There are excellent survey articles, in various sizes, on various subjects. But the best of them are written by professionals for professionals. For economists, however, the dictionary provided many excellent overviews of contemporary research. According to Milgate, New Palgrave downplayed mathematics, in comparison to leading economic journals. Milgate , p.
Commenting on contemporary economics, Solow described technical economics as its essential " infrastructure ":. There is a lesson in the fate of Palgrave. Economics is no longer a fit conversation piece for ladies and gentlemen.
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It has become a technical subject. Like any technical subject it attracts some people who are more interested in the technique than the subject. That is too bad, but it may be inevitable. In any case, do not kid yourself: the technical core of economics is indispensable infrastructure for the political economy. That is why, if you consult Palgrave looking for enlightenment about the world today, you will be led to technical economics, or history, or nothing at all.
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More advanced mathematics was implicit in some of the articles, many of which were well written and reasonably accessible. Solow recommended the "broad and deep" article on game theory by Robert J. Aumann for well-equipped graduate students, along with John Harsanyi 's article on bargaining theory.
The articles on financial economics were "written by the best people— Stephen Ross , Robert Merton , and others—and they show it"; however, they were too difficult for the average investor. Complimenting the article on international trade , Solow added a caveat lector : "But God forbid that" a reader without knowledge of economics should try to understand protectionism , by consulting the New Palgrave.
In his review, George Stigler commended the dictionary's non-technical and conceptually rich article on social choice , which was written by Kenneth Arrow , among "numerous" excellent articles. However, Stigler criticized the inclusion of "dozens" of articles in mathematical economics , which failed to provide intuitive introductions to the problem, how it was solved, and what the solution is: "These articles were written, not for a tolerably competent economist, but exclusively for fellow specialists.
Whitaker wrote, "Readers to whom economics is nothing if not a science based on empirical inquiry may be dismayed by the lack of attention to empirical studies and factual matters". Stigler criticized the New Palgrave for largely ignoring empirical economicseconomic data, summary statistics, and econometric investigations. According to Stigler, the empirical investigation of consumption and production functions has profoundly influenced microeconomic theory, while the empirical investigation of price levels has profoundly influenced monetary economics: The New Palgrave' s neglect of empirical economics also weakened its treatment of economic theory and the history of economic thought.
Furthermore, the editors failed to explain their neglect of empirical economics, while they gave large space to treatments of "technical economics", especially mathematical economics , and faddish topics, wrote Stigler. Reviewing the critics of the over-emphasis on theoretical and "doctrinal" economics, editor Milgate admitted that the New Palgrave was flawed by its neglect of empirical economics.
Robert M. Solow criticized the edition for slighting mainstream economics by giving excessive space to the "dissenting fringes within academic economics", namely Marxist economics as well as "Austrian persuasion" , Post-Keynesians , and neo-Ricardian. Nevertheless, there is usually a definite consensus—there is one now—and an accurate picture of the discipline would make that clear.
It would have to give dissent a fair shake.
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It would have to treat mainstream ideas critically. But it should keep the various "paradigms" in proportion.
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I do not think The New Palgrave has managed to do that. The most obvious, though not the most important, manifestation of imbalance is the large number of items devoted to Marxist themes, from "abstract and concrete labor" to "vulgar economy. Marx was an important and influential thinker, and Marxism has been a doctrine with intellectual and practical influence. The fact is, however, that most serious English-speaking economists regard Marxist economics as an irrelevant dead end. The New Palgrave does not take up the issue head on, but I think it gives a false impression of the state of play by this deadpan statement.
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It is rather as if a medical dictionary were to intersperse articles on mainstream orthopedics, written by orthopedists, with articles on osteopathy, written by osteopaths, and were to leave it at that. The dictionary's discussion of heterodox approaches was also criticized by George Stigler , who complained that these articles were written by sympathetic editors in a partisan manner:. An ersatz Austrian is apparently more loyal than the genuine article.
Stigler complained about the extensive and biased articles on Marxist economics, including " neo-Ricardian " economists who follow Piero Sraffa : "A nonprofessional reader would never guess from these volumes that economists working in the Marxian-Sraffian tradition represent a small minority of modern economists, and that their writings have virtually no impact upon the professional work of most economists in major English-language universities.
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