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Lars Pålsson Syll

Lars Pålsson Syll

Professor at Malmö University. Primary research interest - the philosophy, history and methodology of economics.

Articles by Lars Pålsson Syll

Hovern’ engan

1 day ago

Wars, conflicts, and other crises have left more than 30 million children displaced from their homes in the world today.
More than 10 million children are refugees or asylum-seeking.
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“Whatsoever You Do to the Least of My Brothers You Do unto Me”

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Sjörapportsfilosofi

2 days ago

I dessa tider — när ljudrummet dränks i den kommersiella radions pubertalflams — har man nästan gett upp.
Men det finns ljus i mörkret.
I programmet Text och musik med Eric Schüldt — som sänds på söndagsförmiddagarna i P2 mellan klockan 11 och 12 — kan man lyssna på seriös musik och en programledare som verkligen har något att säga och inte bara låter foderluckan glappa. Att få höra någon med intelligens och känsla tala om saker som vi alla går och bär på djupt inne i våra själar — men nästan aldrig vågar prata om — är en lisa för själen.
Jag har i flera år nu lyssnat på Erics program varje söndag. En helg utan hans tänkvärda och ofta lite melankoliska funderingar och vemodiga musik har blivit otänkbart.
Idag gladde han många av oss som älskar radions sjörapporter med att

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Vienna

2 days ago

Back in 1980 yours truly had the pleasure of studying at University of Vienna.
When not studying or visiting Berggase 19, I often listened to this on my Sony Walkman:
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Hyman Minsky and the IS-LM obfuscation

3 days ago

From Lars Syll
As a young research stipendiate in the U.S. yours truly had the pleasure and privilege of having Hyman Minsky as a teacher. He was a great inspiration at the time. He still is.
The concepts which it is usual to ignore or deemphasize in interpreting Keynes — the cyclical perspective, the relations between investment and finance, and uncertainty, are the keys to an understanding of the full significance of his contribution …
The glib assumption made by Professor Hicks in his exposition of Keynes’s contribution that there is a simple, negatively sloped function, reflecting the productivity of increments to the stock of capital, that relates investment to the interest rate is a caricature of Keynes’s theory of investment … which relates the pace of investment not only to

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Bright eyes (personal)

3 days ago

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People say time heals all wounds.
I wish that was true.
But some wounds never heal.
Even after thirty years you just have to learn to live with the scars.
In memory of Kristina Syll — beloved wife and mother of my son David and daughter Tora.
But in dreams,
I can hear your name.
And in dreams,
We will meet again.
When the seas and mountains fall
And we come to end of days,
In the dark I hear a call
Calling me there
I will go there
And back again.

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Hyman Minsky and the IS-LM obfuscation

5 days ago

Hyman Minsky and the IS-LM obfuscation

As a young research stipendiate in the U.S. yours truly had the pleasure and privilege of having Hyman Minsky as a teacher. He was a great inspiration at the time. He still is.
The concepts which it is usual to ignore or deemphasize in interpreting Keynes — the cyclical perspective, the relations between investment and finance, and uncertainty, are the keys to an understanding of the full significance of his contribution …
The glib assumption made by Professor Hicks in his exposition of Keynes’s contribution that there is a simple, negatively sloped function, reflecting the productivity of increments to the stock of capital, that relates investment to the interest rate is a caricature of Keynes’s theory of

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On gender and alcohol

8 days ago

On gender and alcohol

Breaking news! Using advanced multiple nonlinear regression models similar to those in recent news stories on alcohol and dairy and more than 3.6M observations from 1997 through 2012, I have found that drinking more causes people to turn into men!
Across people drinking 0-7 drinks per day, each drink per day causes the drinker’s probability of being a man to increase by 10.02 percentage points (z=302.2, p

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Causal inferences — what Big Data cannot give us

11 days ago

Causal inferences — what Big Data cannot give us

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The central problem with the present ‘Machine Learning’ and ‘Big Data’ hype is that so many — falsely — think that they can get away with analyzing real-world phenomena without any (commitment to) theory. But — data never speaks for itself.  Data by themselves are useless. Without a prior statistical set-up, there actually are no data at all to process.
Clever data-mining tricks are not enough to answer important scientific questions. Theory matters.
If we wanted highly probable claims, scientists would stick to​​ low-level observables and not seek generalizations, much less theories with high explanatory content. In this day​ of fascination with Big data’s ability to predict​ what book

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Econometric testing

12 days ago

From Lars Syll
Debating econometrics and its shortcomings yours truly often gets the response from econometricians that “ok, maybe econometrics isn’t perfect, but you have to admit that it is a great technique for empirical testing of economic hypotheses.”
But is econometrics — really — such a great testing instrument?
Econometrics is supposed to be able to test economic theories. But to serve as a testing device you have to make many assumptions, many of which themselves cannot be tested or verified. To make things worse, there are also only rarely strong and reliable ways of telling us which set of assumptions is to be preferred. Trying to test and infer causality from (non-experimental) data you have to rely on assumptions such as disturbance terms being ‘independent and identically

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Systembrus

14 days ago

En vanlig missuppfattning när det gäller oönskad variabilitet i bedömningar är att det inte spelar någon roll eftersom slumpfel tar ut varandra. Det stämmer att positiva och negativa fel i en bedömning av samma fall mer eller mindre tar ut varandra och vi kommer att diskutera mer i detalj hur denna omständighet kan utnyttjas för att minska bruset. Men brusiga system gör inte flera bedömningar av samma fall. De gör brusiga bedömningar av olika fall. Om en försäkring har för hög premie och en annan för låg kan prissättningen se korrekt ut “i genomsnitt”, men försäkringsbolaget har då begått två dyrbara misstag. Om två brottslingar som båda borde dömas till fem års fängelse får domar på tre respektive sju år kan inte någon “genomsnittlig” rättvisa sägas ha skipats. I brusiga

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Is an economics degree really worth it?

18 days ago

Is an economics degree really worth it?

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A science that doesn’t self-reflect on its own history and asks important methodological and science-theoretical questions about its own activity is in dire straits.
Already back in 1991, a commission chaired by Anne Krueger and including people like Kenneth Arrow, Edward Leamer, and Joseph Stiglitz, reported from their own experience “that it is an underemphasis on the ‘linkages’ between tools, both theory and econometrics, and ‘real world problems’ that is the weakness of graduate education in economics,” and that both students and faculty sensed “the absence of facts, institutional information, data, real-world issues, applications, and policy problems.” And in conclusion, they wrote that

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The 25 Best Econometrics Blogs

18 days ago

The 25 Best Econometrics Blogs

Yours truly, of course, feels truly honored to find himself on the list of the world’s 25 best econometrics blogs.
1. Bruno Rodrigues
7. Eran Raviv Blog Statistics and Econometrics
9. How the (Econometric) Sausage is Made
14. Lars P Syll
Pålsson Syll received a Ph.D. in economic history in 1991 and a Ph.D. in economics in 1997, both at Lund University. He became an associate professor in economic history in 1995 and has since 2004 been a professor of social science at Malmö University. His primary research areas have been in the philosophy, history, and methodology of economics.

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Economic modeling — a constructive critique

19 days ago

From Lars Syll
If we have independent reasons to believe that the phenomena under investigation are mechanical in Mill’s sense, well and good: mathematical modeling will prove an apt mode of representation … But if we have independent reasons to believe that there is more going on in the phenomena under investigation than a mathematical model can suggest – that is, that the phenomena in question are not in fact mechanical in the required sense – then mathematical modeling will prove misleading … Moreover, as will be discussed, the empirical assessment of such models using econometric methods will not be sufficient to reveal that mismatch.
These problems cannot themselves be addressed through reforms to mathematical methods. That would simply be to produce a more refined version of the

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Identity politics and enlightenment

22 days ago

Identity politics and enlightenment

There has developed in recent years an impassioned debate about the Enlightenment, which both supporters and critics present as a peculiarly European phenomenon. For the one, it is a demonstration of the greatness of Europe; for the other, a reminder that its ideals are tainted by racism and colonialism. Both miss the importance of the non-European world in shaping many of the ideas we associate with the Enlightenment. It was through the struggles of those denied equality and liberty by the elites in Europe and America that ideas of universalism were invested with meaning. It is the demise of that radical universalist tradition that has shaped the emergence of contemporary identity politics.
There have always been

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Econometric testing

23 days ago

Debating econometrics and its shortcomings yours truly often gets the response from econometricians that “ok, maybe econometrics isn’t perfect, but you have to admit that it is a great technique for empirical testing of economic hypotheses.”
But is econometrics — really — such a great testing instrument?
Econometrics is supposed to be able to test economic theories. But to serve as a testing device you have to make many assumptions, many of which themselves cannot be tested or verified. To make things worse, there are also only rarely strong and reliable ways of telling us which set of assumptions is to be preferred. Trying to test and infer causality from (non-experimental) data you have to rely on assumptions such as disturbance terms being ‘independent and identically

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The econometric illusion

24 days ago

What has always bothered me about the “experimentalist” school is the false sense of certainty it conveys. The basic idea is that if we have a “really good instrument” we can come up with “convincing” estimates of “causal effects” that are not “too sensitive to assumptions.” Elsewhere I have written  an extensive critique of this experimentalist perspective, arguing it presents a false panacea, andthat allstatistical inference relies on some untestable assumptions …
Consider Angrist and Lavy (1999), who estimate the effect of class size on student performance by exploiting variation induced by legal limits. It works like this: Let’s say a law  prevents class size from exceeding. Let’s further assume a particular school has student cohorts that average about 90, but that

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The wisdom of crowds

25 days ago

The wisdom of crowds

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If you’d like to learn more on the issue, have a look at James Surowiecki’s The Wisdom of Crowds (Anchor Books, 2005) or Scott Page’s The Diversity Bonus (Princeton University Press, 2017).

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My philosophy of economics

26 days ago

From Lars Syll
A critique yours truly sometimes encounters is that as long as I cannot come up with some own alternative to the failing mainstream theory, I shouldn’t expect people to pay attention.
This is however to misunderstand the role of philosophy and methodology of economics!
As John Locke wrote in An Essay Concerning Human Understanding:
The Commonwealth of Learning is not at this time without Master-Builders, whose mighty Designs, in advancing the Sciences, will leave lasting Monuments to the Admiration of Posterity; But every one must not hope to be a Boyle, or a Sydenham; and in an Age that produces such Masters, as the Great-Huygenius, and the incomparable Mr. Newton, with some other of that Strain; ’tis Ambition enough to be employed as an Under-Labourer in clearing

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Wage rigidity theories

27 days ago

It seems reasonable to hope that a successful explanation of wage rigidity would contribute to understanding the extent of the welfare loss associated with unemployment and what can be done to reduce it … Many theories of wage rigidity and unemployment include partial answers to these questions as part of their assumptions, so that the phenomena of real interest are described in the theories’ assumptions. For instance, Lucas concludes that increased unemployment during recessions implies little welfare loss … Lucas’s policy conclusions are not strongly supported …
A fanciful example may illustrate the danger of taking too narrow a view of instrumentalism. You are an explorer seeking contact with the Dafs, an isolated tribe about which almost nothing is known. You observe

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