Saturday, July 17, 2010

How Economics is better than Nassim Taleb says it is

The Black Swan is a great book, and deserves the hype it has received. It also features lots of nasty comments about economics, most of which the profession deserves.

But economics training (or at least my Wisconsin economics training) teaches empirical skepticism (something Taleb advocates) all the time. We worry about mis-measurement of variables, omitted variables, selection, reverse causality, and distributions all the time. We think hard about things we don't observe--in my context, when I think about measuring house prices, I worry about the fact that we only observe houses that actually sell. We do non-parametric statistics, and we reject the assumption of normality on a regular basis.

As a result of all this, economics has actually helped us understand certain things better, at least within the realm of applied microeconomics. One a lighter note, let me state an untestable hypothesis--of all the "silent" music that has been written, none has been better than J.S. Bach's.