Must-Read: Robert Solow: Conversations with Economists

Must-Read: Me? I’m happy talking about cavalry tactics with Austerlitz–even to people who have it wrong. But I’m overwhelmingly annoyed with people who use their fake and false knowledge about cavalry tactics at Austerlitz to criticize those who are actually applying stuff they know to make better economic policy and to make the world a better place. If all you know about is cavalry tactics at Austerlitz, sit down and be quiet. And if cavalry tactics at Austerlitz is all you know but you don’t know that is all you know, get a clue…

Robert Solow (1984): Conversations with Economists: “Suppose someone sits down where you are sitting right now…

…and announces to me that he is Napoleon Bonaparte. The last thing I want to do with him is to get involved in a technical discussion of cavalry tactics at the battle of Austerlitz. If I do that, I’m getting tacitly drawn into the game that he is Napoleon. Now, Bob Lucas and Tom Sargent like nothing better than to get drawn into technical discussions, because then you have tacitly gone along with their fundamental assumptions; your attention is attracted away from the basic weakness of the whole story. Since I find that fundamental framework ludicrous, I respond by treating it as ludicrous–that is, by laughing at it–so as not to fall into the trap of taking it seriously and passing on to matters of technique.

August 21, 2015

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