L’American Economic Review a publié ce mois-ci la liste des 20 articles les plus importants publiés dans ses pages. Un point notable est que l’article le plus récent est celui de Robert Shiller qui, l’air de rien, date de 30 ans. Pourquoi des articles plus récents n’ont-ils pas été retenu ? The Economist propose une explication :
« The most recent entry to the top 20 is Robert Shiller’s 1981 paper documenting the excessive volatility of stock prices. Nothing else in the past 30 years made the cut—even though submissions to the AER have swelled in that time and its acceptance rate has plunged. Douglas Bernheim, one of the six pop-pickers, says that each of them would probably have included “at least a couple of more recent papers” on their list. “But as we move from older to younger papers, assessments vary more from person to person.”
Why is this? Mr Bernheim points out that younger papers are less time-tested. Economists can only forecast their worth, and these forecasts are rarely convincing enough to supplant one of the proven classics on the list. According to this view, some recent papers will eventually earn broad admiration. It is simply a question of time.
But perhaps it is also a question of the times. Economics has fragmented in the past 15-20 years, both in subject and technique. No aspect of human behaviour is off-limits and a miscellany of methods are in vogue, adding laboratory experiments, randomised trials and computer simulations to the traditionalist’s blackboard and chalk. Many of the brightest stars in economics parade their scepticism, insisting on how little economists really know (or indeed how little real economics they know). The discipline is more exciting, ingenious and intrepid as a result. But it is also unruly and untidy. Some economists are still patiently adding to a cairn of knowledge. Many are throwing rocks ».
Effectivement, l’économie mainstream est de plus en plus pluraliste, et ce n’est pas une mauvaise chose.