Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Economics vs Physics

Economics and its history have been a limelight of economists and historians. Few economists made attempt to discover something which can be a constant action in everywhere irrespective of location but at the end nobody did to happen yet because unlike physics we are in social science. But is that the economists wanted to see economics as science like physics? Or something else they were trying to look at and say.   

There is an interesting article by T. C. A. Srinivasa-Raghavan on economics as he has been trying to understand where the subject stands and how it looks now. 

And he quotes economist Mr Solow which is more interesting than his narrative. 

The following is excerpts from a article published by Robert M. Solow in The American Economic Review, Vol. 75, No. 2, (May, 1985), pp. 328-331. 

  • “For better or worse, however, economics has gone down a different path, not the one I have in mind. One consequence, not the most important one, but the one that matters for this discussion, is that economic theory learns nothing from economic history, and economic history is as much corrupted as enriched by economic theory. I will come to that, too, later on. 
  • To get right down to it, I suspect that the attempt to construct economics as an axiomatically based hard science is doomed to fail. There are many partially overlapping reasons for believing this; 
  • Unfortunately, however, economics is a social science. It is subject to Damon Runyon’s Law that nothing between human beings is more than three to one. To express the point more formally, much of what we observe cannot be treated as the realization of a stationary stochastic process without straining credulity. Moreover, all narrowly economic activity is embedded in a web of social institutions, customs, beliefs, and attitudes. Concrete outcomes are indubitably affected by these background factors, some of which change slowly and gradually, others erratically. As soon as time-series get long enough to offer hope of discriminating among complex hypotheses, the likelihood that they remain stationary dwindles away, and the noise level gets correspondingly high. Under these circumstances, a little cleverness and persistence can get you almost any result you want. I think that is why so few econometricians have ever been forced by the facts to abandon a firmly held belief. Indeed, some of Fortune’s favourites have been known to write scores of empirical articles without once feeling obliged to report a result that contradicts their prior prejudices. 
  • If we are honest with ourselves and others. It would be a useful principle that economists should actually believe the empirical assertions they make. That would require more discipline than most of us now exhibit, when many empirical papers seem more like virtuoso finger exercises than anything else. The case I am trying to make concerns the scope and ambitions of economic model building, not the intellectual and technical standards of model building. 
  • In his own methodological writing, Court made the point explicitly that men "living as they do in different societies. ..make their decisions according to different schemes of values and according to the habits and structures of the society they find themselves living in." Therefore an economic historian should be an "observer and re-creator of the codes, loyalties and organizations which men create and which are just as real to them as physical conditions."

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