January 12, 2016

Scientific dabbler and peddler

Comment on Oleg on ‘Models and forecasts’


You are right, economists do not understand their proper task until this very day. J. S. Mill once told them:

“A scientific observer or reasoner, merely as such, is not an adviser for practice. His part is only to show that certain consequences follow from certain causes, and that to obtain certain ends, certain means are the most effectual. Whether the ends themselves are such as ought to be pursued, and if so, in what cases and to how great a length, it is no part of his business as a cultivator of science to decide, and science alone will never qualify him for the decision.” (2006, p. 950)

Economists were from the very beginning torn between science and politics. As scientific dilettantes they preferred politics. This explains why economics never rose above the level of a proto-science.

“In this and many analogous cases, of which modern economics is another deplorable example, economists indulged their strong propensity to dabble in politics, to peddle political recipes, to offer themselves as philosophers of economic life, and in doing so neglected the duty of stating explicitly the value judgments that they introduced into their reasoning.” (Schumpeter, 1994, p. 19)

Economists are addicted to political economics and this is why they have not produced anything of real scientific value. But, as astrologers have shown for quite some time, science is not needed for making proposals and predictions.

Genuine scientists do not predict at all because they know “The future is unpredictable.” (Feynman, 1992, p. 147)*

Egmont Kakarot-Handtke

Feynman, R. P. (1992). The Character of Physical Law. London: Penguin.
Mill, J. S. (2006). A System of Logic Ratiocinative and Inductive. Being a Connected View of the Principles of Evidence and the Methods of Scientific Investigation, volume 8 of Collected Works of John Stuart Mill. Indianapolis, IN: Liberty Fund.
Schumpeter, J. A. (1994). History of Economic Analysis. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

* See also ‘Prediction does not work? Try retrodiction first