Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Economics as Science

I recently unloaded on Tyler Cowen of Marginal Revolution for his rather weak argument that economics is a science (see here and here). Cowen now says , more reasonably, that economics is a science "but let's keep in mind that being a science, taken alone, doesn't get you very far." That's more like it.

Many thoughtful economists have considered the question whether economics is a science. A Google search on "economics a science" yields some good hits on the subject. I won't venture a summary, but I will say that they seem consistent in tone with Cowen's newly found humility.

Nevertheless, economics -- microeconomics in particular -- offers useful insights about human behavior. To the extent that those insights are buttressed by statistical evidence -- if not precisely quantified by such evidence -- they are even more useful. It remains true, however, that economics, in its inchoate form, more closely resembles climatology than physics.