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TagPaul Samuelson

Set of red glass dice isolated on black background. 3d rendering - illustration.

Don’t Worship Math: Numbers Don’t Equal Insight

The unwarranted assumption that investing in stocks is like rolling dice has led to some erroneous conclusions and extraordinarily conservative advice

My mentor, James Tobin, considered studying mathematics or law as a Harvard undergraduate but later explained that I studied economics and made it my career for two reasons. The subject was and is intellectually fascinating and challenging, particularly to someone with taste and talent for theoretical reasoning and quantitative analysis. At the same time it offered the hope, as it still does, that improved understanding could better the lot of mankind. I was an undergraduate math major (at Harvey Mudd, not Harvard) and chose economics for the much the same reasons. Mathematical theories and empirical data can be used to help us understand and improve the world. For example, during the Great Depression in the 1930s, governments everywhere had so…