LOOKING BACK AT THE SIXTIES—“NATURE DOESN’T RUN VERY GOOD EXPERIMENTS.” A second factor underlying the shift away from articles about theory is what Fox refers to as “disillusionment with theory”. Noah Smith says: “in recent years, many economists have been turning to an alternative approach and chucking theory out the window entirely.”
Fox writes: “From the late 1930s through the 1970s, economics was full of excitement about grand mathematical models that seemed to explain everything about the world. Then some things happened that the grand models — particularly the macroeconomic ones — didn’t explain very well….”
I have posted several times, including here, that back in the sixties when I was studying economics, there was enormous optimism about what computers would enable economists to learn by modeling the economy. Professor John Meyer brought a dose of realism to his students by saying that: “Nature doesn’t run very good experiments.”
I take this shift in the nature of economic research as some confirmation of Professor Meyer’s forecast.