, men used linen condoms laced shut with ribbons.

Video

'A Music That Has No End'

In Spain, a flamenco guitarist hustles to make a modest living.

Video

What Fifty Shades Left Out

A straightforward guide to BDSM

Just In