Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The History of Econometrics - An Alternative View

There are different ways of looking at history.Professor Annie Cot reminds of this, in the context of econometrics, in one of her dissertations that has been made available here.
"Econometrics has become such an obvious, objective - almost natural - tool that economists often forget that it has a history of its own, a complex and sometimes problematic history. Two works - Morgan (1990) and Qin (1993) - constitute the Received View of the history of econometrics. Basing our analysis on Leo Corry's methodological (and historiographical) framework of image and body of knowledge, the main purpose of this dissertation is to provide a critical account of the Received View.
Our main criticism is that historians of econometrics have a particular image of knowledge that stems from within econometrics itself, generating a problem of reflexivity. This means that historians of econometrics would evaluate econometrics and its history from an econometrician point of view, determining very specific criteria of what should be considered as "true", what should be studied or what should be the questions that the scientific community should ask.
This reflexive vision has conducted the Received View to write an internalist and funnel-shaped version of the History of Econometrics, presenting it as a lineal process progressing towards the best possible solution: Structural Econometrics and Haavelmo's Probability Approach in Econometrics (1944). 
The present work suggests that a new history of econometrics is needed. A new history that would overcome the reflexivity problem yielding a certainly messier and convoluted but also richer vision of econometrics' evolution, rather than the lineal path towards progress presented by the Received View".
If you have a serious interest in the history of our discipline, this is for you.

© 2013, David E. Giles

1 comment:

  1. Judea Pearl sent me the following, to be posted as a comment:
    Thanks for posting this interesting thesis of Annie Cot.
    I agree with the author that the history of
    econometrics, when written by econometricians,
    suffers from the problem of "reflexivity", or
    lack of objective perspectives. I therefore ask
    permission to interject an outsider's
    perspective into this discussion and express my opinion,
    as an amateur philosopher,
    that the history of economics need be written after
    economists converge on a consensus regarding the aims of their
    endeavor and what methods advance them toward those
    aims. My readings into the current economic literature
    and my conversations with numerous economists
    told me that such convergence has
    yet to be achieved. I have documented my observations
    in the three articles below, one of which (2) was discussed on
    this blog..

    As I argue in (1), there is an objective logic,
    and an objective language, withing which one can characterize
    the aims and achievements of a field like econometrics.
    This logic has yet to be understood, let alone accepted,
    by economists and, until this happens, the history of economics
    will continue to suffer from "reflexivity".

    Just to demonstrate how far we are from convergence,
    consider the question "What is an
    economic model?" . I would like to raise this
    question for discussion on this blog,
    and observe the diversity of opinions.

    To start the discussion, the Wikipedia's
    definition of ``Econometric Models'' reads (February 18, 2012):
    ``An econometric model specifies the statistical relationship
    that is believed to hold between the various economic
    quantities pertaining to particular economic phenomena
    under study.''

    Appreciating the opportunity to post here.
    Best wishes,
    Judea Pearl


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