December 15, 2016

Economics is not post-truth but pre-truth

Comment on Noah Smith on ‘Academic signaling and the post-truth world’


Noah Smith observes “For one thing, rising distrust of science long predates the current political climate; ...”. This is true, the ‘distrust of science’ is literally built into the core of politics because science is the very antithesis of politics. The guiding principle of science is the distinction between true and false. Scientific truth is well-defined as material and formal consistency. Science has NOTHING to do with trust or credibility or belief but with proof, transparency, explicitness, and acceptance of falsification. All this is antithetical to politics.

The very signature of politics is to give a shit about scientific standards: “As someone has said, it would seem that even the theorems of Euclid would be challenged and doubted if they should be appealed to by one political party as against another.” (Fisher, 1911)

To say that we live in a post-truth world is utterly misleading. The fact of the matter is that politics has hijacked science and gradually adapted it to its own modus operandi. Much of what parades as science nowadays is what Feynman famously called cargo cult science, that is, the outer form looks like science, but it is not science, and it does not work.#1

To say that we live in a post-truth world is to insinuate that politics has been successful in its age-old attempt to corrupt science.

This is true as far as economics is concerned.#2 Economists claim to do science since Adam Smith/Karl Marx. What they, in fact, have done is cargo cult science or, more specifically, political economics. Political economics is agenda pushing and fundamentally different from theoretical economics.

The proper definition of theoretical economics is the science that tries to figure out how the actual economy works. Scientific knowledge takes the form of a theory that satisfies the criteria of material and formal consistency. A theory is the humanly best mental representation of reality.

Economics is a failed science. The four major approaches — Walrasianism, Keynesianism, Marxianism, Austrianism — are mutually contradictory and axiomatically false. Political economics has not produced much if anything, of scientific value in the last 200+ years.

The actual state of economics is that of a proto-science, that is, the representative economist lives in a pre-truth world. This is why the word sciences has to be deleted from the “Bank of Sweden Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel”. The claim that economics is ‘sciences’ cannot be upheld. It is provably false.

Theoretical economics (= science) could never emancipate itself from political economics (= agenda-pushing). Political economics is fake science. And all agenda pushers from Smith, Ricardo, Marx to Keynes, Hayek, Friedman, and onward to Krugman and Varoufakis are fake scientists. The general public's distrust in political economics is fully justified.

The most urgent task in economics is to implement the separation of politics and science and to throw all political economists out of the scientific community.#3 This is the only way to de-incentivize incompetent scientists to “crank out crap”.

Egmont Kakarot-Handtke

#1 For details and references see Wikipedia
#2 Economists: the Trumps of science
#3 For details see cross-references Political Economics and cross-references Incompetence

Related 'Economics and corruption' and 'Political economics: a deadhead sitcom' and 'Lousy scientists' and 'Politics, storytelling, and science' and 'Pre-truth and post-truth in economics'.