Reflections of Eminent Economists
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Reflections of Eminent Economists

Edited by Michael Szenberg and Lall Ramrattan

In this collection of autobiographical essays, 26 prominent scholars detail their professional development, while offering insight into their lives and philosophies. With candor and humor they relate how they came to the field of economics, as well as how their views have evolved over the years.
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Chapter 19: Following the Indicators

Geoffrey H. Moore

Extract

19. Following the indicators* Geoffrey H. Moore My life’s work, and the philosophy behind it, has been deeply affected by two developments. One is my acquaintance with two economists who guided my work for many years, Wesley C. Mitchell and Arthur F. Burns. The other is the principles and practices of the institution where I spent most of my working life studying business cycles and inflation, the National Bureau of Economic Research. The concern for human welfare that was at the root of Mitchell’s and Burns’s interest in business cycles continues to motivate those of us who have followed their path. However, both Mitchell and Burns saw no contradiction between this objective and their adherence to the proposition that economic analysis can and should be conducted on a strictly objective basis. And there is none. The National Bureau, which was founded in 1920, was based on this proposition and Mitchell directed its research program during its first 25 years. That was long enough to establish a pattern and set a standard for the rest of us. What are the chief characteristics of this type of research? It is quantitative, in that it deals with statistical data, often on a massive scale. It is concerned with problems that are important in the economic life of the nation, such as the problems of the business cycle and of inflation. The research blends theory and empirical fact, not going very far with one without checking against the other. Is there a rational explanation...

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