Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux on October 18, 2011

in Growth, Science, Technology

… is from page 174 of Nathan Rosenberg‘s 1993 article “Does Science Shape Economic Progress – Or Is It the Other Way Around?”, which is chapter 24 in D.N. McCloskey’s indispensable volume Second Thoughts [original emphasis]:

The basic deficiency with the view that scientific advances are a cause, and economic development a consequence, is that it never even poses the question of what brings about scientific progress in the first place.

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W.E. Heasley October 18, 2011 at 9:43 am

“The basic deficiency with the view that scientific advances are a cause, and economic development a consequence, is that it never even poses the question of what brings about scientific progress in the first place“.

Let us edit this quote slightly:

The basic deficiency in political science is the view that voter-will is a cause, and public policy a consequence, is that it never even poses the question of what really brings about public policy in the first place.

Will October 18, 2011 at 10:54 am

Do you mean “is that it never even poses the questions of what really brings about (voter-will) in the first place”?

W.E. Heasley October 18, 2011 at 12:17 pm

Will:

‘Do you mean “is that it never even poses the questions of what really brings about (voter-will) in the first place” ‘?

Voter-will in a “some people system” is a fallacy regarding the emergence of public policy.

That voter-will is somehow the cause of public policy side steps the question that public policy, in most cases, is proposed by special interests through politicos, and the ensuing public policy proposal is not a product of “voter-will”. The highly diffused voter-taxpayer rarely proposes public policy [however from time to time they do].

-Or- voter-will is the romance of political science. Public choice theory was succinctly describes by James Buchanan as “politics without the romance”. Political science lives in the world of the ultraistic and never bothers to pose those nasty factual questions found in public choice theory.

Art Woolf October 18, 2011 at 9:58 am

Jonathan Rauch has a wonderful speech on this subject.
http://thefire.org/article/12126.html

Michael October 18, 2011 at 10:12 am

I’m not sure I’ve read anyone who espoused that belief in the causal relationship between science and economic development.

The relationship is much more symbiotic than that.

Darren October 18, 2011 at 5:21 pm

The relationship is much more symbiotic than that.

Yes. It seems this dividing line between the two is rather arbitrary. I doubt they can really be separated usefully.

Seth October 18, 2011 at 11:14 am

Reminds me of this Sowell quote via David Mamet:

‘The Left (as Thomas Sowell points out in Intellectuals and Society) believing in what it calls “social justice,” believes that wealth should be “shared,” but enters the discussion in its middle. For wealth may or may not be shared (in fact, it is shared, as efficiently as possible, through trade), but the a priori question, to the Left, is unasked and unanswered: Where did it come from?’

Will October 18, 2011 at 11:54 am

Great quote. Their was a post not long ago about something related to distribution of income, and one blogger continuous said everyone on this blog was brainwashed and we did not understand the statistical meaning of the word distribution. I asked a simple question, what is income and where does it come from? I never got an answer, he only responded that he was not going to answer something so obvious. The true believers of the left are incapable of answering such simple questions as what is wealth and income and where do they come from because the answer does not conform to their belief system that it capitalist are greedy and take more than their fair share, whatever that means.

Nikolai Luzhin, Eastern Promises October 18, 2011 at 11:14 am

both are wrong.

any fool knows that since Mankind built the Great Pyramids the only trick has been, “HOW TO FINANCE IT.”

This rule also explains why Wall Street, today, is the last game.

Methinks1776 October 18, 2011 at 11:17 am

You need a little dressing on that word salad.

Fred October 18, 2011 at 11:42 am

Without economic freedom there is no point in scientific progress.
Why bother to invent something if you can’t bring it to market?

Will October 18, 2011 at 11:46 am

This is an interesting quote. I have never though about it in those terms. In my experience, most science majors and scientist viewed their field as the hardest to achieve success and to a degree looked down on other majors with a tone of condescension. There is belief is that science is all powerful and what we don’t understand has only yet to be discovered scientifically and with out science where would we be. I wonder how many of them ever asked the above question. Why has their been such a great leap in scientific advancement in the last 150 years.

Another thought. There was great advancement in the ancient world of scientific development, only to stall out during the “dark ages” which was attributed with the fall of Rome. Rome provided great economic advancement in the ancient world. The end of the empire cast a large shadow of uncertainty about the future and it was not until the Renaissance that scientific advancement got kick started again.

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