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Review of Mark Buchanan's Book, Forecast

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Mark Buchanan is an economist who claims that his forecasts are based on the techniques of meteorology.  He apparently has a degree in physics from a long time ago, though his entire post-doctoral career has been as an economist.  As far as I can tell, he has no background in meteorology.


I am not a meteorologist either (my education is in pure mathematics) but I think I know enough about meteorology to say that Mr. Buchanan is misrepresenting the subject in a vain attempt to lend credibility to his economic writing.


I have attached a short paper reviewing Mr. Buchanan's book, Forecast.  Review_Mark_Buchanan_Forecast.pdf 


I invite comments from professional meteorologists.




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This paper is getting a lot of downloads at the Econophysics Forum.  Econophyicists are mostly people who received a PhD in theoretical physics (e.g. cosmology) and found that there were no jobs available in such an abstract field, and so found work in finance.


There is nothing wrong with that – I appreciate their support – but I would still like to see a practicing meteorologist comment on my paper.


An axiom is defined as "a proposition that is assumed without proof for the sake of studying the consequences that follow from it."  One's axioms are introduced at the beginning of one's book and then all of the subsequent theorems are derived from the axioms.  For example, Euclid claimed that, given a line and a point not on the line, there exists a unique line that passes through the point and is parallel to the given line.  Lobachevski asserted that there is more than one parallel and Reimann that there are none.


Basically, I need a meteorologist to verify that this was also the procedure of Lewis Fry Richardson.  There are many economists today who would ban the axiomatic method and attempt to take economics back to a proverb-based “science,” similar to pre-Richardson meteorology, where every argument has the form, “five of the last nine recessions had such-and-such characteristic, therefore the current recession will too.”  


I feel that it is shameful that Buchanan and others are using Richardson’s good name to promote a methodology diametrically opposed to the approach that Richardson actually took.



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Mark Buchanan demands that “a science of markets and economics should not seek a universal theory, but rather an assortment of related models and theories attuned to specific phenomena.” Towards this end, it is common for economics journals to ban the axiomatic method. For instance, the Journal of Philosophical Economics declares in their mission statement, “This journal eschews monolithic perspectives and seeks innovative work that is intellectually pluralist.” I contend with this view and support my conclusions with references to famous axiomatic systems, such as the primitive equations that form the axiomatic basis for numerical weather prediction as developed by Lewis Fry Richardson. 

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