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The unbearable lightness of the economics-made-fun genre

Peter Spiegler ()

Journal of Economic Methodology, 2012, vol. 19, issue 3, 283-301

Abstract: Several commentators have argued that the economics-made-fun (‘EMF’) genre contains very little actual economics. As such, it would seem that criticisms of EMF do not apply to economics more broadly. In this paper I take a contrary view, arguing that, in fact, at a deep conceptual level, the engine of EMF analyses is precisely the engine of mainstream economics. Specifically, I argue that both EMF and mainstream economics rest on a conceptual foundation known as the principle of the substitution of similars (‘PSS’). Understanding how PSS leads EMF practitioners to make claims well beyond what is warranted by their analysis also offers insight into how PSS can put economists in danger of overestimating the power and scope of their analyses. I explore the consequences of such problems through examples of economic analysis of the US housing market in the lead-up to the recent financial crisis.

Date: 2012
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DOI: 10.1080/1350178X.2012.714149

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