The Fuzzy/Techie Economist

The Economist ran a great piece on the "art and science of economics," looking at both the need for hard and soft, both methods and questions. In the era of increasing technical capacity and the need for "evidence-based" approaches, have we gone too far in considering how we prove rather than why we ask? Keynes wrote that a master economist ought to be a "mathematician, historian, statesman, philosopher," in other words both a fuzzy and a techie, but today the primacy of the techie has diminished the role of context. We spend less time understanding the political climate in which analysis is performed, and more time considering our methods of proof. The article points to Cambridge applied economics professor Hamish Low who confirms that, "Disciplines are now defined too much by methods rather than by questions." In my forthcoming book, The Fuzzy and the Techie, I argue that we need both hard and soft, methods and questions. We need rigor of approach, but also context for how and why it matters.