Saturday, August 13, 2011

Another Comment

Modern economics pretends to be a science like physics. It is not, though many economists manage to produce a lot of math. However, the math in physics describes reality and can be tested against reality. (This is not true of superstring theory thus far, and this is the problem with superstring theory. But in general, science is tested in the real world.)

The advantage of pretending to be a science like physics is, it makes the system you describe look inevitable and unchangeable. If economics claimed to be a social or historical science, it would have to admit how much economic behavior is contingent and capable of change.

If economics is any kind of science (and it's possible it is largely fake), then it is a social and historical science, like sociology, anthropology, political science, history... All of these tell us human behavior is variable, and change happens. We are not living in the Paleolithic or in the Middle Ages. Society is different now.

Economists have a terrible track record in reality, as sane economists often point out. If they were physicists or janitors, they would lose their jobs for incompetence. (See Dean Baker on this topic.) There are a couple of reasons for this. One is, it's difficult or impossible to come up with mathematical models for something as complex as human behavior. The other is, economists get ahead by justifying the existing economic system and telling us, in the famous words of Margaret Thatcher, "There is no alternative."


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