Reading For Insight And Rules For Research

While researching some idea I came across a post by Paul Krugman that he wrote in March ’12. I found Krugman’s following thoughts about reading old books about economics, or any subject, very insightful.

So, first of all, my basic reaction to discussions about What Minsky Really Meant — and, similarly, to discussions about What Keynes Really Meant — is, I Don’t Care. I mean, intellectual history is a fine endeavor. But for working economists the reason to read old books is for insight, not authority; if something Keynes or Minsky said helps crystallize an idea in your mind — and there’s a lot of that in both mens’ writing — that’s really good, but if where you take the idea is very different from what the great man said somewhere else in his book, so what? This is economics, not Talmudic scholarship.

Incidentally, long time ago, he also wrote about how he works. You can find it here. In it you will find in detail his rules for research. Briefly they are:

  1. Listen to the Gentiles
  2. Question the question
  3. Dare to be silly
  4. Simplify, simplify

Happy reading and researching.

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