Argentina’s economic history provides yet another example of the problem of Mickey Mouse numbers.
When a prominent economic historian provides a new estimate of something, it is likely that the estimate will be taken at face value. Other economic historians will cite it, so it becomes reified, until it is treated as fact, even when it is little more than fancy. John Coatsworth’s estimate of Argentina’s GDP in 1800 provides an example of this.
An estimate of Argentine industrial output from the 1870s to 1913 illustrates a problem with the New Economic History.
The ‘New Economic History’ has sought to transform the study of history by applying econometric techniques to the past. As such, it has greatly increased the demand for historical statistics. The problem has been the supply, as there simply are not enough good quality data to apply econometric techniques to historical issues.