[OPE-L:6222] Re: econometrics (and criteria for publication)

From: Gerald_A_Levy (Gerald_A_Levy@email.msn.com)
Date: Mon Nov 26 2001 - 17:25:52 EST

Re Patrick's [6218]:

> There's always an "accepted" theory. There are many groupings of Marxists.
> Each group should provide some sort of quantitative work that illustrates
> the relative importance of its theoretical relationships. All statistics
> represent the last stage of development of a theory.

Is statistics really 'the last stage of development of a theory'?  Well ...
a case could be made that statistics, as an essential part of understanding
the empirical concrete that the theory attempts to reconstruct, represents
the _first_ stage of development of a theory (or the 'pre-history' of the
development of theory, if you prefer).   I would say, rather, though that
an examination of empirical evidence (broadly interpreted to include
studies, case studies, etc. rather than _just_ statistics) is (or should be)
_ongoing_ and present at *every* 'stage' in the development of theory.
FWIW (which may not be much) I think that was what Marx did.

What I think is important is that theorists _challenge_ their own
pre-conceptions at various stages in the ongoing process of theoretical
development. This embodies within it the maxim that 'we are never too old
to learn' and leave ourselves open to re-think, and perhaps change,
long-held beliefs.  Certainly,  continuing examination of empirical evidence
is an essential part of this process.

> There are more than enough Marxian economists do exceptional quantitative
> work. The desired statistical work has not been forthcoming because
> Marxian economists are  often uninterested in doing the work.

Well ... one can't do everything at once (well).  There may be something to
be said in favor of a certain degree of specialization among Marxian
economists so long as we communicate, interact, and learn with and from
one another. So ...

>One of my great
> frustrations as a journal referee was reading the 1,000,000,000th paper on
> the transformation problem that contained zero empirical work. Typically,
> authors would reply that the paper was "concerned with a theoretical
> issue," not an empirical issue. After 1 billion papers on the
> transformation problem I think it is perfectly reasonable to request that
> authors demonstrate empirical relevance.

... I don't think there's anything wrong with some Marxians specializing in
history of thought questions. Nor do I think that we should demand of all
of them an empirical content (if it is to mean statistical/econometric

E.g. let's say that someone wrote an article called "Marx and Sieber".
Would it be 'perfectly reasonable to request that the authors demonstrate
empirical relevance'? Why can't a history of thought question be a
'perfectly reasonable' subject for publication even if it has no immediate
or obvious empirical relevance?

Relatedly, I think that there are a lot of  PhD candidates who are required
unreasonably to 'demonstrate empirical relevance' by either changing their
dissertation topic or to incorporate 'empirical content' in a contrived
manner. It may indeed be the case that dissertations with econometric
content help obtaining a job in the 'meat market', yet this is a separate
question from whether a history of thought topic can represent an
original and significant contribution to thought.

In solidarity, Jerry

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