Is Economics a Science? Dogmatic Economics Vs. Reflective Economics

A thought-provoking text that is somewhat complementary to my last post on the “monolith of economic theory“.

Fixing the Economists

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The question asked in the title of this post is actually somewhat of a trick. It is a trick because it all depends upon how you define ‘science’. Often when people say that economics is a science what they are doing is defining ‘science’ in such a way that economics fits the bill. They can do this because there is no real, firm definition of ‘science’ that is widely held among philosophers of science, scientists or, most certainly, among economists (who are the most anti-intellectual of the three groups by far).

If we look at Wikipedia, for example, it gives a definition of science that is Popperian — despite the fact that Popper’s falsifiability criteria have been called into question since the 1960s.

Science (from Latin scientia, meaning “knowledge”) is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the…

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3 thoughts on “Is Economics a Science? Dogmatic Economics Vs. Reflective Economics

  1. An empiric science uses “observables” to find patterns, then derives rules, builds hypothesis, later theories, on these observation-based rules. However, there are sciences that cannot (directly) observe much of what’s in their remit. Economics is such a science, if you will. There are no such observable aggregates as “global” demand or “he level of” interest. Hence you cannot derive patterns from these. Which is why the mathematical economists are not scientists, while the Austrians have a case when it comes to “subjective” value theory.

  2. I agree. In a comment on Fixing the Economists I stressed the importance of the insights of both the Austrians and the German historical school about the limitations of the classical and neoclassical economics’s strive for the status of a physics-like science.

  3. I’m really glad I’ve stumbled upon this post. I’m ashamed to say this, but I had not given this too much thought before. I would certainly have to do some readings of my own before I can come to a conclusion- but thanks for providing the stating point!

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