segunda-feira, 17 de outubro de 2011

Sobre os laureados com o Prémio Nobel da Economia

Robert Murphy:

This year's Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics goes to two Americans, Thomas Sargent (NYU) and Christopher Sims (Princeton). Officially the award is for "their empirical research on cause and effect in the macroeconomy."

There is no doubt that these two guys are really sharp, and free-market economists can find a lot to like in much of the work of Sargent in particular. Yet to update what I said of last year's recipients — who studied labor markets — it's a bit odd for the economics profession right now to be celebrating two scientists for their work in helping policymakers steer the macroeconomy.


As I said in the beginning, there is no doubt that Sargent and Sims are really sharp guys. Given that you wanted to approach macroeconomics in the way the mainstream has done it over the past few decades, then yes Sargent and Sims made seminal contributions and should be congratulated for their important work. For example, there is a poll for visitors at the official site, asking, "Did you know that Sargent and Sims's work is used by policymakers worldwide?"

Yet hold on a second. We ironically seem to be in the midst of one of the causation-correlation traps that I just explained above. Just about everyone is celebrating the work of Sargent and Sims, in effect saying, "Thank goodness you gave policymakers such guidance, especially when they need it now in the midst of the worst financial crisis since the 1930s! We can only imagine how awful the world economy would be today, were it not for your seminal papers."

Yet things might well be just the opposite. The "data" is just as consistent with the opposite conclusion, namely that Sargent and Sims steered the macroeconomics profession along a trajectory that led policymakers to do things that blew up the global financial system, such that we are currently worried about the collapse of an entire continent and its currency. What would things have to look like, in order for us to fine all of the most-influential macroeconomists, rather than giving them a $1.5 million award?

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