Progress in Economics: Lessons from the Spectrum Auctions

Anna Alexandrova and Robert Northcott

in The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Economics

Published in print March 2009 | ISBN: 9780195189254
Published online September 2009 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Philosophy

Progress in Economics: Lessons from the Spectrum Auctions

More Like This

Show all results sharing these subjects:

  • Philosophy
  • Philosophy of Science
  • Epistemology



This article begins by surveying existing work on scientific models, with an eye to the specific case of economics. It reviews four accounts in particular—the satisfaction-of-assumptions account, the capacities account, the credible-worlds account, and the partial-structures account. It tells the detailed story of the 1994 Federal Communications Commission (FCC) spectrum auction in the United States, highlighting the crucial role of experiment as well as theory. In the light of this case study, this article presents its own open-formula account of economic models. It then turns to the issue of economic progress. Finally, it concludes that empirical progress in economic theory might not be discussed here, or at least that the success of the spectrum auction provides no warrant for doing so. Rather, progress is better seen as more akin to the worthy but piecemeal variety typical of engineering.

Keywords: scientific models; economics; capacities account; credible-worlds account; Federal Communications Commission

Article.  14786 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Philosophy of Science ; Epistemology

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribeRecommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »