Economics is an Art, Not a Science


April 16, 2015 10:30 EDT

Human beings are complex, and economics simplifies them grossly to pretend to be a science.

Richard Dawkins, a brilliant scientist and the author of The God Delusion, criticizes belief without evidence. Since there is no proof that Mary was a virgin, belief in the idea of the Virgin Mary is superstition.

Economics is a field of human study that largely believes human beings are rational. Anyone who has ever fallen in love, dealt with parents or children, been under stress or simply been excited knows we are not quite rational creatures. History and daily reality tell us that we are far from rational. What explains the two World Wars, the Holocaust or Pol Pot? Why do we eat the extra ice cream instead of going for a run? The belief among economists that human beings are terribly rational is highly irrational and, as per Dawkins, might qualify as superstition.

Economics makes a false claim to be a science just like Political Science. The truth is economics suffers from physics envy. In physics, hypotheses can be tested, but there is no way to measure the veracity of economic formulas. Human actions are not easily measurable, the variables that determine economic activity are not easily determinable, correlation is often confused to be causality and experiments are not exactly possible, unlike physics.

Truth be told, mainstream economics is yet another religion. Just like Marxism, it is a religion without a god. It rests on assumptions that are not supported by evidence.

Economics is an art that requires an understanding of power, psychology, philosophy, history and society. Its operative assumption is that we are “utility maximizing creatures” who are rational and informed.

Therefore, it is only logical that economics strives to capture the complexity and messiness of human existence in neat mathematical formulas. This is pusillanimous nonsense. We face difficult questions. Cooking at home does not show up in gross domestic product (GDP) figures, but eating at McDonald’s does. So, should people stop cooking and eat at McDonald’s to boost economic growth? Or, to paraphrase Shakespeare, are there more things in heaven and earth than growth?

With over 7 billion people on the planet, we face a multitude of questions and economics has to start dealing with them.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.

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Brian O'Shea
8 years ago

Wonderfully intuitive questions, and I feel we have a lot of conversation to go to get to the right answers. Looking forward to more on this!

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