Krugman on Formalism in Economics

by F.

Is there too much formalism (i.e., math) in economics? Paul Krugman has a nice piece on the issue, which is archived here. His advice on using formal methods boils down to five maxims:

  1. Figure out what you think about an issue, working back and forth among verbal intuition, evidence, and as much math as you need.
  2. Stay with it till you are done.
  3. Publish the intuition, the math, and the evidence – all three – in an economics journal.
  4. But also try to find a way of expressing the idea without the formal apparatus.
  5. If you can, publish that where it can do the world some good.

In other words, “two cheers for formalism – but reserve the third for sophisticated informality.”