April 21, 2017

Ditch scientific incompetence!

Comment on Lars Syll on ‘Ditch physics envy!’


It was one of Mirowksi’s worst idiocies to introduce in his More Heat Than Light the term ‘physics envy’ in analogy to Freud’s ‘penis envy’. To psychologize derails every discussion because the focus turns from ‘Is the other guy’s argument true or false?’ to ‘What are the other guy’s real motives?’.

Schumpeter has settled this issue once and for all: “Remember: occasionally, it may be an interesting question to ask why a man says what he says; but whatever the answer, it does not tell us anything about whether what he says is true or false.”

Science is about true/false and NOTHING else. Kate Raworth, though, has never heard anything of Schumpeter, methodology, and the rules of scientific discourse: “… a critical discussion is well-conducted if it is entirely devoted to one aim: to find a flaw in the claim that a certain theory presents a solution to a certain problem.” (Popper)

Kate Raworth recounts the history of economic thought: “In the 1870s, a handful of aspiring economists hoped to make economics a science as reputable as physics.”

It was NOT AT ALL a problem of reputation. Economists realized that ― after Newton ― their confused psychological and philosophical blather was no longer taken seriously: “The backward state of the Moral Sciences can only be remedied by applying to them the methods of Physical Science, duly extended and generalized.” (Mill). And: “Like most of his fellow moral philosophers, Hume thought it was worth a try to make all sciences as rigorous as Newtonian physics.” (Redman)

Being scientifically incompetent, economists engaged in what Feynman called cargo cult science, that is, they imitated without deeper understanding. What hit their eyes was the most outstanding feature of the Scientific Revolution, i.e. the discovery of physical laws.

Economists’ tried to apply the concept of law to sociology or psychology or something in-between called Human Nature.

“The fundamental problem, therefore, of the social science, is to find the laws according to which any state of society produces the state which succeeds it and takes it place.” (Mill)

“Intrinsically, it is not a question of the higher or lower degree of development of the social antagonisms that result from the natural laws of capitalist production. It is a question of these laws themselves, of these tendencies working with iron necessity towards inevitable results.” (Marx)

“That Political Economy informs us of the laws which regulate the production, distribution, and consumption of wealth. … This definition is free from the fault which we pointed out in the former one. It distinctly takes notice that Political Economy is a science and not an art; that it is conversant with laws of nature, not with maxims of conduct, and teaches us how things take place of themselves, not in what manner it is advisable for us to shape them, in order to attain some particular end.” (Mill)

“The foundation of political economy and, in general, of every social science, is evidently psychology. A day will come when we shall be able to deduce the laws of social science from the principles of psychology …” (Pareto)

“From the above considerations the following seems to come out as the correct and complete definition of Political Economy: ― ‘The science which treats of the production and distribution of wealth, so far as they depend upon the laws of human nature.’ Or thus ― ‘The science relating to the moral or psychological laws of the production and distribution of wealth’.” (Mill)

That there is NO such thing as a behavioral/social/historical law has been known to scientists (in contradistinction to economists) in ALL ages: “The bifurcation of motion into two fundamentally different types, one for natural motions of non-living objects and another for acts of human volition ... is obviously related to the issue of free will, and demonstrates the strong tendency of scientists in all ages to exempt human behavior from the natural laws of physics, and to regard motions resulting from human actions as original, in the sense that they need not be attributed to other motions.” (Brown)

The scientific incompetence of economists consisted in the fact that they defined economics as as social science instead of a system science and that they did not realize their fundamental methodological blunder until this day. Standard economics is built upon microfoundations = BEHAVIORAL axioms.

There are NO laws of human behavior/nature/action, neither psychological nor social nor historical, but there are SYSTEMIC laws of the monetary economy, e.g. the Profit Law.

To argue with ‘physics envy’ is entirely beside the point. The problem of economists is NOT envy but stupidity.

What Kate Raworth has figured out is: “People and money are not so obedient as gravity, as it turns out, so no such laws exist.” True, there are NO behavioral laws. This has been known in ALL ages. But there are SYSTEMIC laws. Unfortunately, the folk psychologist and hobby economist Kate Raworth has not figured them out.

The conclusions from the manifest failure of Orthodoxy AND Heterodoxy are: (i) to ban psychology, sociology and all Human-Nature blather from economics, (ii) to retire the whole bunch of incompetent scientists, and (iii), to focus on the question how the market system works.

Egmont Kakarot-Handtke

Related ‘The Science-of-Man fallacy’ and ‘The economist as moralist’ and ‘The Synthesis of Economic Law, Evolution, and History’  and ‘Mathematical Proof of the Breakdown of Capitalism’ and 'How Heterodoxy became the venue for science’s scum' and 'How to overcome the manifest silliness of Econ 101 and save the economy'

COMMENT on Nanikore on Apr 22

You say: “Society does not follow Darwinian Laws, which the author fails to note also had a big impact on the philosophical foundations of classical Anglo-Saxon economics that emerged during its Victorian Era formative stages.”

This is way beside the point because economics is NOT about society ― this is the subject matter of SOCIOLOGY ― but about how the actual monetary economy works. Economics is faux sociology since J. S. Mill.#1

Fact is, economists got their subject matter wrong. And this is why the representative economist has until this day NO idea what the pivotal magnitude of her/his subject matter, i.e. profit, is.

Imagine you are shown an airplane taking off for Paris. Now you are asked to explain how it so happens that planes fly. As a scientifically incompetent commonsenser you explain that this flight takes place because the passengers have a variety of motives to go to Paris, and the crew and the pilot have theirs, and that the airline wants to make big profits, and so on. Everybody easily understands your ‘explanation’ because this is how Verstehen works since the kindergarten.

The competent scientist, in contradistinction, avoids all Human-Nature blah blah and explains flight by the interaction of a bunch of physical laws, e.g. aerodynamics, thermodynamics, gravity, and so on.

It is the same with economics: utility maximization or profit maximization or other human motives do NOT get the economy off the ground. Only the systemic laws, e.g. the Profit Law, can explain what makes the economy fly or crash.

Fact is that neither orthodox nor heterodox economists know until this day the objective systemic laws of the monetary economy. This does not stop them from giving economic policy advice.

You say: “The natural place of economics is in the humanities”. This is true insofar as both the humanities and economics are OUT of science. The term ‘social science’ is an oxymoron and an euphemism for cargo cult science.#2 Since the founding fathers, economics is faux sociology, or metaphorically, the Forrest Gump of science.#3

#1 See ‘John Stuart Mill as a social science founder
#2 See ‘The non-existence of economics
#3 See ‘The Science-of-Man fallacy