Conception of economics: Comment from Andrew W
Posted November 5, 2008on:
As a critique of applied economics I accept the article (as there is definitely issues associated with the desimenation of economic tools into policy making), as a critique of economic science the article is horrendously off the mark.
One of the main issues I have with the article is the way it view economics vs physics – it is far too simplistic. For example, the article states:
But statistical regularities should emerge in the behaviour of large populations, just as the law of ideal gases emerges from the chaotic motion of individual molecules
That is just the thing – the behaviour of individuals is not equivalent to chaotic motion (although I am sure many people would disagree 😛 ) because individuals make choices. This additional element makes the whole study of macroeconomics (which I believe they are attempting the criticise) that much more difficult.
The “axioms” that the article criticises are all assumptions about this choice – factors that economists decided over 100 years ago that they would have to assume because they CANNOT observe choices in a sufficient fashion. Of course, since then empirical and observational techniques have improved such that “the observation of the process of choice” is becoming avaliable. As a result, these axioms will be (and in fact are being) challenged and changed.
I think it would have been good for the article to look at work on the methodology of economics before assuming that they could just pull out the critique of 17th century science and apply it directly here.