Is economics a science?

From my buddy John Emerson:

For about five years now I’ve been asking whether economics is a science at all, and not just a weakly systematized area of policy studies and advocacy dazzling laymen with complex math. People seemed to be getting tired of my ranting and trollery and I retired from the field for awhile. But gradually the question became a hot issue in the field  (GoogleDeLong 1DeLong 2Thoma), mostly because economic true believers had succeeded in throwing us into the worst recession since 1937.  So I’ve collected the more amusing and presentable of my rants below. . . .

There’s probably some kind of congruence between excessive formalization in economics, fraudulent claims to scientific power, ideological claims surreptitiously sneaked in, and mercenary dirty work done for the market. Once detached from the execrescent growths that seem to have taken over, much of the empirical part is probably OK.

What’s really at stake here is the surplus authority economics claimed based on its scientific status. That was fraud and mystification. Economics is not nothing — there are a lot of things there that you need to know. Think of it as a useful craft or art, or as a form of knowledgeable advocacy like law. There are times when you need the best economists you can afford, because otherwise you’ll be at the mercy of the bad guys’ economists.

Here’s a link to his post. Check it out. He’s a scrappy kind of guy with a good head on his shoulders.

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  1. #1 by Charlie Keil on March 28, 2011 - 1:18 pm

    Without reading your pal Emerson, I can say that Economics has been known as “THE dismal science” for a long, long, time. A better, happier economics has been proposed and quested for at least since Ruskin started talking “cattallactics” (exchanges) in mid 19th century, since Hazel Henderson started talking real values and “externalized costs” in the 1970s. Today nef in UK and NEI in USA are showing us the way. As do the 12 anarchist traditions of @@, Alcoholics Anonymous, because all of us are going to be in recovery from addiction to oil, addiction to quick energy fixes, addiction to consumption, addiction to debt, addictions to addictions just the tip of the civilized iceberg.
    Transition Parties will be needed in all the nations of the world for at least the next 20 to 70 years or so. Let’s get our USA one started now.

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