Bergmann, Barbara R. "The Failures of a Chair-Bound Science," New York Times, 12

 

Bergmann, Barbara R. "The Failures of a Chair-Bound Science," New York Times, 12
December 1982, p. F3.

"(The methods of economics)... which have come down almost unaltered from Adam Smith and
David Ricardo. That method is tgo sit in one's office and think. Unlike David Rucardim, who
spent years as a businessman, few economists today have much direct contact with business
people, whose behavior is, after all, the main subject matter of economics. There has certainly
been no systematic first-hand observation by economists of business operations."

And, again emphasizing the point: "Instead, economists have traditionally tried to infer business
behavior by deductive logic. They start by assuming that people running a business think just like
economists do. Then they conjure up a set of very simple conditions, again assuming that
businesses face those conditions. Finally, they then try to figure out what businessmen might do
following the economists' type of thinking - under the assumed conditions. All of this without
ever leaving the office."

The author suggests that it may be time for a change. She cites the participant observation
methods of the anthropologists and the survey research methods of the sociologists, as happy
illustrations of alternatives to staying in the office. She further suggests that new and novel
approaches may have to come and some investment in new methods will have to be made.

Our commitment to the government's statistics, our commitment to the computer and to our
model of how business gets done, has a tight hold on all of us. Unfortunately, we are
professionally committed to our academically derived methods and there is little being done in
academe to change things.