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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars To see a world in a grain of sand and heaven in a wild flower Hold infinity in the palms of your hand...
This is a splended book by Mary Morgan who utilises case studies of a sort to present her case for the use of models in the broad church that is economics.

When I first opened the book I was reminded, almost at once, of the work of Mark Blaug and Peter Lloyd a few years ago Famous Figures and Diagrams in Economics which can be seen as a complementary good of...
Published 19 months ago by Junglies

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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Labor Intensive and of Dubious Value
I'm sure that Mary S. Morgan knows an enormous about about the history of the construction and use of economic models. However, she's the sort of author who never thought of an extra word that she didn't like and so proceeded to use. As a result, The World in the Model is the most over-written, tediously wordy, and needlessly long-winded book I've ever read...
Published on December 5, 2012 by not a natural


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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Labor Intensive and of Dubious Value, December 5, 2012
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not a natural "Bob Bickel" (huntington, west virginia United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The World in the Model: How Economists Work and Think (Paperback)
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I'm sure that Mary S. Morgan knows an enormous about about the history of the construction and use of economic models. However, she's the sort of author who never thought of an extra word that she didn't like and so proceeded to use. As a result, The World in the Model is the most over-written, tediously wordy, and needlessly long-winded book I've ever read.

Still, it's to the author's credit that a book that might have been conceptually and mathematically unreadable for non-specialists is, given an enormous amount of patience, more or less accessible for most readers. The author works against herself, however, by explaining comparatively simple ideas with two or three pages when one or two paragraphs would have been enough. For example, I was having trouble following her account of some of the concepts that eventually became intrinsic to the Edgeworth Box as it gradually, and with the participation of numerous economics luminaries, became a standard economic tool. In every instance, however, I was able to quickly and easily find reliable, succinct, and easy to understand explanations by going online. I agree that, given her objectives and the audience of professionals for whom I assume she was writing, she has no obligation to compensate for readers' lack of economic knowledge. In this instance, however, that definitely is not the point. Instead, once again, her over-blown prose style is so lacking in economy of language that she often makes things much harder to understand than need be the case.

To make matters worse, in reference to Quesnay's Tableaux Economique, which she characterizes as the first economic model and which she introduces early on, the author acknowledges that for contemporary readers, including economists, the way the model is used cannot be discerned. It's possible that I misunderstood her or missed her point, but this is hardly the way to encourage readers to continue with even a modicum of confidence that they will benefit from reading her unduly long book.

The same holds with regard to Morgan's presentation on page 124 of an extremely complex graphical model from Leontief's "The Pure Theory of the Guaranteed Wage Contract." In contrast to her usual prolixity, she doesn't bother with any sort of explanation for the graph, and it's inclusion seems gratuitous and distracting. Perhaps, as she intimates much farther along, Leontief's model is there just to show us how complex the originally simple and easy to grasp Edgeworth Box can get. An alternative possibility is that the author wants to show us what happens when complementary graphical models are presented in overlay in one diagram rather than singly and sequentially. Who knows?

Whatever the case, a book that is already heavy-laden with material that requires close and careful reading and single-minded attention to detail is, without good reason, made even more demanding. Additional confusion follows from Morgan's failure to make clear if unraveling the more complex models is essential to understanding her presentation. Whether or not to bother figuring out a particular model in a book about models is a decision readers should not have to make.

The author's discussion of the Newlyn-Phillips Machine, a macroeconomic model that uses the flow of water through a complex assortment of tubes, sumps, and valves may be the best written part of the book. A mechanical and hydraulic model that its inventors suggested could resolve difficult questions, such as whether John Maynard Keynes or his adversary, Lionel Roberts, had the right explanation of the determination of interest rates. According to the machine, there is merit in both arguments, but how are we to know? Throughout the book, Morgan makes repeated reference to "the world inside the model" and "the world outside the model." In this instance, however, she completely loses sight of the latter, leaving us to wonder if the conclusion inferred from the Newlyn-Phillips Machine has merit.

Even more troubling is the fact that the machine, in its different versions, is extremely difficult to use. Some might go so far as to characterize it as so close to being unworkable for anyone other than Newlyn and Phillips that it is simply unreliable, roughly analogous to the discrediting of an experiment because it cannot be replicated. What good is it? If I understand Morgan, the most recent research on the Newlyn-Phillips model was reported by David Vines (2000), who based his work on closely examining the machine as it sat idle -- no water flowing! -- and reading its instructional manual. Hardly inspires confidence. It seems incongruous, moreover, that discussion of this manipulable but mindless mechanism occurs immediately after a chapter that deals in part with how human beings as economic actors think and behave.

I have to admit that I don't know what to make of Morgan's repeated judgment that contemporary economists are victims of trained incapacity. Those are not her words, but her meaning is clear when she claims that Keynes' General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money (1936) would be just about unreadable to an economist trained in the 21st Century. Too many words in Keynes. Too much mixing of words with abstract modeling. And this from an author who argues forcefully that the use of economic models is most fruitful when accompanied by informative narratives!

No, I did not read Morgan's footnotes. They are so numerous and long that they might well constitute another book. I would like to be able to say that there are general statements about models and modeling that I found compelling in Morgan's account, or that I was able to tentatively discern generalizations that are not explicitly stated. But such is not the case. In any event, I don't think that repeating words like "cognition," "intuition," "imagination," and "visualization" qualifies.

I spent a lot of time trying to make the most of The World in the Model. At this point, it's all pretty much a blur. I'm not sure if I'm more disappointed in the book or in my inability to make lasting sense of it.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Does Not Capture Me, January 16, 2013
This review is from: The World in the Model: How Economists Work and Think (Paperback)
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I am not an economist, but just an Engineer interested in such things. It might be due to this fact, but I just could not get into this book at all. I've tried to start my reading hour with this on multiple evenings, but there was no way to break through. When starting the text at various headings failed to capture me, I went to the figures...

Actually, the figures are a strong point in the book. There are many figures of models and graphs by great thinkers throughout the book that I want to look at and understand. This should be an easy way to get sucked in to a book, but I think the problem is that the captions only tell the name and who allowed it to be reproduced, where a brief description about what it is might lead me to be intrigued enough that I want to learn more and go to the text to find it, but somehow the text is rather impenetrable. Also, all that "reproduced with permission by" stuff is a bit offputting as well - would be better to hide it away in the fine print.

Honestly, I feel sort of stupid for even thinking it, but I wish this book were dumbed down, had some more "white space", and stuff like that. Perhaps a real economist would think differently, but I can't offer that perspective.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars To see a world in a grain of sand and heaven in a wild flower Hold infinity in the palms of your hand..., May 1, 2013
By 
Junglies (Morrisville, NC United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The World in the Model: How Economists Work and Think (Paperback)
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This is a splended book by Mary Morgan who utilises case studies of a sort to present her case for the use of models in the broad church that is economics.

When I first opened the book I was reminded, almost at once, of the work of Mark Blaug and Peter Lloyd a few years ago Famous Figures and Diagrams in Economics which can be seen as a complementary good of this one.

In my first year of initiation into the hallowed halls of economics I was introduced to the puzzle of the discipline, science or art, positive or normative. It seemed so much simpler in those days where there were only a few perspectives whereas now there quite a few more. It was a broad church, yet unifying all views was the use of models.

My preferences lay in the Classical School, the works of Smith and Mill, although these days my interests lie in networks and complex systems. Today, much of what constitutes contemporary professional economics is based heavily on mathematics and statistics.

Morgan's excellent work spans over three centuries and because her focus is on models she manages to subsume much of economic theory under the development of the type of models used. Very deftly she manages to make her case in an objective manner without showing any preference for any particular side in the conflict between ideas and, if anything is arguing the case that all economists, regardless of perspective, share common ground in the use of models to see the world.

Throught my reading of this book I kept thinking of Thomas Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions The Structure of Scientific Revolutions: 50th Anniversary Edition and his postulation of periods of normal science and puzzle solving. It appeared to me that that is indeed, what Mary Morgan is describing, how the nature of economics has changed throughout the period since Smith wrote the Wealth of Nations An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations Indeed, the conclusion that game theory has brought no clear resolution to general economic problems suggests that perhaps a gestalt switch is at hand.

For me the greatest thing about this book has been that the preference expressed by John Maynard Keynes that "If economists could manage to get themselves thought of as humble, competent people on a level with dentists, that would be splendid." has been repudiated. That is to say that economics is a vibrant discipline where the professional world view is under attack from scholars who wish to look beyond the confines of mathematical logic A Guide to What's Wrong with Economics (Anthem Studies in Development and Globalization) and also Pluralist Economics a trend which was in motion before the Financial Crisis began and which was strengthened because of it. One of the illuminations obtained from the crisis was the antithesis of the use of models for reasoning in that those working in the financial services field began to try and make the world conform to their models.

This is an outstanding book which should be on the shelves of historians and economists alike.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars As Modeled by Economists, November 28, 2012
This review is from: The World in the Model: How Economists Work and Think (Paperback)
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The title of this book could have been the "World as Modeled by Economists." Perhaps, every big name and small contributor to the outlining of economy is mentioned herein with the graphs and diagrams which were schemed by economists over the years.

This is about how the modeling was done and what events of commerce and wages applied pressures for the formation of economy. If you plan to produce your own scale or diagram, then this book will at least give you insight into what was done before.

It is not an easy read. You must pay attention and be ready to take notes as you forge on through this. It is a whole other way of thinking.
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4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars not comprehensive, January 2, 2013
This review is from: The World in the Model: How Economists Work and Think (Paperback)
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As a reader with some decent knowledge of economics, math, engineering and modeling, I found myself at a loss trying to learn something from this book. I can only assume this targets towards a special niche of economists with a lot of assumed knowledge of economics and econometrics of sort.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent primer on economic modelling, January 14, 2013
This review is from: The World in the Model: How Economists Work and Think (Paperback)
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The author is not only an economics scholar, but she also is a very talented writer and educator. The book isn't targeted for the professional economist, but rather the student of economics. The material in the book provides a historical progression of modelling in economics starting with the early work done by those just trying to understand basic relationships in fields such as farming. As time goes by, the modelling has gotten more elaborate and particularly, more specialized. The author does an excellent job describing not only the economic mechanisms, but also how the modelling has evolved over time and to some extent has become more and more mathematical. Although this is a criticism that I've seen in some texts, and leads to a sterile economy and society, the author to her credit does not try to either defend models in economics or condemn them. She simply is trying to teach the development and presence of the economic model.

The author's talent for writing is obvious even from the early chapters. I really believe that this book positions the average "armchair" economist with the understanding to develop much deeper concepts. This satisfied a goal that I've held for some time. Whereas most books on economics are rather dry and boring (my opinion), the author really is a bit of a story teller, but doesn't tell the story in such a way that compromises the learning process (or more importantly the integrity of the material).

I unconditionally give this book five stars and really believe that the book is approachable by anyone with a high school education. But more importantly, a passion for learning is the final ingredient to really appreciating this book.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Boring, December 20, 2012
This review is from: The World in the Model: How Economists Work and Think (Paperback)
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I learned a few things from this book, but I had a really hard time getting through it. I read a few sections carefully, skimmed a few, and thought to myself why I had to torture myself this much to learn something.

If you are a student of economics, this may be helpful for you. However, honestly, I don't see how non-economists could like this book.

My final verdict is a neutral rating. There is information to be learned, but please make it more interesting.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent and readable book, August 29, 2013
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This review is from: The World in the Model: How Economists Work and Think (Paperback)
It needs to be read by every economist, and everyone interested in social history, and particularly the history of analysis.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars For economists who teach this is a must-have, May 11, 2013
This review is from: The World in the Model: How Economists Work and Think (Paperback)
This is not a book to introduce you to the study of economics. However, for economists, and particularly those of us who teach (college and university in particular)this is a book I'd definitely recommend adding to the collection of books to be referenced again and again. We all learned the famous models in our studies (and for the most part, it was how to draw them). Here's the story behind the development of some of them, and of models that take other forms than graphs and/or equations. I happened to chance upon the physical model using hydraulics while in London at the natural history museum and have wondered about it ever since. This book gave the back story. It's the history of economic thought told from a very different perspective.
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The World in the Model: How Economists Work and Think
The World in the Model: How Economists Work and Think by Mary S. Morgan (Paperback - September 17, 2012)
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