Afterword: Some notes on the scientific methods of Simon Kuznets by Robert William Fogel  pp. 413-438

Afterword: Some notes on the scientific methods of Simon Kuznets by Robert William Fogel

By Robert William Fogel

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“Anyone can start a row in economics; it is much harder to find out what is really happening to the economy”. Simon Kuznets made this statement during a conversation he had with Henry Rosovsky and me at Harvard University in the early 1970s. I was startled when he said it, since our profession thrives on controversy. Indeed, to many economists cleverness in debate, rather than the applicability of the debate to any issue of the real world, is what economics is all about. To Kuznets, however, there was a real economic world and the task of the economist was to describe it accurately and to explain it in a way that would be helpful to those who had to make economic policy.

Four aspects of Kuznets's approach to economics

If there was any aspect of Kuznets's approach to economics that may be said to have dominated all the other aspects, it was his concern with the great policy issues of his age. My emphasis on this point may surprise those who are familiar with Kuznets's work, since he never became directly involved in those highly politicized disputes over economic policy that often split the profession into partisan camps.