Shiller on whether economics is a science

by Russ Roberts on November 6, 2013

in Complexity & Emergence, Science, Scientism

His answer is (HT: Robert Went) ”sort of.” Or maybe “eventually.” I am less optimistic but I found this observation of his particularly interesting:

One problem with economics is that it is necessarily focused on policy, rather than discovery of fundamentals. Nobody really cares much about economic data except as a guide to policy: economic phenomena do not have the same intrinsic fascination for us as the internal resonances of the atom or the functioning of the vesicles and other organelles of a living cell. We judge economics by what it can produce. As such, economics is rather more like engineering than physics, more practical than spiritual.

I don’t agree with any of that. And I don’t think Adam Smith or F. A. Hayek (or my co-host, Don) would either. I think understanding how prices emerge to steer resources without anyone being in charge to be intrinsically fascinating and even spiritual.

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