March, 2017

Applied Mainline Economics

Bridging the Gap between Theory and Public Policy

How do human societies work, and how can we make them work better? What methods, ideas, and strategies should we use to help us answer these questions? Economists have more empirical tools—more data and more sophisticated ways of testing those data—than ever before. But unless those who employ these techniques also practice what the authors call “mainline” economic thinking, these new empirical methods are liable to generate more heat than light.

In this book, Matthew D. Mitchell and Peter J. Boettke summarize the ideas of mainline economics. They begin with a puzzle that has vexed economists for more than 200 years: Why are some societies fabulously wealthy while others are miserably poor? They briefly survey the empirical tools that might answer this question and show that this puzzle cannot be understood without grounding the analysis in theory, suggesting that the first place to start is with mainline economic theory. Throughout the discussion, Mitchell and Boettke offer the reader examples of how these tools have helped researchers and policy analysts bridge the gap between ideas and real-world problems.

About the Authors:

Matthew D. Mitchell is a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, where he is the director of the Project for the Study of American Capitalism. His research has been featured in numerous national media outlets, including the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, U.S. News and World Report, National Public Radio, and C-SPAN.

Peter J. Boettke is the vice president and director of the F. A. Hayek Program for Advanced Study in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at the Mercatus Center as well as the BB&T Professor for the Study of Capitalism and University Professor of Economics and Philosophy at George Mason University. Boettke has authored and coauthored 11 books, including his most recent, Living Economics.