Do you ever wonder why so many lessons from history don’t seem to be learned? We keep repeating the same mistakes and expect to get different results, which generally does not turn out well.
Several recent & ongoing discussions among my friends of various political stripes has led me to consider that economics is a big part of the problem. Not economics as in whether the person arguing on a given side is rich or poor or a no labels member of the vanishing middle class (which is where I am).
No, I am talking about economics as an academic discipline, one that colors & underlies all the isms that divide us & which claims to offer a way to understand and predict the world, to filter out the noise and get to the lesson hidden with the historical events.
There seems to be a widespread belief that economics is science, thus what economists tell us is Scientific Truth.
Simply put, that belief is wrong.
Science involves putting forth a theory about what causes what AND testing that theory in the real world AND evaluating the test AND adjusting the theory based on results of that evaluation AND having your results reviewed and reproduced by your peers with their own tests AND correcting your theory based on all of the above AND doing it all again.
The only part of this that economists do is the first part. Their theories are put to use by their clients, almost always governments or very wealthy corporate entities, so it should come as little surprise that most economists’ theories support what those Powers That Be want to do anyway. The results of their use are rarely evaluated, except in so far as they impact their client’s bottom-line.
The sad fact is that most science is done for patrons and always has been. This goes back to the days of the (British) Royal Society, which set the outlines of modern science & which had the King as its patron due to the Society’s work on military advances.
In today’s world, science that is done is mostly paid for by big business or big government, both of which are looking for real world results. Even university-based science is done for publication, which raises the profile of the school & thereby contributes to its financial success.
Were it not for the very real possibility of another planet-killer asteroid, I doubt we would much at all in the way of astronomy, space exploration, or other science-based endeavors involving the heavens.
Even so, some real science does get done. New advances are made in many fields of knowledge. So, having a patron does not automatically mean the results are worthless or suspect.
It does mean that non-reproducible results or theories that can not be tested are not science, which brings me back to my statement:
Economics is not science. What economists say is not Scientific Truth.
Most of the time, economics seems to more of an art form & should be judged on what patrons are willing to pay for it. Unfortunately, patrons tend to buy it to justify taking actions that will damage others while benefitting themselves. So, We the People have a stake in what type of economic art from the Powers That Be buy.
When done right, economics can be a form of scholarship, much the same way that studying, say, the Bible is scholarship. There is much you can learn if you approach them with an open mind.
Just don’t be so open-minded that your brains fall out and the charlatans steal your wallet. And don’t get into arguments with your friends and family over what economists have said or written.