… is from page 15 of the Mercatus Center’s 2016 re-issue of my late colleague Don Lavoie’s indispensable 1985 volume National Economic Planning: What Is Left? (footnote deleted):
Efforts to borrow analytical tools fashioned for the natural sciences have dominated and seem to have hampered the social sciences throughout this century. Surely the path to scientific investigation of human action and social forces does not lie in a blind imitation of the sciences that study matter and energy. The general intellectual processes by which the natural sciences have made such phenomenal progress, however are capable of adaptation to the study of society, if only society will devote the same intensity of intellectual effort to developing a scientific understanding of itself as it has to the scientific understanding of the physical world it inhabits.
DBx: A major, although not the sole, source of the scientism that Lavoie above rightly criticizes is the long-standing habit – found on the left, right, and center – of mistaking society and the economy for mechanisms that are akin to machines constructed by engineers. Scientism – that is, the mindless application of the methods appropriate to one branch of study to other branches – is resisted if society and the economy are understood for what they are, namely, emergent orders designed by no one and incapable of being so designed.