Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Calling Yves Smith

(Via Andrew Gelman) John Sides has good take-down of Steven Hayward's odd screed for the American Enterprise Institute's house journal. Here's a choice exchange.

From Hayward:
Of course, this is just the silly stuff. The real problem with academic political science is its insistence on attempting to emulate the empiricism of economics and other social sciences, such that the multiple regression analysis is considered about the only legitimate tool of the trade. Some regressions surely illuminate, or more often confound, a popular perception of the political world, and it is these findings Klein rightly points out. But, on the other hand, I have often taken a random article from the American Political Science Review, which resembles a mathematical journal on most of its pages, and asked students if they can envision this method providing the mathematical formula that will deliver peace in the Middle East. Even the dullest students usually grasp the point without difficulty.
And from Sides:
This is sort of bizarre. Let’s leave aside the notion that “multiple regression analysis” is the “only legitimate tool.” That’s the impression of someone who doesn’t read much political science. I’m more interested in Middle East peace. Here’s my question: if Hayward picks up the American Economic Review, does he envision that their mathematical formulas will produce global prosperity? That’s the standard to which he seems to hold academic research. If so, he should be disappointed by virtually the entire corpus of social science, and perhaps by a decent bit of the hard sciences as well. After all, there’s still that cancer thing.
I'm going to have to take Sides' side here (and not just for the wordplay), but what really struck me as amusing was the use (starting with the subtitle) of economics as the gold standard of empiricism. Is that really the way you want to play it give the current state of economics in general and macroeconomics in particular?

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