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Theory has, at length, become so "scientific" and abstract as to intrigue the mathematicians who have taken delight in developing the concept of a kaleidoscopic and frictionless play of atomistic units in a complex and eternally unfolding equilibrium. The notion of equilibrium suggested equations; equations are prolific parents of their kind; and the game has gone on until the pages of the more esoteric economic journals have become a mass of hieroglyphics intelligible only to those who know the code. All the inconvenient freight of fact has been discarded by the more recondite practitioners until the "science" has come to move in a realm of pure abstraction useful for purposes of cerebration but of steadily declining practical importance.

Much first-rate analytical skill and much scholarly industry has miscarried because the road to academic recognition lay in the refinement of traditional technique, or in assiduous dust-gathering, with little consideration of ultimate purpose. The means have been exalted over the end, and the neophyte, compelled to show his mastery of technique, has quickly learned to love and practice it for its own sake.
This is not to deny the virtue, even the necessity, of abstract speculation or the desirability of the most catholic comprehension of the facts. It is merely to assert that these should be tools rather than ornaments and that we should never cease to ask ourselves what we want and how we propose to get it.

Frank D. Graham, 1942
Source:
Social Goals and Economic Institutions, Frank D. Graham, Princeton University Press, 1942, pp. xv-xx
What do Economists Contribute?, Cato Institute, NY University Press, 1999, pp. 27

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