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G. M.P. Swann

I often say that when you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it; but when you cannot measure it, when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meagre and unsatisfactory kind; it may be the beginning of knowledge, but you have scarcely in your thoughts advanced to the state of science, whatever the matter may be. William Thompson, Lord Kelvin

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G. M.P. Swann

This chapter and the next are about how we can use the federation of semiautonomous sub-disciplines to plug some of the gaps identified in Chapter 7. In that chapter, we identified various reasons for discontent with economics within the academy. In broad terms, these reasons centred around the observation that economists do not seem to abide by some of the most important principles of economics in their dealings with other academic disciplines.

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G. M.P. Swann

Never trust to general impressions, my boy, but concentrate yourself upon details. Sherlock Holmes

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G. M.P. Swann

From time to time, the medical profession has to deal with questions of pathology in their profession and their academic disciplines, but these are usually issues to do with individuals. In economics, by contrast, there are a significant number of non-mainstream academics who believe that there are some things wrong with the state of the mainstream discipline.

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G. M.P. Swann

As in the previous chapter, the rationale for the sort of complex hybrid described in this chapter lies in the various sources of discontent described in Chapter 8. The underlying principle is that there exists a series of discontents and objections to do with gaps in what mainstream economics can achieve, and the purpose of creating complex hybrids elsewhere in the economic federation is to plug these gaps, by putting together teams of economists and practitioners, who can together answer the questions that mainstream economics on its own cannot answer.

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G. M.P. Swann

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G. M.P. Swann

… the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new. Niccolò Machiavelli

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G. M.P. Swann

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G. M.P. Swann

After the publication of the Arrow-Debreu model, economists were awestruck by the rigor and consistency of the reasoning. Finally, it was agreed, all the surplus flesh had been stripped off the skeleton of economic theory, and we now had new levels of analytic rigor to live up to if we were to be taken seriously as theorists. Alan Kirman

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G. M.P. Swann

Chapter 12 describes in broad outline the sort of radical strategy that is needed to provide a really strong foundation for empirical economics, so that it can hope to make a better job of meeting the challenges described in Part I. It involves emulating some – and I stress, only some – of the methods and approaches used in the academic discipline of medicine, and in the medical profession. I believe it offers a potential resolution of the apparent impasse – a way of addressing the criticisms of economics in Part I, while allowing the mainstream to carry on with confidence