September 12, 2017

What makes economics a failed science?

Comment on Lars Syll on ‘What makes economics a science?’

Blog-Reference and Blog-Reference

Economics is a failed science because economists are scientifically incompetent. Note that the denomination economists includes BOTH the orthodox AND the heterodox variant. Heterodox economists always point to what they regard as the weak spots of Orthodoxy but they have NOT come up with something better since Walras/Jevons/Menger.

Lars Syll merely distracts from his own failure by again and again describing and criticizing orthodox methodology: “Modern mainstream (neoclassical) economists ground their models on a set of core assumptions (CA) — basically describing the agents as ‘rational’ actors — and a set of auxiliary assumptions (AA). Together CA and AA make up what might be called the ‘Ur-Model’ (M) of all mainstream neoclassical economic models. Based on these two sets of assumptions, they try to explain and predict both individual (micro) and — most importantly — social phenomena (macro).”

What Lars Syll overlooks is that he shares the foundational error with Orthodoxy, i.e., that economics is a so-called social science. Obviously, he has not realized that Feynman has debunked the so-called social sciences wholesale as cargo cult sciences: “They’re doing everything right. The form is perfect. ... But it doesn’t work. ... So I call these things cargo cult science because they follow all the apparent precepts and forms of scientific investigation, but they’re missing something essential.”

Economists lack a real understanding of science. Both orthodox and heterodox economists are cargo cult scientists.

There is political economics and theoretical economics. The main differences are: (i) The goal of political economics is to successfully push an agenda, the goal of theoretical economics is to successfully explain how the actual economy works. (ii) In political economics anything goes; in theoretical economics, the scientific standards of material and formal consistency are observed.

Economic policy presupposes knowledge of how the economic system works. This knowledge is embodied in the true theory: “In order to tell the politicians and practitioners something about causes and best means, the economist needs the true theory or else he has not much more to offer than educated common sense or his personal opinion.” (Stigum)

Because of the lack of the true theory the policy guidance of economists ― Walrasians, Keynesians, Marxians, Austrians, and Pluralists ― has NO sound scientific foundations.

Economics had the bad luck to start as Political Economy. This means that the political agenda had been given and the argumentation had to support the agenda. Theoretical economics (= science) had been hijacked from the very beginning by political economists (= agenda pushers). The methodological Ur-Blunder of economics consists of defining economics as a social science. Economics is a systems science. This means that economics has to perform the Paradigm Shift from obviously false behavioral microfoundations to the correct systemic macrofoundations.

Both orthodox and heterodox economists are in the state of incorrigible self-delusion/ idiocy/corruption. They do not know what science is, or if they know, they ignore or even actively suppress refutation. As Morgenstern reminded his fellow economists back in 1941: “In economics we should strive to proceed, wherever we can, exactly according to the standards of the other, more advanced, sciences, where it is not possible, once an issue has been decided, to continue to write about it as if nothing had happened.”

From the standpoint of science, the orthodox and heterodox economist is worse than the snake oil seller and fraudster because as a fake scientist he causes severe economic damages.#2 This is known since Napoleon: “Late in life… he claimed that he had always believed that if an empire were made of granite the ideas of economists if listened to, would suffice to reduce it to dust.” (Viner)

Economics is NOT a science. Both orthodox and heterodox economics is materially and formally inconsistent. The ultimate cause is the scientific incompetence of economists.

Egmont Kakarot-Handtke


#1 What is so great about cargo cult science? or, How economists learned to stop worrying about failure
#2 Mass unemployment: The joint failure of orthodox and heterodox economics

Related 'Economics: a science without scientists' and 'Heterodoxy ― a new paradigm or just another political sect?' and 'The economist as stand-up comedian' and 'How economists murdered the economy and got away with it' and 'The father of modern economics and his imbecile kids' and 'How to overcome the manifest silliness of Econ 101 and save the economy' and 'Economists: just too stupid for counting'. For details of the bigger picture see cross-references Scientific Incompetence.

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