The Butcher and the Storyteller: Reflections on the 2018 Nobel Memorial Prize Awarded to Paul Romer

18 Pages Posted: 14 Nov 2019

See all articles by Beatrice Cherrier

Beatrice Cherrier

CNRS; National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (INSEE) - Center for Research in Economics and Statistics (CREST); University of Paris-Saclay - Ecole Polytechnique

Aurélien Saïdi

Université Paris Nanterre

Date Written: November 5, 2019

Abstract

This short paper offers some reflections on the 2018 Nobel Memorial Prize awarded to Paul Romer. We describe the intellectual path that led him to embed endogenously-generated knowledge in growth models, a contribution that we believe was foremost a mathematical achievement. Accordingly, we examine Romer’s subsequent methodological statements on how mathematical is used and abused in theorizing. We locate his disagreement with other economists, in particular Robert Lucas, in their respective beliefs about the right degree of correspondence between real world objects, economic concepts and their mathematical representation. Romer endorses a much debated millennium-old vision of knowledge whereby the scientist needs to “carve the system at its joint” like a skilled “butcher.” Lucas rather conceives himself as a “story-teller” who build “artificial mechanisms” to highlight real-world phenomena.

Keywords: Romer, Lucas, Endogeneous Growth, Mathiness, Modeling

JEL Classification: A10, A13, A14, B20, B29, B31

Suggested Citation

Cherrier, Beatrice and Saïdi, Aurélien, The Butcher and the Storyteller: Reflections on the 2018 Nobel Memorial Prize Awarded to Paul Romer (November 5, 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3481159 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3481159

Beatrice Cherrier (Contact Author)

CNRS ( email )

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National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (INSEE) - Center for Research in Economics and Statistics (CREST) ( email )

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Malakoff Cedex, 1 92245
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University of Paris-Saclay - Ecole Polytechnique ( email )

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Versailles, 78000
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Aurélien Saïdi

Université Paris Nanterre ( email )

200 Avenue de la République
Nanterre cedex, Nanterre Cedex 92000
France

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