Bonus Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux on December 26, 2017

in Economics, Hubris and humility, Reality Is Not Optional, Scientism

… is from page 196 of my colleague Bryan Caplan’s brilliant 2007 book, The Myth of the Rational Voter (footnote deleted):

Even among economists, market-oriented policy prescriptions are often seen as too dogmatic, too unwilling to take the flaws of the free market into account.  Many prefer a more “sophisticated” position: Since we have already belabored the advantages of markets, let us not forget to emphasize the benefits of government intervention.  I claim that the qualification needs qualification: Before we emphasize the benefits of government intervention, let us distinguish intervention designed by a well-intentioned economist from intervention that appeals to noneconomists, and reflect that the latter predominate.  You do not have to be dogmatic to take a staunchly promarket position.  You just have to notice that the “sophisticated” emphasis on the benefits of intervention mistakes theoretical possibility for empirical likelihood.

DBx: Those who populate their models with agents possessing superhuman powers – especially powers to gather and to process information, and powers to resist the temptations and biases that are part of every person’s life – are not doing science.  They are doing theology.  These people might be unaware that what they’re doing is theology.  They might be misled by the mathematical sophistication in which their theological propositions are expressed into supposing that they are doing real science.  But they are in fact, not scientists, but theologists.  Their subject-matter is not really the real world.

Theology of this sort is remarkably commonplace in the modern social sciences – including, but of course not limited to, economics.


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