I’ve never liked the notion of talking about economic “science” — it’s much too raw and imperfect a discipline to be paired casually with things like chemistry or biology, and in general when someone talks about economics as a science I immediately suspect that I’m hearing someone who doesn’t know that models are only models. Still, when I was younger I firmly believed that economics was a field that progressed over time, that every generation knew more than the generation before.
The question now is whether that’s still true…
…at this point it seems to me that many economists aren’t even trying to get at the truth. When I look at a lot of what prominent economists have been writing in response to the ongoing economic crisis, I see no sign of intellectual discomfort, no sense that a disaster their models made no allowance for is troubling them; I see only blithe invention of stories to rationalize the disaster in a way that supports their side of the partisan divide. And no, it’s not symmetric: liberal economists by and large do seem to be genuinely wrestling with what has happened, but conservative economists don’t.
And all this makes me wonder what kind of an enterprise I’ve devoted my life to.
If as noted an economist as Nobel laureate Paul Krugman is troubled by the practices of modern economic “science” (and indeed its very status as a science), why is this not a broader topic of interdisciplinary research?
An uncritical acceptance of economics as a science gives economists immense leverage and disproportionate influence in policy debates. Before this influence can be more thoughtfully balanced by other perspectives, the questioning of the scientific authority of economics needs to take place.