… is from pages 59-60 of my colleague Peter Boettke’s 2017 Presidential address – “Economics and Public Administration” – to the Southern Economic Association, as this address is reprinted in Pete’s 2021 book, The Struggle for a Better World:
Economics is a science of complex phenomena, yet the modern administrative state demanded an economics of simple phenomena to accomplish the policy tasks so conceived. The problem is that such an approach must confront the strange situation that the approaches that superficially look the most scientific to outside observers are often in reality the least scientific, while the approaches that superficially look the least scientific are actually the most scientific because they understand the limits to our knowledge in the science of complex phenomena.
DBx: Equations appear sophisticated even when they are merely sophistical. Ditto for regression analyses and other econometric exercises, regardless of how many differences in differences are detected. That there are legitimate uses in economics for such tools is undeniable. But also undeniable is this fact: No analytical tools will ever, regardless of how impressively complicated they appear, give to any human being – or to any committee or congress of human beings – even a tiny fraction of the knowledge of complex reality that would have to be known for this human being (or group of human beings) to outperform decentralized private-property markets at the task of allocating resources to uses most advantageous to humanity.