Alfred Marshall

In a letter to his protégée, A.C. Pigou, he laid out the following system: "(1) Use mathematics as shorthand language, rather than as an engine of inquiry. (2) Keep to them till you have done. (3) Translate into English. (4) Then illustrate by examples that are important in real life (5) Burn the mathematics. (6) If you can’t succeed in 4, burn 3. This I do often."

Here is more. While I can think of cases where the old master's advice applies, I disagree with everything other than 3 (and 4 in some cases).

by datacharmer | Monday, March 03, 2008
  , | | Alfred Marshall @bluematterblogtwitter


  1. Ken Houghton Says:

    This falls into the old Warren Buffett argument: if you need a spreadsheet to explain why I should buy a company, I shouldn't buy the company.

    Of course, economists can use what should be plain English—say, the phrase "moral hazard"—to suggest malice where rationality is involved.

    So (3) only works if (4) is also clearly recognizable.