Econometric History by Donald N. McCloskey (auth.)

By Donald N. McCloskey (auth.)

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The statistician, though, would remind us that so long as the watchmen were unbiased in their estimates the sum of hundreds of thousands of such wild guesses would nonetheless be very accurate indeed. The reasoned faith in figures of national income has a theoretical prop, too, the 'theory' being another bit of common sense elaborated. It is the Micawber Rule: that what one expends must be equal to what one earns, and likewise for the nation. Since they are merely two sides of the same sheet in an accounting of income and expenditure the nation's expenditure in millions must add up to the nation's income in millions.

The simulation needs assumptions managers wished to maximise profits; a spinner could handle only one machine- but the assumptions are not plucked out of the air. No less than regression analysis or controlled experiment, simulation is based in fact. Just as an error in the figures used for a regression can harm the estimate, so too an error in setting out the magnitudes can harm a cost-benefit analysis [see Lazonick, 1981]. Other sorts of simulation make more demands on economic theory. For instance the method of measuring 'total factor productivity change' uses explicitly the (neoclassical) economist's theory of employment, called 'marginal productivity'.

Contrariwise, only if there are second and third factors influencing immigration is regression really necessary. The additional factors serve as experimental controls, segregating the effects of cheapening transport or conditions in Europe or whatever other factors might influence immigration from the effects of the American wage. Lowell Gallaway and Rickard K. Vedder [1971 ], for instance, used multivariate regression analysis on the data of American immigration from Britain, 1860--1913. They discovered from it that 55 America more than Britain caused the migration from Britain: a number of pull variables from the American side explain 40 per cent of the variation in emigration flows, while push variables explain only an additional22 per cent.

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