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The Methodology of Empirical Macroeconomics…

The Methodology of Empirical Macroeconomics (edition 2001)

by Kevin D. Hoover

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The Methodology of Empirical Macroeconomics stakes out a pragmatic middle-ground between traditional, prescriptive economic methodology and recent descriptive (sociological or rhetorical) methodology. The former is sometimes seen as arrogantly telling economists how to do their work and the latter as irrelevant to their practice. The lectures are built around a case study of a concrete example of macroeconomic analysis. They demonstrate that economic methodology and the philosophy of science offer insights that help to resolve the genuine concerns of macroeconomists. Some examples of questions addressed include: What is the relationship between theoretical models and empirical observations? What is the relevance of macroeconomics to policy? Should macroeconomics be viewed as a special case of microeconomics? What is the place of long-standing philosophical issues in macroeconomics, such as the scope and nature of economic laws, the role of idealizations, methodological individualism, and the problem of causality?… (more)
Title:The Methodology of Empirical Macroeconomics
Authors:Kevin D. Hoover
Info:Cambridge University Press (2001), Paperback, 200 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:methodology of economics, philosophy of economics

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The Methodology of Empirical Macroeconomics by Kevin D. Hoover

Recently added bysbnicar, thcson



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The most important thing you need to know about this short book is that it's based on a series of lectures. Apparently the lecture material has been expanded only a little bit, that's why the book is so short and concise. The questions studied in the lectures include the non-existence of macroeconomic laws, the possibility of microeconomic foundations and the concept of causality in macroeconomics. The final chapter also takes stock of some classic positions in the philosophy of science - Popper, Lakatos, Kuhn, Quine - with regard to macroeconomics.

The writing is excellent and the arguments are clear, but the presentation suffers a bit from its brief lecture format. It seems like interesting topics had to abandoned because there wasn't enough time to follow up on them. I also thought that some of the illustrations were a bit superfluous. It's a good idea to spice up a lecture on macroeconomics by showing pictures of harmonic oscillators to illustrate "nomological machines" in physics, but they seem to be a bit beside the point in book format. Towards the end there's a sudden burst of scatter plots extending over 10 pages. Again, they probably worked well in the lecture but they are more of an annoyance in a book when you have to flip back and forth between the text and the figures.

What the author says about laws and microfoundations is perhaps predictable and obvious: we should speak of economic models, not laws, and macroeconomics will probably never be based on genuine microfoundations. If you think those points are controversial you might want to read how the author sketches his defense, but if not, then this book probably doesn't offer many new perspectives. The question of causality is in my opinion more interesting. The author has written a longer book, Causality in Macroeconomics, on that specific topic. If causality in macroeconomics interests you, I recommend moving directly to that work.

So in summary, I enjoyed reading the book and I liked the author's philosophical approach, but the short format dictated by the lectures was a bit too limited for my liking.
  thcson | Oct 6, 2011 |
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