Economists like to believe that what they do is scientific. Many are right. They create models that represent behaviour in an economy and use them to make predictions that can be tested. They publish papers marshalling evidence one way or another. Some models become widely accepted as their explanatory power is corroborated.

Policymakers should aim to work with these. This leaves them open to accusations of “orthodoxy”. They must deal with such accusations by becoming applied theorists — testing policy options and gathering evidence directly. This is what the much-hackneyed phrase “evidence-based policymaking” is meant to be about: identifying a set of feasible policy choices, then testing to see which option delivers the intended outcomes...

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