Information icon.svg At All things in moderation, we are currently voting on restrictions on the use of LLMs (chatbots) in RationalWiki. Reminder: you need to have at least 75 edits and to have been registered for at least three months to be eligible to vote.


From RationalWiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search

This is an archive page, last updated 29 October 2022. Please do not make edits to this page.
Archives for this talk page:  , (new)(back)


Okay if I add Marxism-Leninism to the "archaic ideas" list, or will that set off another round of war-on-squirrels? What about just plain Marxism? Secret Squirrel 09:15, 7 October 2008 (EDT)

I'll back you up, when I'm around. Fukuyama was definitely overstating it, but the economic parts are definitely in the "dustbin of history." Researcher 09:17, 7 October 2008 (EDT)
Besides, having "Laissez-faire" in there as the first one should show that we're being even-handed. Researcher 09:17, 7 October 2008 (EDT)
Squirrel--good thinking. It'd be good to have all kinds of economic crankery in there. (In deference to you, I'll leave protectionism out.) Should we add in mercantilism? I'm not familiar enough with all of its tenets, and some people claim that the US is trying to engage in "neo-mercantilism", but my understanding is that no one is really trying to engage in mercantilism anymore. Researcher 09:39, 7 October 2008 (EDT)
Not sure about mercantilism - it seems to me it was a valid economic theory of the past (as opposed to e.g. Georgism and Marxism which were cranky from the start). Oh, and in deference to you I'll leave globalization out too :)" Secret Squirrel 09:43, 7 October 2008 (EDT)
I appreciate it. As for mercantilism, the basic idea is the hoarding of gold by the state to increase power, right? Is that any less cranky than Marxism was in its own time? (I think one could have made a good case for Marxism 150 years ago, just not today.) Researcher 09:48, 7 October 2008 (EDT)
Hmm...mercantilism as I understand it is the state actively encouraging a positive balance of trade with other nations. It has been linked to both the age of imperialism and the rise of modern capitalism, and was the dominant economic idea for a couple of centures. Still influential today in some respects (in the sense of balance of trade being cited as an important measure of economic health), or at least it was in the 20th century (in the sense of the use of gold held by the state as a medium in international trade). Secret Squirrel 09:55, 7 October 2008 (EDT)
And THAT'S why I asked before I just put it up there. No, you're totally right. (Everything I know about mercantilism comes from 7th grade; so all I remember is "gold and colonies." Researcher 09:58, 7 October 2008 (EDT)
Marxian economics is still relevant today, and there are a number of prominent economists who utilize Marxian analysis in their work (Richard Wolff, Stephen Resnik etc). A Marxian analysis tends to focus on the "bigger" picture of economics compared with neoclassical / mainstream economics, which primarily concerns itself with phenomena that take place within the framework of market capitalism, ignoring other questions that Marxian economics addresses (overaccumulation of capital, socioeconomic change, etc). That being said, Marxian economics is not synonymous with the work of Karl Marx and Fredrich Engels and is constantly changing just like any other theoretical framework. However, it can be said that strict adherence to the labor theory of value and the advocacy of centrally-planned economies (which actually have nothing to do with Marx) have been relegated to the dustbin of history.Kistel (talk) 08:19, 3 September 2011 (UTC)

Trickle Down[edit]

Would someone who knows what they are talking about, be willing to add "trickle down Eco", cause I don't really know what it is, other than "if the rich have more, they will give it to thier maid..." or some such.--Sun mowse.pngEn attendant Godot"«I don't think in any language. I think in images. V.Nabokov» 18:11, 9 October 2008 (EDT)

Supply side economics, which we already have a whole page devoted to, I think. But I'll add a touch. Researcher 19:19, 9 October 2008 (EDT)


Off mission, also, really sucks. Really. ħumanUser talk:Human 06:41, 10 December 2009 (UTC)

Does it suck more or less than this? Prometheus (talk) 14:34, 10 December 2009 (UTC)
It sucks far less than you suck, P. TheoryOfPractice (talk) 14:37, 10 December 2009 (UTC)

"Until recently, classical economics was the main theory embraced the academic world" Really, I don't want to try to turn that into English. I will delete in ten seconds, this article is crap. ħumanUser talk:Human 06:42, 10 December 2009 (UTC)

This article needs to be justified regarding our lame mission statement, otherwise is just a half-assed 'cyclopedia article. ħumanUser talk:Human 07:20, 10 December 2009 (UTC)
I think there is a case for an on-mission article. Classical economics with demand/supply balances etc. is pretty straightforward and covering that would indeed be just another half-assed article. However, where irrational human behavior becomes involved and upsets the classical models then there is probably a case for exploring that in greater depth. And Human, while I applaud your high standards regarding articles perhaps you could be less hasty in deletion? Make it known that you don't think the article is up to the mark or off-target but rapid deletion often upsets people, especially if they are newer editors. Redchuck.gif ГенгисRationalWiki GOLD member 10:50, 10 December 2009 (UTC)
Providing a basic knowledge of economics, along with examples of crank theories and common misinformation would certainly be on-mission, and part of the article was going in that direction. Granted it needed an overhaul for the valid reasons mentioned in earlier comments. I wouldn't expect us to wrap everything in cotton wool, but ending with "this article is crap" seems unnecessary, particularly when someone is editing with good intentions. We recently had a new guy comment on his welcome to RW being the best he's had on any forum, and that's kind of cool. --ConcernedresidentAsk me about your mother 13:04, 10 December 2009 (UTC)

Pseudo-scientific economics/economic woo would definitely be on-mission. TheoryOfPractice (talk) 14:39, 10 December 2009 (UTC)

I suspect that this article is going to occupy a similar position to Evolution. The evolution article is on mission, but definitely a border-line encyclopedia article. I reckon some cleaning up and focus on topics commonly misunderstood/misused would be nice. I'd help, but economics really isn't my thing. Anyway, I vote against deleting. It just needs a bit of work, but it's not as if someone wandered in and wrote a badly spelled article about Captain Picard's turn-ons. --ConcernedresidentAsk me about your mother 15:23, 10 December 2009 (UTC)
It's getting better now... ħumanUser talk:Human 20:18, 10 December 2009 (UTC)
Yeah, it seems more coherent now. I wonder if it's worth adding protectionism? That's a recurring theme in politics. --ConcernedresidentAsk me about your mother 22:03, 10 December 2009 (UTC)

As of right now the article is about half normal, neo-classical economics and half loony fringe stuff. Given that it includes information about crank theories while providing a counter-balance of rational, mainstream thought I think it fits the mission statement.The Wine of TyrantsDrunk with power again! 03:12, 12 December 2009 (UTC)

Yes. I'd love to see more exploration of half-baked loony stuff if possible. Could lead to more articles even. ħumanUser talk:Human 04:28, 12 December 2009 (UTC)


I don't think that the existence of competing theories indicates that the whole of economics is based mostly on opinion. If this was the case, physics is based on opinion as well, since string theory and loop quantum gravity are competing claims, each with their proponents and detractors. I'm removing the "opinion" bit for this reason. -- (talk) 03:18, 10 December 2009 (UTC)

  • Furthermore, the claim that all of modern economic research rests on the assumptions of perfect information and rational actions is pure and utter nonsense. Just a quick glance at any paper in behavioral economics will disprove that claim. For an easier proof, see The Lemons Model. It relies wholly on asymmetric information. -- (talk) 03:23, 10 December 2009 (UTC)

I've rolled back your edit because it was a deletion of basically the entirety of the 'economics' part of the article. If you'd like to modify or suggest a replacement to the introduction of the article, please do so. The Wine of TyrantsDrunk with power again!

  • Thanks for the clarification, WineofTyrants. I'm a bit new to wiki-editing. I did manage to find out how to revert your edit, however, so feel free to re-revert back to the original while I propose my case. -- (talk) 03:30, 10 December 2009 (UTC)

Thanks to WineOfTyrants for his/her helpful instructions. Allow me suggest a new intro to the article.

Economics is usually defined as "the social science that studies the production, allocation, and distribution of scarce resources."[1][2][3]. The current lead is too vague -- it simply states it deals with markets and economies. Philosophy, environmental science, political science, sociology, etc. all in some way deal with these things. The way I worded it makes it more exact.

As I said earlier, the fact that there are competing schools of thought in economics does not make the whole of economics "opinion based" anymore than physics or biology is "opinion based" because of competing theories. Physics has string theory vs quantum loop gravity. Biology has punctuated equilibrium vs gradualism. Based on this, I think the opinion comment should be removed.

Furthermore, economics isn't really divided into demand-side economics and supply-side economics. Most modern theories rely on marginalism, which is both a supply and demand side theory. Economics is actually divided into two scopes: microeconomics and macroeconomics. The demand side and supply side ideas seem to be easy ways for politicians to classify their governmental philosophy concerning economic problems -- they aren't much use for economics itself.

I already mentioned why I don't like the part of the lead that says that all modern economics relies on the assumption of perfection information and rational behavior. To say that is simply ignorant of modern economic thought, period. Often we make assumptions similar to that to see what a market ought to do if they were true, and compare that outcome to real-world outcomes to determine which of the assumptions is wrong. But that isn't the same as just hoping and praying the assumptions always hold up, as what the lead implies now.

My proposal is to simply keep the lead with a simple definition of economics. Then, we can expand this page with theories and models.--Hazillow (talk) 03:55, 10 December 2009 (UTC)

While there is good points in here, I insist on an encyclopedic introduction. The lead can still be the definition, but there needs to be a real introduction. The Wine of TyrantsDrunk with power again!

Austriam economics is considered more heterodox and might not be a good example of a competing claim to Keynesianism. Real Business Cycle theory, I think, is the most popular counterclaim to Keynesianism. See here: [4].--Hazillow (talk) 03:55, 10 December 2009 (UTC)

Alright, we can ditch Austrian in the lead. RBC seems to be, along with supply side, the two major theories in opposition to Keynesian thought. The Wine of TyrantsDrunk with power again!

If economics is a science ...[edit]

It seems to me that if economics is a science then it's not a very good one. As far as I am aware, the recent global financial turbulence was not predicted by economic science. I know that with hindsight everybody is a genius, but I rather think that we should value sciences by their predictive power. I've added a line about this to the intro but perhaps those better educated than I would care to expand it.

Actually thinking about it some more, and not wanting to be too contentious, I wonder how many (if any) of the elements of pseudoscience are present in economics?--BobNot Jim 08:54, 12 December 2009 (UTC)

Firstly, it's important to give credit to the people who did predict the economic collapse, like Sen. Byron Dorgan (ten years ago) and Nouriel Roubini. Secondly, we have to avoid establishing a double standard here- did chemistry or biology predict that common bread mold would be a powerful antibiotic, despite the magnitude of that discovery? Randomly running into large events makes things more precise, and modern economics is very young.
Also, it's important to note that eocnomics is a social science, and thus its predictive power should be compared with say, political science or anthropology, rather than physics or chemistry. That's an important distinction, but a large majority of the people who dismiss economics as a science are people involved with the 'hard' sciences.
As for elements of pseduoscience, economics does have a decent amount of concepts that lack precision. The idea of 'utility' in and of itself is similar to, say, someone saying that their crystal beam gives people x units of crystal power. However for the most part, standard (i.e neo-classical and neo-Keynesian) economics avoids pseduoscientific ideas or gives plenty of warning if they're using hazy things like the Laffer Curve (which makes sense but is hard to actually use for policy purposes). The Wine of TyrantsDrunk with power again! 10:31, 12 December 2009 (UTC)
I freely confess to not being an expert in this matter - an admission which, I accept, is usually followed by statement which is both over-generalised and wrong but it seems to me that if any large enough group of individuals makes predictions then there is a good chance that one or two of them will turn out to be right. My point is that "economics" as a science or "economists" as a group did not see it coming.
It's possible that I have the wrong of what economics is "for"; but if it's not useful for predicting how national and international economies will develop and react, then what is it for?
Additionally, the fact that there are several different schools of thought which, as far as I can tell, seem to have differing fundamental assumptions doesn't look very "scientific" either.--BobNot Jim 11:13, 12 December 2009 (UTC)
I wonder if the uncertainty is in part due to the social science side of economics? You can drop interest rates to try to encourage people to borrow money to go blow on the high street, but it's not difficult to scare people in to stuffing the cash under their mattresses. Consider the case with the anti-vax movement. We have solid science showing the risks and gains, but still people avoid vaccination because of irrational fears and scaremongering. No matter how good the pharmacology is, the actual effectiveness of the vaccine must take in to account the social sciences, since you can't force people to go get a jab. Also, it's difficult to test economic theories without risking some pretty serious fall-out. Few governments want to preside over an economic disaster, particularly one they could be blamed for. That's my laymans opinion of it anyway. --ConcernedresidentAsk me about your mother 21:14, 16 December 2009 (UTC)
Interesting Guardian article on this very point.--BobBring back the hat! 19:48, 29 December 2009 (UTC)
Think about it like meteorology. Economists can predict things out to some small degree, but the chaotic nature of the system (people spending money) can down out a LOT. Moreover, they can make general predictions over long time frames, but those won't cover huge storms. Moreover, plenty of sciences are not predictive. What can biology predict? Can we predict the long-term evolution of organisms? We have some general ideas, but until the paths begin developing there is too much uncertainty. Researcher (talk) 03:57, 7 July 2010 (UTC)
I think biology can predict a lot of things - but like your example with meteorology, some things are more precise than others. We could "if we carefully inoculate person A with anthrax spores, the following events will occur leading to their death" which might also be amended with "in x% of cases" and further, "if we intervene at time t with treatment B they will be cured". ħumanUser talk:Human 06:21, 7 July 2010 (UTC)
Of course biology involves prediction. If you look at scientific method you will note that prediction is an irremovable part of science. If you remove parts of the scientific method then you end up with pseudoscience. What are these "prediction-free sciences" to which Researcher refers? --BobSpring is sprung! 08:24, 7 July 2010 (UTC)
All sciences rely on theoretical models based on observations and are therefore predictive. What he was presumably trying to say is that evolutionary biology, for example, can't make predictions that are any more accurate than those of economists, and that the latter shouldn't be singled out for criticism. An evolutionary biologist can explain in great detail what has already happened (so can economists), and he can explain in a very general way what is going to happen (again, so can economists) - if, say, the ecological niche of a certain species shrinks or a new natural enemy is introduced to its environment - but he can't predict the exact evolutionary pathway and branching out to new forms, since the underlying mutations are random and there are many different possible improvements enhancing a species' fitness. Economics and the other social sciences do employ the scientific method, but they deal with extremely complex phenomena and have to resort to drastically simplified models, so it's unfair to expect physics-level accuracy from them. Röstigraben (talk) 10:34, 7 July 2010 (UTC)
I'll second that. A real problem in economics is the inability to use a lab in order to produce a good counter factual. This creates a lot of opportunities for cranks to step in, which is why there seems to be so many schools of thought in economics. What separates real economists from the other guys, and makes it a science, is that mainstream economists are very interested in producing a counter factual and validating their ideas, while the cranks are not. There is a whole subfield of economics devoted to applying rigorous statistical analysis to social situations and using it to test economic theory. -1=e 02:29, 6 August 2010 (UTC)

"A subtype of this is the Austrian School... but their theories are highly impractical, if not downright pseudoscientific."

Any evidence? — Unsigned, by: Doubledork / talk / contribs

Whether their theories are impractical is hard to say... since the Austrian school rejects the idea that their theories can be empirical tested. That right there doesn't pass the pseudoscience sniff test. Economists have paid a little attention to Austrian school ideas, mostly those of Hayek. I am not an expert on any of this line of research, but my understanding is that Hayek's theories are not backed by the data. The usual defense is that human decisions cannot be mathematically modeled, yet somehow yield predictable results anyway. Any way, I am not sure why this would invalidate statistical testing, as all the actions a person could take could not be mapped in any meaningful way to any other events that occur (the whole no modeling thing), so every statistical test on human behavior would be completely exogenous, and, therefore, unbiased!-1=e 17:11, 31 July 2010 (UTC)


Scarcity has a specific meaning in economics, meaning that everybody can't just have all that they want of something without paying for it. An example of a non-scarce resource would be air. (Clean air, on the other hand, may be scarce...) It's a fancy economics way of saying that the resource involves prices and markets. Researcher (talk) 12:12, 9 July 2010 (UTC)

Fundamentals of economics[edit]

Deleting the last paragraph. Might be a better place for some of these in a different section, but def not in fundamentals. No ongoing debates happen with Keynesians, as the schools' rationale has been discredited. New Keynesians generally focus on monetary policy, or that monetary policy is non-neutral, to be precise. Monetarism is long dead, basically DOA when the Fed used it for monetary policy in the late 70's, so no one really advocates that. And monetarism was concerned more with what the Fed should target (monetary aggregates as opposed to interest rates or unemployment) rather than whether money should be used for policy. There are justifications for using fiscal policy to fix market failures, i.e. Joseph Stiglitz and asymmetric information, I don't know that any mainstream school disputes this. I don't think anyone strongly advocates for fiscal expansion as a business cycle policy anymore, although some spending obviously has a place.-1=e 16:34, 5 August 2010 (UTC)

Monetarism in its exact form is a relic of stagflation and the 70's, but it survives and thrives in modified forms. For example, the European Central Bank uses a slightly altered version of monetarist policy Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke is also a monetarist (see his statements about the Great Depression and A Monetary History). Furthermore, "Keynesian economics" in this paragraph doesn't refer to exactly what Keynes wrote in The General Theory, but to schools that carry Keynes' legacy, like New Keynesianism and Post-Keynesianism. This could be made more clear.
On your last point--may I remind you about the various economic stimulus bills and packages that have been passed around the world since 2007? And the fact that Keynesian thought served as the backbone to the argument that those types of stimulus are effective? The paragraph definitely needs work, but I wouldn't delete it. Lyra § talk 17:10, 5 August 2010 (UTC)
Well, regarding monetarism, fair enough upon clarification. Many monetarist ideas are incorporated into modern macroeconomic theory. But I would hardly call this monetarism, as most economists immediately think of Friedman's arguments for targeting money growth when you bring that up. Describing New Keynesian economics as against using the money supply is dead wrong though: New Keynesian economics exists to explain how changes in the money supply can be used to enact policy. Without it, macro models imply that changes in the money supply have no net effect. I feel couching it in terms of fiscal policy vs. monetary policy is the root of the issues with this paragraph. The two are not mutually exclusive, and many people advocate for some form of both. Whether fiscal stimulus has an effect is a contentious issue among macro economists, but the real debate here is between whether tax cuts or increased spending is a better reaction to recession, or whether fiscal policy is effective at all. Most economists (waiting to be struck down on that one, but at least everyone I talk to) believe monetary policy is an important tool, so much of the policy debate centers on those three issues. Also, it is important to distinguish between fiscal policy to deal with market failures, and fiscal policy to stimulate the economy, as one is much less controversial than the other. Perhaps cleaning up the paragraph, and moving it to a new section is the best way to deal with it. -1=e 18:00, 5 August 2010 (UTC)

Dear Andy/KT liberal wannabes[edit]

If you're going to post utter bullshit bashing an established academic discipline, then back that shit up. Otherwise, quit asserting unsourced, untrue statements or gross broad brush and false generalities. Just because you don't understand an academic topic does not mean it's untrue, kind of like the Theory of Relativity. ConservapediaEditor (talk) 00:51, 5 September 2010 (UTC)

I second that. Been meaning to deal with this, but have been crunched for time lately. β=(X′X)⁻¹X′Y 02:55, 5 September 2010 (UTC)
Given the rather extreme claims that keep being removed, perhaps Human or Gerard could justify their reversions here or put in a source? I don't think "we're not any good at it yet" and calling it bad science is a very accurate thing to say -- if anything it could stand a bit of nuance. Many aspects we are quite good at, and predicting overall trends is surely the hardest thing to do in any field. --Benod (talk) 19:03, 5 September 2010 (UTC)
So ... predicting overall trends is the hardest thing in economics? What is economics for?--BobSpring is sprung! 19:10, 5 September 2010 (UTC)
Er... maybe start with the Wikipedia page? There's a lot more to the subject than that... But I'm no economist. --Benod (talk) 19:22, 5 September 2010 (UTC)

As an aside - why the obsession with TK?--BobSpring is sprung! 19:05, 5 September 2010 (UTC)

You called, yes? user talk:TK
Because TK is the local value of Hitler, as per our excellent article on Godwin's law - David Gerard (talk) 19:23, 5 September 2010 (UTC)
Economics is not a science. That is why there are so many different schools of thought. Its a social science, built on scientific principles but ultimately not scientific (As in, it can only ever produce absolute fact in theory, and is dogged by exception and irrationality. One of the fundamental assumptions of economics is that consumers are rational (lol) MarcusCicero (talk) 19:14, 5 September 2010 (UTC)
Great podcast from the Guardian here which talks about the crisis in economics. Calls it a "humbled profession".--BobSpring is sprung! 19:16, 5 September 2010 (UTC)
A lot of people would disagree with you about whether economics is a science or not. But I couldn't really care less. Still, the paragraph in question pretty much implies the entire discipline is bullshit and that's surely incorrect (or at the very least deserving of a cite). --Benod (talk) 19:19, 5 September 2010 (UTC)
That sounds more like butthurt. Make a falsifiable claim. Economics has bits that predict well, e.g. if you just print money you're fucked, and if you carefully print money you'd better hope it helps the patient more than it poisons it (because you wouldn't be doing that if you had any other tricks up your sleeve). However, we have economics because we need it, not because it's much good. c.f. medicine before the germ theory. - David Gerard (talk) 19:23, 5 September 2010 (UTC)
Look, my economics is limited to one semester in college five years ago, I'm no expert and I certainly don't want to defend the whole subject. But a quick Google show there are many many papers about questions like falsifiability in economics. People have thought hard about things like this. It's something that is deserving of a little thought and not the hasty dismissal and insta-reversion that it's getting. Similarly, thousands of academic economists would take issue with the claim that "we're not very good at", whether it's science or not. Obviously there are things we don't understand. But I don't think it's very rational to just dismiss the field out of hand, with nary a cite. --Benod (talk) 19:30, 5 September 2010 (UTC)
We are very well informed about somethings, and very confused about others, would be a much more accurate, and diplomatic, way of putting things. β=(X′X)⁻¹X′Y 20:06, 5 September 2010 (UTC)

I've heard economists using the term "rational" when they describe human behaviour but it is used in a different way to how we might like to think of it here. If an economist says that someone exhibits "rational" behaviour they mean that they are doing something that is in their own best interests rather than in the interest of others unless that benefit also gives them reward in some way. Redchuck.gif ГенгисRationalWiki GOLD member 19:40, 5 September 2010 (UTC)

Yes, I'm told this is fundamental to economics. But it's wrong. People (and markets) are driven by fear and greed and not by rationality.--BobSpring is sprung! 19:46, 5 September 2010 (UTC)
It is easy to simply say it is wrong, but much harder to prove that markets are driven by 'fear' or 'greed'. Further, there is a very real sense in which economic models reflect both fear and greed, and demonstrated how these act on pricing. β=(X′X)⁻¹X′Y 19:58, 5 September 2010 (UTC)
The definition of rationality that economists use depends on the exact context it is used in. It usually refers to an individuals preferences, in which case it does not resemble the traditional definition of rational at all. β=(X′X)⁻¹X′Y 20:01, 5 September 2010 (UTC)

There seems to be some fundamental misconceptions about how economists, and scientists in many fields, go about there business, as attested to by some of the posts above. Economists create models that generate testable hypothesis, and take the hypothesis they generate with these models to the data whenever possible in order to verify that these models accurately reflect what we see occurring in reality. Unfortunately, the predictions that economic models make, as well as certain predictions generated by models in biology, ecology, and physics, simply are not testable with the data that is available. In economics this issue is particular common, as economists have many theories that cannot be tested without generating serious harm to other people. This does not mean we do not seek means to test these hypothesis: an entire branch of economic thought, econometrics, is devoted to finding statistical methods for verifying theories in the social sciences. Calling economics, as well as other social sciences like political science, sociology and psychology, non scientific is a very ignorant statement. Social scientists are very concerned with verifying their work, and spend a monumental amount of time finding ways of doing so. As far as prediction, I want to be clear: Economists do not 'predict' the overall trend in the economy because, at the our current level computational ability, this is impossible. Further, Economists don't wish to predict bad events, they wish to prevent them. Whenever you look at the unemployment rate in France or the inflation rate in Zimbabwe you are seeing the results of ignoring well worn and tested economic predictions. An unfortunate issue in judging the impact of economics is that it is easy to take for granted that bad things do not happen simply because of sound economic policy. Finally, to all of those talking about different schools of economic thought and economists 'assuming' rationality... what the f are you talking about?? Economics hasn't looked like that for 40 years.β=(X′X)⁻¹X′Y 19:55, 5 September 2010 (UTC)

(EC) My God! You're right! We can throw out the entire subject because it's based on a bad assumption! But of course everyone has known for many years that such a simplistic assumption is problematic, so we have things like wp:behavioral economics and wp:bounded rationality to study how people make decisions. Even in models based on some kind of rationality assumption (more nuanced than the strawman above), I think the prevailing view is that if these models are empiracally verified, then they are successful, whatever you want to call the underlying assumption. But wait, David Gerard says that nothing in economics is falsifiable, so perhaps we should throw it out after all.
I don't dispute that parts of economics is basically pseudoscience, and I don't claim to know enough to judge that. But I don't think anyone else here does either, and making such a cursory dismissal of a subject that has been the subject of huge amounts of study is an anti-intellectual position that I don't think is consistent with the rest of this site. If you want to argue with the subject, then say something to back it up. But maybe do a little research first -- whatever you want to say has surely been studied more carefully by someone else before, and there should be no problem finding appropriate citations. --Benod (talk) 20:06, 5 September 2010 (UTC) (PS: anyone who wants to argue in favor of the crap in the current article, please reply to that guy above me. He makes much better points than I do and I don't want to sidetrack the discussion)
I see the previous post maintains: Further, Economists don't wish to predict bad events, they wish to prevent them.
Might I suggest it seems to have done a rather poor job of late.--BobSpring is sprung! 06:59, 6 September 2010 (UTC)
Sure, as long as you recognize that you face the same limits as economists in proving your claim: that there is no way to produce a counter-factual. It is entirely plausible (but not commonly accepted) that there was nothing we could have done to prevent the crisis, but it will take years of work in the meantime from numerous economists to prove or disprove this. I don't see anyone thanking economists that the unemployment rate is only 10%, or that this is the first multi year recession we've had in 70 years- both achievable because of what we learned during the last depression. β=(X′X)⁻¹X′Y 14:09, 6 September 2010 (UTC)
So your point is that economists are responsible for preventing bad events - something at which they recently seem to have failed spectacularly - but it's only because economists are so good at their jobs that we don't have them more often?--BobSpring is sprung! 14:15, 6 September 2010 (UTC)
No. The point is that your claim, like any other, requires proof, and simply pointing to the economy and saying "look at that" doesn't cut it because we have no direct proof of what the economy would look like if we did things differently. Economists have done the hard work of harvesting indirect statistical proof of their claims for a small subset of events, and application of this insight has helped us to avoid certain bad outcomes we have experienced before. Note that I am very careful in not asserting that economists have done everything possible to prevent the crisis, as I have no proof of this, I only express that economists have improved outcomes of certain aspects of the crisis (a claim that is based on 70 years of economic analysis). If you want to do the very difficult statistical work of finding proof of your claim in the existing data, and then come back to tell me economists are doing a bad job, well, be my guest. β=(X′X)⁻¹X′Y 14:41, 6 September 2010 (UTC)
Well I'm picking up on your statement: Economists do not 'predict' the overall trend in the economy because, at the our current level computational ability, this is impossible. Further, Economists don't wish to predict bad events, they wish to prevent them.
The question then becomes. "Have such bad events happened?" I would suggest that the answer is "Yes". Now you may well claim that they would have been worse or different or whatever but I suspect that nobody would deny that the recent economic events were "bad events". And if the avoidance of "bad events" is the purpose of economics then it has failed.--BobSpring is sprung! 14:52, 6 September 2010 (UTC)
Sure, but saying an event is bad is much different than saying it is preventable. No one is denying that 10% unemployment sucks, only that asserting that we could have something other than 10% unemployment requires proof. Even with your very narrow definition of failure as the avoidance of a specific bad event, you still need to prove that the event was avoidable in the first place, AND that the failure to avoid the event was due to a lack of insight from economists, and not to an unwillingness of policy makers to listen to economist's advice. Also, do you realize that there are literally thousands of economists covering a huge number of fields and sub fields? I would hardly say 'economics' has failed because researchers in one subfield missed something critical. β=(X′X)⁻¹X′Y 15:08, 6 September 2010 (UTC)
Actually I'm using your "very narrow definition" of what economists wish to do. Economists don't wish to predict bad events, they wish to prevent them. But let's get specific and consider some triggers to the present crisis. Were economists involved in setting up plans for sub-prime mortgages? Were they subsequently involved in the creation of collateralized debt obligations? Did they think they had removed risk from the economy to such an extent that these were not going to be problems? I accept that some economists felt these were bad ideas but hardly the majority.--BobSpring is sprung! 15:23, 6 September 2010 (UTC)
Honestly, I don't know. Further, I don't really have much to say on it, since it is not my field of expertise. However, I would like to point out that invoking guilt by association only goes to provide evidence of the larger point being made by the people who started this thread: This section of the economics page goes way outside of rational wiki's mission by plastering the very hard scientific work of thousands of individuals with baseless attacks. If you think you have some ideas as to why all economists have failed to deal with the crisis, please feel free to join in the research, and, in the words of Richard Dawkins, claim your Nobel prize. It is very easy to sit here and call an entire discipline 'failures' in the same way that creationists smear evolutionary biologists as idiots, but realize that many economists have made very successful careers out of proving their colleagues wrong.
What makes a field scientific does not depend on how well researchers ideas currently describe the world (physicists would never have made it out of their 'ether' phase in the 1800's if this was the case), but on whether researchers are proactive in verifying their ideas are correct. I assure you that economists are very interested in verifying that their ideas match reality, which is why people like Keynes, Stiglitz, Krugman, Friedman and Lucas became so well respected, despite the fact that they went against the standard economic wisdom of their times. Hundreds of economists are studying the recent crisis to see just what they may have gotten wrong, because the goal of economics is to describe reality. That we don't always get it right is a very real part of science in any field, but it is most certainly not a good reason to engage in personal attacks on an entire discipline. I would like to see you do better. β=(X′X)⁻¹X′Y 17:00, 6 September 2010 (UTC)
This article is not about economists, it's about economics. ħumanUser talk:Human 19:48, 6 September 2010 (UTC)
Well, fair enough, but I think most of what I said still makes sense when you replace economist with economics. It is easy to get carried away though when the discipline you spent 7 years of your life studying is accused of what essentially amounts to incompetence: "Furthermore, if economics is not supposed to be about giving accurate forecasts in respect of the effects of government and private actions, one could be forgiven for wondering what it is in fact for". It makes it even more troubling when the attack stems from a false analogy buried in a straw man argument (This guy speaks for the whole discipline, really!?). Further, 'Economics and Prediction' makes multiple strong, unbacked claims, particularly regarding how economists reacted to the recent financial crisis, and promotes ideas popular with cranks in both the far right and the far left of the discipline. The section is very much outside of the spirit of promoting scientific methodology and refuting crankery, and should be wiped. β=(X′X)⁻¹X′Y 20:36, 6 September 2010 (UTC)

The "Dismal" science[edit]

I've heard it said that Carlyle was complaining because economists thought that black people could run their own lives and that reintroducing slavery was a bad idea. Alternatively I've heard it said that he was claiming that Malthusian predictions were dismal. Since Malthus lead so directly to the work of Charles Darwin we can safely say that he was in large part correct. I also assume that the rest of you think arguing against slavery is not dismal at all. Should this be noted and maybe made less prominent? --Opcn (talk) 21:24, 4 March 2011 (UTC)

Democracy was founded by a city state that considered slavery to not only be an acceptable social practise, but a favourable one. Therefore we should abolish democracy and install a system untainted by any past association whatsoever. MarcusCicero (talk) 21:34, 20 March 2011 (UTC)

Archaic ideas[edit]

In other words a random collection of ideas that the author disagrees with, without any detailed exposition as to why, and despite a small number of serious academics still adhering to them (dismissal on these grounds is blatant argumentum ad populum), and despite the fact that there is a huge spectrum of views in economics and only a tiny number of economists were competent enough to foresee the events of recent years.

This section should NOT be here, it is intolerable to rationality. — Unsigned, by: / talk / contribs 2011-12-29T21:56:33

"But I thought this was supposed to be RATIONALWiki!" Drink!
Correct, only a handful of economists foresaw the recession. Of those that did, note that none of them espoused belief in the archaic beliefs listed. Star of David.png Radioactive afikomen Please ignore all my awful pre-2014 comments. 06:12, 30 December 2011 (UTC)
A lot of economists foresaw the recession, including Marxists and Austrian Schoolers who interestingly had some similar critiques (dispite the obvious differences) largely centered around the Fed, the debt-based nature of the economy, and the trade deficit with China. Unless you're being sarcastic here. The list iirc came about because of myself and User:Researcher, but on reflection there are really different levels: One, obvious crank ideas. Two, ideas which made a serious impact on economic thought at one time but not today, e.g. Georgism. Three, those with serious and arguably widespread academic adherence today, e.g. laissez-faire/Austrian School and Marxism. I would tend to agree with BoN here that those last two, at least, should be removed from the list. There is quite a bit of bias toward Krugmanomics floating around this wiki... Secret Squirrel (talk) 13:46, 2 January 2012 (UTC)
Which would mean I've reversed my view in the discussion above from 2008 where I argued for the inclusion of both on the list. Times change. Secret Squirrel (talk) 13:49, 2 January 2012 (UTC)
Thanks for schooling me on economists, Squirrel. And I change my mind all the time—you get used to it, after a while :-) Star of David.png Radioactive afikomen Please ignore all my awful pre-2014 comments. 21:42, 2 January 2012 (UTC)
"A lot of economists foresaw the recession". I wouldn't doubt it. Did the majority of economists foresee it? Can we give percentage points to this statement? What percentage failed to foresee it? How many astrologists foresaw the recession and did they do any better than economists?--BobSpring is sprung! 22:43, 2 January 2012 (UTC)
Marxism and the Austrian School are in many ways two sides of the same coin, particularly in the economic doom factor and the rejection of empiricism. No single laissez-faireite has explained why up here we didn't share the same fate of the US without strong banking regulations, and we all know what's wrong with the Communist Manifesto.
Keep them both in this section, and for good reason. Osaka Sun (talk) 23:13, 2 January 2012 (UTC)

Then in 2014[edit]

This article gives space to ridiculous heterodox ideologies like praxeology but gives no mention of Schumpeter, Solow-Swan, entrepreneurship, cultural capital, technology or endogenous-growth theory in the main text! This article seems to be as out-of-date as mainstream economics is these days. /rant — Unsigned, by: Pietro / talk / contribs 01:08, 28 February 2014 (UTC)