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Simple interactions can have unpredictable consequences

CONSIDER THE task economists have set themselves. The global economy is the outcome of near-constant interaction between billions of unique individuals. To attempt to model even a small corner with a few equations is bold, even foolhardy. That economists have made as much progress as they have is impressive.Might a radically different approach do better? In February the Boston Review, a quarterly magazine, convened a forum to discuss prospects for an “economics after neoliberalism”. “What we call ‘the economy’”, read one of the entries, “is in fact a highly complex, multi-level system. It must be studied as such.” The authors represent “complexity economics”. Though still a niche within the field, its potential impact is profound.
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