September 8, 2015

Trapped in false alternatives

Comment on ‘Validity is NOT enough’


It is not such a big mystery why economics is a failed science. The IT-crowd aptly sloganized the explanation with garbage-in-garbage-out, that is to say in more general terms, if the premises are false the result will be false even if the reasoning between premises and conclusions is impeccable. It is pretty obvious that standard economics is based on nonenties (utility, expected utility, rationality, equilibrium, constrained optimization, well-behaved production functions, etcetera). Nothing of scientific value will ever follow from these premises.

In order to make progress the nonentities have to be replaced with something that has a correspondence in the real world. There is no choice between valid evidence and sound evidence and there is no trade-off between empiricism and deductivism. Both are needed, and both have been thoroughly misunderstood throughout history.

One of the best examples of idiotic empiricism has been given by Bacon: “Bacon, the philosopher of science, was, quite consistently, an enemy of the Copernican hypothesis. Don’t theorize, he said, but open your eyes and observe without prejudice, and you cannot doubt that the Sun moves and that the Earth is at rest.” (Popper, 1994, p. 84)

On the other hand, one of the best examples of idiotic deductivism is to be found in economics and has been delivered by Debreu’s General Equilibrium Theory.

The pitfalls of methodological argument are twofold:
(i) Sound empiricism, e.g. Tycho Brahe, has been played against idiotic deductivism.
(ii) Genial deductivism, e.g. Euler, Newton, Einstein, has been played against idiotic empiricism.

Unfortunately, traditional Heterodoxy has not manged to get out of this quagmire of false alternatives.

What should be evident by now to every economist is that science is not defined by either/or but by the synthesis of sound empiricism and genial deductivism. The hallmark of economics is that it lacks both.

Egmont Kakarot-Handtke

Popper, K. R. (1994). The Myth of the Framework. In Defence of Science and Rationality., chapter Science: Problems, Aims, Responsibilities, pages 82–111. London, New York, NY: Routledge.