Krugman on Formalism in Economics
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:
- Figure out what you think about an issue, working back and forth among verbal intuition, evidence, and as much math as you need.
- Stay with it till you are done.
- Publish the intuition, the math, and the evidence – all three – in an economics journal.
- But also try to find a way of expressing the idea without the formal apparatus.
- 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.”