The Past as the Future: The Marshallian Approach to Post-Walrasian Econometrics

Thumbnail Image



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title

Repository Usage Stats



The popular image of the scientific revolution usually pits young revolutionaries against old conservatives. Freeman Dyson (2004, p. 16) observes that, in particle physics in the mid-20th century, something had to change. But in the revolution of quantum electrodynamics, Einstein, Dirac, Heisenberg, Born, and Schödinger were old revolutionaries, while the winners, Feynman, Schwinger, and Tomonaga, were young conservatives. Post-Walrasian economics is not a doctrine, but a slogan announcing that something has to change. Most of the self-conscious efforts to forge a post-Walrasian economics are due to old radicals. Here I want to explore the space of the young conservative: the future is past, particularly in the methodology of Alfred Marshall’s methodological essay, “The Present Position of Economics” (1885). The radical approach identifies the problem as Walrasian theory and seeks to replace it with something better and altogether different. The conservative approach says that theory is not the problem. The problem is rather to establish an empirical discipline that connects theory to the world. Marshall’s methodology places the relationship between theory and empirical tools on center stage. In North America, if not in Europe, the dominant tools of macroeconometrics are the vector autoregression (VAR) and calibration techniques. These techniques reached their current status as the result of two nearly simultaneous reactions to the Cowles-Commission program, which dominated macroeconometrics during the two decades 1950-1970. These are the famous Lucas critique, and the practically influential, if less storied, Sims critique. I will briefly consider the nature of these two critiques and, then, the competing Walrasian and Marshallian visions of the role of theory in econometrics. I conclude with some suggestions about how to do Marshallian macroeconometrics.







Kevin Douglas Hoover

Professor of Economics

Professor Hoover's research interests include macroeconomics, monetary economics, the history of economics, and the philosophy and methodology of empirical economics. His recent work in economics has focused on the application of causal search methodologies for structural vector autoregression, the history of microfoundational programs in macroeconomics, and Roy Harrod's early work on dynamic macroeconomics. In philosophy, he has concentrated on issues related to causality, especially in economics, and on reductionism -- the philosophical counterpart to microfoundations. Recent publications include:

  • "Trygve Haavelmo's Experimental Methodology and Scenario Analysis in a Cointegrated Vector Autoregression" (Econometric Theory, 2015), 
  • "Reductionism in Economics:  Intentionality and Eschatological Justification in the Microfoundations of Macroeconomics" (Philosophy of Science 2015), 
  • "Mathematical Economics Comes to America:  Charles S. Peirce’s Engagement with Cournot’s Recherches sur les Principes Mathematiques de la Théorie des Richesses" (Journal of the History of Economic Thought, 2015), 
  • "The Genesis of Samuelson and Solow’s Price-Inflation Phillips Curve" (History of Economics Review, 2015), 
  • "Solow's Harrod: Transforming Cyclical Dynamics into a Model of Long-run Growth" (European Journal of the History of Economic Thought 2015), 
  • "In the Kingdom of Solovia:  The Rise of Growth Economics at MIT, 1956-1970" (History of Political Economy 2014), 
  • “Still Puzzling: Evaluating the Price Puzzle in an Empirically Identified Structural Vector Autoregression” (Empirical Economics, 2014),
  • "On the Reception of Haavelmo's Econometric Thought" (Journal of the History of Economic Thought, 2014) – winner of the History of Economics Society Best Paper Award in 2015.  

Unless otherwise indicated, scholarly articles published by Duke faculty members are made available here with a CC-BY-NC (Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial) license, as enabled by the Duke Open Access Policy. If you wish to use the materials in ways not already permitted under CC-BY-NC, please consult the copyright owner. Other materials are made available here through the author’s grant of a non-exclusive license to make their work openly accessible.