This evening, from 7:00 to 8:00 EDT, I’m doing a seminar – hosted by FEE’s Janet Neilson – entitled “What Does it Cost to Keep Them Out?” We’ll discuss a variety of issues, all involving efforts of government to prevent the migration of goods, people, and ideas. Join us!
This month’s EconLib essays are both excellent. Bob Murphy explores the relationship between capital and income, while Arnold Kling offers a fresh criticism of scientism. Arnold argues for what he calls Epistemological Skepticism about Social Phenomena (ESSP). Here’s a slice from Arnold’s essay (footnote excluded):
The opposite of believing in ESSP is what Friedrich Hayek termed “scientism.” Scientism is a belief that social phenomena can be understood in a scientific manner. It is the belief that we should be able to explain and predict social outcomes on the basis of simple, powerful, verifiable universal principles.
Examples of scientism in economics include Marxism, Keynesianism, and most recently, Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the 21st Century. A scientistic epistemology seems to correlate with an ideology of centralized social control. In practice, Marxism has been totalitarian. Keynesianism has been used to justify major expansions in the size and scope of government. And Piketty advocates a tax on wealth imposed at a global level.
In contrast, those of us with ESSP are less likely to believe in sweeping policies imposed by government. We doubt the reliability of the social science that is invoked to justify such policies.