Friday, October 8, 2010

Pretense of knowledge (amv)

Pretense of knowledge is the title of Hayek's Prize lecture back in 1974. It's a critique of economics prevailing at that time. Now, MIT's Ricardo J. Caballero has a working paper called "Macroeconomics after the Crisis: Time to Deal with the Pretense-of-Knowledge Syndrome"  Here, the abstract:
In this paper I argue that the current core of macroeconomics—by which I mainly mean the so-called dynamic stochastic general equilibrium approach—has become so mesmerized with its own internal logic that it has began to confuse the precision it has achieved about its own world with the precision that it has about the real one. This is dangerous for both methodological and policy reasons. On the methodology front, macroeconomic research has been in “fine-tuning” mode within the local-maximum of the dynamic stochastic general equilibrium world, when we should be in “broad-exploration” mode. We are too far from absolute truth to be so specialized and to make the kind of confident quantitative claims that often emerge from the core. On the policy front, this confused precision creates the illusion that a minor adjustment in the standard policy framework will prevent future crises, and by doing so it leaves us overly exposed to the new and unexpected.
I like it. Especially this (p. 7):
We are digging ourselves, one step at a time, deeper and deeper into a Fantasyland, with economic agents who can solve richer and richer stochastic general equilibrium problems containing all sorts of frictions. Because the “progress” is gradual, we do not seem to notice as we accept what are increasingly absurd behavioral conventions and stretch the intelligence and information of underlying economic agents to levels that render them unrecognizable.