Chapter 13: An unrepentant Lakatosian
It would be much too strong calling Mark Blaug’s overall approach a ‘research program’, nevertheless there is quite some coherence and continuity with respect to a few themes with which one could characterize his work throughout his professional life. One of these themes, ‘rigor versus relevance’, was most dominant in the last ten years of his life. So, though this theme was most prominent in the last period of his professional life, you can see – by hindsight – that it has always been one of his major concerns. Already his very first publication (1956), dealing with the empirical content of Ricardian economics, contains the key elements of the later ‘rigor versus relevance’ debate: My purpose here is to show, first of all, that the body of doctrine which Ricardo bequeathed to his followers rested on a series of definite predictions about the course of economic events which were subject to empirical verification, in the strictest sense of the term. Second, I shall try to show that the statistical data and methods of the time, crude as they may have been, were adequate to test the validity of Ricardian theory, in terms of its predictive accuracy for the class of phenomena which it was intended to explain, and, moreover, that such evidence was within the purview of all the economists of the day.
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